Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Same Sociality

Often questions about Mother in Heaven lead the someone saying "The question is, do we all have the same Mother in Heaven."

Obviously this harkens back to Mormonism foray into polygamy. Yet I was thinking how rarely is the opposite question asked; namely "Do we all have the same Father in Heaven?" (By rarely, I mean approaching 0. In my life I can only recall it coming up once.)

Why should we ask it? To me, because it is one potential outcome of Joseph's teaching.

First, that we can become gods and goddess, which is taught both in the scriptures and in Joseph's final major sermons.

Second, his profound teaching that the sociality we enjoy here will be enjoyed in heaven, coupled with eternal glory.

Third, that the Celestial Kingdom will be upon this Earth, glorified.

Finally, that there are kingdoms higher than the Celestial (hinted at in both section 130 and in his teaching that Christ's father would ascend higher when Christ completed his work (as well as the idea hinted at that Christ's father was also a Saviour).

Where might this point?

What if God the Father was not alone (with or without a Goddess the Mother)?

What if, instead, God was made up of "gods (and goddesses) many", or a "Council of the Gods" who appointed one God to be there representative for this world (as Joseph appears to me to have taught)?

Perhaps our God is the exalted community of a previous earth? That like us, they lived and died, were resurrected and exalted through the power of Christ's atonement, and then had us as spiritual children. We may have different actual fathers and mothers (a future post will examine what spirit creation/birth might entail) of our spirits. But as they are united - one - are one family - so we are and can be said to have One Father (and Mother).

This seems more what I would hope for - a true eternal family for my future. So why not for our Heavenly Parents?

It also has implications for Christ and the idea of Saviour(s). Joseph seems to me to teach that Christ only did what his father did. So, some ask, was his father a Saviour on his world? Are there Saviour Gods and non-saviour gods in the eternities? Some argue yes, or that there is an Eternal God (Father, and maybe Christ) who really are fundamentally different from us. Still others talk of multiple mortal probations, where we must perform our own atoning sacrifice on another world. Finally, so wonder how other worlds could have a Saviour - wasn't the atonement infinite and eternal?

But are we not all taking upon ourselves the name of Christ? Are not we called to be saviours on Mount Zion? Do we not participate in the atonement of Christ every time we bear each others burden? Each time we forgive offenses? When we are in the Celestial kingdom, will we not all be perfect and without sin? If each of us becomes Christ - a saved being - will not our future jointly created earth's Saviour be able to say, as Joseph has Christ say, "I do that which I saw my Father do", regardless of which one of us is his spiritual parent?

To put another way, Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, but not exclusively. Rather, he was the prime exemplar of the Christ to our world, in part of an eternal drama bringing about the eternal progression of lives.

Returning to the beginning, I do believe that the fundamental eternal unit with be the sealed couple. But I see no reason to imagine each of us will necessarily break away, two by two, to our own heavens to begin our own spiritual brood.

This earth will be our heaven. We will live together. Why not then live together and have children together? Why not create a future together, rather than apart? And if we do it, why wouldn't our fathers and mothers have done it? Wouldn't this be a likely identity for "the Gods", referred to in the Book of Abraham?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tentative Belief, or the Pursuit of Wisdom

One last post before diving into my beliefs. I want to talk for a moment about the idea of tentative beliefs. Beliefs that we hold, but not too tightly. That we openly (at least, to ourselves) acknowledge could be wrong. For me, I would say that most of my beliefs - perhaps all? - are tentative.


Because it reminds me to be humble - to avoid spiritual arrogancy (a weakness I've experienced, as a loving sister-in-law once pointed out to me).

Because it reminds me to be teachable. If I believe that my beliefs are absolute, or absolutely correct, can I learn from another? No, at best I can be confirmed in my presumed beliefs (if they agree with me), in between I can simply agree to disagree with another, and at worst we can engage in perpetual argument with neither of us being edified.

Because it reminds me that we all, yes, even us Mormons, have a great deal to learn. All of our beliefs, in my all to often unhumble opinion, are 'best estimates'. They are our best attempts to understand things that are very big and very complex. Whether its science (what is the Big Bang, a black hole, DNA, etc., etc.) or religion (what is the nature of God, of man, our relationship, etc., etc.) we all, as Paul said, see through a glass darkly. Perhaps because of our belief in revelation and modern prophets, we Mormons can sometimes believe that we "know" a great deal. But the moment we pass beyond the "standard Sunday school answers", we realize that we don't know very much at all. Indeed, that's why we have the "SSSA", because those are the things we can all generally agree upon. Beyond that, we face the same haze as the rest of the world.

Which is not to say the revelations are not important, only to say that beliefs and knowledge are not the focus. We are given some - vision, if you will - to get us going, motivate us, and teach us the nature of some things. But most of what the prophets do is teach us what we should do, how to develop into a better society and people. After all, if the beliefs and knowledge we are given do not impact on how we live our lives, they really are not of a great deal of use.

Did God create the world in six days, as described in Genesis? Many believed it for thousands of years. I don't, but I don't begrudge those who did. It was sufficent and as good an explanation as any. Now I think we have better information. Yet I still believe God created the world. I just have a different picture of how God may have done so. And my current beliefs are as tentative as I hope the six days belief would have been to me, had I ever held it. My default belief, so to speak, until we had better information. As Hugh B. Brown, counselor to President McKay would put it, we are only bound to believe that which is true.

Or put another way, I hold to my faith in God stronger than I do to any of my beliefs about anything, including God. If I have any belief that is not open to revision, then I am damned in that part.

This is not a lazy belief, or a lack of strength in beliefs. There are many of these tentative beliefs that I believe in quite strongly, profoundly, and in many contexts would not hesitate to say "I know this to be true". But we all know people who have said those words and later stopped not just knowing, but even believing. There is no clear line between what we "believe" and what we "know". And I think many people lose their faith because one aspect of their belief gets destroyed. They hold so tightly to something that when it gets broken they throw the whole baby out with the proverbial bathwater.

Which leads me finally, in this very long-winded post, to the pursuit of Wisdom.

This is one of my favourite metaphors. I like it because I can visualize it, I can feel it. I pursue Wisdom the way that one pursues a lover. Her red lips call to you and you cannot help but seek after their kiss. You cannot sleep at night because the thought of her fills your mind and you cannot rest during the day because your every thought is towards her. And one kiss does not satisfy; it only leads to increased desire, to a desire for a new kiss. And each revelation of her only leads you to want more.

I like the metaphor because I know what it is to be filled with passion for a lover. I have known my wife for fourteen years now and been married to her for ten and a half. And I cannot stop thinking about her either. She is my living, breathing Wisdom.

And so I pursue Wisdom. I seek knowledge and understanding and truth and virtue and Wisdom is my guide. As I strive to distinguish between truth and error, virtue and vice, she calls to me, "choose wisely". She calls to me love - to mix my desire for truth with my love of my fellowman, of my world, of existence. She calls me to step back, to consider the consequences and the implications of my actions and my beliefs. She calls me to step forward, to consider the implications of my beliefs - where do they point? what greater truth do they hint at.

I like the metaphor because it is active. It reminds me that I should not be passive and wait for God to grant me wisdom (or anything else for that matter). I should step forward, boldly. I should purse.

Come, pursue with me.

What this blog is not

Having introduced the blog and myself, and before getting into more substantive subjects, I thought I should perhaps talk for a moment about what this blog is not.

First, this blog is not an attempt to outline Mormon or LDS doctrine. I certainly doubt I could do it better than the Church's website and there is really no need for me to sit here and simply recite established LDS doctrine (though this particular portion of the Church's website shows just how hard it is to determine what exactly 'established' LDS doctrine is, and emphasizes how fluid it can be given our belief in continual revelation).

Second, this blog is not an attempt at apologetics. I am not here to defend my own beliefs, let alone the teachings of the LDS Church. Again, there are other people doing that, such as FARMS and FAIR, plus it's not really my thing.

This blog is about my beliefs, as well as thoughts, speculations, ideas, suppositions, and probably even strained hypotheticals. There will be mistakes, errors, inconsistencies, at the extremes maybe even heresies. But I'll try and keep all of those things to a minimum. ;-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I am a Mormon

Like everyone, I wear many hats and fall into many classifications. I am a human, specifically a male one. I am a husband and a father (which happen to be both my favourite hats and favourite classifications). I am a brother and a son. I am a Canadian (you'll probably notice the extra 'u's). I am a civil servant; specifically a foreign service officer, or diplomat. I am a tee-ball, soccer, and soon-to-be basketball coach (you know, with five-year olds you can pretty much coach anything because odds are you know more than they do). I am, or at least try to be, a friend. In brief (or not so brief), I am many things.

So why do I choose "I am a Mormon" as the title of this post?

The most obvious reason is because as I first stated this blog is intended to be about my thoughts about religion, mingled with random bits of other parts of my life. And since I am, in fact, a Mormon (specifically, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), it is a rather obvious title.

But 'Mormon' goes beyond simply a description of my denominational affiliation. 'Mormon' is very much a part of me - about my whole world-view, my self-identity, my relationships, even my work. Everyone who knows me well, most people who know me a little, and lots of people who have only met me in passing know that I am Mormon.

Plus, I like the sound of being Mormon. I like the word. I have to admit that I'm not too big on the apparent trend to de-emphasize the term 'Mormon' and emphasize either 'LDS' or the much more cumbersome 'member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' - especially because I always have to fill in "you know, the Mormons" or "sometimes we're called Mormons" or just "Mormon" afterwards anyway. But more than that, Mormonism is more that just the Church, at least to me. When I say I am a Mormon, I am saying I believe in Mormonism, as a philosophy - as a way of viewing and valuing the world.

I really like the hymn "If you could hie to Kolob". Not simply because it uses the word "hie" and that strange sounding Mormon word (though I do like it for those too), but because of what it talks about - an endlessly vast universe, creation, God, gods, improvement, progression, matter, spirit, virtue, truth.

Being a Mormon is to be positive, to be seeking after not just the good, but the better, to look at life as a glorious gift to be both enjoyed and improved upon. It is to look forward in faith to a better world, but not a better world to the exclusion of the current one. Rather, a better world that we create together out of this one. It is a vision of what God is like and a vision of what it means for us to follow in God's footsteps. It is a vision of Jesus as Saviour, but also of Jesus as prototype - as the image of what I should become. It is a commitment to seek after truth combined with a commitment to friendship, to charity, towards my fellowman.

I say I am a Mormon because 'Mormonism', as I understand it and believe in it, influences what type of male human, husband, father, son, brother, Canadian, diplomat, coach, friend I am or at the very least am trying to be. And the faith that I can become it.

And to return to what I said above, it also influences what type of member I am, or try to be, within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being a Mormon is much, much more to me than simply being a description of what church I go to or what I drink (or don't drink) with my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A First Post

I suppose every blog requires a first post. This is mine. I thought that rather than introducing myself I would introduce the purpose of this blog: what it is, why, and for whom.

The What: Unless one is working from a precise plan it is hard to say exactly how something will turn out, and even then, I often think we make plans just so God can have a good laugh. But for the moment I intend the blog to be a place where I can preserve my thoughts about life, faith, religion, and all things spiritual. I expect most posts will be about religion, or as the blog description would have it, the pursuit of Wisdom (which itself will be a post in the near future). But I expect it will also be about my family, occasionally politics, with the occasional blend of history, science, and random ramblings. Basically, it will be about the things I think about - my family, God, and the wild, complexly confusing thing we call life.

The Why: First and foremost to simply record my thoughts, both about those things I think about all the time and about the random events that give life so much flavour. For the former, my thoughts and feelings about things have changed a great deal over my life and I wish I had a record of how I thought at different times in my life, to track how those thoughts have developed, grown, changed and be able to look at what changes the most, what changes the least, and what changes were a return to a previous way of thinking. For the latter, because I am amazed at how easily we forget things, including things we shouldn't - either because they are important or because they are precious (in all that word's meanings) or usually a combination of both. The second "why" is because as the blog's title (and future posts will as well) makes clear, I am a rambler. I ramble when I think and I ramble when I talk. And I don't think that is a bad thing. But I also think that there is value in being able to put things together, coherently and succinctly (which is also not my strong suit), both for oneself and for the other with whom we are trying to communicate.

The Whom: For myself, for the above reasons. For others - family, friends, and perhaps strangers, that they might know me better, but moreso, so that perhaps my thoughts will inspire thoughts of their own and perhaps we can be edified together. In other words, if you are reading this, welcome, and your comments are welcome.