Archives: science and faith

I generally don’t post thoughts on controversial topics, since I’m not one for jumping into debates that can quickly deteriorate, but I do think it’s okay now and then to post my own thoughts and perspectives on the matter, in case anyone might find it of interest.

I was watching an IMAX documentary tonight, I have a few of them on DVD, and I’ve always loved watching them.  Tonight, it was Cosmic Voyage, a really great one that explores how massive our universe is, and how much life there is in it.  It’s a really cool movie to watch.

As a Christian, I have a unique perspective on the origin of the universe that doesn’t agree with the secular conclusions.  However, unlike mainstream religions, I do not believe that science and faith are mutually exclusive.  I believe in evolution as much as anyone else, since, for one, it’s not only scientifically plausible, but proven.  I draw the line that evolution was the cause of the origin of life though, instead taking the doctrine on faith that man was placed here by God, with a purpose to life that He has since revealed to His children through prophets, which have been recorded as scripture.

I never know quite how to explain my perspective, since it’s so different from everything else, and probably pretty unexpected to start with.  It’d be easy to gloss over my take on things and just sum me up as another crazy creationist that thinks some invisible force created everything then dumped us here to let us figure things out.

And so, in an effort to meet critics on their own grounds, I’ll ask the hard questions myself, but provide the answers the best I can.  I’m not trying to convince anyone of the truth — and it’s not my belief that it should be forced on others involuntarily, in school or any other setting.  But I would like the fair chance to present my side. 🙂

How was the earth created?

First of all, going to the creation of the earth.  There is a misconception that God created the universe ex nihilo, or, out of nothing.  This belief springs from a poor translation of the original text.  In Hebrew, the book of Genesis says that the earth was organized, not created — meaning from existing matter.  In modern revelation, the Lord has said that “the elements are eternal.”  Science would agree that matter can be neither destroyed nor created.  My religion concurs. 🙂

How long did it take to create the earth?

The truth is, we don’t really know.  There are a few accounts given of the creation (Genesis, the Book of Moses, and the Book of Abraham), and they all offer a few more details.  In Abraham’s account, each of the creationary periods are called a “time”.  For example, “And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and it was the fifth time.” (emphasis mine).

You can read the whole account of Abraham’s record of the creation, starting with chapter 4, although the entire book covers some amazing doctrine.

The next question is more interesting, though, I think.

Why doesn’t the Lord reveal to us the details of the creation?

The answer to that is pretty simple, and I imagine probably going to be a little frustrating to some, and maybe some reason to scoff to others.

The answer is it’s not necessary to our salvation.

The reason we are here on earth, living our mortal lives, is to see if, once we have left the presence of our Father in Heaven, we will choose to obey him.  A knowledge of the creation of the earth is not a prerequisite to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, the Lord does at times reveal knowledge of the mysteries of creation and of life as a testimony of His work, and to strengthen our faith.

In a more simple analogy, say you were taking a test on mathematics … it wouldn’t do you much good to study lots of history before going into the exam, because it is superfluous and not necessary for our passing grade in that area of study.  Likewise, we don’t need to understand all things to be able to successfully pass the mortal test, to follow God, choose the right, and achieve happiness.  He requires of us a willing mind and an obedient spirit, something that everyone can give individually.

That is not to say that God does *not* want us to know these things, though.  It would be an incorrect conclusion to assume that since God does not reveal His word to us, that He has no interest in us finding these things out.  The Lord gave us many tools, both personally and collectively, to study these things out for ourselves.

He has said, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;  Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (emphasis mine)

Also, just because the knowledge is withheld, does not mean it will always be that way.  Just as parents teach their children principles line upon line, precept upon precept, our Heavenly Father does not burden us with things that would be too hard to grasp at this point in our existence — partly, because they would prove unto us a stumbling block (even the limited knowledge we have now is a struggle of faith for many, and keeps them from believing).

He has promised to eventually reveal to us “things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof–Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.” (emphasis mine)

So, while it may be frustrating, now, to not know the reason and purpose behind all things, they will eventually be revealed to us — either in this life or the next.  In the meantime, we can rest safely in the knowledge that it is not required of us to understand.  That in no way excuses us from either trying or should prevent us from wanting to understand though.

How can we take things on faith?

I think a simpler way to ask the question might be, “how can you really believe all that stuff?”

Well, to be honest, for me it comes pretty easily, so I have a really hard time understanding how it would be hard sometimes *not* to believe it.  So I apologize in advance if my explanation of things seems a bit simple … a bit of a loop, saying “I believe it’s true because I believe it’s true.”  There’s actually a base to that — and that is a witness from God, that comes by asking sincerely if these things are true.

One last quote, this time from the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.  Alma (an ancient prophet of God) says, “all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”

It’s a curious pasttime of mine to try and find parts of those “all things” that denote the existence of God.  The complexity of life goes deeper than just a testimony of the existence of God, they are actually living parables — analogies that to the simple and humble are opened up, and show similarities to the Gospel itself.

For example, the seasons of the earth are just as the stages of mortality are.  Spring represents the birth and renewal of life, summer the prime of our lives, fall is the stages of death, decay and our twilight years, and then winter, in all its glorious white, represents the resurrection of life.

There’s lots more examples, and I was trying to think of one that I had come up with when writing this, but nothing is coming to me right now.  I went looking for one in my notes on scripture study, and I couldn’t find one quickly either.

That’s generally how my presentation feels though — a little lacking on the solid examples, and I feel like I’m not really getting my point across too well, but I can rely on the fact that I believe and even know that these things are true, and I can’t deny that … even if I can’t explain it eloquently. 🙂

There was also this great quote from Brigham Young about how all truth was circumscribed into one whole (or maybe it was Joseph Smith).  Anyway.  I remember President Young would talk about it a lot at length.  I’ll have to go find my book of his quotes somewhere.

But yah, the simple point I wanted to make is that science and religion actually are the same pursuit of truth, and application of that knowledge.  There is no conflict between the two for true religion, for God operates by eternal laws, many of which we don’t understand yet.

Alright, I’ll stop preaching now. 🙂  I just wanted to point out that for some Christians, there is no conflict .. no crisis of faith when presented with science.  It’s a common tactic that those who actively try to undermine the faith of others will use the fact that “you can’t explain it” as a reason to disbelieve.  Instead of letting this despair me, I actually consider it a requisite of my faith.  The Lord wants me to grow spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally, and each of those require risks … stepping out into the dark, having faith that if I follow the best path, that I will grow and be redeemed and rewarded after my labor is done.  I don’t know everything, that is true, but I do know the basics and have a testimony of their truth.  I know enough. 🙂

Archives: studying the scriptures

Whenever I feel like a post was kind of cut off a bit, I feel the need to explain myself a bit, and give a bit of background to the overall story.

Basically, a recent occurrence in my life for the past couple of months has been a renewed effort to find out what purpose the Lord has in store for me in this life.  I really have no idea, to be honest, but I’m trying to find out a lot of answers.  Not just my purpose generally, but what I’m supposed to do with all this free time and resources that I have.

Well, one habit I used to hold dearly was that I would study the scriptures a lot.  That hasn’t really been a focus in my life as much as it was before, for probably eight years or so.  I mean, I have been reading them on a regular basis, but generally not more than anything other than a sense of obligation at times.  Never anything I’d really call “studying”.

Not too long ago, though, I got a new idea for an approach I could develop towards studying.  It mostly came because I was getting exasperated a bit by following the letter of the commandment (read your scriptures daily) rather than the spirit (feast upon my word).  I like to mix things up now and then, and this time was no different, and I don’t doubt that this current idea will eventually fade away and I’ll be trying something new later on.

For now, though, what I do in the morning is I read the scriptures (the Book of Mormon) until I find a passage that I find interesting.  It doesn’t matter how much I read, but as long as I find something that stands out — that either makes me ask a question, or consider the passage, or something I just find kinda cool.  Then I write it down in my little notebook.  There’s nothing cooler than going back to old notebooks, where I’ve recorded previous thoughts and questions, and seeing what I wrote years ago.  It’s a lot of fun.  So far though, my new method has been very effective, if not the most effective I’ve had yet.  The reason I say that is because I find myself thinking about that scripture during the day or week.

One thing that I do to get myself to ask questions while reading, is I’ll look at a passage and say, “Now, why did they put *this* in there?  Who cares?  What does it matter?  Is that important?”  And that kinda stirs the mind and gets me thinking about why it would be included, what importance it could have had to the author (think of all the stuff we write in our journals that seem important to *us*, but to anyone else it would be a bunch of fluff).

As an example, I’ll use the one I found this morning.  It’s in the book of Mosiah, chapter 10, verses 4 and 5.  They read:

4. And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.

5. And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land–thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.

Now, aside from the comment about continual peace, there’s not really anything of substance there on first glance, it would normally seem like to me.

However, this time when reading it, verse four caught my mind, and I thought it was interesting how he said “all manner of fruit.”  When I was thinking about it later during the day, I realized that it may stand as a bit of a description of how their culture was advanced and organized that they could have not only the technology to raise all different kinds of fruit, but the agronomy and sciences to do so.  Like, for instance, grapes grow differently from bananas, and they are not the same as pineapples, apples, oranges and peaches.  It would take some skill and organization to be able to handle *all* manner of fruit.  I dunno.  I just find it interesting.  The same thing with the cloths as well … the different types have to indicate that there were artisans trained in different skills.  Anyway.  Interesting.

So, that approach of study is working for me well so far.  I’m having fun with it.

Going back to my earlier point, though, and with my recent discoveries, I’m remembering how much I enjoy studying the scriptures.

When I served my mission in Argentina, I studied them voraciously during all my free time.  Early on, I had the goal to finish reading the entire standard works.  Every free moment I had, I would read, and I got through it rather quickly.  Once I was done with that, I colored all my verses with a coloring scheme I had developed, and marked up my scriptures quite a bit.  I still have that set today, and it’s great to reference them, because I can flip open my books to almost any chapter in any book and find something I’ve highlighted.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist though, or more accurately, fixated on progression and refining my processes.  My original approach to highlighting verses was to do it on a dialogue basis, which works well for the Book of Mormon or the Gospels where there are a *lot* of conversations, but that doesn’t apply to every other book.  So, I’m taking it much slower this time around and I’m trying to categorize each book and see how I can distinguish it as to what a good markup scheme would be.  Doing that entails reading through the book first and getting a feel for what the common themes and topics are … something that gets pretty frustrating at times, because I’m so eager to start marking things up.  In fact, I’m already planning on doing a third refinement of my approach that I’ve done with Isaiah (the first book I’ve looked at, yet), because I couldn’t wait started using colors before thinking it all through.

It’s fun, though.  But really, I’m glad to have found something I can do with some of my time.  Some of the happiest moments in my life so far have been me hunched over a little desk in 25 de Mayo or Neuquen or Esquel, trying to understand the scriptures.  I’m not nearly at the same level as I was before, but I’m having a fun time trying to get there.  Good times.  I tell you what.

Archives: studying isaiah

I’m still reading (well, re-reading) and studying the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (King James Version, for the reference geeks).  I already finished my preliminary run-through of coloring the verses, and now I’m just going through it again trying to see if I missed anything or can understand the scriptures better.  This is the part I really don’t like.

It’s difficult to do a secular study sometimes, because it’s so easy to look beyond the mark.  I was reading a favorite commentary on the Old Testament the other day called The Fourth Thousand Years (by Cleon Skousen), and while I was reading, it occurred to me that I was studying the secular history of the people, the promises and the events that were to happen.  It kind of bothered me a little bit — not the text, but the discovery of what I was doing.  This is a difficult point to make, so I’m going to try and carefully explain it.  I believe there is great worth in studying the history, background, and relationships of the history in general surrounding the scriptures, but I do not believe that studying the gospel should be an academic exercise only.

One scripture that can help illustrate my point is Isaiah 6:8.  In this chapter, the prophet accounts his calling from the Lord.  It reads:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

I’m finding it hard to think of any real commentary that I can add to that.  One thing I like, that Skousen pointed out in his book, is that Isaiah didn’t know or ask what it was the Lord wanted him to go and do … and it didn’t matter to him.  He volunteered, and asked the Lord to put him to use.  I can testify that when we ask the Lord to use us in His service, He will.

Okay, well, I can’t think of a good ending to write up to that, and I have a *really* hard time writing up these posts.  I feel okay about the first part, but can’t come up with anything else, and in my experience it’s better in those cases to say nothing. 🙂

Edit: It occurs to me after walking away for a few moments that my sense of high expectations of self will only serve to keep me from writing any more similar posts in the future, so I think I’m going to go back to my usual mix of stream of consciousness mixed with an overall sense of not trying to offend anyone. 🙂

Archives: the book of isaiah

I bought a second set of new scriptures a few months ago, because I’ve been wanting to do a new markup for an entire set.  This week, an idea came to me of how I could do that, two themes in particular to focus on: the restoration, latter-day work and personality traits and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wanted to start in the Old Testament, and settled on the book of Isaiah as the first one to tackle.  It seemed like a reasonable choice, and a good sampling of what most of the Old Testament is like anyway — difficult passages to understand, but with persistence, inspiration and study, you can find some gems.

I’ve been studying it all week, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.  My initial markup of the entire book went fast — I got it all done in two days (Sunday and Monday).  Since then, I’ve been going back over it, and finding more stuff.

The prophets writing style is pretty amazing.  He will switch from theme to theme all the time, sometimes mid-sentence.  The topics he seems to cover the most are: the restoration, the last days, the final judgement, the second coming of the Lord and the millennial reign.  On top of that, there are constant promises, reminders, and prophecies to and concerning the house of Israel (the saints who have accepted the covenant).  There’s just so much.

I’ll quickly share a few verses that have really stood out to me lately, though I can’t go into much detail because of time right now.

Isaiah 5:1-7 is a cool parable of sorts.  I like it because it paints a cool picture of what the Lord has done.  Here’s the actual text from the King James version:

1. Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

2. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

4. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

5. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

6. And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

This one touches upon the apostasy of Israel, an event that has happened on numerous occasions.  One thing that stands out to me is in verse 2, documenting all the things the Lord did for His vineyard, he “planted a tower in the midst of it.”  That phrase, “in the midst of it” has been popping up in my brain lately, and it’s interesting to see where it occurs.

When the risen Lord visisted the Nephites in America after his ascension … well, I’ll just quote the verses from 3rd Nephi 11 and point it out there:

And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.

2. And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

3. And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

4. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

5. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

6. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

7. Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name–hear ye him.

8. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

9. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

10. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

11. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

12. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

Okay, I didn’t intend to quote that much, but I didn’t want to take it out of context, and it’s easier to follow this way.

Verse 8 though, what fascinates me is that when the Lord descended, “he came down and stood in the midst of them”.  When I read the verse in Isaiah, it jogged my memory about this event, and I find it interesting because I had always envisioned Him, for some reason, as appearing on the edge of the crowd and having them come to Him.  That’s not the case, though — He was right there among them.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, lots of little realizations like that … I could probably write a whole series of posts on the stuff I’m finding in here.  Good times, though.  It’s really fascinating to study, I would recommend and encourage it yourself.

Archives: the sabbath

It has, for some reason, recently been a thread of thought for me wondering about the implications of some of God’s commandments, and how they would apply to a newly forming civilization in ancient days.  Everything in our age is so established, that it’s interesting to me to think about the requirements necessary to properly keep some of them.

Today I was thinking of one of the Ten Commandments, specifically, to keep the sabbath day holy (Exodus 20:8).  It occurred to me that in order to keep this one, that a society-civilization would have to have some kind of a calendar system in order to keep it.  And with that, I started thinking of some of the principles related to that.  For instance, I believe that it could imply a sense of order in our own lives and houses.  How can you keep the Sabbath if you aren’t prepared for it, or even know when it is?

I don’t really have much more to comment on the matter, since that was really my only thoughts so far.  On a personal matter, though, I find it easier to “keep” the sabbath if I look at it from a certain perspective.  Growing up, I always had a pessimistic approach of it, where I basically considered it a day of all the things I couldn’t go and do — shopping, sports, whatever.  But now, I try to look at as a sabbatical, which oddly enough, has a more effective approach linguistically for me.

I believe that the Lord considers it a day of rest, and that’s what I tell myself to do on Sundays: give it a rest.  If I wanna go play on the computer or spend time on video games (which I don’t really consider all that bad, but wouldn’t really say it’s all that great either), I tell myself to just give it a rest for one day.

The other week I was sick for a few days, and was stuck at home doing pretty much nothing.  I decided to stay completely off the computer while I was at home resting, because I know that sitting myself hunched over a terminal all day long isn’t really gonna help me get better much quickly.  What ended up being just a few days with a cough and some body pains, actually turned into an incredibly positive experience because I got to give the normal day-to-day routine of my life a rest, a real sabbatical, and it gave me some serious insight into my daily habits.  I had not only the time, but the peace of mind to read, to think about things, to write down my thoughts, and worship.  I was a little sad to have to go back to the daily grind.

Anyway, that’s all. 🙂

Archives: the imperfect relationship

I had a really interesting thought tonight, and I thought I should write about it, despite it being something pretty personal, so here goes.  I’ll actually quote almost verbatim an excerpt from my journal:

I was saying a prayer tonight, and just suddenly the thought occurs to me that it is so amazing that in our raw, imperfect, mortal form here on earth, that it’s possible to even create a relationship with Heavenly Father.  That is just so cool.  It really takes some work, but even with just a little bit, you can recognize how He feels about you and your current condition and path that you are on.

That’s so amazing to me that its possible, because of *all* the things we have yet to learn and do in the eternities for our progression, it’s possible to create a real, recognizable connection with God right now; that we have the capacity to do that is, again, amazing.

I’m sure that, compared to how things can be in a more perfect form it’s probably not much that we achieve here, but you can still create a relationship that is as real and fulfilling as anything else here on Earth, and moreso, I imagine (mine isn’t *that* strong, but I certainly can’t deny it’s there).  Amazing stuff, I’m really thankful for that. 🙂

Archives: religion in general

Our church’s General Conference was this weekend (a semi-annual worldwide broadcast where the leaders have five two-hour sessions of talks, once every Easter weekend, and once in October), and as usual, it’s gotten me thinking a bit.

One thing that keeps coming to mind is that I should blog a bit on religious topics.  I’ve always been extremely hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons.  For one, I hate being preached to when I’m not interested in input, and because of that, I tend to go out of my way not to preach to other people who may not want to hear what I have to say.  Add to that that I’m extremely tolerant of people’s lifestyles, regardless of what my moral compass tells me how I should live.  I’m just open and accepting, but also strictly guard my own personal values, and try not to impose them on others.  Still, I get the distinct impression that I should share some my opinions a bit more, so I’m going to do so, but I’ll tread carefully.

Part of the problem is that I have a hard time in social relationships distinguishing between what should be private and what should be public.  When it comes to spiritual matters, I consider it all succinctly private, and rarely tell anyone anything.  So, it’s going to be a bit hard for me trying to find that middle ground between what I should say and what I shouldn’t.  Even writing this post is a bit of a difficult task — I’m never too sure how much information to reveal.  Living the gospel and it’s effects are, in my opinion, a highly personal affair.

Another thing I worry about is that I certainly do not want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn.  A holier-than-thou attitude annoys me just as I’m sure it does anyone else, and I certainly don’t want to be going off telling people about what I’m doing, as I think it may appear as vanity.  I’m also not one for trying to point out where the world is wrong and needs to change.  I’m a firm believer in progress, but also practicality.  Life changes are gradual, and the only way to gauge how a person is doing is to do a self-examination and honestly ask how you’re doing, and to consult the Lord.

So, that pretty much covers everything I’ll avoid doing — blatant finger-pointing, yelling, criticizing, grandstanding and terrifying the masses … but I still don’t have a clue what I am gonna share.   Probably my opinion in mild form, some small personal examples, and my beliefs.

Yah.  I have no idea what’s gonna happen.  So, we’ll see.  I’ll try not to keep it too over the top or anything.

Archives: to each his own

I thought of, perhaps, one way I can get my religious views across … instead of just focusing on doctrine and whot-not, just instead tell things how I tend to perceive and apply them in my life. That may work. Who knows.

I had a great comment on my last post from a self-proclaimed atheist, which basically noted that it’s possible to extract good principles from religious ones without attaching the supernatural to it. And I would totally agree.

I have long had a motto in life that demonstrates my tolerance for a lot of personal decisions people make in their lives — to each his own. Growing up, I like to look back on the fact that I’ve been able to both be friendly and make friends with people with whom I wildly disagree on moral issues. I respect their right to explore and choose what they think works best for them in their lives, just as I’ve done the same for myself. In doing so, I tend to not try to unload my own moral values on them unless they show any interest, and even then, I’ll only respond in equal scale. I’m not going to dump a library of books on someone’s head just because they ask one question, nor would I drag them to church and haunt them for the rest of their life just because they showed a small interest.

Okay, I totally forgot where I was going with all of this. More proof that writing this stuff is not going to be nearly as simple as I thought it was going to be. I did have one example that I wanted to share, so maybe I’ll just cut to that.

My main point was that people can extract a lot of good principles from religious living without necessarily subscribing to the whole. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not just encompass moral living as related directly to moral issues, but it also has instruction and guidelines on how we can live healthy good lives that will benefit all of mankind, personally and collectively, socially and individually. I can’t deny, though, that the best benefits to both person and world will only come from living the whole gospel instead of piece meal. To each his own, though. 🙂

A good example of practical, provident living that is taught by our church is the Word of Wisdom, which is a set of instructions related to diet. Anciently, the Jews were given dietary restrictions as well, and these were given both as guidelines for health and also to separate the Jewish nation culturally from others, as they would be mingled in with the rest of the world. Today’s revealed guidelines are much simpler in nature, but they are also tied to the religious belief that harmful substances not only damage the body, but the spirit as well.

I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of what the Word of Wisdom is, especially when Wikipedia has a decent entry on it. I will add this note though — that clarifications have been added to the law as it was originally given, and that that is also a part of our religion — ongoing revelation. The Lord has changed, altered, simplified or straightened His commandments in the past, so it stands to reason that He still can do so, and does. An example would be that we are not required to give animal sacrifices anymore. Thank goodness, too, I’m not sure I could stomach whacking any animals over the head.

This is the interesting thing about carnal commandments, though, is that there are benefits to living them and the Lord will bless us whether we regard the spiritual counterpart or not, or even believe in God for that matter. There is a law in heaven that says that God will bless us when we obey any of His commandments. Pretty cool stuff, actually.

Alright, that’s enough for me. If this post sounds too preachy, sorry about that … sure seems that way for me. As I said, I’m still trying to find the right medium to do this, so forgive me if it comes across a bit heavy-handed.

I figure I should throw in some personal experience to the mix here. Uh. Let’s see. I’ve never smoked or drank any alcohol, and I feel great. How’s that. I can’t even drink any carbonated soda though without hiccuping immediately afterwards, so I’m pretty sensitive to some stuff anyway. I can’t think of anything else. I sure hope these posts get better. My sister is much better at this than I am. 🙂

Archives: general conference weekend

My church’s general conference (a huge weekend of meetings where all our church leaders are gathered and speak to the entire worldwide congregation) was this weekend, and it was pretty good.  I started off really strong, looking forward to it a lot, but lost some steam as I usually do — it’s hard for me to sit through long meetings.  I guess two hours isn’t that long, but hey,  I find it hard to sit through 7 minute cartoons.

Two (of the five) sessions were really memorable for me.  The first one, when President Monson got up and spoke, he mentioned that there were going to be five new temples built.  One of them was in Cordoba, in Argentina.  I was so excited when I heard that.  I served my mission in Argentina (99-01), in Patagonia (Neuquen mission), and while Cordoba isn’t that close to us, it’s really awesome to learn that the country is going to get it’s second temple, after the one in Buenos Aires.  I’d love to fly down there for the dedication.

It got me thinking about my mission, though, and the people I worked with, and how the Lord really looks after even the least of us.  There is so much poverty and sadness in the areas I served, but the saints try hard to live the gospel.

I imagine the temple is going to be one of the smaller ones, and it reminded me of this small city in my first area.  My first city was Esquel in the province of Chubut.  Near us, there was a really tiny town called Trevelin which couldn’t have had more than a couple thousand people.  I remember walking down this long stretch of barren road, where buildings were dotted across the landscape, sometimes half a mile apart or so, and out in the middle of nowhere, was a little LDS chapel.  The Church only had a small branch in Trevelin, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smaller, prouder little building that they had.  Generally speaking, the Church doesn’t build a building unless the membership is either strong or large, and they are paying their tithes, so it really stood as a monument in mind to the faith of these very few members in that little town.  I really wish I had a picture of it, I remember it so vividly.

I do have a picture of us going to the falls there once, which the city was actually famous for.  I don’t have a scanner at home, so it’ll have to wait for now.  I do have a picture of me in my first area, though.  This was actually taken the day I was transferring from Esquel to an even smaller town, 25 de Mayo in La Pampa.

Notice the heavy coat.  It was freaking cold, there.  I remember wearing about five layers of clothes and still feeling like my bones were turned to ice.

Anyway, the rest of conference was good.  I’ve caught about half of every session so far, and I’ll catch up watching the rest during the week.  I did actually make it to the General Priesthood session on Saturday night, which was really good.  In fact, this is the first time in like four years that I actually made it to a church to watch the thing, since something always seems to happen every year, like I’ll get sick, or fall asleep or whatever.  I went with my friend Scott though, and it was great.

There was this one guy who got up, I can’t remember his name, that delivered this really powerful direct talk.  It was just awesome.  He talked about how the way to cast out Satan in our lives is the same things that worked to cast him out of Heaven in the premortal life.  Ah, the memory is fading, and the talks aren’t online yet or I’d quote him directly.  I remember there were three things, and one of them was the bearing of testimony.  Ah, I’m blanking.  Ah well, the archives will eventually be here.

Archives: cleansing of the leper

I was just channel flipping tonight looking to see what was on TV, and I stumbled on the very last part of a talk being given on BYU TV about types of Christ. I didn’t catch very much, but the speaker did go over something really cool that just blew me away — he covered a few verses from a chapter in Leviticus and showed their symbolic and spiritual significance. It was just so cool I couldn’t sleep and just had to document what he said as best as I can recall.

The passage was from Leviticus 14:1-9. If you read the verses, you’ll see that they seem rather boring and plain from the offset:

1. AND the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.

9. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

Now, I’ve read the Old Testament, and it is full of stuff like this that on first glance seems completely uninteresting and just plain weird, to be honest. And the speaker mentioned that reading this late at night, it would be easy to miss out on the significance of the message.

Take a look now at the same verses, but this time with a perspective on the spiritual side instead of the physical. I’ll try and document as much of his comments as I can remember, and add my own in as well.

2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

In this case the leper represents not really a person, but the sinner, or someone who has sinned and is seeking repentance. He must go unto a judge in Israel (the priest) who has the priesthood from God.

3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

Sometimes the priesthood brethren must go out and seek the sinners. Going out of the camp also illustrates that the sinner in this case has been disfellowshipped, and cannot fully participate with the congregration. The priest then looks, and as judge, can determine if the sinner has fully repented or not.

4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

One of the two birds represent Christ, which will be made more clear pretty soon here, and the other the repentant sinner. The cedar wood is a symbol of the cross, the scarlet of the scarlet robe that was put around Him, and the hyssop the sponge given him when He thirsted on the cross.

5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

Christ came to earth to die for our sins.

6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

It is Christ’s blood again that saves us. He also mentioned in his talk that seven is, symbolically, a number representing perfection … something I’ve heard before, but I’m not really clear on the concept, or even understand how or why (though you definately see it used often).

Once the leper is pronounced clean, he is set free and welcomed back into the congregation (I think … probably muddling that one up, I remember it slightly differently .. he said something about the open field I can’t properly recall).

8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.

9. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

Now this is the part I really didn’t understand, and couldn’t wait for him to explain. The other stuff made some sense (sacrifice, a priest intervening) but shaving off all your hair? I couldn’t imagine.

The answer is that a newborn is typically born without any hair, and this symbolizes the leper becoming born again as a baby. I never saw that one coming.

Absolutely fascinating stuff. I love reading the Old Testament, and it’s such a cool set of scriptures to read. There have been so many plain and precious truths removed from the Bible, but there is so much symbolism still there, and it’s always an awesome treat to find it and understand what it means. This is the stuff in studying scripture that I get really excited, is finding the types and shadows of Christ. Absolutely fascinating stuff. I wish that I had the ability to look past what I’m reading about and see the symbols more clearly. It’s so difficult to do, but it would just make everything make so much more sense if I could do it.

I hope I didn’t sound preachy on this post, that certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, if anything, I completely butchered the presentation that was much nicer. I do just love studying the scriptures though, and it’s one habit I really need and want to get back into. There’s so much cool stuff to learn.

It looks like I found a copy of the talk, too. It’s called “The Power of the Atonement to Cleanse and Heal: Atonement Symbolism in the Old Testament”, and it was given by David Ridges at BYU Education Week on 8/19/02. You can find it here on their broadcasting site. They don’t have an individual link just for the talk, so you’ll have to search for it. I did find a direct RealPlayer audio link though, here. Good stuff