State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

The Mastery Of Opposites

It seems to be designed into life that there are principles that we must deal with, and that these principles often seem to be opposed to one another.  Some of the most heated arguments we have come in the form of trying to “balance” principles such as justice and mercy, or individual freedom and societal action.  It’s time to look closely at a number of these principles, not from the idea of “balancing”, but from the perspective that we need to master both.  In mastery, we will come to understand that such principles are not opposed, but actually work with each other to produce positive results.

Hugh Nibley touches on this subject through a good portion of his essay Zeal Without Knowledge.  It is a fascinating read as he carefully explains how our zeal can help us gain knowledge (and vice-versa) or cause us to regress in our thinking.  See: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=75&chapid=929

Justice and Mercy

Justice and mercy are two concepts so far apart that they must be represented by two different parts of the godhead.  God the father represents justice.  He will make sure every debt is paid to the penny.  God is God because he guarantees justice in the universe.  If he didn’t insure that justice would be done, if justice were an arbitrary whim or just done at the pleasure of some supreme being, then no entity in the universe would have faith in him.  Instead, we know what we are getting with God–absolute justice.  Everyone can be assured he will guarantee that they will get exactly what they earn.

Now the unfortunate part–we all earn death.  We all merit nothing but destruction.  If we think that God the father can simply look away from the evils we have done, we are merely fooling ourselves.  Alma explains (Alma 42: 25): 

 “What do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?  I say unto you, Nay; not one whit.  If so, God would cease to be God.” 

Alma is clear.  Each “account” will be balanced to the penny, and God can’t change the requirement, because he offers perfect justice.  There is good news.  Jesus Christ of his own free will and choice has already suffered the pains we cause.  He guarantees the repayment of all our “debts”.  He has and will make right everything we have and will make wrong.  Justice will be served, fully, by him alone.  2Nephi 2:5-7:

“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.  And the law is given unto men.  And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off.  Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

“Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”

We could go on for a long time about the fine points of justice and mercy, but to sum up, there is no compromise between the two.  There is no balancing act.  By virtue of God the Father and the Son, both are made perfect and work together rather than being opposites.

 Faith and Works

 Are we saved by Grace?  Is it necessary for us to do things for our own salvation?  The answer is yes.  Consider the perspective of King Benjamin (Mosiah 2:21):

“And I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another–I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

So it all depends wholly on God.  Does it also depend on us?  Is that possible if it depends wholly on God?  Consider Mosiah 2: 32-33:

“But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit…

“For behold there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit; for if he listeth to obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul; for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge.”

Now Alma 5: 23-25:

“Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness?

“Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?

“I say unto you, Nay; except ye make our Creator a liar from the beginning…”

It all depends on our choices.  There can be no compromise.  We need to give 100% effort to our choices and works.  We can then be saved 100% by Grace.

Desire and Gratitude

What a great problem here.  We need to learn to be fully grateful for all that we have and are, yet still desire to better ourselves.  Alma shows this beautifully in Alma 29: 1-3:

O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of my heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

“Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

“But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.”

Lorenzo Snow taught:

“You who have aspirations to be great–and there is no wrong in that–should realize…the support that you should give to those over you, so that when you are placed in responsible positions you may demand of the Lord the faith and support of the people.”

If you want to be a great leader, you need to be loyal to your leaders.  If you want to be a great teacher, you need to be a great learner.  On another note, it is interesting that Pres. Snow is also teaching about righteous self interest.  To become great is a venture of self interest.  Pres. Snow teaches that there is nothing wrong with this–evil comes when it becomes prideful, which would mean that gratitude is lost and helping others achieve is no longer the focus.  Think about it for a minute.  Aren’t we all grateful that God desired to become great?  Had he not chosen to become all he could–to become God, where would we be?  Our situation would be quite hopeless.  Instead, he shows the perfection of desire in becoming all he could, and gratitude in helping each of us learn and progress toward the same end.  Can we not apply this teaching to many different areas of life?

Profits and Charity

In our modern world we have hit a stage of pride that it’s hard to think of these two as working together, but they do.  Jacob explains (Jacob 2:18-19):

“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”

I’ll give a couple of examples from our day.  I know a land-lord who had a tenant whose husband died.  The widow was on a fixed income, hardly able to pay full rent for the apartment.  The land-lord lowered the price of the rent as needed to help the widow, sacrificing almost all profit from the unit.  The widow kept the apartment in good condition, minimizing the costs to the land-lord.  By working together, the owner made what may be considered a just profit and the widow had a place to live.  Both were grateful for each other.

A few years back, I worked for a small business in the construction industry.  The owner was a good man, who cared for his employees.  When construction in the state suffered setbacks, the company began to struggle.  The owner put in many hours of work trying to keep everything going.  He never missed payroll.  I later learned that he worked for a full year for less than half what I had been paid to work for him.

Just as God had to become God to help us progress, so must we have something to give in order to help others.  But isn’t seeking a profit in business the same as serving mammon?  I believe it all has to do with our motives.  Just before the Savior taught that ye cannot serve God and mammon, he taught us why he puts us in the world of mammon.  Luke 16: 10-13:

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much:  and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

“And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?

“No servant can serve two masters…Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

It seems we are put here to see how we will handle the necessity of making a living in “the unrighteous mammon.”  If we are faithful, and I would suggest that means just what Jacob explained it to mean, then he knows we will be faithful in great and lasting stewardships to come.  If we cheat or take advantage (leagal or not), then he knows we cannot be trusted with “true riches”.  Therefore pride is the real root we are looking for.  If we care more for ourselves than our neighbor, our pride will cause us to seek mammon at a cost to someone else (and this may well include withholding it), and we cannot serve God.  If we love God and our neighbor and ourselves, then we will handle our riches in a way that we can be trusted in any capacity.  One of the great tests of this life is being put in the “world of vanity” (as the book of Zosimus calls it), with the goal of overcoming vanity and becoming charitable.

Christlike Love and Doctrinal Correctness

Charity is the pure love of Christ.  We are to have this for all people.  On the flip side, we believe many doctrines and have many standards that are not common in the world.  Can we learn to be fully converted and devoted to living the doctrine, yet have a complete love for those who choose not to?  Can we teach this to our children?  Can we come to a perfect understanding that homosexuality will not allow for an eternal family, and cannot be accepted by the church, but love the homosexual just the same and hope that God can perform salvation for him or her, too?

Learning and Humility

This is the topic that Nibley covers so well.  He quotes Joseph Smith:

“[the people] were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving themselves.”

If we are not learning, and instead waiting to be instructed in all things, we will be darkened in our minds.  Nibley again quotes Joseph Smith:

“Soon after the gospel was established in Kirtland, …many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, …many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the church of God.”

Nibley explains:

“This was a time when some of the brethren in Kirtland were out to prove that they were smarter than the prophet and produced the so-called Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, to match his production of the Book of Abraham.”

Nibley explains the conflict, and not that the real problem is our old friend, pride:

“This illustrates another point, that knowledge can be heady stuff, but it easily leads to an excess of zeal!…The University is nothing more nor less than a place to show off:  If it ceased to be that, it would cease to exist.”

Nephi explains this principle best of all.  (2Nephi 9: 28-29)

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!  When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.  And they shall perish.

“But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

I would love to fully understand all doctrines and mysteries and have all my questions answered.  I guess I am supposed to seek to understand and learn and come to knowledge, but I must be humble.  What if my logic brings me in contradiction with prophets and apostles?  What if I view myself as better or more knowing than others?  If this is the case, then my learning, without the proper humility could well be my downfall.  Can we learn, even great things, yet be humble when we are wrong?

Effective post/Long post

I realize I am going far into the latter, so we’ll stop here.

 

 

« Previous post
Next post »

Leave a Reply