The necessity of the fall?

Christian, our intrepid Evangelical friend, is asking about salvation over at his site. One of the things he mentions there (as I mulled over my as-yet non-existent response) really struck me.

# So because of our sin (both Adam’s and of our own own) we deserve to die – after all, there is no forgiveness of sin w/out the shedding of blood (Heb 10:22), and in our sin we are already dead to God (Eph 2:1). We are incapable of turning to God on our own (Rom 5:12, John 6:44). We’re in deep do-do

We’ll call this Christian’s third rule of Evangelical salvation. Go to his post to see the others.

As luck would have it, I found President Benson expressing similar sentiments:

Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon. “(Ensign, Nov 1987, 83)

And because you know that I am all about the quotes, here is a third, from the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

Here is my question: Do we actually need to feel the effects of the Fall in our life to straighten up? Can we really change our life if we don’t feel like that spider facing an immediate fiery doom?

In my life, repenting seems to come in fits and starts related to personal catastrophes, so I apparently do think that imminent destruction is helpful for one’s relationship with God. Somehow, I don’t think (the Rev. Edwards aside) that this is how it is supposed to work.

Where is our sense of urgency?

Here is a quote from an Ezra Taft Benson talk I read this morning:

[The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants] are bound together as revelations from Israel’s God for the purpose of gathering and preparing His people for the second coming of the Lord.” (Ensign, November 1986, 78)

Do you ever get the feeling that we, as a people, are not millenarian enough?

Prophetic fallibility and faith

I ran across the following quote from President Ezra Taft Benson this morning:

It would be difficult to underestimate the impact the Bible has had on the history of the world.“(Ensign, Nov 1987, 78)

I am relatively certain that this is the exact opposite of what he meant to say. An Ensign editor failed to catch it and now this error is here for you to enjoy.

The story goes that Simonds Rider left the church because Joseph Smith misspelled his name. I believe that Pres. Benson’s above error is just as inconsequential (at least for me, as I have no desire to leave the church over it). But, to be frank, I revel in these sorts of errors anyway.

Moroni, in a fit of self-consciousness, wrote the following in Ether 12:23-25:

23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

I don’t believe that I really understand his distinction between the spoken word and print as I am equally awkward in both. However, print lasts longer than any individual speech, so people have much more time to pick nits regarding what you have written. If you screw up in print, your mistake is with you for a very long time.

I like that Moroni is worried about this sort of thing; it humanizes him for me. It helps me remember two fairly important things: Only God is perfect; and, for some reason, He has chosen to implement His perfect plan through imperfect people. The relationship we share with God is equally voluntary on both ends, He chooses us as much as we choose Him (if not more so). He probably could do whatever it is that He is doing much better without us, but He thinks it is important that we play a role in His plan. This makes me happy. Even if I can never get the 12-year-olds to shut up long enough to feel the Spirit, I know that God chose clumsy, accident-prone, absent-minded, little-ol’ me to play this part in the plan. I can live with that.

Attention English Majors

A quote from www.lds.org for all you literary theorists out there:

“Salvation is not in facilities or technology, but in the word. Only in the power of the word will it impact our lives and help us to live closer to our Father in Heaven.”
—Elder L. Tom Perry
Ensign, May 2000, 25

You don’t appear to be alone.

Seven Brides for Creepy Brothers

On the grand scale of musicals that are perpetually playing in Utah, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” probably ranks third (the first two being “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Forever Plaid”). I can’t speak for when it was originally produced, by the play strikes me as exceedingly perverse. Kidnapping your potential bride is not the sort of activity we would generally expect to find in plays that the Mormons laud (even if written by Sam Shepherd). So, what is the deal?

Do Mormons love it just because it is a musical set in the West that isn’t “Paint Your Wagon”? Are we waxing nostalgic for a period when kidnapping and forced marriage could be seen as innocent fun? Or it is something more sinister?

The First Vision, the Apostasy, and You

Here is a quote from the study questions area of the David O. McKay lesson that we will be studying in my ward this coming Sunday (at least in Priesthood; we have somehow gotten out of synch with the Relief Society).

In what way is the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith the “”foundation of this Church””?

This is in reference to a quote by Pres. McKay earlier in the chapter:

The appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith is the foundation of this Church. Therein lies the secret of its strength and vitality. This is true, and I bear witness to it. That one revelation answers all the queries of science regarding God and his divine personality. Don’t you see what that means? What God is, is answered. His relation to his children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision. (Gospel Ideals, 85.)

I suppose it is good to know more about God (He and Christ being separate beings and all that), but what is most significant about the First Vision to me is the active role in human life that it envisions for God. God cares enough to sit down and chat with us about the confusions of life (everyday or otherwise). He is manifestly a God who interferes in the doings of his children on earth. Perhaps not on a daily basis, but often enough to keep the whole project progressing.

A while ago, there was a discussion on T&S regarding whether or not we have a real doctrine of the Apostasy. The discussion was interesting but, to me, it seemed to skirt one of the more fundamental issues. Where was God during the Apostasy? If I believe that people today are not more or less worthy of God’s active participation in their lives than the folks of circa 1000, why don’t we have records of people engaging in the type of “dialogic revelation” that we believe Joseph Smith did (at least according to Givens) in that period?

The thing is that people did. I would argue that it is the most natural form of address that we use with God. In his Confessions, for instance, Augustine describes his conversion in terms that invoke the conversion of Alma the Younger:

CHAPTER XII

28. Now when deep reflection had drawn up out of the secret depths of my soul all my misery and had heaped it up before the sight of my heart, there arose a mighty storm, accompanied by a mighty rain of tears. That I might give way fully to my tears and lamentations, I stole away from Alypius, for it seemed to me that solitude was more appropriate for the business of weeping. I went far enough away that I could feel that even his presence was no restraint upon me. This was the way I felt at the time, and he realized it. I suppose I had said something before I started up and he noticed that the sound of my voice was choked with weeping. And so he stayed alone, where we had been sitting together, greatly astonished. I flung myself down under a fig tree–how I know not–and gave free course to my tears. The streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in these words, but to this effect, I cried to thee: “And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? Oh, remember not against us our former iniquities.” For I felt that I was still enthralled by them. I sent up these sorrowful cries: “How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?”

29. I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which–coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.” Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: “Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.

So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.

I guess the point is that if Augustine can feel the Spirit and experience the Atonement via this kind of dialogue with God (being one of the parties most likely responsible for the prolongation of the Apostasy), why was the First Vision so revolutionary?

But I can’t deny that it was and is. It created a literal church of prophets. We believe that every person has just as much right of access to God as the Pope, the Prophet, or the President. And we encourage people to make use of that right from Nursery onward, in spite of the possibility of confusing results. We, as a church, believe in the First Vision and insist on making it a model of how we ought to approach God. I don’t believe that there is another way to put it.

So, getting back to the original question of the post, how foundational is the First Vision to your beliefs? Why? And, as a corollary, do we give enough credit to this experience when it is found amongst members of other faiths?

Initial thoughts

I love the initiatory. I went to the temple and did initiatories last night and it occurred to me why I enjoy it so. There is a physicality to it that is missing from the other temple ordinances. I have to get up and move around and do things. I understand that all temple ordinances are somewhat passive (these included), but I liked the motion. It reminded me of the time I went to an endowment session in the Manti temple.

A well run initiatory session is like a ballet, a machine where the cogs are placed in just the right spots to catch each other. Last night’s was not well run. The men helping me hadn’t done it in a while and were stumbling over some of the things they had to say. But it was still beautiful, a reminder of God’s choice to use imperfect humans to accomplish his perfect goals. It kept me grounded.

What do you think of this ordinance? Please keep your comments appropriate to the forum (ie. this ain’t no temple, don’t pretend it is).