I promised that I would talk somewhat about temple work and the work for the dead from time to time. Today is such a time. This is less about work for the dead, so you know.
The Adversary is at his most effective when he can get us to do the right thing for the wrong reason. If our outward appearance and action seem righteous, then we are less likely to question our inner beliefs and attitudes. In our church, there is sometimes such an emphasis on certain outward shows of faith (eg. church and temple attendance) that ministry toward people making these shows is never initiated until something drastic occurs. We need a way to help the despairing, lonely, confused, and wayward before it becomes physically apparent that they need help. More on that another time…
What I want to talk about today is the way that the Adversary has taken some of the most sacred things that we do in the temple and has altered them. Not in the outward appearance, but in the inner meaning.
Take for instance the relationship between a man and a wife. In the temple, God has something to say on the subject (although his remarks avoid a single interpretation). Outside of the temple, many other people have something to say on the topic. In the temple, the most important aspect is that God is to be involved in decision-making. Outside of the temple, however we care to structure our families is fine, so long as the parents agree with it. God is removed from the structure of family life, even though he was the one to initially ordain it. We now have an understanding of family structure without God. Some might argue that it is better this way, but I disagree. By substituting human understanding for Godly instruction, we create a situation where our inadequate social skills and our lacking wisdom is all might keep a family from self-destructing. We need God to keep our families going. Attempts to structure the family with anything else in God’s place are doomed to fail.
The same can be said for the Gospel. There are several different Gospels out there, depending on how you want it interpreted. The vital truth of The Gospel is that it’s interpreter is Christ himself (and, from Him, the Light of Christ). When we choose a Gospel other than Christ’s, we are substituting someone or something else in His place. I had a friend who was investigating the church tell me that when it came down to it, he had to choose between what the Bible told him and what Mormonism told him. He choose the Bible. He made the choice he did because of how he understood the Bible and how he understood the way God works through it. I agreed that if we kept ourselves strictly to what the Bible (as it is translated) says, that the Book of Mormon does say and do things differently (it even contradicts the Bible on occasion). So if we want to put our understanding of the Bible above what God might tell us, we are again substituting something for God. If we prefer the interpretations of John Wesley, Martin Luther, or Eld. McConkie to what we are being told today by God, we are putting someone else in God’s place. Churches or doctrines that are not founded in God are doomed to fail.
Similar things can be said regarding the bloody recitation of the suffering of the saints and the ascetic sacrifice of monks or even in the Horatio Alger stories of self-sacrifice and success, the replacement of marriage as being between a man and a wife with something much broader, or the communitarian ideal of communism. In all these cases, God is taken out of the equation, replaced with some human’s idea of what is right or even some human. This is the Adversary at his subtlest. The outcome appears the same (strong families, stable societies) but the Adeversary’s outcomes are only temporary. The substitution of mortal for immortal always works that way.
The appeal of all of this is to our pride. We believe that we are capable of these great moral heights without divine intervention. But we are not. We are a jealous, short-sighted, stumbling bunch of sinners. There is no lasting institution on Earth that isn’t inspired and maintained by God. Although we may see in these developments things that make us better, without God, they have no effective force on us. Reason, education, reeducation, suffering, and strife have no edifying value of themselves. It is God to whom we must turn to be lifted above ourselves. All other sources are pale shadows and poor substitutes of the real thing.
2 Replies to “False Proxies”
Ryan Bell has posted on an eerily similar topic at Millenial Star. Go there and read his thoughts, too. Posted by John C.
John, I enjoyed these thoughts. It’s very true that when we seek the same end as God, but approach it through means different than God’s we end up all a mess. You’ve expressed the idea of different gospels very well. I think the challenge of doing things our way vs. the way of God relates back to the original Greek story of Prometheus, which has really consumed my thoughts since I began my post. It’s also expressed so well in Helaman 12:6, which I read this morning: Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. It’s interesting to see how even we disciples, who believe in the mercy and goodness of God toward us, still struggle to let him rule and reign over us. We simply want to do it ourselves, believing still in our own greatness and glory. This frames life as a spectrum between submission and rebellion, which I think is very helpful in showing me how to find my place in God’s universe. Posted by Ryan Bell