One of the criticisms often leveled at the Church and the restored gospel, and even more broadly at Christianity in general, is that it is “behind the times” with regards to science. Critics point to past teachings that coincide with creation, evolution, genetics and DNA, archaeology, paleontology, geology, neurology, and other areas to show how “out of touch” and “out of date” the Church is in these areas. These criticisms are even pointed toward teachings we find in the temple, particularly those regarding the creation of the Earth and of mankind. Some have lost their faith over what they view as the “incompatibilities” of modern science and the gospel. This need not be. [Read more…]
What is mysticism? That is the million dollar question.
It is incredibly difficult to define. Wikipedia defines it as the “pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” What? By combining all possible definitions into one, they have created an incomprehensible one.
Let’s turn to some closer associates. Hugh Nibley once defined it, quoting Eduard Lehmann, as “an intuitive and ecstatic union with the deity obtained by means of contemplation and other mental exercises.” Professor William Hamblin turns to oft-repeated definitions such as “a domain of religion that deals with the search for and the attainment of a profound experiential knowledge of God or of ultimate reality,” or, “mysticism is … a type of religious experience which involves a sense of union or merging with either God or an all-pervading spiritual force in the universe,” but finds even these lacking. In Kevin Christensen’s recent Interpreter review of Margarget Barker’s book Temple Mysticism: An Introduction he indicated that his “favorite LDS approach” to the topic has become Mark E. Koltko’s essay “Mysticism and Mormonism: An LDS Perspective on Transcendence and Higher Consciousness,” found in the April 1989 issue of Sunstone. We’ll come back to this shortly. Christensen notes that while Nibley’s view tends to be the more conventional definition, Margaret Barker’s own use of the term in her book is very different still, focusing on the experience of “seeing the Lord,” i.e. a temple theophany. While different, there is clearly overlap between the ideas of “a union with deity,” and “seeing God,” as Matthew Bowen also elucidates in his recent article in Interpreter. Koltko’s essay also perhaps helps bridge the gap. [Read more…]
This is a continuation of a series of posts that I started a few years ago. Of course, it could easily fit within the series very recent posts on the same subject of the law of consecration, including Hugh Nibley quotes from Approaching Zion, “Are we required to live the law of consecration, now?“, and Mormon Channel Episodes On The Law Of Consecration And The United Order.
In this post we will examine this question – “What is tithing?”
This seems to be a pretty basic question, with a Primary answer. We all know what tithing is, right? I mean, even the etymology of the word tithe itself, coming from the Old English teoþa or even earlier to the Hebrew tithes in Malachi 3:8 (ma`aser or מַעֲשֵׂר, or an even earlier root `asar or עֶשֶׂר meaning “ten”), means a “tenth” part. What could be more simple? This seems to be a commandment that we could easily say we keep or do not keep. We either give a tenth part of our income annually, or we don’t. Is there any more to it?
The truth of the matter is that everything we think we know about tithing is most likely wrong. This could come as a shock to some, but when you get right down to what tithing is, as revealed by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, it is not what we commonly think it is. Personally, I think this is unfortunate, because we do not know what the Lord revealed and commanded, and if we are thus ignorant, how do we expect to be able to follow His word? What does the Lord say? What do our scriptures teach? [Read more…]
I again return to a former post I wrote in 2008 about an obscure book I stumbled across entitled The Light of Truth as Revealed in the Holy Scriptures, published in 1916 by one Levi Rightmyer, a hefty book at 967 pages, and freely downloadable from Google. I have still been unable to find any more information more about this author Levi Rightmyer, unfortunately, and would be interested to know more about his background if anyone is aware. Although not LDS (although he does mention the Mormons once in the book), he came very close to approximating many of the more esoteric LDS beliefs regarding Melchizedek, the priesthood, the temple, the judgement, theosis or deification, and the afterlife. It seems that Levi had an experience similar to Joseph Smith, which caused him to turn to the scriptures to find the truth, this from the preface:
Familiar with many of the conflicting religious beliefs of these and former days, Mr. Rightmyer was early filled with an earnest determination to search the Scriptures for himself, and if possible to find out the truth contained therein. (Preface)
It’s amazing how people wax literary in climates such as these. Sometimes common language just doesn’t do the subject matter justice, and understanding is not well communicated. Thus the use of parables and poems. One of the reasons Christ taught in parables was so that people could learn about different gospel topics by using their everyday vernacular, which could increase understanding (for some it actually hid the truth).
Here are a couple parables and poems that have been written in recent days about the current Maxwell Institute events, or because of them:
- The first is actually a poem, “The Charge of the FARMS Brigade,” by William Hamblin. Well done!
- The second is a parable from Hamblin, “The Parable of the Football Team.” Very well said, and which I alluded to in my analogy.
- Thirdly, I entered the fore with “The Analogy of the Basketball Team.” (It’s not really a parable, but an extended analogy. Perhaps I should have put it in parable form.)
- Fourth, I was quite inspired on Friday by David Bohn’s article at Times & Seasons, whereafter I wrote “On the Creative Gift.”
- Fifth, today Pahoran at the Mormon Dialogue & Discussion Board (MDDB) wrote “The Parable of the Fire Brigade & Gardener.” I thought this was very well done, so I asked Pahoran permission to repost it here:
“Once there was a city that had no fire department. A group of public-spirited citizens banded together, bought a good second-hand fire appliance, began training together, and pretty soon had a rather good working volunteer fire brigade.
“There was in that same city a loosely affiliated group of semi-professional arsonists. Naturally, they were angered by the appearance of the volunteer brigade. They began opposing its activities, muttering loudly that the fire brigade demolished more buildings than it saved, and that bystanders at fires sometimes got wet.
“Nevertheless, most of the citizens appreciated the work of the brigade, and eventually the mayor of the town approached the volunteers and invited them to come under the umbrella of the city administration. The volunteers at first resisted these overtures, but eventually they agreed, and the new fire department was constituted, under the oversight of the deparment of Parks and Gardens.
“Time passed, as it always does. The arsonists stepped up their campaign of disinformation. A new mayor was elected. The fire department increasingly came under the control of Parks and Gardens people who wanted more resources to beautify the city by planting flowering shrubs. Some of these listened to the murmurings of the arsonists, not realising their true source. Eventually they succeeded in getting rid of the original fire chief and began to divert the resources of the former fire brigade to their pet garden projects.”
I should note, sometimes firefighters and gardeners can team up, in very rare circumstances, but it’s pretty unusual when it happens (like a transit of Venus?). And of course, firefighting and gardening are both honest, requisite, and noble fields of work in our world.
Any other good literary works emerge from the past week? Please let me know, and I’ll add them to this list.
P.S. On the other hand, if you want to see a remarkable piece of truly refined ad-hominem literature, certainly an epitome in the genre, take a look at this by Edwin Firmage.