Thursday, April 26, 2012

Russell M. Nelson: Thanks be to God, not the big bang.

The big bang is widely thought to explain the origin of the universe. Even some Church members take that view, although the big bang doesn't need God. The Church itself has no official position on the big bang, but there was a recent comment about it from Elder Russell M. Nelson, a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Nearly half a century as a medical doctor confirms his belief that all things, especially the human body, were divinely created:

"Scriptures declare that heaven, earth, and all things upon the earth are divinely created." (Ensign, Mar. 2008.)

In his most recent general conference talk, Elder Nelson took the time to elaborate on his belief that each organ of the human body "is a wondrous gift from God." He then gave this warning:

"Some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, 'Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?' The likelihood is most remote. But if so, it could never heal its own torn pages or reproduce its own newer editions!" (Ensign, May 2012.)

But it's not just the human body. To Elder Nelson "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." (Alma 30:44.)

Those familiar with Elder Nelson's ministry weren't surprised by his big bang comment. In the past, he has consistently argued that science need not challenge faith because, for him, science affirms faith:

"Scientists in many disciplines observe ... manifestations of law and order, whether in the predictability of the tides, the phases of the moon, or the location of stars in the sky. Such law and order undergird all creation. Those laws can be discovered and defined. Their consequences can be measured. Such order bears witness of a Supreme Creator. (See Alma 30:44.)" (Ensign, Mar. 2008.)

For more than 25 years, he has warned about theories which deny man’s divine origin. He has specifically mentioned natural selection, organic evolution, and the big bang. He has even asked for volunteers to help overcome such “foolishness of men.” (Ensign, Jan. 1988.)

Elder Nelson’s April 2012 general conference remark is best understood in its larger context which includes his prior teachings. This was not the first or the only time he has talked about the origin of the earth and man. His current comment is consistent with all of his previous teachings about Creation.

We should also remember that Elder Nelson's big bang comment relates directly back to the tropical fish he mentioned at the beginning of his talk. Let us thank God, not the big bang, for the universe we live in.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

A prophet only when acting as such, part 4: Infallibility

It isn't about fallibility, it's about authority: Christ's authority. As Church members, we follow the apostles because Christ, not we ourselves, called them to serve. They are Christ’s representatives, not ours. They will be judged for the way they use their authority, but they will not be judged by us. Christ gives the authority to judge and condemn His apostles only to the First Presidency, not to the members of His Church. And so we follow them, with a conviction born of the Holy Ghost that they are indeed Christ's apostles, but without regard to their fallibility or infallibility.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

George Albert Smith - Chapter 7 - Eternal life as eternal existence

Among Latter-day Saints, the phrase eternal life usually refers to the quality of life that our Heavenly Father lives. His work and glory are "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) For members of the Church, this is in the future. Right now, we are on the path that "leads to" eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:17-18.)

Eternal Existence

In some cases, the phrase eternal life has another meaning, one that derives from the ordinary meaning of the words — Eternal, meaning "without beginning or end," and life, meaning "of or relating to animate existence." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., 2006.) Thus the phrase eternal life can also refer to existence without beginning or end.

In this sense, even mortality is part of eternal life, part of our eternal existence. The phrase eternal life is used this way in Chapter 7 of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith:

“Our comprehension of this life is that it is eternal life—that we are living in eternity today as much as we ever will live in eternity.” (p.69.)

“I leave my testimony with you that I know that we are living eternal life, and that the temporary separation of death ... is but one of the steps along the pathway of eternal progress and will result eventually in happiness if we are faithful.” (p.77.)

“That portion which leaves the body when our lives go out is that which is spiritual, and it never dies.... It simply passes from this sphere of eternal life, and awaits there the purification of the physical tabernacle.” (p.69.)

In the same Chapter, George Albert Smith teaches that "we received a spiritual tabernacle before we came into this world." (p.69.) This statement suggests that "we" existed prior to receiving a spirit body. In Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, there is a more direct suggestion along those same lines:

"We learn from the scriptures that we each have eternal existence, that we were in the beginning with God (see Abr. 3:22). That understanding gives to us a unique sense of man’s dignity." (p.183.)

"All of you need to drink in deeply the gospel truths about the eternal nature of your individual identity and the uniqueness of your personality." (p.222.)

Speaking as Church President in general conference, Spencer W. Kimball also said:

"The Lord had shown to Abraham ‘the intelligences that were organized before the world was’.... God has taken these intelligences [and] given to them spirit bodies." (Ensign, May 1977.)

The idea that we existed as individuals prior to spirit birth was made very clear to me in the October 1972 general conference by Elder Robert L. Simpson:

“Scripture reveals that even before our spiritual birth, each of us had individual identification as an intelligence. Before all else could take place, there had to be that beginning spark of light, that spark of intelligence or, if you please, the marvelous mechanism that controls our every thought, that controls our every act. We might think of this spark of intelligence as perhaps the nucleus of a human mind.” (Ensign, Jan. 1973.)

Thirty years later, Neal A. Maxwell spoke of this eternal existence when he said:

“Joseph Smith ... was told that ‘man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be’ (D&C 93:29; see also Abr. 3:16–18). Brothers and sisters, you have been you for a long, long time!” (Ensign, April 2003.)

In the April 2010 general conference, the idea that intelligences received a spiritual tabernacle was affirmed by Elder Richard G. Scott in these words:

"What eternal purpose would have come from the Creation of the earth, where intelligences tabernacled with spirits would receive a body, if death were the end of existence?" (Ensign, May 2010.)

The phrase eternal life, as sometimes used by George Albert Smith, refers to the infinite duration of man's eternal existence and includes our present state of existence. Eternal life as it relates to the quality of the life lived by Our Heavenly Father is in the future.

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