Five-hundred Miles Per Hour at Thirty-thousand Feet

Dear Joseph,

I want to return to the subject of information missing from scripture. Even including The Book of Mormon, there’s still a big chunk of really important stuff missing, confused, contradicted, and inaccurate. I understand humans are responsible for the current state of scripture, and we’re supposed to have free-will and all, but you’d think God would draw the line at messing with the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us. Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway. That’s just bad parenting! I don’t let my kids do whatever they want, consequences be damned and the kids too. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.

—Thomas

P.S.

One of the things I’ve learned since my last missive is that in the 1970’s a manuscript dating back to around 400 AD was found, which was itself a translation of another manuscript from 200 AD. In 2006 National Geographic did a cover story on it. I’m guessing it was because the translation had just been finished, but I don’t know; it seems like a long time to wait around for that. Anyway, the writing is what would have been the Gospel of Judas IF the powers that be (or were) had decided to include it. So now I’m very interested in tracking a copy of this down to see what is has to say.


Dear Thomas,

“…Humans are responsible for the current state of scripture….”

I’m glad we seem to share the belief that the word of God, or scripture, as we have received it is subject to the failings of mortal men. I know many who profess that the Bible is word for word exactly what God spoke. My questions then are, to whom? And for what purpose? I’m not asking to destroy faith, of course, but to bring up realistic questions concerning the origin of scripture. With that said, you’re exactly right that there are holes and contradictions, etc., that make the scriptures imperfect. Though the Book of Mormon stands out for claiming to contain the whole of the Gospel of Christ (and it does), you’re also right in saying that there is other information that is just not there—questions that are not answered.

“[Scriptures are] the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us.”

To most Christians, humanity is consigned to deal with what scanty direction the scriptures provide. But unique among Christians, Mormons believe in modern revelation, that each person has a right and a responsibility to seek after the revelations of God for his or herself, and we believe that God will answer each person’s honest seeking.

The Book of Mormon describes what state that the heart of such an one ought to be like in order to receive revelation. Not surprisingly it’s not just wanting it or waiting for something to hit you in the head. It requires humility, belief, and a true heart—a willingness to live up to what you receive—among other things. Through personal revelation, and revelation for the world through the prophet and the apostles, the holes in our understanding of God can be filled. This might sound idealistic—that God may speak to man in our day—but it’s true! You’re hearing it from someone who knows His voice.

“Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway…. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.”

Why does God allow us to do anything we want, let alone tamper with His revealed word so that generations of people are walking in darkness? Why does he grant us freewill and free agency? It is because He loves us and honors our value, which value He esteems as equal with His. (You read that right: equal!) He is giving us the absolute choice to have what He has but never through force. The principles of revelation outlined in the above paragraph means that we can access Him directly. His answer will most likely not be a pillar of light we see with our eyes, but one we feel with our hearts. His answer may take the form of placing others in our path so that we have contact with the truth (hint, hint). Perhaps if you have recently even prayed in your heart to know more about God and His will for you, I have been prompted by His Holy Spirit to speak thusly with you. Whatever the form—even silence—He listens and knows how to answer us in the best way possible. (And remember, we who measure time with wristwatches don’t know anything more about good timing than He who uses galactic clocks and planetary cycles.)

But if scripture has left many in the dark for generations of time, why would God allow His children to wade without light for so long? I think it is partially an action of mercy on His part. “What? Denying people the word of God as mercy? What kind of blasphemy is this?” My favorite kind: truth. Or in other words, blasphemy against false doctrine (I thought that the former sounded cool though).

First of all, remember how I said that the lowest station a soul can reach in the final judgement is still way better than our current one (the telestial kingdom)? Well there’s that. But also, we believe that mankind will be judged according to the light they received in this life. If some middle-of-nowhere, yak-herding child dies without ever hearing the word of God, is he damned? If so, that’s what I call bad parenting, reprimanding a child for doing something he didn’t know was wrong.

I heard a story once of a mother who severely scolded her boy for going past the corner of the block one day, and in the midst of the boy’s sobs and anguish he said, “Mom, what’s a corner?” God, our perfect Father, will never be guilty of such a cold action. If we see Him this way in scripture, we are missing an important element of the true story, and so the emphasis is on our need to seek out revelation to learn who the whole truth of who He is and what He is like. He will not punish the African child who knew no law, but He will give the child a glorious resurrection and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The same is true for all who possess any degree of truth: if you have been told that lying is bad but fighting is good, your sins will be composed of the lies you told and not the fights you started (this would be a brilliant place to bring up the doctrine of the Light of Christ, by the way).

So when generations have wandered without the whole truth of God, they are in some ways being shown mercy in that they will not be held responsible for the greater light they may otherwise have sinned against. Those who have the greater light revealed to them, accept and understand it, and then reject it have a fate much worse than those who never knew it. That is why the unpardonable sin is called “the sin against the Holy Ghost” and not “the sin against Dave” (where ‘Dave’ is someone that everyone knows).

If knowing something can potentially be worse than not knowing, why would God teach us anything at all? Isn’t that bad parenting if He is to judge us accordingly? No, because to become as He is and enjoy the life He enjoys requires us to be clean and keep certain laws no matter the light received. Just as an airplane has safety protocols and operating instructions specific to its proper usage and prior to its enjoyment that are more thorough than those of an automobile, even so entering the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom requires a specific knowledge and lifestyle prior to entering and inheriting it.

So back to the yak-herding child who dies without the law, he will be held guiltless before God at the last day and counted worthy to enter the Celestial kingdom IF he chooses to observe the “safety protocols and operating instructions.” Again, no compulsion, for if he would be happier not knowing those things, then he will not be forced to know them, BUT he will never know the thrill of flying at 500 MPH at 30,000 FT next to driving a nice sports car. Likewise, though we will be judged by the light we receive or didn’t receive in this life, the truest happiness—the happiness that our Heavenly Father knows—can only come to us if we obey Him, and we will all have this choice.

—Joseph

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