Thursday, July 29, 2010

Natural Consequences or Punishments?

Simultaneously to Sherrie's musing on blessings, I've been pondering punishments: is God heaping extra penalties on us when we sin, beyond the natural consequences? My answer is no. Unequivocally. God blesses to the max; punishes to the min.

Also, I'm posting in the format I'm using to Learn from the new Duty to God program. I like to personalize the scripture I'm studying by putting it in the first person. Then I pick out phrases that help me feel the Spirit and write about them. This has transformed my scripture study over the last week.
Helaman 3:29-30
We see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.
Personalized. I may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil that I’m caught in, and lead me in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf me if I'm wicked—and land my soul, yea, my immortal soul, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven…
quick. The word of God is living, meaning He will apply it to my personal life through the Holy Ghost. I do not have to rely on the words of dead men, or even other living men. I have my own reception.
the word of God…shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil. The purpose of God’s word is to pierce Satan’s lies and expose them for the falsehood they are. Part of His word is the commandments.
lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery. Indeed, God’s is the voice of experience, one who has safely navigated across the “everlasting gulf of misery.” As an analogy, I think of Taran using Adaon's brooch to lead his companions across the Marshes of Morva while the Huntsmen fell into the swamps and were drowned.
that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked. God did not create the gulf. It is not everlasting because it is His creation. It is everlasting because it is always ready to engulf men of any age who behave in a certain way (i.e., wickedly).
whosoever will their the right hand of God. My eternal destination is up to me. This is a paradox: it's up to me, but Christ accomplishes it. Without Christ, my eternal destination would be fixed; I could never return to my Heavenly Father. But because of Christ, I have a choice.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Natural Consequences or Blessings?

Being the Preparedness Specialist in my ward has helped me ponder spiritual matters from a different perspective lately.   A major focus of my calling is on food storage, an obviously temporal matter.  When I received this calling, I was blessed that it would help increase my testimony of the Savior, which thing I had recently been praying for.  Seeing as how the Lord seemingly answered my prayer, I have sought to discover just how food storage could accomplish my spiritual goal.  It is a long journey, to be sure, but in the process, I have come to look at blessings from the Lord in a new light.

Imagine that you have done your duty and responded to the counsel of the Prophets by storing food when a disaster hits.  The natural consequence of your actions is that you will have food to eat and your life will be sustained or prolonged.  Those who did not listen will unfortunately find themselves unprepared and thus will not be able to survive.  These are simply natural and logical consequences.  If you have food to eat, you will live.  If you don't have food, you will die.

This is often compared to Noah's ark.  Only his family listened and were prepared for the massive flood that took place.  Those who did not hearken to the prophet and prepare for the disaster were lost.  Once again, preparation literally led to life and being unprepared led to death.

Noah's ark is often compared to our salvation.  The Lord gives commandments to us through our prophets and if we obey, we are saved; we receive life.  If we do not, we are lost.  Sometimes this can be seen as harsh and many question how a loving God could deliver such a cruel punishment.  Corianton, the son of Alma, was concerned about this very matter (Alma 42).  Yet Alma, in the previous chapter, has just finished explaining the doctrine of restoration, which could also be called "natural consequences."  Read it; it's a good one.

Then there are the multiple references to reaping what you sow, two of which are found in Gal. 6: 7-9 and D&C 6 :3-4, 33.

What is my point with all of this?  In all these examples it is clear to see that the results of our actions are natural consequences.  Just as storing food will result in life, keeping the commandments of God will naturally result in salvation (to put it briefly).  Or in other words, we will have the tools and the character that we need in order to be in the presence of a holy and perfect Being.

This can be carried out to explain all blessings since Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 tells us that any blessing we receive is because we have obeyed a particular law.  It makes perfect sense that if we obey the word of wisdom, we will be blessed with better health than had we not obeyed it.  God is bound when we do what He says simply because of the natural consequences resulting from our actions.  

There are certainly deeper points to ponder on this issue.  Why is it that the Pioneers seemed to suffer so much heartache and so many trials when they were being so faithful?  There is no easy answer, but the discussion could go into the fact that God is not bound in timing his blessings.  I also am aware that amidst all the suffering, the early Saints recognized many blessings in their lives in spite of (or maybe because of) their trials.  It has also been said that trials can be a form of blessings.  Another route we could go off on is the fact that things happen to us, good or bad, as a result of others actions and may have had nothing to do with our own actions.  Just some things to ponder.  

What do you think?  Are blessings merely natural consequences to our obedience?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


While leafing through this month's Ensign I stopped to check out the home teaching message.  For whatever reason I kind of rolled my eyes and kept leafing through the magazine.  Friends? what kind of gospel doctrine is about friends?  I then went and administered the sacrament to one of my home teaching families and felt the spirit very strong there.  On my drive home, not having any inspirational music or talks to listen to, I called my wife to have her read me this month's home teaching message

As she was reading it, thoughts came into my mind from our Priesthood lesson in church on Sunday discussing the importance of perfecting the saints.  One of the elders commented on the importance of insuring that each member has a friend, responsibility, and is "nourished by the good word of God" (Moroni 6:4).  I then realized how important friendship is (not that I had never seriously considered it before, but for whatever reason it's importance wasn't engraved in my mind).  Friends can make or break you.  Even the Lord taught the importance of us being his friends,
"13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
Having friends and being a friend is an extremely important part of this life's experience.  Our friends should be those that will bring us closer to God and are genuinely concerned for our spiritual and temporal welfare.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak (Alma 26:11-12)

I used to think of my nothingness as simply a power ratio: God has infinite power, I have none. Now, I also see it as a goodness ratio: God has infinite goodness, I have none (cf Mosiah 4:5). That’s not too say that I have no good in me, or that I’ve never done good things. Rather, He is the source of the good that I do. I’m like a transparent ghost in a long-exposure photograph, whereas God is opaque. He is always good. I am good temporarily, fleetingly. The times I sit still long enough to appear in the picture, I am simply mimicking the model He provides.

So why does this matter? Why is a goodness ratio different than a power ratio? For me, it connects the two: God is powerful because He is good. I have the same type of power He does: the ability to act, rather than just be acted upon (cf 2 Nephi 2:14). But the magnitude of His power is so much greater than mine because He constantly uses this power for good. I try, but I falter. This helps me see that I am like Him, we come from the same mold. Moreover, I can become like Him, not just in form, but in actual content.