Thursday, December 18, 2014

On the only true church... and cookies

In a typical testimony meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often hear, "I know The Church is true." This is shorthand for "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased" (D&C 1:30). I wonder, "Is our 'only true church' reduction sloppy thinking?"

Suppose last week I told you, "Oreos are the only black and white cookie upon the face of the whole earth, with which I am well pleased".

There are several reasons you can't reduce this to "Oreos are the only black cookie" First, Oreos are not black cookies; they are black and white cookies. Second, Oreos are not the only black cookies. In fact, other cookies may better fit the "black cookie" description.

The same goes for white cookies.

In fact, we run into a similar problem when we claim Oreos are the only black and white cookie. Hydrox claims to be the first creme-filled cookie and there are other Oreo knock-offs which are no less black and white than your typical Oreo.

If the reducing our statement about cookies to "Oreos are the only black cookie" is inaccurate, could it be that the "only true church" reduction is no less problematic? The more I learn about other faiths, the more I recognize the truths within them. I have no trouble saying both the other churches are true AND declaring the Church is the only true and living church of which the Lord is well pleased.

Side note: I would never claim Oreos as the only black and white cookie of which I am well pleased.

"If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

1 Nephi 9

for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi. --1Nephi 9:2

Is it just me or does Nephi's duplicative naming scheme seem like a roadshow sketch waiting to happen?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

1 Nephi 1 to 7

In this day and age of process reengineering and Six Sigma, the story of Lehi's flight into the wilderness and Nephi and his brothers subsequent return (not once but twice) to Jerusalem, I can't help but wonder, "Couldn't God have done this more efficiently?" Surely He could have gotten Lehi's family along with Ishmael and the plates of brass out of Jerusalem in fewer steps.

But then what is my wisdom compared to the Lord's? I have noticed several blessings that resulted from the seemingly inefficient manner in Lehi's exodus.

First and most obvious, Sariah's faith was strengthened by her sons first return to Jerusalem. 1 Nephi 5 makes it plain that up to that point Sariah's confidence in her husband's visions had been somewhat shaky. It seems she may have been just going along with her husband's hair-brained schemes. The safe return of her children with the plates, as Lehi prophesied, helped her recognize her husband was not just following the vain imaginations of his heart.

Second, the seemingly inefficient manner the plates were obtained resulted in the addition of Zoram to the band of travelers. Zoram was able to take one of Ishmael's daughters to wife, diversifying the Nephite gene pool.  Without Zoram, the eldest daughter of Ishmael may have ended up the old maid of the new world. Or worse, without Zoram as an additional suitor, Nephi and his brothers may have been unsuccessful in persuading Ishmael to leave Jerusalem. It seems that Zoram also acted as a good friend for Nephi, which given his older brothers recalcitrance must have been most welcome.

In the first journey back, Nephi also obtained the sword of Laban. This then, once they reached the Americas, the Nephites used as a model for weapons as protection against the Lamanites.

I also wonder if Nephi and his brothers losing to Laban all of their father's gold and silver and precious things made it easier for Laman and Lemuel to leave Jerusalem. Perhaps the draw of these precious things would have been too great for Laman and Lemuel when they, together with a few of Ishmael's daughters, rebelled and threatened to return to Jerusalem.

But I'm now speculating... The one thing I take away from all of this is what may appear inefficient to my mortal eyes may actually be the most efficient way for the Lord to achieve his many diverse purposes.

A fresh start

At the Sunday session of Stake Conference a few weeks back I totally had a difficult time paying attention. Between the 2 hours of leadership session and 2 hours of the "adult" session the day before, I was just done. My wife and I had stayed up too late the night before but I'm sure that had nothing to do with my inability to focus. ;)

In spite of my (non)spiritual ADD, the Spirit did manage to leave one impression with me. I need to be better about studying (not just reading) the scriptures. To that end I decided to revive this blog. In college I learned that writing out my thoughts helps distil my thinking and crystalize any insights I may have. If I can't express an idea clearly in words, the idea could use a little refining.

To aide in my studies I bought James E Faulconer's The Book Of Mormon Made Harder. (I took Hegel from Dr. Faulconer in college. He was a great teacher.) I imagine sometimes my posts will use those questions as jumping off points or I may just share random thoughts that come to my mind while studying (like my next post on the first few books of Nephi). At the end of the day, I just want to capture my impressions in a place where my kids can one day profit from.