Sunday, January 27, 2013


In recent weeks, several families in our Ward have experienced tragedies and traumas. Then today, we had our Sunday Service and I left the meeting feeling depressed in spirit; depressed because of the words of a leader who said: "Why do bad things happen to good people? I simply don't know."

To clarify, I must say that our stake leaders are good men and women, probably doing the best they can with the time they have, and yet how can a top leader in our stake not know? With the continual cycling (and déjà vu) of "bad things"—with the prolific witness of scripture and history, how can our leaders not be able to articulate the principles of why "bad things happen to good people"?

1. The principle of agency. Children, spouses, friends, strangers, and we ourselves make choices—and choices have consequences. Many, many times those consequences are painful—sometimes so agonizing they seem unbearable, unforgivable, unending.

2. The principle of progression. The comfortable, "untroubled, blessed life," plus fame, money, power (The Three Temptations), and so forth are status-quo and distractive impediments to spiritual and eternal progression which is The Great Plan. Without some motivation to reassess priorities, perspectives, and purposes, we seem to forget that life is, at core, about eternal lives and relationships—not about transient, 3-D material and personal attachments.

3. The principles of law and necessity. Without perfecting faith, hope and charity1 we cannot be trusted with the greater powers that accompany progression. And like so much else, increasing in faith, hope, and charity comes line upon line, choice upon choice—mostly triggered by reevaluations and recommitments wrung from out of suffering.

4. The principle of submission.2  However anything appears to us, things do not just happen randomly—without God's awareness. And furthermore, God is not asleep, nor dead, nor fickle, nor sadistic. He is a loving God who said:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Old Testament Isaiah 55:8-9)
Is He not telling us that the principle of progression (#2 above) means more than we can possibly comprehend in our 3-D world?3 That we don't know enough to judge what is best for our or another's progression? And that every "bad thing" that flows from agency (or from whatever cause) can be turned to good if we apply it to increasing our faith, hope, and charity?

5. The principle of comfort.
... I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (New Testament John 16:32-33)

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (New Testament John 14:18)
Are we open to that comfort? Are we open to the principle of submission to God? Or are we so immersed in our own sense of what is "rational and just"4 that comfort is rejected out of hand?

But God's witness and the witness of unnumbered sufferers is that when we remain open, even when understanding is elusive, we shall be comforted (in God's way and timing). Remember Job.5

Someone said: "The gospel message is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed."

How much peace, comfort, and understanding do we deny ourselves and others when we cannot witness (in appropriate times and ways) about the why of suffering?

The following are related posts that also address these issues (in greater depth):

Monday, January 14, 2013


Do Mormons believe in evolution? One would probably get a mix of answers from both the authorities and the rank and file, because there are a mix of definitions. But there is an "evolution concept" in Mormonism that consistently stirs the antagonism of many fellow Christians. And having recently begun watching "Fires of Faith: The Coming Forth of the King James Bible" one is reminded of the historical predilection toward charges of heresy when beliefs and actions do not conform to the accepted norm.

Also, while researching on the WWWeb, one is unpleasantly reminded that such a predilection is not just historical. The internet is full of pronouncements of disdain for perceived ideological opponents—not only in religious circles, but in most every field of knowledge.

How déjà vu is this (from a recent publication by Sam Harris1)?
Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.
And how déjà vu is Richard Dawkins2 loathing of alternative theorists?

Have we not evolved to the point where we can
claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God [or not] according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:11)?
The militant atheists are certainly right about the many crimes perpetuated in the name of religion, but it is amazing to hear these "men of [still advancing] science" espouse "old time" solutions as they pursue an agenda to eradicate the "God delusion" (that they believe, but cannot prove).

So what do Mormons believe about evolution? Well, frankly, it seems to be evolving: as knowledge increases; as man's ability to comprehend the incomprehensible increases; as his obedience to law opens up greater vistas. But for the inquiring mind, here are four fascinating explorations:
▪ John A. Widtsoe, Rational Theology (published 1915; Free Kindle download)[3]

▪ Robert P. Burton and Bruce F. Webster, "Some Thoughts on Higher-dimensional Realms," BYU Studies 20, no. 3 (Spring 1980): 281-296 [4]

▪ Eugene England, "Perfection and Progression: Two Complementary Ways to Talk about God," BYU Studies 29, no.3 (Summer 1989): 31–47[5]

▪ James R. Harris, "Eternal Progression and the Foreknowledge of God," BYU Studies 8, no.1 (Autumn 1967)[6]
If these ideas are heretical in your mind, how can you be sure? As sure as 16th Century England was in burning her Bible translators and smugglers? As sure as every other soul who has killed for the sake of an idea or opinion? How about live and let live!

1) ; see page 28.
2) ; e.g.: "attack religion as a whole" and to eradicate it for its past, present (and future) crimes against humanity; find at minute 8:00 ~ "attack religion as a whole"; at 28:00 ~ "secretly despise religion as much as I do"
[4] (click "Download Article Free")
[6] (click "Download Article Free")