Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Questions of Evidence?

The day after posting “The Lamb AND the Lion,” I encountered a theory1 that seems to propose that the adversary was the “one” who said:
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Pearl of Great Price | Abraham 3:25).
According to this non-traditional reading, Lucifer’s plan was the one designed “to set all things in order, measured by estate and obedience;” “his platform to divide up kingdoms according to some standard of obedience.”2

Before examining this theory, let me say that the beauty of encountering new thoughts and ideas is that it prompts us to think and reconsider our unexamined beliefs. But it should also move us to ask: Does this non-traditional reading bear up?

Also, as we begin, it might be useful to acknowledge that we mortals are caught in a disadvantage. In reading scripture, we are forever getting but half the conversation—the word-half without the image-half;3 and isn’t that the most critical half for understanding another’s words with certitude—by seeing the image within the mind of the speaker or receiving a vision of the meaning when encountering God? The visionaries in scripture often found it next to impossible to adequately describe in words the images that they saw. In short, “Thou needest to be there.”

But since we were not (or else have forgotten), how do we decide who is speaking when the text merely says “one” and “one” and “another”?
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him (Pearl of Great Price | Abraham 3:24-28; bold emphasis added).
Is the “one like unto God” the same as the “one like unto the Son of Man”? Or is “another” the “one like unto God” as suggested by the theory? Or is the “one,” someone entirely different? And to compound the matter, whom are the speakers addressing—everybody or just a select group as the theory also proposes?

We can’t know for certain who is who when our only reference is that brief description of the event, so it seems that the best we can do—without visual access to the event—is to follow the weight of the evidence in scripture.4 Even then it might be hard to know, but perhaps there are questions we should pursue:

Q1: What could “like unto” mean?

There are 202 uses of the phrase “like unto” in scripture, 115 being extra-Biblical. Most times this phrase is used to convey an image through positive comparison with something already known or understood (to greater degree).

In ancient days, it seems “Son of Man” was clearly defined:
Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time  (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 6:57).
So then, what does it mean to say “like unto God” or “like unto the Son of Man” instead of  just “Son of Man”? One possibility could be that “like unto” is sometimes used as a way to describe something (planned? ordained?) that has yet to come to pass. What if the mission or potential of every soul is divined as an idea (mental construct) and thereafter uniquely chosen by each soul as each embarks on a new stage of advancement? Then, because fulfillment is subject to each soul’s agency, each one might end up “like unto” OR “not like unto” the original design / intention / blueprint / choice. For example, could the “Son of Man” have been a man and a mission divined in the mind of God before the event that unfolded in Abraham 3:24-28—such that the “Son of Man” was a mental construct with advanced and essential attributes? Once the “one like unto the Son of Man” offered Himself to take on that calling, He became the manifestation. Thus, when comparing the man to the mental construct might one say, “like unto” meaning, “He is like unto that which was seen in the imagery of thought”? In other words, the imagery of the plan is conceived AND visual before the reality is played out.

Another counter point is this: If the first and second estate proposal is an adversarial concept, why is the outcome of choosing the “first” volunteer described as:
And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Pearl of Great Price | Abraham 3:28; bold emphasis added).
It seems there may, in fact, be some measurement to warrant advancement in the plan that was adopted.

Also, why would the plan of the adversary be the only plan described just before God chooses “One” to fulfill some other undefined plan? (As to the tradition of “two plans,” please read on to Q3 for a discussion of what the other plan might have entailed.)

Q2: What is the meaning of “good”?

How did God first use and mean “good”? In the creation account, I think its use was to describe how the physical creation was sufficiently “like unto” the idea or form5 that preceded creation that God was pleased with the manifest result:
And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and, behold, all things which I had made were very good; and the evening and the morning were the sixth day  (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 2:31; see also Old Testament | Genesis 1:31).
So perhaps when God saw the noble and great ones in the pre-mortal realm and called them “good,” He was making a similar judgment—that as spirits, they were sufficiently “like unto” the “idea / form” of noble and great, and sufficiently in vibration with “truth,” that He could say they were “good” without making a judgment on what they would be when, through the instrumentality of Adam and Eve, they, as mortals, came to know good and evil for themselves with the freedom to choose between:
And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil; and now lest he put forth his hand and partake also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, Therefore I, the Lord God, will send him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken; (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 4:28-29)

And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 6:56).
So, does each soul come to this “second estate” with a unique plan and purpose? Then, because of the will of the flesh and enticements of telestial / terrestrial things, do we all, in various degrees, miss the measure of our creation, so that prophets of God will lament again and again?
All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [the Messiah] the iniquities of us all (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 14:6).

And the anger [justice?] of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth; and none doeth good, for all have gone out of the way (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 82:6).
So, if Jesus was the only One who got it perfectly right—conforming perfectly, by His choices, to the will and design of the Father—wouldn’t He be the only one who was perfectly good? All of us have fallen short of the “idea” of our lives, and that’s why repentance and the atonement are required to satisfy the demands of justice and to allow us to still progress toward the divine that is within our potential.

Q3: Who advocates law, order, commandments, proving, etc.?

In these latter days, there seems to be a lot of discussion about God, agency, freedom, laws, commandments, testing, punishment, etc., so perhaps these are some questions we should ponder:
▪ If the truth shall make you free,6 is there any real freedom when we stray from truth?
▪ Does truth have any standards or measures?
▪ Does truth require adherence to true principles for progression to occur?
▪ What does freedom mean? To do anything we want as long as we do not harm others? Or does it mean we are free to accept or reject the principles of truth? Or in final analysis and sufficient advancement do they become the same?
▪ What is the continual lament of God7 and His spokespeople?
Mormon tradition speaks of two plans being presented to spirits during the pre-mortal phase—one of agency and one of control. The agency one is expressed thus:
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:26-27; bold emphasis added).
But, if this “agency” plan entails law, commandments, and punishments,8 could the plan opposite to such law and order be a plan of “no law”? Except many seem to imagine “no law” as God’s plan of agency and freedom? But—
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:13).

Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 9:25).

Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. … And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God (Book of Mormon | Alma 42:17-18, 20-22; see also footnote 9 below).
Wouldn’t “no law” be the only possible plan that could (theoretically) save everyone—no sin, no punishment, no lost souls?!10 As a side benefit for the adversary, it would dethrone God if He endorsed such a plan (by offending truth and all its corollaries; one vital one being justice). Truth would no longer reign, but whim would11 (if, in the imagination of the adversary, there were anything left to govern!) as he began the captivity portion of his reign.

Furthermore, there are 210 uses of the word “commandments” in the Book of Mormon alone, often preceded by “my” or followed by “of God.” As to the word “order,” there are approximately 47 relevant uses in the Book of Mormon, often preceded by the words “proper” or “holy.”

So who really spoke those words from Abraham 3:25? Does this give us another clue?
And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never–ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God. (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 5:5)

And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:21).
So once again I ask: Does advancement in this realm (and beyond) come through doing what we want as long as it does not harm others? Or does it come in filling the measure of our creation through obedience to the laws of realms we have potential to move into?12

Q4: Was Lucifer “cast out”? or did he leave by the rules of his own “game”—as the non-traditional reading suggests? Perhaps it depends on whether “cast out” is equal to “cast down” and “thrust down.”
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 4:3)

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 29:36 - 37; see also Section 76:25-28).
This concludes, for the time being, my “questions of evidence” for the non-traditional reading of Abraham 3:25.

Questions remain however because three of the big issues for truth seekers of this day seem to center on hierarchy, personal sovereignty, and God’s character. I plan to consider these in future posts.

1. Daymon Mickel Smith, A Cultural History of the Book of Mormon: Volume 5 - Book Fantasia, pp. 105-108.
2. Ibid., p. 106
4. For those who don’t believe scripture or who believe that scripture is proof of the “corrupt demiurge,” I recognize this appeal to scripture will bear no weight with you, but I believe the universe blesses all sincere seekers of truth who are willing to follow it wherever it may lead.
5. (Plato may have got it right!)
6. New Testament John 8:31-32 ~ Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
8. Book of Mormon | Mosiah 13:30 ~ Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
Book of Mormon | Alma 35:15-16 ~ … and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful. Therefore, he caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness. And we have an account of his commandments, which he gave unto them according to his own record.
Book of Mormon | Alma 37:13 ~ O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence.
Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 9:27 ~ But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
9. New Testament | Romans 4:15 ~ Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
New Testament | Romans 5:13 ~ (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
10. Pearl of Great Price | Moses 4:1-4 ~ AND I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice. [Bold emphasis added.]
11. For those who believe that “the whim of God” now reigns and that He manifests as pyschotic, I will admit there are scriptures that could support such a reading from our mortal perspective, but perhaps from the 4th and 5th density, as some call it, the transrational view would prove otherwise.
12. Doctrine and Covenants | Section 88:22-24 ~ For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.