Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Enemy to God

There is a lot of talk and buzz about Elder Packer's talk. I'm not really going to address the thrust of all that, but there is one related aspect which I would like to address.

There is a claim that teachings such as those in Elder Packer's talk cause innocent children to kill themselves, that by teaching that certain behaviors are sinful, we teach that people are disgusting and enemies to God, and therefore they kill themselves. (Specifically according to many people's interpretation in this case, homosexuality, but I don't wish to address that specific. I want to re-broaden the principle to ALL sin, whatever you might consider to be sin. I believe that's really what Elder Packer's talk was about, and that homosexuality is only one example.)

As I first heard these claims, the scripture came to my mind, "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord . . ."

Sin . . . all sin . . . makes us enemies to God. When we teach a person that their behavior makes them an enemy to God, we bring their attention to their behavior and give them a choice "to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good . . . ." In other words, we elevate their behavior from simple animal reasoning and reactions to conscious choice. We take ourselves out of the dust and reach for the divine within ourselves to act rather than to just be acted upon by our environment, by our genetics. We are no longer helpless victims of circumstance, but true children of the Most High God.

Teaching the commandments of God does not drive people to kill themselves, or leave the church, or turn into Church-active automatons. When we give commandments as God gives them, in an environment of charity and love, we make ourselves more than our physical, scientific bodies. We then have the chance to umkehren . . . turn around . . . repent. God created us to act, not to be acted upon. To Elder Packer's amended rhetorical question, "Why would Heavenly Father do this to anyone?" The answer is He would not. He would never create a person incapable of action, unable to fight against that which takes them away from Him, and then turn and hold them accountable. Some may have fewer opportunities for action than others (such as babies, the mentally damaged or others) but where there are fewer opportunities to act, there is less accountability.

So the answer is not to back down from the morality taught by God, whether it be homosexuality, anger management, or obsession with worldly possessions. It is to make certain that morality is taught in a framework of love.

And I think the Church does a great job of teaching that we make ourselves into enemies of God, and we likewise have the power to no longer be His enemy. Hopefully more people will get the knack of it before more children feel so unloved they choose to take their own lives.

9 comments :

  1. I don't know how you quoted that scripture without addressing the fact that it doesn't matter whether or not homosexuality is "natural" according to Mormon theology. After all, the natural man is an enemy to God.

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  2. You've approached a subject that's also been on my mind since Conference. I have written and torn up many drafts of a blog post, but I think you've done nicely.

    I do have some compassion for those who believe that sexual orientation is determined at birth, as it would seem that calling the inclination sinful when one cannot combat the inclination is an issue that could cause remarkable dissonance.

    But if one teaches and believes that it is acts, not inclinations, that are sinful, then we are empowered to keep our behavior within the Lord's standard.

    Oddly, as I heard Elder Packer's talk, I thought of someone close to me who is a drug addict. Many times he said to me, "This is the way I am; I cannot change." Of course, Elder Packer correctly taught that the addict can change by applying the Atonement of the Savior. (Those believers who also are familiar with the 12 steps recognize them as a way to apply the atonement to one's life.)

    Thanks for the post.

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  3. SilverRain,

    Interesting comments as always.

    I think it is interesting to consider the differences that we all have in perceiving love.

    For example, as I consider my relationship with my teenage son, I hope he knows of my love for him, but I think his perception is most often something less positive than that. He probably perceives that my boundaries are too narrow or tight for him since he can't just do whatever he wants, whenever he wants (although he has plenty of latitude). At his age and understanding I think he usually sees my parenting style as a lack of love, which is the opposite of what I intend.

    So, no matter how well intentioned or how good of a "saint" the messenger is, until we have "put off the natural man," which for most of us is a continual process, to some extent we will fail to see that the message is one of love and for our own good.

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  4. As I have been reading the Old Testament, it has struck me that there is a continuous theme of reconciliation running through it, which culminates in the Atonement of Christ.

    The subduing of the natural man is part of that process of reconciliation with God. And, we must be reconciled with God before we can return home to live with Him. This, to me, is one of the key concepts of the whole plan of salvation.

    Interesting thoughts, SilverRain.

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  5. The problem is Pres. Packer said homosexuality is unnatural. Therefore, it would not be lumped under "natural sins of the natural man" like everything else is. If the church would address it as something that is normal and natural for some people, and just another sin to be dealt with, like alcoholism, sex outside of marriage, etc, I think it would be less damaging to those struggling with it. But instead they continue to make them seem like freaks of nature and HF couldn't have possibly allowed for that horrible twist in our biology (which must make it far worse than any disease or physical deformity, which HF obviously allows). Basically, you're better off dead.

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  6. Anonymous, that's not what Elder Packer actually said - and the changes to the published version are an obvious attempt to make that clearer.

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  7. Thank you for your thoughts and posts. The message I wish people would hear is that there is a Heaveny Father who loves all of His children and desires all to return Home. That's why we have prophets...so they can help us find the way.

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