Friday, November 30, 2007

Lacunae, Part 2b - The Spirit, Charity and the Law

Okay, I know it's been a long time coming, but here it is. For this second part, I'd like to preface it with an admonition. When examining the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law in others (the most readily available research source) do not judge their hearts, always look at them in the most charitable light. By this I mean that in seeking to become like God, never forget that you cannot be like Him without love for His children. That is His single, greatest attribute. All else radiates from this quality. This is not the Relief Society "I love you sisters" sort of love. This is a bittersweet, lay-down-your-life but be-willing-to-live-your-life-for-them sort of love. Christ didn't just die for us, He lived for us. That is what the Gospel holds at its core. When you feel His love, even in the smallest part, the tenets of the Gospel suddenly fall into place. It is important to understand that in a discussion like this, because it is far too easy to begin examining others and categorizing them. (Often people do this by labeling the "Liahonas" and the "Iron Rodders".) This only serves to divide, when I hope to bring points of doctrine together.

When trying to discover how to more fully follow the will of the Lord, it quickly becomes obvious that the law leads to the spirit which leads to the law. There is no one place to start. When you read scriptures such as Galatians 3, it begins to seem that there is no need for law if one is faithful enough. According to Paul, the law is a temporary measure when one is in a state of sin, a taskmaster to teach those who do not have the Spirit how to behave. When reading this, however, it is important to remember that Paul is talking to a group of people affected by the Pharisaical Mosaic Law. The Pharisees took the laws of God and turned them into a god of their own merits - a god that could be interpreted and manipulated at their pleasure. They did not understand that when Christ came, He fulfilled the law and gave the law of the Spirit. He did not change the law, he fulfilled it. There was nothing in the law of the Spirit that contradicted God's principles behind the law of Moses. The spirit of the law does not supersede the letter. You cannot live the spirit of the law while breaking the letter of it. Even Nephi killing Laban was within the bounds of the law under which he lived.

Although one cannot live the Spirit without living the letter, it is obvious how easily one can begin redefining the letter of the law to suit one's own purposes. Simply watch any time a conference speaker says something controversial. In the world of LDS blogs, for example, the pattern of outrage, reasoning and rejection will quickly emerge. It is so easy to define the words of the prophets by one's own understanding, yet we have been taught not to lean unto our own understanding. Yet, learning is not evil. As we discussed before, it is necessary to know the Gospel in order to live it. So, how do we live the Spirit of the law AND the letter without falling into our own trap? How do we approach from the side of law without losing grasp of the spiritual goal? The answer is "easy": we become learned, but listen to the councils of God. To do that, we must be humble. To be humble, we must not only know the gospel, we must understand it. To understand it, we must reach a deeper rapport with the Spirit than simple yes-no answers. We must realize that we have the same access to complete Spiritual revelation as the prophets. We must come to the place between humility and the vision of glory. We must fill the gap between the Law and the Spirit with patience and humility. We must remember that our lack of understanding pales in the light of the love of Christ - an attribute that can only be felt through the Spirit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because I Like BiV

And no other reason.

1. Answer the three missionary questions
2. Do the missionary activity and return and report.
3. Tag 5 of your friends.

Here are the questions:
1. Did you serve a mission, and where?
2. What was your best missionary experience?
3. Who is the most missionary-oriented leader you have ever had?

Missionary Activity:
Ask a random stranger if they have ever heard about the Mormon Church, and if they would like to know more (Golden Question)

1. Yes, I served a mission in the Germany-Munich-Austria Mission.

2. I had tons of great missionary experiences and tons of distressing ones. The one that always sticks in my mind is a little odd, for a missionary experience. We were tracting in an apartment building in the near-freezing cold. As often happened, an old lady was watching us from her window. When we got to her door, she told us not to bother and launched into the usual diatribe about "die Mormonen". I joked around with her a bit - something she absolutely loved, it was probably the most entertainment she'd had in weeks. We continued ringing doorbells despite her taunts. Another old lady stuck her head out the window and seemed a bit interested in talking with us, but it was nearly impossible with the first lady jeering. We moved on, finished out the apartments and walked back to the street. Lo and behold, the second lady was standing at the end of the street. We spoke with her. We spoke of faith and the life after this one. We listened to her bear testimony of her beliefs of the afterlife, which mirrored our own. She testified that it was not what her church taught, but that she knew it to be true. She mentioned that her husband had recently passed away.

It was the most beautiful moment in my mission.

3. I really couldn't tell you that one. My mission presidents, I suppose.

As for the activity and subsequent tagging, I'm going to have to respectfully decline. I don't believe in either.

Lacunae, Part 2a - The Spirit, Charity and the Law

Finally, I have found my next doctrinal lacuna to discuss. I often hear people use the term "the spirit of the law" versus "the letter of the law" to explain a less-than-literal treatment of the Lord's commandments. In this second installment of my attempts to discuss doctrine, I wish to discuss the terms and their basic meaning. This first part will be rather short, as I have a Thanksgiving dinner to cook and a living room to clean.

It is interesting to find where the term "spirit of the law" came into play. Though nonexistent in the Old Testament, you'll find the concept emphasized in the New Testament in scriptures such as Galatians and Romans. At that time, the early apostles had an uphill battle to combat the Pharisaical enforcement of Mosaic law. The term is used often in latter-day revelations as well. The most interesting aspect of this discussion is how often the "spirit of the law" is cited as a reason to disobey the "letter" in application, though there is little to no scriptural justification for that.

After the holidays, I'll delve into this more deeply to illustrate the tension between following the Spirit and following the word of the Lord.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Of Autumn

I posted this at T&S, so I thought I'd post it here, too, so I don't lose it.

Cold kisses
flaming arms,
the sky
with the iced pleas
of Lethe’s forgotten.

Soon shalt thou
thy glory.
Crimson litter
to grace
the earth below
with thy faded life.

A final
before sleep.
A gift of life
laid down
only to be
taken up again.

Beneath my
thy ending
whispers to me
of hope,
and speaks to me
of beginnings.

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