Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Unchangeable God, Church and Prophets

I couldn't help noticing the results of yet another poll the other day.  The polling, one would think, would end with the end of campaigning for this election cycle, but not so. . . the sampling of human opinion seems perpetual and neverending.

President Boyd K. Packer
In the ongoing "great debate of 2010," this poll asked Utahns how many believed gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation.  President Boyd K. Packer, consistent with "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" issued in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, asserts:

"Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World,' the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.

"It states in part: 'We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.'  (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

“'The Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.

"'And the Gods said: We will bless them. And … we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.'  (Abraham 4:27–28).

"This commandment has never been rescinded.

“'And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.'  (Abraham 3:25).

"It is intended that we be happy, for 'men are, that they might have joy.'  (2 Nephi 2:25).

"Lehi taught that men are free and must be 'free … 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.'"  (2 Nephi 2:26).

So, the pollsters say among themselves, "Let's test those assumptions and take a poll; let's find out what people think, because that will surely settle it."

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:  "More people in Utah agree with Packer than don’t, according to a recent poll by The Salt Lake Tribune. In a random survey of 625 registered voters conducted Oct. 25-27, 44 percent said it is possible for those with same-sex attraction to change it, while 25 percent said they were unsure. Nearly a third said change isn’t possible, an opinion consistent with most scientific research."

A third part said exercising agency just isn't possible.  That's an interesting number.  More on that later, but remember that percentage. 

The report on the polling data is useful in this sense:  It correctly draws the lines in the "great debate."  The living prophets among us declare fallen man can and must change to be forgiven and sanctified.  President Packer's talk is about repentance.  It's titled, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel."  However, the scientific community (whoever "they" are) claims the question is settled in the science -- they have proven sexual orientation is not something anyone can change.  They maintain those who are born that way cannot exercise agency.

This laboratory we call mortal life is staged in an imperfect fallen world.  In this state we walk by faith not seeing, not knowing and certainly not capable of having enough cumulative life experiences to have a perfect knowledge of much of anything.  However, there is something we all came here to do -- to trust God.

Our Father in Heaven is the personification of perfection in the three categories I just mentioned:  He is omnipotent (always all powerful), omniscient (always all knowing), and omnipresent (always in the present and present in the present, the unchangeable God who is the same today, yesterday, and forever).

True Prophets

He has called and sent prophets among us to teach the truth, His truth.  What is truth?  We have the perfect definition in scripture:

"And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; and whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.  The Spirit of truth is of God.  I am the Spirit of turth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; and no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth the coommandents.  He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and knoweth all things.  Man was also in the beginning with God.  Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.  All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence.  Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.  And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.  For man is spirit.  The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.  The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.  The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.  Light and truth forsake that evil one.  Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.  And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.  But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth."  (D&C 93:24-40, emphasis mine).

President Packer wisely observed:  ". . . if we are not alert, there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would a vote against the law of gravity do?

"There are both moral and physical laws 'irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world' that cannot be changed.  (D&C 130:20). History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.

"Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish."

It's so delicious, isn't it?  The Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual,Transgender (LGBT) community maintains they cannot change from the way they were created, and would have the leaders of the Church change EVERYTHING undergirding and upholding eternal truth, while the Church and its leaders cannot change revealed principles of unchanging truth that cannot be changed to satisfy their demands.  Satan is having a field day -- it truly is the great day of his power on earth!

God cannot and will not change.  He is unchangeable.  (Moroni 8:18; Mormon 9:19).  He is the same today, yesterday and forever. (See 1 Nephi 10:18; 2 Nephi 27:23; 29:9; Alma 31:17; Moroni 10:7, 19; 2 Nephi 2:4; D&C 20:12; 35:1; 76:4).  His Church cannot and will not change if it is His Church founded on the eternal revealed doctrines of truth and light.  As fallen mortals, however, each of us must change, repent and become sanctified, and we are given our agency to do so, the scientific community's "findings" notwithstanding.

Exercising faith in God is imperative in this process.  Long before the "great debate of 2010" was upon us, but sensing it might arise in a future day, with my good friend Scott Strong many, many years ago we wrote about these eternal principles:

The Plan of Salvation

If we do not come to earth and experience evil with its terrible consequences of sorrow and death, we will never become like God because we will not know and understand what he does. When we do partake of evil we cannot be with God nor be like him, because we are guilty under the law. We are sentenced to physical and spiritual death, because those are the wages we must pay for sin. (See Romans 6:23). How do we experience evil so we can know what God knows, but not fall eternal victim to the consequences of evil?

The answer is the divine solution of the Gods: Take the memory of the children from them, then put them in a carefully prepared probationary state of accountability. Let them experience sin, evil and the consequences of sorrow and death for themselves, but only to a necessary point -- only temporarily -- only long enough for the children to gain this important knowledge for themselves. Then provide an atonement through the infinite Creator, who can justly meet all the conditions and requirements of the law because he is responsible, sinless and infinite.

The Creator, the Redeemer, the Messiah

Imagine this dialogue between the Savior and Satan to further illustrate the point. Jesus Christ the Messiah stands between man and justice (see Mosiah 15:9) and says, “I will pay, I will satisfy the demands of justice for all these children who have sinned.” Satan the destroyer says, “You can’t. No one can pay for sins they are not responsible for. It would not be just and I demand justice. Who are you to pay for their sins?”

“Their Creator,” responds Christ. “I am responsible for giving them life. I gave them power to live, to move and to do. I gave them their agency. All they have and are is because of me. I am responsible for them because I created them.”

“That may be true,” counters Satan, “but how can you possibly pay for their sins when you must pay for your own transgressions? You already owe the demands of justice for your own sins.”

“I have no sins as you well know, despite your temptations,” reminds Christ. “I owe justice nothing because I am sinless.”

“That may also be true,” Satan responds, “but how could you possibly pay the price of all the doings of all God’s children? Why, that is an infinite impossibility!”

“I am infinite,” answers Christ, “and my infinite creations are all known to me and the Father.”

Adam was infinite (not mortal) at the time he transgressed the law. (See 2 Nephi 2:22). That means Adam’s transgression (his fall) was infinite. Christ had to be an infinite being to cure an infinite transgression. Christ was and is infinite. He was specially designed for his mission as the Messiah. He had a mortal mother so he could spill his own blood and lay down his body and die. He was sired by an infinite and divine Father so he had infinite capacity and power to take up his body in the resurrection following his crucifixion. He was sinless. Neither death nor hell had any claim on him.

Every contingency was anticipated, every preparation was made from the very foundations of this world to make this plan just and effective in bringing about the eternal life of God’s children. Nothing has been left to chance. Nothing is arbitrary or out of order. All is according to law. The love of faithful parents who create, teach and nurture their children in the gospel covenant can appeal to this infinite sacrifice on behalf of their children who have wavered.

The Law and Justice of the Universe

When we consider the atonement of Christ, we often focus on the principle of mercy. Nothing more beautifully typifies the love of God than the sacrifice of his Only Begotten Son. However, there is actually nothing that better typifies God’s respect for the eternal principle of justice either. A proper understanding of these truths is most essential, as a misunderstanding could lead to some poor judgment decisions in our personal lives because we falsely perceive the actual workings of justice and mercy in the gospel plan.

There are those who believe the law (meaning all the commandments) is not really very important in the gospel. From the standpoint of the individual sinner, of course, this is true. The writings of Paul are full of his realization he could not be saved even by living the law “perfectly,” as he had attempted to do in his Pharisaic traditions. These believe grace is the real key to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some believe, for instance, that Christ would somehow be offered the same grace by the Father he offers mortal sinners. They maintain Christ did not answer the ends of the law by fulfilling the law, but rather by suffering so much the Eternal Judge might say, “You suffered so much I will mercifully suspend the law this time. I really shouldn’t, but I will because my bowels are so full of love and mercy because of your suffering.”

Once again, this assumption does not comport with revealed truth regarding justice. He has answered all the ends of the law. (See Moroni 7:28). Justice exerciseth all his demands. (See Alma 42:24). The law must be fulfilled. (See 2 Nephi 9:17). The works of justice cannot be destroyed. (See Alma 12:32; 42:13, 22). Justice cannot be denied. (See Mosiah 15:27; Jacob 6:10). Mercy cannot rob justice. (See Alma 42:25).

The system of justice and law spoken of in the scriptures is divine and eternal, because the eternal Gods, even the Eloheim who presided in the eternal worlds in which our God gained his exaltation, are its author. 1 Nephi 15:30 speaks of “the justice of God.” Mosiah 2:38 mentions “the demands of divine justice.” 1 Nephi 12:18 refers to “the word of the justice of the Eternal God.” Christ would never destroy the Father’s creations, so he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17), to pay the full debt under the law, to honor the law and to keep the law without exception.

He did not come to overpower the law by breaking it, robbing it, denying it and destroying it. He came to ensure that the ends of the law were answered, that justice exercised all its demands. He knew the law must be fulfilled. He understood the works of the law could not be destroyed, or God would cease to be God. He knew the law cannot be appeased by denying the law its right to exercise all its demands. The law is not satisfied with the currency of grace and mercy. The law demands the cold hard cash payment of absolute compliance.

Satan is a Liar

It is little wonder Satan’s offer to save all the Father’s children by suspending agency and mandating obedience and compliance seemed so attractive to "a third part" of his audience in the pre-existence. On the day of judgment he will still be demanding the law’s fulfillment -- every jot and tittle. The poll results from the earlier citation today seems to indicate a third part still believes suspending agency is desirable.  He is our hateful enemy, and he will demand what he thinks is rightfully his -- our eternal souls. He will have no compassion because of Christ’s suffering. He knows no mercy. He will demand of a God who cannot lie that the ends of the law be answered. He will require that justice exercises all its demands. He knows anything short of this would make God a liar and break eternal law.

There was only one way for God to righteously overpower the adverse effects of eternal justice upon his beloved children. (See Alma 34:15). He must satisfy justice (see Mosiah 15:9; Alma 34:16), appease justice (see Alma 42:15), and fulfill the law (see 2 Nephi 9:17). The only way the Father could do that and still mercifully forgive and save us, was to offer his perfect Son as the willing sacrifice who would pay the penalty, fulfill the law, and satisfy the demands of justice. (See Alma 34:14-15).

The Scriptures Teach Truth

These truths are fully described in the scriptures. The scriptures teach Christ suffered the pains of “. . .every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” (2 Nephi 9:21). They do not say Christ’s suffering was to fill up the bowels of the Father with mercy so the Father would be justified in suspending justice. Rather, Jacob declares, “O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.” (2 Nephi 9:17).

One of the atonement metaphors in the scriptures is prison. Christ pays the bail so we can be released from prison. He does not merely “cut a deal” with justice -- he pays the “uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:26), to “the very last mite” (Luke 12:59). We are “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and Christ did not get wholesale prices. He was obliged to pay our debt in full when he redeemed our souls.

The “merciful bowels” hypothesis some have proposed would make God very merciful but not very just. The scriptures declare he is not only perfectly merciful, but perfectly just as well. (See Alma 42:15). Any thoughtful analysis of law and order in the universe makes both the supreme power and unyielding rigidity of the law imperative.

As we consider the merciful atonement of Christ wrought with love, compassion and amazing grace, we must never forget justice was never robbed. On the contrary, at every turn the atonement met every single demand of justice completely. Such is the love and wisdom of God.

Only Christ Qualifies as our Redeemer

These are the characteristics of Christ that qualify him as our Redeemer:

1. Creator. Being our Creator makes him a responsible party to our sins. The only two beings who qualify as responsible parties are the “giver” of life (Christ), and the “liver” of life (each of us).

2. Sinless. Having no sin of his own, justice has no claim upon him. He has escaped the necessity to pay the wages of sin (death), since he is without sin.

3. Infinite. Not only was Adam’s transgression infinite because he was infinite when he transgressed, but the scope of the atonement is also infinite. To take upon himself the sins of an entire eternity required Christ to have infinite capacity. Christ inherited his infinite quality from his infinite and divine Father.

4. Mortal. The atonement required that Christ also be mortal, capable of separating his body and spirit in death. He had to have blood coursing through his veins so he could effectuate the blood atonement and die. The wages of sin had to be paid in the vicarious death of the Savior. He inherited this quality from his mother, Mary, who was mortal.

5. Foreordained. No man can take any priesthood honor upon himself. He must be called of God. The Messiah is an office in the priesthood (see TPJS, 341), requiring that proper authority be given of God as with other priesthood offices.

6. Sustained. Officers in the Church are never arbitrarily imposed upon God’s children. All officers must be sustained by the common consent of the Church. Christ was accepted and sustained as the Messiah by the general voice of two-thirds of all the host of spirits in the grand council of heaven before the world was.

7. Willing. Moral agency is ever present in the gospel plan. Christ was willing to make the requisite sacrifice for the Father and all the heavenly family. Through the entire process of trial, crucifixion and atonement he had the option to choose otherwise at any moment. The love, courage and devotion here manifest is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

8. Lineage. Christ was of the royal lineage of the house of Israel, and therefore possessed the actual birthright to ascend through the Davidic line to the throne as king of Israel. Christ was the spiritual king of Israel, and the physical king of Israel, when he took upon himself the iniquity of his people and suffered in spirit and body (see D&C 19:16-19) to redeem his people.

While the great mercies of the atonement can never be overemphasized, all the above illustrates the atonement as perfectly just not merely merciful. All the qualities outlined above were necessary for Christ to enable him to meet all of the demands of justice as he effectuated the atonement. Lacking even one of these essential elements of the atonement he could not have satisfied all the demands of justice. A cursory glance of these eight credentials alone compels one to see how completely God respects, honors and obeys exactly his own eternal law.

Keep the Covenants You Have Made

Little wonder, then, we are required to keep our temple covenants with “exactness and honor” if we are ever to become holy as he is holy. The Savior’s words, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I and your Father in Heaven are perfect,” are not idle words. While we need to keep in mind the Prophet’s wisdom that “no man ever arrives in a minute,” (see TPJS, 51), we must not become complacent in the false opium of a misunderstood grace doctrine. We must come unto Christ with more than our lips. Our minds and hearts must be illuminated by his light, our souls empowered by his glory and our hearts sanctified by his spirit until we do become perfect even as he is.

The true gospel plan is a perfect balance existing between God and man. God cannot save man by himself, any more than man can become a god by himself. Only the two in a harmonious duet can accomplish the miracle of exaltation -- the creation of a new god! The true gospel plan is also a perfect balance between men and women. We are unique halves who can only become whole and complete in full partnership with each other.

Further, the true gospel plan reveals parenthood to be the paramount principle of godhood. These partnerships must possess the power to procreate and the love to righteously preside as dedicated parent-servants, faithfully keeping as priest and priestess the laws, rites and ordinances of the patriarchal priesthood. They entered into this priesthood order by covenant, shouldering their responsibilities as creators, giving themselves wholly as kings and queens to their family kingdoms.

The highest expression of the true gospel plan is the greatest power in the priesthood that God can bestow upon us and upon our posterity -- the power of the seeds. By this power comes the continuation of the lives, the creation of man worlds without end.

The true gospel plan is the blessing and empowerment of intelligences with bodily temples, thereby enabling them to house ever ascending degrees of light. By the power of their bodies they gain ascendancy or power over those intelligences who are not so tabernacled.

And finally, the true gospel plan reveals the universe as a system of order wherein all bodies physical, spiritual and social are governed by eternal law.

President Boyd K. Packer

As the foregoing has amply illustrated, President Boyd K. Packer did not one day a few weeks ago wake up and say to himself, "I wonder what I can do to purposefully discomfit the LGBT community.  What could I say that would stir them up and make them miserable?"  Nor did he take a poll to sample public opinion in advance of what he would say.  He simply speaks truth, and hit pigeons flutter.  It has always been thus with living prophets, and so shall it always be until He reigns whose right it is to reign upon this earth.  (See D&C 58:21-22).

President Packer is one of God's noblemen.  He is a "sent servant."  "The great debate of 2010" is nothing more than a modern restatement of the very question posed in the pre-existence, "I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it, wherefore give me thine honor."  The other said, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever."  (Moses 4:1-2).

Satan rebelled, and from that moment has sought to destroy the agency of man.  He has succeeded beyond his wildest imaginations when he can get the "scientific community" to conclude there is an element of our society incapable of exercising their God-given agency unto repentance.  How exquisite, how delightful, how deceitful, how damning!

Next time you take the name of President Packer and any other true servant of God in your lips, let it be with full awareness of what you say before you criticize them without knowledge.  To trust them is to trust God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  To do less is to side with that evil one who has been a liar from the beginning.  (See D&C 93:25).

"And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord."  (3 Nephi 1:22).

May it ever be thus with this generation of Latter-day Saints is my prayer.

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