Co-existence of Faith and Reasoning (or why I believe in Science AND Religion)

I read this article on NPR today which asks, Does Science Require Faith?

Anyone reading this blog knows I’m a religious person. Yet, I’m also deeply logical. I might have majored in English, but have always been interested in science. I am naturally curious, and spent the first 17 years of my life really thinking that I’d be an astronaut one day. (Most people get over that phase by age 10 or so). The point is, I find myself in a not completely unique situation – especially amongst Mormons: I’m a Mormon that also believes the theory of Evolution. I find that science is helpful for our species as a whole. I think that it behooves us to understand more about the world around us in a scientific way. I know that there is a lot that we don’t understand about our natural world that is not answered by religion.

Yet, I also know that God is God. He is the master astro-physicist, biologist, chemist, physician, neurologist, etc.

Sunset in Maui - Haleakala...both science and religion in one picture!
Sunset in Maui – Haleakala…both science and religion in one picture!

So, I found these two paragraphs in the NPR article especially interesting:

Sometimes faith is used as an alternative to reason, a way to designate (and sometimes denigrate) beliefs that are aren’t based on arguments or evidence, or that aren’t assessed critically. On this view, science and faith almost certainly conflict; science is all about arguments, evidence and critical assessment.

At the other extreme, faith can simply mean something like a guiding assumption or presupposition, and on this view, science does require faith. Science as an enterprise is based on the premise that we can generalize from our experience, or as “The Mathematician” put it, that induction works.

And this is exactly what I want to address:

Faith – not an alternative to reason

I can tell you, if faith was truly an alternative to reason, then I wouldn’t be a Mormon. It helps to understand exactly what faith is.

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Alma 32:21

Often, we spend a lot of time focusing on the first part of the definition: “ye hope for things which are not seen…” but this isn’t all. Alma includes one more qualification for faith: which are true. If you believe that the world is flat, you can believe it with your entire heart. You can believe it to your death. But it is merely belief and not faith because faith is belief in something that is true. I know…there may be a few more concerns with what I’m saying, but follow me for a second.

Truth, with a CAPITAL T, does exist

Oh, as an English major, I had plenty of class discussions about truth. I had a teacher challenge us by saying, “You can’t find a definition of truth. Truth is relative. What is true to you may not be true to me.” And, to an extent, I understood what he’s saying.

But he’s wrong.

He was questioning conventional wisdom, often confused with truth. After his class, I went to him and told him my definition of truth. I have to admit, he didn’t seem very excited when he heard my answer. I approached him, saying: “I’ve got a definition of truth for you.” Originally, I think that he eagerly expected me to say that Jesus Christ was the truth and the light, but his demeanor changed when I quoted the following scripture:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

Seriously, can you think of a better definition of truth? Truth is not relative because truth doesn’t change. Pretty awesome–especially when you then apply this definition to the scripture in Alma: faith is believing something that is true – that is, was, and always will be. Back to my earlier example: the truth of the matter is the earth is round. It is right now, it was, and as long as the earth exists, it will be. Our opinion of the matter doesn’t change the truth.

And in this way faith and reasoning dovetail quite nicely.

Of course, I feel like there are still a few unanswered questions: how can you be sure you have faith, that you are believing in something true when you don’t have a perfect knowledge? This is when I rely on past experiences and tools that the Lord has promised each of us: namely the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost will both sustain our faith and testify of truth

You can get a sense of the truth even without empirical evidence through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead, which means he is omniscient and omnipotent. Additionally, His role is to guide us to truth and then testify of it.
We learn:

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Moroni 10:5

Now, just because this is simple doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. In fact, I have spent the better part of the last 35 years trying to discover how the Holy Ghost speaks to me. The whisperings of the Spirit are whisperings they are nuanced. It requires great discipline to hear and understand what the Spirit speaks to my soul. I am not always holy or able to “hear” what He is teaching me. His method of teaching is line upon line and precept upon precept. It is also still and small, which can get smothered in a world that is loud, big, and fast. Additionally, gospel learning and understanding is a rather scientific process: we are taught in The Doctrine and Covenants to first study out the solution of our problems in our minds, then pray to see if it is right. In other words, we hypothesize, and then through prayer and work, we test out our hypothesis. Sometimes, we get it right. The Holy Ghost sanctifies the experience for us, and we through the spirit and a measure of reason, gain understanding or answers – we may feel a burning in our bosom or we will feel enlightened (See Doctrine and Covenants 6:15, Doctrine and Covenants 11:13, and Doctrine and Covenants 76:12).

However, there are times when our hypothesis is proved wrong, and this is displayed through a “stupor of thought.”

Even Alma, in the Book of Mormon, asks us to experiment upon the Word.

Faith isn’t passive. It isn’t some abstract belief that we hang onto irrationally. Instead, it is rooted in reason–reasoning that surpasses our mortal understanding.

And I suppose that this, in my mind, is where science and faith intersect. Neither the best scientists nor the most faithful saints are bound by “conventional wisdom”. They think. They test out their theories. They believe that there is more to this life than we understand. They seek. And they find.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” – Matthew 7:7

What do you think about science, religion, reason and faith? Can they co-exist? Is it a silly argument? Are they at odds with one another?

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Holy Places – A List (D&C 87:8)

New Scripture Study Series
New Scripture Study Series
This is commentary based on the scripture study programStand Ye in Holy Places (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). You can download the entire scripture study program here.

“Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 87:8

Mesa Arizona Temple
Mesa Arizona Temple

In Doctrine and Covenants 87:8, we are taught to stand in holy places. In the Guide to the Scriptures, we learn that Holy is sacred, having Godly character, or spiritually and morally pure. The opposite of holy is common or profane.” When thinking of this definition of Holy and holy places, the first thing I think of is the temple.

Yet, Doctrine and Covenants 87:8 teaches us that we need to stand in holy places and be not moved. Obviously, we can’t be in the temple all the time. How, then, do we stand in holy places if we can’t always be in the temple or similar structures?

Well…it is helpful to remember what Paul taught

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

We – our physical bodies – are temples. We can always stand in holy places by being holy ourselves – and qualifying for the Spirit that would reside in a Holy Place like the temple.

So…the next question is – how do we work to qualify for the sanctifying effect of the Spirit? How do we treat ourselves like a temple of God?

Heavenly Father has given us insight on what His house is like

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:119

This verse gives us a list of what Heavenly Father’s house is like. Even though this list is about the literal house of the Lord, the temple, we can find parallels to our own lives.

House of Prayer

We have been taught to pray always (see 2 Nephi 32:9). Of course this means that we should pray – both formally and with a prayer in our heart at all times.

This scripture also teaches us what our words would be like. We can’t stand in a holy place if our words are vile, critical, or do anything to drive away the Spirit. If we are a house of prayer, then our words should be reflective of such speech.

House of Fasting

Of course it is easy to see how the Lord’s house would be a house of fasting. We are also commanded to fast. When I think of how this relates to myself, my personal temple, I wonder how I might be a house of fasting. I can’t fast all the time, and I don’t think that we are supposed to.

But consider fasting – we abstain from food and water for a set period of time. This goes against our appetites and natural desires. We aren’t expected to fast forever. Once we are finished with our fast, we go back to eating. Fasting is essentially about sequestering the natural man in order to train our spiritual sides.

There are many appetites that influence our behaviors. When we are a “House of fasting” we learn to overcome those appetites and keep them within the bounds that the Lord has set. When we give into our appetite for food during a fast, then we really destroy the fast. When we give into other appetites, say for example taking drugs or being physically intimate with another, we destroy our relationship with the Spirit. Yet, this doesn’t mean that we will never take a drug or be physically intimate with another. It is completely appropriate to have a drug when going into surgery. It is healthy and necessary to be physically intimate with your spouse.

In the case of our bodies as temples, we become a “house of fasting” when we wisely restrict our natural appetites.

House of Faith

The temple is a house of faith. In the temple, we learn about God, exercise our faith, and receive witness. We, ourselves, can also be a house of faith.

I suppose that the best way we can be a house of faith is by being the type of person who nurtures faith. In Alma 32, we learn about faith and how to nurture it. A seed of faith that begins to grow is good. If the plant stops growing because we stop nurturing it doesn’t mean that the seed was bad. Instead, such lack of growth indicates our seed was neglected.

We can let our own faith grow if we become a “house of faith” by continuing to do things that will nurture the faith that has been planted in our hearts.

House of Learning

The physical temple is a house of learning. We go there to make covenants and receive instruction. Over the years, I have had many experiences where I have been taught in the temple. I love going there and learning more. I feel like that is what really defines our human experience: we are always looking to learn more.

We, ourselves, also need to be houses of learning. As I ponder this concept, I think that it not only means that we study and learn, but that we keep our brains pure and fertile grounds for education.

We live in an information age. I am so grateful to be a part of it. But there is so much that is either useless or downright destructive. When we fill our minds with p*rnography, violence, or when we simply waste our time, we destroy our capacity to learn more. I think that we are beginning to see that our brains are much more powerful than we realize. We can keep our temples houses of learning by being clean and learning good things.

House of Glory

One of the best ways to understand glory is by reading the experience that Moses has in Moses 1:5-6, 11-15. Moses first communes with God. The whole experience is so glorious that Moses can’t behold God with his own eyes. After the experience, Satan appears to Moses. I’m going to assume that he appeared in a way that was similar to a Heavenly Being, but he had no glory. Moses could tell and was not deceived by Satan.

I think that we can become a house of glory by seeking God’s true glory – through virtue and righteousness. So often, the world makes things appear good. Immodesty and sexuality seem to be especially attractive in our world. Yet they lack glory. To be a house of glory, we need to learn to discern between God’s glory and Satan’s counterfeit. Although similar, once we have experienced God’s glory, then Satan’s counterfeit pales in comparison.

We can become “houses of Glory” by being righteous and virtuous – even in a world that doesn’t appreciate such characteristics.

House of God

This is my favorite thing! Of course, we know that the temple is a house of God. Yet, Paul teaches us that we, too are temples! We are children of God! By our very divine nature we are related to Him.

We can become a house of God when we are baptized (and take on Christ’s name) and when we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. When we make and observe this covenant, we then have three parts of the Godhead in play in our lives all the time. We are 1) Spiritual Children of God. 2) Children of Christ through His atonement. 3) Constant companions with the Holy Ghost.

When we live worthy of our baptismal covenant, then we can truly be a house of God.

***
We have been told to stand in holy places and be not moved, yet our daily lives require us to participate in places that may not really be “holy”. The Lord doesn’t expect us to be hermits. He doesn’t expect us to scurry from our homes to temples to churches. We can and should participate in normal activities – like going to school, the store, museums, restaurants, and our jobs. We may not have control of how holy these places are, but we can stand in holy places without being moved by being holy ourselves. As we apply the list found in Doctrine and Covenants 88:119, we can be holy and enjoy the blessings of residing in a Holy Place.

***

How do you keep yourself holy? Which of these elements of a holy place strike you? How have you learned to apply it in your life?

The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings – 2/2 (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21)

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

See part one here.

So – we continue to learn about the blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I really love these blessings. They motivate me to be better at really keeping the Word of Wisdom.

Strength to Endure
Often, when thinking of the phrase, “run and not be weary, and…walk and not faint,” I think of what this means, physically. I think of running a marathon.

I ran a marathon several years ago. It was a really interesting experience. It required discipline. It was humbling. It was difficult. In running and training for the marathon, I loved the idea of having discipline. For once in my life, I felt like I had discipline! I could say no to bad foods. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to run. While none of this was easy, I felt like having discipline was like wearing a badge of honor.

I’m not as physically disciplined these days. And I miss that feeling of confidence. Not only that, but I can see how physical discipline effects me spiritually.

I know that the blessing for keeping the Word of Wisdom is more than physical. Keeping the word of wisdom helps us to endure both physically and emotionally/spiritually. I love this promise! We have been told that in order to receive eternal life, we need to endure. And in the word of wisdom, we are blessed with being able to endure! It’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

And one last scripture while we’re on this topic –

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

There are many ways to wait upon the Lord, and I guess I get the feeling that we shouldn’t underestimate the connection between our bodies and Spirits. When we keep the word of wisdom, when we keep our personal temples holy and pure, then we are blessed with renewed strength, we will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. We will be given the ability to endure.

Protection and Life
The Lord has always preserved His people. In this verse, there is a reference to when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of those who were covenant Israel (See Exodus 12:23, 29). The Lord preserves His people through commandments and covenants. Of course, the Lord loves us. But the children of Israel weren’t automatically saved from the plague of death brought on by the Destroying Angel. They had to do as the Lord had instructed, and apply the blood of a lamb to their doorframe. When the Destroying Angel saw this token, he “passed over” the home. The children of Israel were literally saved from Destruction.

Keeping the word of wisdom can also keep us from being physically destroyed before our time. This is kind of obvious. When we keep the word of wisdom, we avoid contracting preventable diseases or other problems. The Word of Wisdom keeps us healthy.

But I kind of wonder if there is more to this promise than avoiding life-threatening disease – especially when you consider we will all die anyway.

The Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt was not only physical, but symbolic of the deliverance that Christ can offer to all of us. We can all, through keeping the commandments and making covenants with God, be blessed with the ability to overcome the world. This blessing results in our inheritance of an eternal “promised land” – heaven.

Keeping the Word of Wisdom will also help us to receive this blessing. When we keep the Word of wisdom, we’re blessed with physical health and strength, we’re blessed with knowledge, we’re blessed with the ability to endure. These are the ingredients we need in order to inherit eternal life. Truly, if we keep the word of wisdom, the destroying angel will pass over us.

Even though I’m not always the best at keeping the word of wisdom – I don’t always eat the most healthy things. Sometimes, I don’t treat my body like the temple that it is. I can see how the word of wisdom helps us to develop discipline. It helps us to understand our physical relationship with the Lord. I am grateful for the word of wisdom.

What are some of the blessings and promises of the Word of Wisdom you are grateful for? What have you learned as you’ve studied and pondered the Word of Wisdom?

The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings Part One (D&C 89:18-21)

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

I have to admit, this is my favorite part of the Word of Wisdom.

When the Lord introduced this new principle, he explained that it was a principle with a promise. In these last few verses, we learn of the promised blessing that will come when we follow the principle of good health.

Health in the Navel, Marrow in the Bones
The first blessing is actual health. Now, this doesn’t mean that we will never get sick. But that we will have healthier lives because of living the word of wisdom. This seems like the most obvious consequence of keeping the Word of Wisdom. Just because it is obvious, though, doesn’t mean we should overlook its importance! Good health is an amazing blessing. When we have good health, we are better able to enjoy life.

I have always experienced fairly good health. I’ve never had a life threatening disease. Of course, there have been times that I’ve been sick, and when I’ve gone through that, I think, “This is the worst thing EVER!” And, afterwards, I am always amazed at how great it feels to be normal – not to have a runny nose, or fever, or some worse symptom.

Recently, though, I have had a problem with endometriosis. I have known about this problem for about five years, but hadn’t done anything to treat it because I wasn’t done having children. Then, this summer, it was acting up again, and I decided to see a doctor to do something about it. Since I knew that we were done having children, I prayerfully considered her advice: hysterectomy.

I elected to have the surgery – seven weeks ago. I’m already feeling so much better! I have more energy. I feel like I’m better able to enjoy life again. Even though I still have to get back to normal (my abdomen will need a bit of strengthening after that surgery), I’m noticing the quality of my life increase. I’m so grateful for health.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, there is a scripture that reads:

” Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:18-19

I love this! When we keep the Word of Wisdom, and use the food that Heavenly Father has given us as He has directed, then it will strengthen our bodies and enliven our souls. The physical blessing of the Word of Wisdom is pretty cool.

Wisdom
Another blessing of the Word of Wisdom is wisdom! (Imagine that).

One of the best examples of this blessing is found in the example of Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego). They had been brought to the court of Nebuchadnezzar to be trained by his people. They would be added to his large counsel. They were young and first would go through various exercises. The first thing to do was to get healthy and strong. They were told to eat the “Kings Meat” and drink the “King’s Wine.” However, this diet was against the dietary code of Daniel and his Israelite brethren. They asked if they could be exempt from this part of the King’s training.

Of course, the eunuchs who were in charge of preparing Daniel and his brethren were worried about the results of their lack of participation. Daniel offered a challenge – they would keep their own Dietary code for ten days, and if they didn’t appear and perform well, then they would submit to the King’s diet.

After ten days, the boys appeared healthier than all of the other boys who had eaten the king’s meat. We also learn of another blessing:

“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” – Daniel 1:17

In addition to their good health, these boys had received knowledge in all learning and wisdom.

I think that this makes sense. When we are following the Word of Wisdom (not necessarily the diet fad of the day), our brains work better. We receive the nutrients we need in order to have maximum function. We may not have six pack abs, but we won’t be “meat-heads” either. The Lord knows our bodies, He designed them. While we may not have an understanding of the benefits for various foods and our body, the Lord does. Our diet does more for us than our appearance -it also helps us have wisdom.

I, personally, am interested in this promise. I am always looking to improve my wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. If I want to do this, then I will stay closer to His Spirit through keeping the Word of Wisdom. Elder Richard G. Scott has taught us how to enhance the power of the Spirit in our lives:

“On the other hand, spiritual communication can be enhanced by good health practices. Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation.” – Richard G. Scott

It makes sense that if we don’t cloud our minds with the negative effects of drugs, then we will be blessed with greater wisdom. I find it interesting to also note that good eating habits help to enhance our ability to receive revelation and gain wisdom. Good food = Brain food.

***

I’m grateful for these blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I’m grateful to enjoy good health. I love being able to learn, think, and grow. I’m grateful that Heavenly Father has given us insight on how our bodies effect us physically and mentally. Have you experienced these blessings as a result of keeping the Word of Wisdom? How have the blessings of health and wisdom effected your life?

***
Click here to read part two of The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings.

The Three Degrees of Heaven

It is our final installment of the Plan of Salvation scripture study series. I realize I was supposed to post this yesterday, but things got crazy. However, I didn’t to forget about it all together, so here goes!

For today’s assignment, click here.

The last part of the Plan of Salvation – after everything is said and done – is our final, eternal destination. It is what we’re working toward. Some people call it Heaven or Hell. In the Mormon faith, we are a little bit more specific than that. In Doctrine and Covenants 76, you can read about the striations of both heaven and hell. There truly are many mansions. I will go over each grouping and point out a few attributes of each.

Outer Darkness

  • These souls were overcome by Satan.
  • They knew God – knew His power and partook of it, yet chose to follow the devil – openly rebelling.
  • Hand themselves over to Satan. – This is interesting to me. It suggests a very willing choice. I can only think of what we know about the Pre-mortal realm and the war against heaven…those souls knew and understood God and His plan, yet openly rebelled – hoping to destroy our agency and usurp His power. They were thrust out. When I think of perdition, I wonder if a similar pattern would follow. Instead of being tricked, addicted, or unbelieving, the souls who become sons of perdition seem to choose it.
  • These souls will receive no forgiveness – sounds harsh? This was their choice…wow!
  • They deny the Holy Ghost after having received it.
  • Deny Christ – and put Him to an open shame.
  • These souls will live eternally with the Devil and his angels
  • These are the ONLY ONES who will experience the second death – forever cut off from God – this is the only hell (in the traditional sense of hell). It doesn’t sound fun in outer darkness.

The Celestial Glory

  • Come forth in the first resurrection – the resurrection of the just.
  • Received a testimony of Christ, and followed the doctrine of Christ.
  • Overcome the world by faith in Christ.
  • Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise – this is a conditional blessing that God gives to those who are just, true, and have faith in Christ.
  • Members of Christ’s church
  • Have become heirs through Christ
  • These are just men (and women) made perfect through Jesus Christ – the mediator. – this was the entire purpose of the atonement!
  • Receive a celestial glory, or the fullness of glory, that can be compared to the glory of the sun.
  • Heaven!

The Terrestrial Glory

  • Died without the law.
  • Didn’t receive a testimony of Christ while in the flesh, but did receive it in the Spirit World
  • They are the honorable people of the earth who were maybe a little blinded by the craftiness of the world.
  • They receive glory – but not the fullness of Glory – that can be compared to the brightness of the moon.
  • Heaven! – This destination is still glorious. It is better than what our lives are like on earth. Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, has still extended mercy to so many people. And they will be happy.

The Telestial Glory

  • These souls did not receive a testimony of Christ.
  • They DO NOT deny the Holy Ghost.
  • These souls were not righteous, nor just. – They were liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, etc.
  • They experience Hell – but not in the same sense as “outer darkness”. Instead, they suffer for their sins while the other souls (who inherit the celestial and terrestrial kingdom) come forth in their resurrections. From what I understand, these souls do not accept the testimony of Christ, so they must suffer for their own sins. In this way they experience hell. Yet, they don’t deny the Holy Ghost, and at some point, they will be blessed with a degree of glory – a small piece of Heaven. They will eventually be redeemed, but not until Christ has finished all of His other work.
  • They will be heirs of salvation, receiving glory that is comparable to the brightness of a star in the sky.
  • Heaven! – This is a tough road, but in the end, they still work through their sins and are redeemed.

I find the Three Degrees of Heaven one of the biggest proofs that God is just and He loves us. He offers so many different types of Heaven. And each destination will be tailored to us, personally. The glory we inherit will be both comfortable and make us happy.

When I think about the three degrees of glory, I’m curious to know what they could possibly be like. We have been taught that the world we currently live in is like the Telestial world. And you know what, I love the earth that we inhabit. It is beautiful and interesting. I can’t imagine what could be better, yet I know I want it.

The Telestial World will be like the earth we live in now.

I feel comforted to know that there are places designated for us, and really, there is a lot more Heaven than Hell. Of course, I want to do everything I can to receive a fullness of God’s glory. I want to dwell with Him. I want to be happy. I want to receive all that He is willing to give me.

I know that I can’t do it on my own. I can work hard, but nothing I do will ever qualify me to overcome the weakness of the flesh. I know that it is through Christ I will receive the grace I need to be saved. I’m grateful for Jesus and His role in my salvation.

What have you learned about the Three Degrees of Glory? What does it teach you about God and His Plan of Salvation? What does it mean to you, personally?

Satan and the Plan of Salvation

Click here for today’s assignment

It may seem strange, but understanding Satan, and the role he plays in the Plan of Salvation is very helpful as we navigate our own lives. Additionally, Satan is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in Mormonism. Hopefully this scripture study assignment and post will help clear things up for people.

One of the most helpful scriptures that teaches us about Satan, and how he became the devil, is in Moses:

“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.” – Moses 4:1

Satan was there in the beginning
Here we learn that like ourselves, Satan’s spirit has existed since the beginning. God created his spirit. I think that it is important to note, however, that God didn’t create Satan to be wicked. Satan expressed his own agency. Satan rebelled. In fact, it is understood that when Satan was still numbered in God’s kingdom (before his rebellion and banishment), he wasn’t yet Satan. He was an angel – Lucifer. (See Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 12:7-9).

Satan seeks power
Satan knew the plan that God had set forth. He knew the plan of salvation: that all of God’s spirit children would be sent to earth in families. He knew that we would be bound by the effects of the fall, and would need a redeemer. Satan also knew that Heavenly Father would send a Savior that would offer mercy, but only based on our decision to choose to repent and receive redemption. Satan knew and understood God’s plan.

In fact, in the doctrine and covenants we learn:

“And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:25

This scripture teaches us that, not only was Satan a spirit of God’s, but that he had some kind of authority. His rebellion was intentional. It was not based on some kind of misunderstanding.

Back to the scripture in Moses

“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;” – Moses 4:2-3

Satan came in opposition to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ was the firstborn of Heavenly Father, and was the Spirit chosen to fulfill the role of Savior of the world. He was Chosen from the beginning, and he sought only to do what the Father would. Satan not only opposed Heavenly Father, but he opposed Jesus – who had already been chosen to fulfill the role as Redeemer.

Satan is Cast Down
Heavenly Father cast Satan out of Heaven – this wasn’t arbitrary. Satan’s banishment was a consequence of the following actions:

  1. Satan Rebelled Against God – We have been discussing this point throughout the blog.
  2. Satan sought to destroy the agency of man – Agency is the ability for us to choose. We will learn more about this when we study the fall of Adam, but agency has been a right that God has granted to us since the beginning. We can make our own choices – even if they go against God’s will. Coercion and force has never been a part of God’s plan. Satan knew this, yet he didn’t want us to have agency. He wanted our only power. And, interestingly enough, Satan used his agency to rebel against God – hoping to take our agency.

    I’m not sure if I’m making sense, but I think it is kind of funny – Satan expects to be able to have agency, but doesn’t want to grant this ability to anyone else. Hypocrite!

  3. Satan wanted God’s power – In this sense, I find Satan to be the most amazingly proud, and nearly idiotic, Spirit ever to exist. Why did he think that he should have all of God’s honor, glory, or power? Satan was greedy. He wanted our power. He wanted God’s power. Yikes!

Back to Moses…

“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.” – Moses 4:4

Satan started and lost a war in Heaven
As a part of his rebellion, Satan convinced about 1/3 of God’s other spirit children in heaven to take a stand against Heavenly Father. Satan started a war in heaven. (See Revelation 12:7-9.)

“War in Heaven,” by FriaLove. Click image for source.

This war was fought with testimonies and ideas – with Christ at the helm. And, obviously, Satan lost. He, and the other hosts who rebelled against God, were cast out of heaven: without the opportunity to ever come to earth or participate in the plan of salvation. They were cast out of God’s presence: into eternal misery.

Lucifer (Satan) becomes Satan
When this Spirit, Lucifer, was cast down, he then became Satan: the devil, the father of all lies. We need to recognize that he isn’t a good guy. We know that he started a war in Heaven, and, the thing is, he hasn’t stopped warring.

“Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:29

Satan continues to make war with us. He also still has the three same motives: to rebel against God, to take away our agency, and to usurp God’s power. He tries to accomplish this through temptation. He lies to us. He tries to trick us into sin which leads to captivity and misery. Not surprisingly, when we give in to the temptations of Satan, we lose a measure of our agency – and we hand it over to him. Satan is still this boldly proud and incredibly wicked being. He hasn’t changed. He still wars against God, Christ, and all of Zion.

Understanding Satan – his origin and his motive – helps us to understand more about the Plan of Salvation. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This test is a real test, with real adversity and real consequences. Satan is powerful and relatively good at what he does. However, we can remember that the same power that overcame Satan in the Heavens will overcome Him here: faith and testimony in the power of Christ.

What can you do to continue to strengthen your faith and testimony in the Savior, and ultimately overcome the influence of Satan in your life?

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Click here for tomorrow’s assignment.

Having an Eye of Faith – Scripture Chain

I’m intrigued by the concept of having an eye of faith. I think that it interests me so much because it has been hard for me to develop, yet I know that in many facets of our lives, visualizing ourselves accomplishing our goals will help us to see them through.

Can you imagine yourself reaching your goal – whether it is losing weight, getting a certain job, writing a novel, winning a golf tournament – do you see yourself obtaining that which you are working for? Chances are, if you can’t visualize it, then you won’t be able to accomplish it.

This concept holds true for obtaining eternal life. The Lord asks us to develop an eye of faith. Doing so will help us to achieve our ultimate goal of eternal life.

So – here’s the scripture chain.

Matthew 6:22 – Look to God

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22
Notice, especially, the footnotes for the word “single”:
1. This is a Greek Idiom for healthy, sincere, without guile.
2. JST explains that the phrase “to the glory of God” should proceed included.

This scripture teaches us what we should be envisioning with our eye of faith: our eye needs to be single – to the glory of God, then our whole body will be full of light. This is the vision we must see with our eye of faith. Then we will be blessed.

The Lord doesn’t ask us to imagine ourselves keeping the commandments. He doesn’t ask us to imagine ourselves getting some kind of calling or even making a covenant. He tells us to envision His glory. It is the glory of God that will fill our souls with light and enable us to achieve our goal. Of course we need to keep the commandments and make covenants, but that should not be the focus of our eye of faith.

This makes sense to me. Sometimes, I forget to think of the glory of God. I forget about His power and mercy. I forget about His love and grace. Instead, I begin to focus too much on my flaws, then I get overwhelmed by the idea of perfection. I become discouraged and distracted. If we focus, instead, on the glory of the Lord, then our beings will be filled with light and hope. He will help us overcome our natural weakness and flaws. We will be able to see through to the time when our eye of faith is realized.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:68 – Be Sanctified

“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:68

Here we learn that in order to have our minds become single to God, then we need to sanctify ourselves. To be sanctified means to be made pure. This happens as we repent, are cleansed in the waters of baptism, and continually work to keep the commandments and renew our covenants. As we keep our eye on God and work to become more like Him by being sanctified, then there will be a time when we do see him.

If we think of this scripture on very practical terms – as far as having an eye of faith concerning other goals – then I think that we apply this scripture to mean that we need to do what it takes to achieve our goal. If the goal is to run a marathon, for example, we can’t simply imagine ourselves crossing the finish line. We must also “sanctify” ourselves, by waking up early, running, eating right, signing up for the marathon, and logging in the miles. As we do this, not only are we are better able to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize: of crossing the finish line, but we will actually do it, too!

Acts 7:55-56 – Look Steadfastly

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:55-56

This scripture is part of the account of Saint Stephen. Notice the phrase in the quoted verses, “[he] looked up steadfastly into heaven.” Stephen was steadfast in his vision. I have a feeling that Stephen spent his entire life looking to Heaven. He didn’t happen to finally have an eye of faith at the end of His life. Stephen had looked to heaven, steadfastly, for a long time and eventually saw – literally – what he had seen with his spiritual eyes for so long.

Not only do we have to look, and be sanctified, but we have to be steadfast. We have to maintain an eye of faith even when the vision we have seems completely impossible.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:38 – Seek the Lord

“And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.” – Doctrine and Covenants 101:38

Here we learn that sometimes we’ll have to seek the face of the Lord, and we may even need to be patient.

I forget this so much. It isn’t that the Lord’s face is hard to find, but it can be when I’m not being spiritually tuned into Him. When I really think about it, the Face of the Lord can be seen in everything around me. Have I ever mentioned how beautiful it is where I live?

This is where I live!

A few nights ago, I was busy in my house, getting ready for dinner, etc, when I happened to notice the sunset. Sunsets in Arizona are pretty much amazing. I decided to turn off the stove for a minute so I could go outside and enjoy the winds, the oncoming monsoon, and the amazing sunset.

I realized how often I go without taking much notice of the world around me – because I’m so focused on what is happening before my eyes. I don’t always seek the beauty of the world around me. I don’t always seek the face of the Lord in His creations and my blessings. So often, my little pathetic life is getting in the way of the bigger picture I need to have.

We may know that we need to have an eye of faith and look to the Glory of God, but there are times when this “vision” isn’t so apparent. We may need to seek His glory. Often, seeking Him isn’t so difficult – it is just a matter of turning down the distractions. No matter how you do it, we need to seek. If we do, we will find Him.

Alma 36:22, 28 – Reaching our Goal

“Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

And I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory; yea, and I will praise him forever,…” – Alma 36:22, 28

In this final scripture, Alma (the younger) is teaching his son shortly before His departure from mortality. He relates the experience of his conversion to his son, Helaman. He had endured the pains of his own sins, then he felt the joy of repentance. After repenting, Alma caught a glimpse – of God sitting on his throne, the beauty of the angels praising and singing. Alma longed to be there.

This vision became the picture Alma saw in his eye of faith.

We can study Alma’s life after his conversion. He spent his time devoted to the Lord. He was sanctified through keeping the commandments and making and keeping covenants. He was steadfast and didn’t waver once he had covenanted with God. He sought the Lord diligently and with patience through prayer and fasting. Because of Alma’s eye of faith, he was, eventually, able to know that he would be able to go where his soul longed to be.

How do you keep an eye of faith? How has having an eye of faith helped you to get through trials and difficulties in life? What are your favorite scriptures that teach us about having an eye of faith?

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Read this blog post for more information on marking scripture chains in your scriptures.
or
Check out my free eBook Getting More from the Scriptures: Techniques and Projects for Effective Scripture Study.