Discerning Good from Evil

Let us presume that:1In Mormon theology, none of these are obscure concepts.

  • God had to learn to be God2Essentially, God had to grow into the role.3God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. (1844, Joseph Smith Conference Address (aka The King Follette discourse); Journal of Discourses 6:3)
  • Mortality is a time for us to become more like God.4Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you — namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one — from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. (ibid 6:4)5Or, said differently, mortality is a school (a spiritual academy). We don’t just have the right to grow, this life (mortality, world, creation) is expressly created to that purpose.
  • God has given us means to help us determine good from evil.6This includes access to the heavens by all means (e.g., commandments, messengers, The Comforter, The Light of Christ, The Holy Ghost/Spirit, The Spirit of Christ).7In one example, John Taylor teaches: “God raised them up a Moses, revealed His will to him, set him apart for this mission, told him what to do, and after some little difficulties arising from human weaknesses were removed, Moses was accepted, and the Lord became his instructor, and pointed out in all instances the course that he should pursue, and in what manner the children of Israel were to be delivered, and He, the Holy One of Israel, gave them His law and ordinances, and revealed unto them His will, and stood by and sustained, guided and directed them. This salvation did not come from the people, it did not originate with them, they owed it all to God, the source of all truth, all light, all intelligence, all power and blessings. (1880s1882 JD, JT Mighty ¶3 • JD 23:259)”
  • God has given us opportunities to exercise discernment.8If you prefer, we have agency — the right to choose. Additionally, we get to practice, make mistakes, repent, rinse, repeat <– e.g., learn/grow/improve. In short, we are blessed with mortality.

So, why doesn’t God always stand at the ready to tell us what the better choice is? God’s admonition to Oliver9Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–9 — Behold, I say unto you, my son, that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him. 2 And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate. 3 Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. 4 Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. 5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. 6 Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner. 7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. 8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. places the sole responsibility for discernment on Oliver (and by implication on us) with God acting to confirm his (our) efforts.

Might I propose that there is intent?10Meaning that it is not arbitrary or independent, but connects directly to “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)”

How did God become the source of truth and light? Said differently, how did God, independent of all others, become the ultimate source to discern good from evil?11That God is the source of truth and light is not a new concept. For example, Augustine discussed an affinity for “Platonic philosophers, who have recognized the true God as the author of all things, the source of the light of truth, and the bountiful bestower of all blessedness. (City of God Book 8 Ch. 5 ¶1)” What is new is this idea of progression from man to God and that one can become a source of truth and light.

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If Joseph is correct, and salvation12We presume this to be the ultimate salvation, or exaltation, not one of the lesser salvations. means becoming exactly what our Savior13Lectures on Faith, Lecture Seventh:9 — We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is [p. 66] a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (see also verse 15) is and nothing less, then how do we to learn to be a source of truth and light independent of all others?14This reflects back to the idea that one schooled and credentialed as a doctor, but without sufficient experience, is a doctor in name only. Practice is required to fulfill the role. Data and information is essential, but insufficient. To truly be a doctor, knowledge and wisdom (and sometimes even things like muscle memory) are also required.

Your spiritual umbilical cord has been cut. Welcome to mortality.


 

Footnotes:

  • 1
    In Mormon theology, none of these are obscure concepts.
  • 2
    Essentially, God had to grow into the role.
  • 3
    God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. (1844, Joseph Smith Conference Address (aka The King Follette discourse); Journal of Discourses 6:3)
  • 4
    Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you — namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one — from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. (ibid 6:4)
  • 5
    Or, said differently, mortality is a school (a spiritual academy). We don’t just have the right to grow, this life (mortality, world, creation) is expressly created to that purpose.
  • 6
    This includes access to the heavens by all means (e.g., commandments, messengers, The Comforter, The Light of Christ, The Holy Ghost/Spirit, The Spirit of Christ).
  • 7
    In one example, John Taylor teaches: “God raised them up a Moses, revealed His will to him, set him apart for this mission, told him what to do, and after some little difficulties arising from human weaknesses were removed, Moses was accepted, and the Lord became his instructor, and pointed out in all instances the course that he should pursue, and in what manner the children of Israel were to be delivered, and He, the Holy One of Israel, gave them His law and ordinances, and revealed unto them His will, and stood by and sustained, guided and directed them. This salvation did not come from the people, it did not originate with them, they owed it all to God, the source of all truth, all light, all intelligence, all power and blessings. (1880s1882 JD, JT Mighty ¶3 • JD 23:259)”
  • 8
    If you prefer, we have agency — the right to choose. Additionally, we get to practice, make mistakes, repent, rinse, repeat <– e.g., learn/grow/improve. In short, we are blessed with mortality.
  • 9
    Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–9 — Behold, I say unto you, my son, that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him. 2 And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate. 3 Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. 4 Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. 5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. 6 Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner. 7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. 8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
  • 10
    Meaning that it is not arbitrary or independent, but connects directly to “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)”
  • 11
    That God is the source of truth and light is not a new concept. For example, Augustine discussed an affinity for “Platonic philosophers, who have recognized the true God as the author of all things, the source of the light of truth, and the bountiful bestower of all blessedness. (City of God Book 8 Ch. 5 ¶1)”
  • 12
    We presume this to be the ultimate salvation, or exaltation, not one of the lesser salvations.
  • 13
    Lectures on Faith, Lecture Seventh:9 — We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is [p. 66] a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (see also verse 15)
  • 14
    This reflects back to the idea that one schooled and credentialed as a doctor, but without sufficient experience, is a doctor in name only. Practice is required to fulfill the role. Data and information is essential, but insufficient. To truly be a doctor, knowledge and wisdom (and sometimes even things like muscle memory) are also required.

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