Sunday, May 15, 2016

Drawing closer to God.

I really enjoyed listening to Matt's autobiographical podcast on experiences leading up to his audience with Jesus. When you listen to someone else's story it reminds you of elements of your own that you might not have paid attention to. I really liked the punchline of his pre-audience story. He said, basically, "God, I've done everything you've asked me to do. Why have you not kept your promise to reveal yourself to me?" That is a gutsy thing to say. It ought to remind some of us of the following line: "Adam, having been true and faithful in all things, desires now to enter into your presence." The feeling that we have faithfully kept all the commandments is a feeling we ought to have. It is a necessary condition to obtain communion with God.

We really do need to be perfectly obedient.

There is a lot of false doctrine floating around concerning exactly how redemption works. The gist of the status quo belief is that if you "do your best" God will meet you there and forgive you of the rest. That doctrine, which has crept into every Christian sect of which I am aware, is completely unsubstantiated and directly refuted by God's word. One could play a game where the objective was to disprove this doctrine from each book of scripture. You could find all the scriptures that disprove it, then you could try to pare your list down to the fewest number of verses that do so adequately. It would be a good exercise. Here is one brief scripture chain from Doctrine and Covenants that suffices.

That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law...cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still. (D&C 88:35) 

Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law. (D&C 82:4)

It is quite simple. The law is not one list. It is progressive. "...Unto every law there are certain bounds." (D&C 88:38). "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it..." (D&C 93:30). What is true in one context is false in another. To every law, there is a different higher law.

Glory is given commensurate with the degree of law obeyed. Not with the degree of obedience to the law you receive--that is something quite different. The degree to which you disobey the law that you have received is the degree to which you are willfully disobedient. If you are willfully disobedient in the least degree, you are barred from living with God no matter what degree of law you have received. You can picture eternal progression as two columns on a computer screen. In one column is an infinite continuum of law. It keeps going forever. Each of us is at some finite point on that continuum. If you were to click some point on that continuum, you would get a body of light/truth/commandments/law (it's all the same) to appear in the right column. The right column turns green if you are true and faithful in those things, and red if you are not. This analogy reveals that there is a danger in God giving you more light and truth. At every degree of glory (every dispensation of truth to you), you risk losing everything you have gained. You cannot progress without skin in the game.

The steps to progression.

Step 1: Obtain an an additional increment of light and truth.

Step 2: Learn to live by the light and truth you have.

Step 3: Receive the degree of glory associated with obedience to that light and truth.

The trouble with step 1 (obtain an an additional increment of light and truth).
The trouble with this step is that there is risk. Even though Satan obtained the penultimate degree of glory known to us, he lost everything by being disobedient to the new knowledge revealed to him at that point. When you incur new knowledge, you void your right to keep the glory you have because you can lose it all if you do not obey the new knowledge you are given. The third part of heaven was cast out because they rejected a new covenant. It didn't matter what their state was prior to the revelation of the covenant.

Because of the risk, God does not force knowledge onto people. There are innumerable hosts of heaven that remain in their current state because they have no desire to progress. They do not want to risk what they have. In other words, they do not love light and truth enough, and they do not trust God enough to risk it all to progress. The bulk of new light and truth can therefore only be received by sincerely request to God. You have to ask, seek, and knock, or you will never be given the next rung in the ladder.

The trouble with step 2 (learn to live by the light and truth you have).
It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that our "best" is good enough. I put this into quotes because God says that man is capable of keeping every commandment given. In other words, we lie when we say we are doing our best and yet are in sin. Real progress requires real obedience. That's all there is to it.

If we find ourselves living in perfect obedience to what we know, and yet missing the blessings associated with that law, we either are mistaken in what we consider to be the blessing associated with that law, or we are mistaken in our perceived obedience. In either case, the solution is to ask God what we yet lack. It is a fair question, and he always answers it.

I remember reading D&C 93:1 as a recent convert and thinking that I was fulfilling the requirements for entering the presence of God, yet I had not received that blessing. It turns out that while I was keeping the commandments I knew, I had not yet received the level of commandments associated with that blessing. I did not know it at the time, but I should have been asking for more commandments to get to that level.

The trouble with step 3 (receive the degree of glory associated with obedience to that light and truth).
The danger here is assuming that you know all there is to know. As an example, suppose you think the windows of heaven have opened to you because you pay 10% of your gross income to the LDS church. There is no harm done unless you assume that your perceived blessing from God indicates you now know everything there is to know about tithing. While it is great to receive blessings from heaven, they can turn into stumbling blocks if we use them to ignore potential further light and knowledge. In the case of LDS tithing, it is a very corrupted principle, and many levels of further understanding and greater blessings are readily available to those who are willing to entertain the thought that something greater is available.

Abraham did not assume that the blessings he received from his father's religion were all there was to gain. Through studying the scriptures, he was able to see that much greater blessings were available, and he put his father's religion on the altar to find the law that delivered the blessings received by the patriarchs in the scriptures. Like Abraham, all of us can look to the scriptures and see blessings far beyond what we have received in our lives. We all ought to realize what this means: no matter how true our current beliefs seem, we will have to let go of at least some of them and search for something better if we are to obtain that kind of relationship/power with God. Put another way, every disparity you see between yourself and God will require your giving up something you think you know to fix.

Truth is progressive, and there is always more to know. The glory of that which you do not know will always exceed the glory of what you do know.