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I recently attended the Spirit of Dialogue conference at UVU and they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. https://www.dialoguejournal.com/50th-anniversary/spirit-of-dialogue-conference/
It was a great meeting with wonderful guests. One of the highlights for me was the last session, a discussion between Marlin Jensen (former church historian and emeritus status GA) and Gregory Prince. The audio is posted at the above link. He said something that I've been pondering about ever since the meeting. In talking about the essays and the challenges that the information age presents to members he said:
The part in bold is what I've been struggling to understand. He mentioned meeting with many people over the years who're struggling with their membership. Why is belief so important to him, and why is it a choice? Why is it more important than who you choose as your spouse? Why is belief the most important choice we will ever make in this life? I don't get it.
I have some thoughts, but I wanted to ask to the group. Thanks
By Bernard Gui
Believers are challenged by non-believers to give scientific proof that God exists, as if there were some sort of experiment that could be devised that consistently forces God to reveal Himself to whomever tries it. Such an experiment would have to preserve the agency of man. An experiment does exist, but it sets certain conditions that must be met in order for it to succeed. It is described in the parable of the seed in Alma 32:
But can this experiment satisfy the demands of non-believers? The conditions for this experiment to succeed are specified by the missionary Ammon in Alma 26:
Can a person test God without having a sincere and transparent intent to be willing to repent and accept all that follows from discovering God's existence? Is this an experiment non-believers are willing to perform? If not, would someone propose such an experiment that would be acceptable? (Cutting off a head or leg and having God restore it has already been spoken for).
We were discussing the infinite nature of the atonement in Sunday School this week. As people were opining on what 'infinite" meant, the famous couplet “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be” came to my mind. That started me wondering about how the atonement applies to this...
Does this mean that Heavenly Father himself needed an atonement? Was that atonement retroactively provided by His son? Did God live a perfect life like unto the Savior and not need redemption?
I know this can start getting into the who begat God then thing etc, etc, thinking... and now my brain hurts! :-)
Anyway - does anyone here have thoughts or sources addressing the matter?
Edited: to fix spelling
By Hamilton Porter
This is how the chapter "Authority" in Catholic and Mormon (New York: Oxford, 2015) went:
Webb made the standard argument that St. Peter passed on apostolic authority to the bishops.
Gaskill replied saying that the bishop office was already around concurrently with the apostle office during NT times, and it was a local office. The churchwide office of apostle went missing after St. Peter died, and the churchwide office of Pope wasn't there until the mid 4th century with Leo.
Webb said if you're gonna be picky about the difference between apostle and bishop, then why do you have a "prophet" that is above the apostles? In the NT, "prophets" are subordinate to apostles and does not have the authority of an OT prophet. Also, it's pretty clear that St. Peter intended to pass his authority down. In the NT, authority was spread by the laying of hands, and that's what Peter did.
Gaskill did not respond after that. But Stephen E. Robinson in How Wide the Divide mentioned that "prophet" is an apostolic office.
Hello. I hope I am posting in the correct category... You see I joined this forum because I have a very specific issue that I feel conflicted about, and I wanted to get some objective opinions from some other LDS folk anonymously because of the nature of the issue. I hope that I am amongst friends here, and I hope that when I tell you what my issue is, you will take it as a serious inquiry and not mock me or become hostile towards me.
But in order to share with you my issue I must give you a bit of a background...
I have always been a very inquisitive person. Even as a child, I would wonder where I came from and why I exist. And at this point, I should tell you, I had never been a religious person and in fact I did not even believe in God as anything more than a comforting fairy tale for some, and a justification for abusing and manipulating (to control others) for the rest.
As I became older, the need to find an answer to the question of why I exist became unbearable and I found myself somewhat obsessed with finding the answer, in particular through the study of math and science. (Really really in particular, through the study of vortex mathematics, holographic information storage/redundant arrays, and the visual cortex, neonatal neurological development and neurology in general as it relates to discovering the origin of consciousness).
Then one day as I was pondering all I had learned over a long period of time and study, the pieces of the puzzle of the universe and all that is somehow clicked into place, and I understood it ALL for a brief flash of infinite clarity... and inso doing it happened... a bolt of lightening hit my brain in the form of a pupil-dialating, world-rocking, mind-blowing, flashback-inducing realization... epiphany... revelation... no, a rememberance... of something I knew long ago and had forgotten, something that had been buried deeper than deep in my memories... I remembered God.
I saw all that is, was, and ever would be in that instant, and the answers to all the questions in the world about why we exist and why we are here and who we are and where we come from and and where we are going... and even answers to questions that I didn't even know to ask like what is real, what is not real, what is love, what is fear, what is light, what is dark, and so on. And the beauty of it was that it made total and complete sense, and was utterly flawless and unerring and perfect and beautiful and I thought, "Of course! Of course this is what is going on! Of course it couldn't be anything else! How could I have forgotten?!". Because i had known it before, you see. I have apparently had amnesia my entire life and how could I have forgotten? And then my thoughts in that instant turned to God, and how much I love God, how I completely and totally and all encompassingly LOVE God, and how God is so infinitely, unspeakably, heart-breakingly... GOOD, and I KNEW this... Heavenly Father loves me so utterly, so unconditionally, so intensely, so boundlessly, so PERFECTLY that if He were to lift the veil completely and show Himself in His full Glory to me in the flesh, then first my body and then the entire Universe would shatter from PURE BLISS into dust.
And then, all at once, it was gone. Once that instant passed, all the knowledge passed with it and I could not remember anything except that I had the experience. I only knew that God is real, and I love Him utterly. So I prayed, and I told God, "I know you are there, you cannot hide from me any longer, and so what should I do? I suppose I should be baptised somewhere. I love you forever".
So, I had it in my head that I was going to be baptised, but I hadnt made any plans about it yet. That night, I was in the garage thinking about things, because the garage was the quietest place in the house, in fact it is the closest I have ever gotten to absolute silence. But the thing about absolute silence, is that it isn't very silent, is it? There is a din in silence, like the sounds of all the oceans and all the winds of the Earth ceaselessly blowing and flowing and waving and crashing in an endless whisper as subtle as an odor barely there or a color in a darkened room... maybe it is the sound of the earth turning or the sound of one's own spirit vibrating... who knows?
But this time, in the din of silence, there was a whisper... words began to form, ever so subtly, almost like the din itself was whispering, but it was there nonethless very definitely and I heard the words, "I am..." followed by a full name. A person's name, in fact the name of my grandfather who had passed. "Grandpa?" I thought to myself and in answer to my thought came another whisper, "Yes," the voice ever so softly responded. And after listening to the voice say what it came to say and whispering a gentle goodbye in the din of silence, another voice came. "I am..." followed by the name of my great grandmother who had passed. I listened to that voice for a few minutes and listened to it say goodbye as well. After several relatives had come and gone on the waves of silence, I decided it was time to go to sleep. At best this is a unique once in a lifetime spiritual experience to give me comfort, and at worst it was a deceitful spirit tormenting me and/or I was insane. Whichever one it was, I would still need to get some sleep that night.
As I lay in bed, another "voice" came to me, only instead of being sound, this was in the form of a vibration, a pulse I could feel in my forehead, and somehow this vibration was giving me information in the form of words. This was unfortunately not a pleasant experience. Whatever it was, caused abject terror without saying a word. It was although it had injected fear into my veins, because although there was no immediate threat to myself as far as I could perceive and so intellectually I could not convince myself of a reason to be afraid... my body did not have the same opinion as my logical mind and was trembling uncontrollably from some type of physically present fear. Once it "spoke" though, it did seem to wish to torment me, as it told me that some terrible things would happen in the not too distant future, and in general wished to influence me to take actions in my life, such as moving from my home to another city, and other such fear-mongering manipulative nonsense. I prayed to God for protection and to tell me what I should do next. I knew I had to be baptised as soon as possible. Instantly, a heat ignited in my heart, not only a heat but also a feeling of comfort, love, and peace... this feeling spread from my heart out through my entire body and to my extremities and when it did, all fear was driven from my body and the voice was gone and I was so happy and peaceful and comfortable and warm that I fell right to sleep.
In retrospect, I think once one is able to perceive things of a spiritual nature, one is able to perceive both the good and bad of that nature previously hidden to them.
The next day I set out to find someone to baptize me, so I looked on the internet for a Catholic Church website to inquire about it and perhaps to order a rosary or something for protection because, I had no clue what to do, and I didn't really know what denomination to follow so I arbitrarily chose a well-known one. As I was browsing the website, there was knock on the door, and when I looked out of the peep hole, I saw what I knew were two Mormon missionaries. I gasped... I gasped because I had been directly answered by God in a real, practical, actually-happening-in-reality way and I was dumbstruck. This is who will baptise me, I thought. I smiled and opened the door, and greeted them. (They later told me that they weren't even going to stop at my door. They were going to stop at the home just south of mine for the day, but became caught up in conversation with one another and became distracted, and continued on to my home inadvertently.)
I was baptised soon thereafter, and I won't list every one of the many, many amazing coincidences and synchronicities that happened during the whole process, but I will say that once I was baptised, I knew things that I shouldn't have. For example, a missionary approached me, and without any foreknowledge of what he was going to say, I knew immediately that two of the other missionaries in the church needed me to take their bikes to another location for them so they could make it home in time for curfew. Before the missionary asked, as he approached me I was smiling and said "Yes! I can, I can put the bikes in the back of my truck!" and he smiled and said "Wow the spirit really is talking to you!"
I was never bothered by the bad spirit again, however I had come to find out that I had not lost the ability to hear the whispers of the souls of those who have passed on. A strange ability, that I never wanted, yet I have it even to this day.
So on the night of my baptism, I confessed to two women who were the last ones lingering at the baptismal party one of them had thrown for me, about my experience and my ability. They asked me many questions about it, and seemed satisfied with the legitimacy of my claims, as I did not seem to be insane, and in fact seemed to be a perfectly normal person except for that. So, one of them approached me the next Sunday, for the sake of conversation we will call her Mandi, and said she wanted to "pick my brain" about a woman who she was close to that had died fairly recently. That night on the telephone she asked questions and I told her the answers I got, and she was impressed, noting that I was using terms and mannerisms that the woman who had died would often use. Apparently she had told the other woman, we will call her Berri, about the telephone conversation and Berri was interested in knowing more.
Keep in mind these are all involved and devoted active members of the LDS church... Anyway Mandi and Berri planned a get together at Mandi's house where Mandi, Berri, Berri's twin sister Bisty, and Berri's mother would all sit around and "pick my brain" about people they knew who had passed on. So I went over there and we ate lunch, and afterwards, we all sat in the living room and Berri led us all in a prayer. Once the prayer was said, they asked me about several people who had died. I basically acted as a relay between them and the people who had passed on. I remember one man in particular who Berri's mother had as a boyfriend when she was very young, and the first thing he wanted to say was "I'm sorry I was a jerk". When I relayed this message, Berri's mother began to cry, and laughed at the same time saying "You were a jerk!".
Without telling the entire experience here, suffice it to say that they asked me many questions and I relayed many answers, all of which were completely accurate. They were very pleased with the session, and even moreso, they were very pleased with the experience they had and were convinced that I have a spiritual gift from God.
The Bishop heard about what happened, and called me in to a meeting with him at his office in the church building at 10 o'clock at night on a Wednesday. I was very worried that I would be kicked out of church because of what I could do, only because I had come to love the church and every one in it very dearly and dreaded losing it. My bishop asked me many questions and I answered them, and he asked the Sisters who had been with me many questions. I told him that if it was not from God, that I didn't want it, and I want him to help me get rid of it. In the end my Bishop would not say that it was for sure a spiritual gift from God... but he would also not say that it was not a spiritual gift from God. By the end of the meeting, he gave me a blessing of the discernment of spirits and told me not to use my ability too often and warned me about keeping one foot in another reality. I agreed with him and that was that.
I had a patriarchal blessing where I was told to "use my spiritual gift as I am prompted", as anyone should do with any spiritual gift I suppose.
You might have noticed in the topic I said "abilities"... well there are other things I seem to be able to do that I don't really have time to get into right now, but I might be able to explain it later in reply to some responses.
But my issue is this...
Where do I fit in, spiritually? What does it mean to have this "gift"? Am I doing the work of the adversary by utilizing this ability? Or does God wish me to use it to comfort those who have lost loved ones, or to bolster and renew their faith in God? Or am I to have this ability for no purpose?? It is something that is really conflicting me because the Book of Mormon says to seek to God for knowledge of loved ones who have passed on and spiritual things such as that, but I am not God, of course, so am I supposed to keep this ability to myself? Am I supposed to become some kind of new age fru-fru la-la and go around "giving readings" to people? Some people seem to think so but it doesn't seem right to me? I don't know.
If anyone has any genuine, sincere advice or thoughts on the matter, I would greatly appreciate if you might share it with me. But I have been through a lot, so please no personal attacks. Thank you so much.