16 April 2007

Knowledge, Wisdom, Full Times

"Integrity has no need of rules." -Albert Camus

We don't know everything about the Plan of Salvation nor do we fully understand God's designs for mankind beyond the general "might find joy."

Each dispensation has had it's rules, leaders, cultures, laws, and enemies. No two were ever the same. From Adam VS Egypt to Helamon VS the Soviet Empire each has had different challenges to face and each has handled them accordingly. To find a common thread connecting these many peoples you don't have to look far. Love thy neighbor, thou shalt not kill, chastity; the Laws of God are clear, eternal, and unavoidable.

Rules and errata are left to the people. I have no idea how important it was to only walk a few steps on the Sabbath but that was the rule for an entire civilization. That rule got changed (voided, really) but not until the start of the following dispensation. Obedience to the rule was, in fact, a condition of continuing in God's good graces.*

Or was it? Could a man of a previous dispensation have doubted the rules and sought out the higher laws? What would that man be in the eyes of his contemporaries? A heathen, a heretic, a Samaritan?

Even now, in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, we haven't learned everything. Until such knowledge is gained the modern Church works policy based off the best understanding available. This knowledge comes from sources both temporal and divine. It can be painful to witness and even worse to bear.

Just ask Jane Elizabeth Manning James.

She was an early pioneer of the church. Black and female she served the Smith family after her baptism in 1842. Following the death of Joseph she was taken in as a servant by Brigham Young. In the years preceding her death she petitioned church leaders to allow her to be sealed to the Smith family claiming she was asked to by Emma to do so prior to the events at Carthage.

Early in 1894 she received word that her petition would be granted. Arriving at the temple she was informed that she would not be allowed entry but would instead be sealed, by proxy, to "be attached as a Servitor for eternity to the prophet Joseph Smith and in this capacity be connected with his family and be obedient to him in all things in the Lord as a faithful Servitor."

This is the only known occurrence of a sealing between master and servant. That was what the rules called for but was that what God really wanted? Was that really ever in the rules?

It took nearly a century for the church to figure out the problems with that and it may take another hundred to figure us out.

That's fine. The church can move at it's own pace. I'm not going to agonize as to why it hasn't happened yet. I don't know why President Hinckley answers questions about homosexuality with, "I don't know." He'll ask eventually. If not then a future prophet will.

*Regardless of the motive and regardless of who wrote the rule.


good tune


Forester said...

Where do you get your insightful church history snipits? This past weekend I spent hours cleaning out my grandmother's home. I cam across a book printed in 1932 entitled "Church History". I took the book and have begun reading. I thought it would contain most of the same stories and narratives I have read over the years, but to my great suprise, the first few pages proved me wrong. The first subject addressed in the book is about Ensign Peak in Salt Lake being used as a location to receive the endowment. I had never heard this, nor had my father. I'm anxious to keep reading. I'm so tired of reading the watered down and carefully edited versions of church history that was and is provided for a more friendly atmosphere for converts and the public in general.

playasinmar said...

You find stories like these in any book of Mormon history not published by Deseret Book.

Sure, some are mean-spirited (usually if it is published by another church you wont get much real history), but as it turns out there are just some good ol' regular historians who study Mormons. You can find them at any major bookseller.

Brady said...

Nice post, very well thought out.

I think your main question here is: Could a man of a previous dispensation have doubted the rules and sought out the higher laws? And that leads to the more important question in the context of what you've discussed: will a man be judged according to the policies and rules of his day? Even though the maximum number of steps allowed on the Sabbath is no longer dictated, will people of that dispensation be held accountable for whether or not they followed that rule? Or will they be granted some form of amnesty because the higher law does not include such proscriptions?

The answer, in the context of the gospel as we have been taught, seems to be no. If we have not been given the higher law through the proper channels, we are still held accountable to follow the lesser law.

drex said...

I believe we are held to the law that applies to our dispensation - that's part of the reason that the judgment bar has persons from our dispensation in attendance. It is feasible that a higher law could be revealed to an individual, and that they would thus be held to said law, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Moses at the time of the exodus and the advent of the Ten Commandments lived a higher law (applicable to the Melchizedek Priesthood) where the children of Israel had the lesser law of Moses (with the higher level of priesthood being the Aaronic/Levitical). Instances of individuals living a legitimate higher law in scripture are generally (I say generally because I haven't done any concrete research) relegated to prophets and possibly apostles. I would be extremely hesitant to believe that I could receive personal revelation dictating a higher law as yet not revealed to the church as a whole, unless it was either corroborated by a general authority or I was in a position of authority myself.

Mormon Enigma said...

playasinmar brings up some interesting points to ponder. I don't even think you have to go back to a previous dispensation to find things that were taboo/accepted back then but are accepted/taboo now.

But, I do kind of rank this discussion up there it with "Did Adam have a navel?" and "Do the pearly gates swing in or out?"

BTW, I'll offer up my $0.02 on the topic. In an address given at BYU in February, 1980, President Ezra Taft Benson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve said:

"The living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet"

playasinmar said...

For the purposes of this post I define Law as the guidelines given from on high and Rules as the minutia established by mortals.

I think we do receive individual revelation that applies to us and us alone (the Prophets have said as much) but I don’t mean that I or anyone else is being instructed to alter church policies or opinions.

I’m talking about deliberately seeking out the constants throughout time and living them personally.

Stephen said...

It's a fair question and a tough one! I guess my answer is: What loving Father and God could say to his children, "you walked too many steps on the sabbath; I guess I'm going to have to withhold glory from you..."

It is important to realize that we already have the highest laws. I'll point you to Luke 10: 25-28. All of our rules are derivatives of the two laws in Luke 10: 27. I personally believe that as long as we are fulfilling those laws, it will be taken into account when we are judged.

playasinmar said...

It does seem fair. It also seems like a risky, risky gamble.

Stephen said...

I don't know... It may be a risky gamble, but I've really not thought of it that way. I guess I've just always assumed that that's the way it is...

Original Mohomie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Original Mohomie said...

Significant questions. Not superfluous, if you ask me, so please pardon a lengthy comment. I'm not sure I draw the same conclusions as you do--I only have a small sampling of your thoughts here--but I appreciate the exploration.

What of the prohibition against coffee and tea? The very revelation says it's given not by way of commandment but as counsel. Now, I think it was Brigham Young who said that as far as he is concerned, the Lord's counsel is as good as commandment, and the church decided to adopt abstinence from coffee and tea (among other things) as a prerequisite to entering the temple. Was this a Pharisaical move? I sometimes wonder. I comply because for now, there are things more important than a nice cappuccino.

And maybe those proscriptions simply serve as examples among many other things we might try to minimize or eliminate? Is it possible that we just need the reminder that there are more subtle things to pay attention to, and SOMETHING had to be used as an example? Is the person who constantly and exclusively eats body-insulting junk food more worthy than someone who drinks a cup of coffee in the morning simply because there's no specific mention of junk food in a temple recommend interview?

It does seem strange that I even consider coffee in determining my worthiness. I don't think I would have a problem with the removal of the proscription against coffee and tea from our requirements. My healthful habits would remain. I try to keep myself free from addictive and harmful substances.

Good thing our doctrine also includes a time to sort things out before judgement. Those who didn't have "the law" may be given it in its purest form. Those who lacked covenants through ordinances may be given the opportunity. And I believe those who missed the beauty behind the laws--the true spirit of the gospel--may discover the love and charity they should have felt through it all, to discover the true spirit of the gospel behind the law, from which they may have allowed their checklists to tragically distract them, as I think I may have and may still.

There's a danger in justifying disobedience. There's another danger in replacing love with rules. And I believe, as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, the frailties of the flesh will fall from us, along with temporal contexts, and we will be left with the naked soul, as God sees us, and there will be surprises.

playasinmar said...

Your comments are appreciated, mohomie. Do you suppose that in the spirit world there will be no prohibition of coffee because

A) it can't be acquired or consumed?

B) coffee means nothing in the grand scheme?


C) it's only disallowed in our current dispensation?