Visiting the Saints in the Holy Land

Visiting the Saints in the Holy Land

Saturday I was blessed to be able to attend a district conference held at the BYU Jerusalem center. In Israel, the local branches meet on Saturday rather than Sunday in keeping with local custom and tradition. At the conference, the district president was released and a new district presidency was called.  There were about 100 people in attendance though I was told that each branch typically has 50-100 members ( including children). This is a small number, but more impressive when you realize that there are basically no natural born members aside from very small children born to immigrant families. I was essentially the only Jewish + Israeli Citizen convert that I encountered. There is no missionary work in Israel due to restrictive policies agreed by the church in regard to the building of the BYU center. I was struck by the diversity of background that I encountered. I met Russian, Filipino, Argentinian and Bolivian members along with Americans residing in Israel for either study, work or diplomatic service.

The Tel Aviv branch is primarily Filipino as many come to this country as domestic servants. I think this involves some very interesting international relations questions that I would love to see someone study. Filipino and other international workers in Israel are often in a precarious legal and social position. Human rights organizations have written about the difficult status of domestic workers in Israel ( One of the nations with the largest proportion of foreign workers). It was very encouraging therefore for me to see the young Filipino members considering serving missions or attending BYU. It seems to me that the church offers many of them a pathway towards success that might otherwise be denied them. In this way the church influence seemed profound and positive in the lives of these saints.

I met Cristian who is a twenty year old that just received his mission call to New York City (Queens/Brooklyn/Long Island). We spoke about the difficulty of living his values when none of his friends are Mormon and due to the peculiar agreements he cannot even speak about his faith when asked. I was encouraged by his dedication to his faith. It must be difficult living in a part of the world where you are one of the few Young Single Adults and where you meet with little but hostility.

At the District Conference the District President announced that a former Patriarch living in their ward had been reactivated by special permission of the Quorum of the Twelve. There is one patriarch assigned to the Middle East but due to diplomatic problems it seems he cannot go to Israel unless he is permanently assigned there. This new patriarch will only remain in Israel for three weeks and so the Saints there have a limited window in which to get their blessings. I know that my Patriarchal Blessing has been an immense blessing in my life and I am excited that these Saints will be able to receive theirs at last.

The district is also planning its first ever district temple trip in November. All of the members will buy plane tickets and fly together to Switzerland to attend the Swiss temple. They are waiting until November because that is the period in which air fare is likely to be the cheapest.  The cost would still be around $150 round trip per person.This really made me appreciate how easy it is to visit the temple from most places in the U.S. Over the summer, my BYU ward really excelled at temple attendance. We had an average of more than 20 people go to a different temple in Utah every single weekend (Draper, Bountiful, Manti, Provo, Salt Lake, Oqurih Mountain, Mount Timpanogas—I also went to the Jordan River Temple). I really could sense what a positive impact group temple attendance had on the ward. I am happy that the Israel District will be able to receive those blessings together.

The speakers bore powerful testimony overlooking a stunning vista of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the church of the Holy Sepulture and the Dome of the Rock. It was a profound experience for me to be able to enjoy the company of fellow saints in the Holy Land.

The weeping God (Speculative fiction)

The weeping God (Speculative fiction)

The tears roll down his cheeks. As they glide down they remain suspended in mid-air—clear as glass, silky, crystalline and smooth—as an Urim and Thumin. Over all the long centuries this has never become any less tragic. His soul tempered by centuries of progress should be immune to such pain, but the immense tragedy of it all never leaves him.

He thinks back to his conversation with Enoch—though millennia have passed, it is just yesterday in the rotations of the great Kolob. He had been consumed with rage and grief. Despite the vastness of the cosmos and the countless multitude of his creation, predicting the progress and choices of the human soul was still quite a challenge. All they have to do is love one another and choose the lord their God. It seems to him so simple and yet clearly it was not. How could they so hate their own blood and turn against the source of all life?

He struggles to understand the temptation to sin and disobedience—A soul yearning to do it all alone. He thinks of his son condescending down to the level of mortals so that he could fully understand their temptations and advocate for them—yet he had always risen above these base instincts.. In some universe long past, he too had condescended but the memory was truly distant. He has been in perfect mastery for so many long eons that he had could not recall the sensation in any meaningful way. For all intents and purposes he has been so forever.

In the days of Enoch, his tears flowed continually as long as the flood poured down. He knew then, as he did now, that this tragedy was necessary. His children could not become like him without trials and opposition. Without experiencing the bitter they could not know the sweet. The flood would give the world a chance for renewal and rebirth. He knew the end of mortal life was hardly the end of it all, and that these souls would have time to grow and progress in the spirit world. He knew these temporary losses would give these souls experience and be for their good…and yet…and yet the pain was all consuming. He regarded each wayward soul and each relinquishing breath as deep tragedy. So many souls dedicated to opposing him! He shuddered as he contemplated what agony they must experience due to their insistence of doing it alone—even as my first born son must, he thought.

Sometimes he struggled to have faith in the plan that he had endorsed before the world was formed. Was it truly the best way to bring to pass the immortal and eternal life of man? Sometimes as he saw acts of cruelty and viciousness, Satan’s plan of coercion and control seemed superior. And yet, the genuine acts of unforced and unrequited sacrifice that he continually saw on earth helped to give him confidence. Such conduct could not be coerced! Still, it took all of the faith that he could muster at times not to intervene at every opportunity to reduce suffering. This was one of those moments.

In the reflection of his tear drop, he could see the metallic object explode in a flash. Simultaneously, The cries of those abroad ascends and fills his ears. They speak out in a multiplicity of tounges—“Heavenly Father,” “Shemah Israel, “Allah Akbar”—Yet they ascend in one pure adamic tounge of pure prayer. He was listening! Listening was all he could do. Not because he was powerless, but because he was all powerful.

He rejoices knowing that he would be reunited with some of his sons and daughters shortly. Yet this joy is cut short, tempered by the knowledge that some of them would not be able to bear his presence. They would reject him and depart. He could not make someone act against his will for such a God would cease to be God and become no better than the adversary. Even omnipotence had its limits!

He knows that those on earth would respond to this tragedy in different ways. Some would use it as a catalyst to wake up and realize the blessing of life. They would turn to him with a full heart. Others would curse him and remove themselves further from his presence. Misery would result as would love and compassion.. Even he, the greatest of all, could barely weigh the consequence on a scale and declare it good. Yet through tragedy and tears his will will be done! As hard as it may be for him to accept at times.

Church ‘Doctrine’ and Judicial Activism

(This post represents my pre-mission thinking about when and how the words of general authorities can be viewed as scripture. My views have changed considerably in this regard so that I am much more ready to consider the words of general authorities to be binding especially if spoken over a general conference pulpit. I think this post still represents a very interesting look into how legal philosophy can be analogized into the realm of spirituality)

(For an official look into the question of what constitutes doctrine you can check out a talk entitled The Doctrine of Christ by Elder Christofferson

Who are the judicial activists and the originalists in the church today?

In my ward this past Sunday during Elder’s Quorum we got into a pretty interesting discussion on what constitutes doctrine. We discussed whether or not talks given in General Conference can be considered ‘ scripture’ and ‘doctrine.’ Many people suggested that every talk in the Ensign is inspired and that any word a leader issues in an official context is revelation. I of course took the more cautious stance that only things canonized by the church or released by the presidency on the whole can truly be considered ‘scripture’ but that conference talks, ensign articles etc should be considered inspired guidance and that we should follow that guidance unless it conflicts with our conscience and our interpretation of what is absolutely and fully doctrine. Even then, we must be cautious in our opposition so as not to deny the authority or office of those speaking and we accept the consequences that should follow if we are wrong and do not follow inspired council;

Since I am planning on studying constitutional law, I quickly turned my conceptualization into a metaphor. Scripture for me serves as a constitution of sorts while talks given in conference/published in the Ensign (Not declared or presented as revelations) represent lower level laws and the private writings of General Authorities are quite similar to Dicta in legal opinion or resolutions which express the sentiment of congress—which have no legal power. We have an open cannon and this means that just as the constitution can be amended so to can our cannon be added to. Yet, the process for adding to the cannon like adding to the constitution is more laborious than passing a normal law. Typically, constitutional amendments require either a super majority in both houses of congress or a super majority of the states consent. Likewise, a revelation added to the cannon requires the consent of the general authorities and the consent of the body of the church at large. Of course, there are things that do not fit easily fit into this categorization. Something like the Proclamation on the Family which is signed by all the First Presidency and the Twelve would fit in higher in authority than regular laws and lower than a constitutional amendment: There isn’t a great legal equivalent. However, for me this is a pretty good real world illustration of how I construe authority. I should also add that in terms of scrutiny, a typical question of judicial review, I would give the words of the prophets the most lenient form of scrutiny possible. I would look to recover the most consistent and spiritually uplifting message from anything that I thought violated the established cannon.

What was interesting for me when thinking about this way of viewing doctrine is that legal attitudes in this regard would probably be exactly opposite of the tendency of members towards broader legal argumentation on a politically legal vs conservative axis. Thus, liberal Mormon are more likely to be strict constructionalists in that the actions or wording of one seventy or GA is unlikely to override our understanding from scripture. In contrast, conservative Mormons are more likely to take the words of Modern day authorities as binding and overpowering past precedent. Conservative Mormons are quick to view as binding new fad theories such as banning R Rated movies or not drinking soda. They are also more likely to let the precedent set by a single GA become normative in their mind. In regard to women’s issues, Liberal Mormons tend back to the actions of Joseph Smith in establishing the Relief Society while conservatives will quote from a General Conference talk by Mckonkie.

Of course, this is not always the case. Liberal Mormons were very quick to take the words of David O. McKay or anyone else that spoke out against the Priesthood ban as a reason to overturn the policy without the need for revelation. However, I see in their effort to lower the status of the Negro Doctrine from Revelation to Policy intent to follow the type of jurisprudence suggested above.

The same is true for scripture reading where liberal members are more likely to be orginalists in the sense that we would want to place scripture in the context of those that uttered it and not draw unwarranted conclusions to things such as the internet or coca-cola. In contrast more conservative members might be more likely to aggressively liken scriptures to themselves and thus come up with all sorts of rules and principles for things far beyond the scope of the revelator.

I’m not sure how much further one could take this analysis but I did find it striking and interesting to my law school bound self.

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus: A Narrative

The darkness was a thick suffocating blight. Nothing could pierce through the interminable black. Saul felt abandoned and utterly alone even. He had never felt such a complete absence of light. How appropriate for one that had once thought he could see so clearly. The events of the previous day showed how little he truly knew.

One of the Psalms of David entered into Saul’s mind.

“Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. The fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They come around about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.  Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”

The events of the previous day had changed everything. Saul had a bright future mapped out. His father’s high position among the Sanhedrin would be useful leverage for a life of renown. Saul had read from all of the best books thought he knew the answers to all of the most difficult theological question in life. How little he truly knew. He now groaned under literal darkness, but Saul realized that every one of his friend and acquaintances groaned under a spiritual darkness though they realized it not. At least God has seen fit to reveal to me my ignorance, Saul thought—Yet, this thought brought him little comfort.

Saul was harrowed up as he considered his father and everyone that he had loved. They certainly would not understand what he had experienced. Indeed, Paul would have viewed as crazy or possessed by demons anyone that felt what he was now feeling. Could that be it? Could he now be possessed by an evil spirit? No! Even though he was submerged in darkness, Saul could also feel that his encounter had been divine rather than demonic. Still, his family would never understand. They would view him as deceived at best or fallen and wicked at worst. He could hardly bear to imagine the scorn and ostracism that would follow. Saul imagined with what zealousness he would have persecuted someone that claimed to experience what he now experienced.

Couldn’t he just ignore what he had seen and go back to his prior life? Chalk up the vision and the loss of his vision to a lack of sleep or perhaps to too much fasting. A couple of guards claimed to have also heard a voice, but they would be easy to ignore. It would be so easy to step back into the darkness and ignore what he had learned. It was undeniably tempting. Yet deep within Saul knew with an unshakeable certainty that what he had experienced changed everything.

Why had he persecuted so eagerly and zealously. Saul had once felt that he was being righteous and putting down a gross heresy. He was a master of the letter of the law and strove to prove that he was better at keeping it than everyone else around him. What hypocrisy, Saul thought to himself. Saul had considered his mentor Gamaliel weak because he sought to treat this sect with mercy. The law did not allow for mercy, it required Justice. And yet, wasn’t Sault now the petitioner for mercy standing tainted by all of his sins. Saul wept as he considered the state of his soul. The God that he had grown up contemplating would have no mercy for him. He would crush Saul like he had done the Edomites or Amalekites.

And Yet, Saul felt strangely sanguine. Though he could not exactly understand it, something about the vision filled him with hope. He tried to recall the doctrine that had been preached by the sect that until that day he had violently suppressed. The man that appeared before him in the vision was purportedly scourged and crucified in a humiliating fashion. He had died an ignoble death. But his followers suggested that he had risen from the dead and that his death in some way changed them. They claimed that he was Mashiach. Impossible Saul taught, the Masiach is not supposed to die or suffer but is to be a ruler and King in the house of David.

Saul stumbled in darkness. After the vision, his soldiers had brought Saul to the house of a local legionnaire named Judas. Saul had been unable to sleep. As he closed his eyes he was haunted by visions of that poor man Stephen that he had helped Stone to death. Perhaps the thing that bothered Saul the most was the look of serenity on Stephen’s face as he fell to his knees and cried out for the forgiveness of those that stoned him. Saul had never seen such selflessness or tranquility in the face of death. It was a trait that Saul noticed as he had driven men and women out of their homes and into prison. They were calm in the face of tragedy and this calm had only further infuriated Saul. Saul had raged and because of him men and died.

Oh that the ground could open and swallow Saul as the lord had done to the followers of Korah. Oh that a flood could come down and consume the fire that raged in Saul’s soul. Such torment contrasted vividly with the serenity of the followers of that Jesus of Nazareth. Saul would trade anything even his own life to experience that type of serenity and peace. And yet all around Saul felt nothing but hopeless crushing darkness.

Somehow despite the pain and the visions of death and destruction Saul fell asleep.

Bodies Celestial and Bodies Telestial

A lanky boy sits down next to me on the bus. His clothing smells of cheap alcohol and bad cigarettes. His ears are pierced with a gage for too big for any sense of proportion. As the bus begins to move he gets up and travels to the front of the bus bringing back with him a garbage can. “I Think I’m going to be sick…” he says as he begins to wretch inside the can. It’s going to be a long ride I think to myself.

Reading her sign breaks my heat. “Wallet stolen on Amtrak. Stranded in Salt Lake. Need to get to Chicago to get medical care for my heart condition. Any help would be appreciated.” I ask her if people have stopped to help her. “Mostly it’s the foreigners and those from out of town that even notice. The guys that live here just walk past me in their temple clothing.” I ask if she’d been to the Bishop’s storehouse or Welfare Square. “Oh I am not a Mormon so they aren’t interested in helping me..They told me they can’t buy me a ticket….They don’t deal in Amtrak…My church back home would have bought me a ticket straight away they gave to the needy no matter their background…Mormons only care about their own” She begins to speak of a kind family from Idaho that took pity on her over thanksgiving and took her home with them for the holidays—downplaying the fact that this family was almost certainly Mormon. I point out to her that there are good Christians both in and out of the church. She tells me she is a lawyer and willing to work….I chuckle and think to myself, come back to me in ten years. I give her a dollar—No more change in my wallet—and she says God bless. As I walk away, I think about all of the flaws and inconsistencies in her story, wonder if I’d been duped and then remember King Benjamin’s Sermon—We’re not supposed to question those that are in need. I turn back and ask her name. Linda Ford, like the car, she says. As I enter the temple I put her name on the prayer roll.

Later I sit in quiet solace in the Celestial Room of the temple, listening to Two ninety-year-old women discussing the equipment they had brought with them to help them breathe. I’m merely twenty-two and I wonder how what keeps them coming after so many years. What deep truth do they find each time they enter? When death is that close, stepping through the veil must be a more profound experience. They seem peaceful. Perhaps they are imagining the day when their bodies will be renewed. No more pumps to help them breath or aids to let them walk. They will trade their crutches for plowshares but hopefully not trade away their hard fought wisdom. Youth is wasted on the young.

Kneeling at a sealing altar, I listen to the beautiful promised blessings linking families together in harmony. I do the proxy work for the deceased sister who sits across the alter gripping my hand. It all feels so heavenly. As I look at my image reflecting on the many mirrors, I think about infinity and realize how dreadful it would be to spend it alone. My mind returns to Linda Ford as I imagine a message engraved on her grave—“Died of a broken heart.” Even though I only spoke to her briefly, could my heaven truly be heaven without her presence? For a brief moment I contemplate Satan’s plan. It truly would be nice if everyone could be guaranteed salvation. Then I imagine the boy from the bus sitting next to me right there. Could he feel the joy or would he be bored and frustrated in the House of the Lord. How would he look dressed in all white? I look at the beautiful white tapestry and the fine marble. However exquisite this place is, it is yet incomplete. I can come to visit but not to reside. There is work to be done and hearts to mend. I can not rest until that boy and Linda Ford and everyone else that cries out in weary agony is given a chance to embrace such solace.

Gay Marriage and Good, Better, Best

Gay Marriage and Good, Better, Best

Since I made my recent post on Gay Marriage I have already been criticized for my sense that heterosexual marriage is more ideal than homosexual relationships on two different blogs. I want to write a post elaborating on my feelings on homosexuality. I don’t know that this post is any less deserving of criticism, but it is a candid exploration of my current thoughts and speculations.

If the only thing that will satisfy you is absolute equality not only in the law, but in the realm of spiritual thoughts, then I can not give that to you. The church is clear that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s ideal. Since I went through the temple for the first time last month, this spiritual principle has taken deep root within me. Performing proxy sealings and being able to hear the promised blessings has made it clear to me that this is the ideal sanctioned by the Lord. I don’t see this ideal changing without direct revelation granted to the leadership of the church. If that happens I would certainly be open to changing my spiritual lens on this matter.

This does NOT mean that I view homosexuality as sinful or deprived in the traditional sense of those words. Members of the church that enter into priesthood or temple covenants are held to a much higher standard and for them sexual transgression outside of wedlock to someone of the opposite gender is one of the worst sins possible because it violates covenants entered into in the house of the lord. This is explicitly because we learn in the temple that the law of Chastity is directly linked to the Melchizedick Priesthood. This is a particular covenant that LDS members make which is equally true for homosexual relationships, adultery and any lack of full and total fidelity and dedication.

This all goes back at its core to my definition of a ‘sin.’ A sin for me is anything that holds us back from achieving our absolute ideal state of perfection in the resurrection. Homosexual relationships are good because they can give one many of the blessings of marriage, but they are not the BEST because in some critical eternal ways, in so far as our current understanding reveals to us, they fall short of perfection.

It is also possible that our focus on exaltation as the only ideal is misguided. I don’t know that being a ministering angel would be a bad thing. I have often wondered if the celestial kingdom needs ministering angels. It seems likely that ministering angels can have loving relationships with each other. Perhaps just as Paul suggests that some will be Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God on Earth’s sake, some will be Eunuchs in eternity for the Kingdom of God. There is a lot we do not know and a lot that is not visible to our understanding. To the best of my knowledge, however, there is a theological emphasis on Heterosexual couples joining together and becoming one eternally. My faith necessitates that I view this as ‘BEST.’

Non-members must act upon their personal conscience and if they are believers in the bible then in the text therein. I have found textual arguments that homosexuality as we know it today would not have been understood by Paul fairly reasonable. Moreover, no restoration text explicitly speaks of homosexuality. At the very least, the very chapters in Romans most often cited against homosexuality are more obviously a critique against those that would judge others and yet fall short of their own moral standards. Paul would not recognize committed homosexual relationships as they were out of the scope of his world.  The relationships you enter into are a matter of your own personal conscience and sense of right and wrong. I am not the one to judge you and I in every way respect your decision making.

Moreover, for those that are not under special covenant and that have same gender attractions it may be better for you to enter into a relationship than to remain lonely apart. You are not bound by my standard of a relationship. Ideally, I would hope that you will also appreciate the value of monogamy and strive to enter into longer term and committed relationships. I appreciate your heartfelt desires for the security that comes from civic recognition of your union. You deserve all of the legal protections that society currently accords to heterosexual couples. I’d certainly rather have you adopt a child than a single mother that can hardly afford to support a child, for instance.  My desire is for the title of marriage to only be accorded to what I view as best, but I also realize that this may violate equal protection and that there may be no way to do this without discrimination.

I do think that granting gay marriage continues an already existing change in our societal perception of what a marriage is. I worry that marriage has become all about self gratification rather than a desire to come together to support a family. It saddens me to see the self-centered focus of modern marriage. Gay and Lesbian couples are not responsible for this and denying them benefits will do little to change things. Conservatives have decided to make a stand here in part because they have already lost the battles over things like no-fault divorce that have significantly weakened the institution of marriage. I sympathize with their fear while feeling their chosen battleground is futile and pointless.

I also want to copy and paste my answer from my Mormon.Org profile on Mormons and homosexuality. I was encouraged that this answer was approved:

What is the Church’s attitude on homosexuality? Why is homosexuality and same-sex marriage important to the Mormon Church?

Sexual relations are incredibly sacred and are ordained only within the covenant of marriage between man and woman. As we are baptized we covenant to observe the law of Chastity which requires abstinence before marriage and full fidelity in marriage.

Marriage is one of the building blocks of eternity. We will be with our family and loved ones in the eternity. Temple marriages bind people for time and eternity. Therefore, it is vital for the church to encourage the sanctity of marriage and to act to protect the institution.

No one knows exactly what are the causes of same sex attraction. There is some evidence of a complicated mix of biological, social and environmental factors. However, we do not believe that attractions are what define who we are. Instead, as Christians our goal is to “putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” Mosiah 3:19. We may always struggle with temptations and desires and those temptations are not in and of themselves sinful. However, through faith we can eventually become purified and sanctified.

Life is full of difficult challenges for all of us, and my heart goes out to those members that are tempted with this particularly challenging temptation. Members that are suffering with these temptations may be unable to marry and may have to abstain from physical pleasure throughout this life. Yet, God promises that those that endure to the end in faith will be rewarded. They are not defective and God loves them as a son or daughter. Do not hesitate to learn the beauty of the restored gospel because of these feelings or temptations Members are asked to show love and compassion and unfortunately we are imperfect in this regard. We must strive to be more Christ like in that regard.

In regard to Gay Marriage, the church has found it important to speak out against the granting of the title of Marriage to Unions between gay couples. Yet, the church is not anti-gay. The Church has spoken out in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City. Members of the church are divided on the issue of Civil Unions though many members in Good Standing including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are ardent supporters. It is my belief that Gay Couples should have all of the same rights as straight couples, but that the title of marriage is something sacred that should be guarded and protected.

Glenn Beck and a progressive understanding of the War in Heaven

I attended a wonderful panel by Boyd J. Peterson on the War in Heaven in Mormon Thought. This is the copy of a very similar presentation he gave at MHA. He spoke about Glenn Beck’s usage of the War in Heaven as a conservative argument against liberal policies:

“Collective salvation, unless we all are saved, none will be saved, okay? Jesus came to save you, okay? Let me just give you the — real quick, you’ve got to take it back, you’ve got to take it back to the war in heaven. War in heaven with the angels and everything else, and they have this war and Lucifer says, “I’m going to save all of them. Just give me the glory.” And God says, no, I don’t think so. And he selects, he selects the plan of Christ which, I’m going to send a savior down and he will save each individual, okay? That’s why he’s — that’s why God came — that’s why, you know, God came down and saved the — saved us all because of individual salvation. You accept the atonement of Jesus Christ and you are saved. Collective salvation is, I can’t be saved on my own, I can’t be. I have to make sure and ensure everyone else’s salvation and then we’re all saved together.”

Interestingly, I attended another sunstone panel on Glenn Beck entitled GLENN BECK: LIKELY MORMON OR UNLIKELY MORMON? and conservative panelist KATHRYN BOYCE HEMINGWAY supported Beck and argued against the ‘liberal agenda’ by explicitly quoting the War in Heaven.

My first thought is that I wonder what non-Mormon listeners think about this reference. So far I’ve not found any non-Mormons noticing and commenting on this issue. The blog posts I’ve found that reference the War In Heaven quote place it in a Book of Revelation context. This blog post on the other hand does talk about Mormon concepts of the War In Heaven but it degrades into a post about race. I am a bit surprised by the lack of notice and wonder when we will see a Christian uproar that these specific Mormon views are being taught as if they are mainstream.

Beyond that, however, I want to at least promote an alternative interpretation of the War in Heaven that is more favorable to Liberals and progressive social policy:

First of all, we should look at the very setting the divine council. Our voice was involved in this process and our spirits were able to vote and to endorse the plan of the Savior. Additionally, Mormons believe that there are two parts of the atonement: Parts of the impact are Universal and Unconditional and other parts are individual and we must choose to accept them.

Because of the atonement, we are brought back from the grave to stand by at the bar of God. Moreover, there are other impacts the savior has on our world that affect us regardless of any merit on our part. For instance, we consider the light of Christ to come to all men as a universal recognition of truths.

Other parts of the blessings of the atonement only come to those that repent. Additionally, as members of his church we take on additional covenants that bring additional blessings. We are also judged for our merits and rewarded for our hard work and sacrifice.

Moreover, our very belief in the tiered heavens of salvation is significant. We believe in the importance of being valiant in the testimony of Jesus in order to enter into the Celestial Kingdom. Hard work is important. Yet, we also believe that even those that inherit the lowest degree of glory due to their sloth and negligence are given certain rewards and blessings. Even the Telestial Kingdom is a state of paradise.

God’s/Christ’s plan can thus be said to be a mixed economy. Certain gifts are ours by virtue of electing a savior while in other regards we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

How does this analysis relate to Government. First of all, we continue to exercise our free agency in a democracy through the right to vote. Unlike the eternal plan which is fixed for all of earthly history, we have the ability to alter our government and social programs. We can learn from the consequences of bad decisions and bad programs and reform our system. In this sense we have a greater participatory stake in our government than in the outcome of the divine council. At the very minimum in this way our government is very different from Satan’s plan.

Moreover, basic and minimum safety nets are consistent with God’s plan. It may be a bit specious, but cant we draw connections between the universal resurrection and restoration to perfect health and Universal Healthcare. We can connect the power of the light of Christ to our value of Universal Education. Like with the plan in heaven, we choose to enact these basic safeguards to protect those that might be worse off or in need. Our social systems are not inconsistent with the plan of heaven when we fight for minimal basic conditions and a safety net. Imagine a divine plan without a universal atonement. None of us would have a chance to progress and develop. Likewise, a society without public education is general stagnant and suffers from a poorly developed economy. If the Telestial Kingdom is still a paradise, then can we not look to a welfare state to provide minimal standard of living.

On the other hand, our mixed economy still allows for merit to emerge. We find large disparities in capacity and virtue in our society. This is again consistent with the plan in heaven.

In spiritual terms those that have been given much are often given special challenges and more is expected of them. God allows the Devil to specifically tempt Job because of his righteousness. Moreover, we often sing the hymn “Because I have been given much I too must give.” Likewise, as we pass progressive taxes we realize that those that have more can be asked to contribute more back to society because they have benefited from the conditions of the earth.

Counter to what Beck and other conservative Mormons suggest, progressive democratic government is not analogous to Satan’s plan, but is instead compatible with the plan of salvation of Jesus Christ