Monday, April 23, 2007

The Great Scientist and Religious Scholar

For ages science and religion have opposed one another. If science formulates a theory that appears to conflict with the Bible many Christians immediately dismiss the theory as hogwash or the wisdom of men.

I have never had this problem. Rather I have enjoyed finding ties between scientific theories and biblical teachings. I believe they are abundant.

Sure - there are conflicts. But conflicts arise between scientists. And conflicts arise between churches and religious scholars.

God is both the Great Scientist and the Great Religious Scholar. He knows all scientific truths, and He knows all scriptural truths. He is the Author of both.

I know many view God as a mystical unexplainable Being. Because He is God His ways are incomprehensible. All of this is true, but in viewing God this way are we also robbing Him of His intelligence?

When we think of the Creation, many Christians believed God pointed His finger and the world appeared. But shouldn't we also recognize that God understood the science behind what He was doing? He knew exactly how far the Sun needed to be from the Earth in order to provide us with temperatures we could endure. He knew exactly where to place Mother Earth and the other planets to create a stable universe. We can take great scientists such as Albert Einstein and realize that God is infinitely smarter.

Just as Christians strive to understand God and His ways in regards to salvation, scientists strive to understand the science of His creations. Conflicts may arise but we are all seeking the same thing - the truths of God.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My head hurts...

My latest muse:

Reality has always existed. It has no beginning. It has no end.

A beginning to reality signifies a time without reality. Out of a void reality could not be born.

An ending to reality signifies a void future. Therefore, reality would have never existed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Real Hero

Out of tragedy heroes arise.

As an aspiring teacher I cannot help but shed tears of admiration for the bravery and honor of Professor Liviu Librescu.

Several students involved in the Virginia Tech murders emailed Professor Librescu's family to tell them the story of his heroic act of barricading the doors allowing students to flee from a crazed gunman.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

Librescu became one of the 33 victims to lose his life in this tragedy that has captivated the nation. One would assume that the death toll would have been much greater had it not been for Librescu's actions.
In a split-second decision this Professor chose to sacrifice his life for others.

A Tragedy

I am very sensitive to stories of murder and death. They are very sobering and cause me to reflect on the value and importance of mortality. I also cannot help but ask the common questions that follow horrible tragedies:

"Why would a loving God allow this to happen?"

"How can someone do something like this?"

Hearing the news of the Virginia Tech murders shook me up. As I think about each victim and the life they have been taken from I feel deep sadness and sorrow for their families. I cannot comprehend what it feels like to lose a loved one so suddenly and so tragically. Even as a spectator from afar it seems surreal and inconceivable.

Although the probability that someone even remotely connected to the victims reads this post I send my love and prayers to the families and friends who have lost loved ones.

I send my testimony and assurance that God is our Father. I know that He is in control, and that despite the unimaginable tragedies we face in this life, we can have comfort in Him.

I know that this life is not the end, but only a small portion of our eternity. We will all be reunited, and realize that this time of death and sorrow is only a brief seperation.

It is normal to ask why God would allow such horrific events to take place. But we have to remember that these loved ones are not alone. They have not passed through this life to a dark and dreary void. They have returned to His presence and His care.

I hope that the families and friends of these victims may hold onto this faith and hope. The country mourns for you. And our Savior Jesus Christ knows your pain and suffering. That He heals you is my prayer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Visions of Elder David B. Haight

In the Church today it is very rare that we hear the details of our Church leaders' spiritual visions. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the sacredness of these events to the individual.
In this month's Ensign we can read about the visions of Elder David B. Haight's while suffering from an unbearable ailment in early 1989.

The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside, one standing on a higher level than the other. Detailed features were not discernible. The person on the higher level was pointing to something I could not see.

I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere.

During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. I witness to you that He is Jesus the Christ; the Son of God; Savior to all; Redeemer of all mankind; Bestower of infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness; the Light and Life of the World. I knew this truth before—I had never doubted nor wondered. But now I knew, because of the impressions of the Spirit upon my heart and soul, these divine truths in a most unusual way.

I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry: His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection and Ascension. There followed scenes of His earthly ministry to my mind in impressive detail, confirming scriptural eyewitness accounts. I was being taught, and the eyes of
my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things.

The first scene was of the Savior and His Apostles in the upper chamber on the eve of His betrayal. Following the Passover supper, He instructed and prepared the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for His dearest friends as a remembrance of His coming sacrifice. It was so impressively portrayed to me—the overwhelming love of the Savior for each. I witnessed His thoughtful concern for significant details—the washing of the dusty feet of each Apostle, His breaking and blessing of the loaf of dark bread and blessing of the wine, then His dreadful disclosure that one would betray Him. He explained Judas’s departure and told the others of the events soon to take place.

Then followed the Savior’s solemn discourse when He said to the Eleven: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Our Savior prayed to His Father and acknowledged the Father as the source of His authority and power—even to the extending of eternal life to all who are worthy.

He prayed, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God,and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

Jesus then reverently added: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:3–5).

He pled not only for the disciples called out from the world who had been true to their testimony of Him, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20).

When they had sung a hymn, Jesus and the Eleven went out to the Mount of Olives. There, in the garden, in some manner beyond our comprehension, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. His agony in the garden, Luke tells us, was so intense “his sweat was as … great drops of blood falling … to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He suffered an agony and a burden the like of which no human person would be able to bear. In that hour of anguish our Savior overcame all the power of Satan...

During those days of unconsciousness, I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. I was also given a more complete understanding of what it means to exercise, in His name, the authority to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven for the salvation of all who are faithful. My soul was taught over and over again the events of the betrayal, the mock trial, the scourging of the flesh of even one of the Godhead. I witnessed His struggling up the hill in His weakened condition carrying the cross and His being stretched upon it as it lay on the ground, that the crude spikes could be driven with a mallet into His hands and wrists and feet to secure His body as it hung on the cross for public display.

Crucifixion—the horrible and painful death which He suffered—was chosen from the beginning. By that excruciating death, He descended below all things, as is recorded, that through His Resurrection He would ascend above all things (see D&C 88:6).

Jesus Christ died in the literal sense in which we will all die. His body lay in the tomb. The immortal spirit of Jesus, chosen as the Savior of mankind, went to those myriads of spirits who had departed mortal life with varying degrees of righteousness to God’s laws. He taught them the “glorious tidings of redemption from the bondage of death, and of possible salvation … [that was] part of [our] Savior’s foreappointed and unique service to the human family."

I cannot begin to convey to you the deep impact that these scenes have confirmed upon my soul. I sense their eternal meaning and realize that “nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest,” as has been declared.

David B. Haight, “The Sacrament—and the Sacrifice,” Ensign, Apr 2007, 14–18

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Religious and Science Harmony: Genesis 1:21-26

This past Family Home Evening my wife taught a lesson on the Creation of this Earth. She went through each day, explaining what was created. As she did this in a manner that our 3 year-old daughter could understand I realized I had never paid attention to the order in which the Earth and its inhabitants were created. As I listened to her lesson I made a few observations that I would like to compare with the theory of evolution.

Please read the below passage of scripture and pay special attention to the sequence of events:

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. -Genesis 1:21-26

Creatures of the sea>Creatures of the land>Humans

The evolution timeline follows a very similar sequence. The first multicellular organisms to form through evolution appeared in oceans. There is believed to have been 500 million years of fish and proto-amphibians.

After the formation of the ozone layer excursions onto land were made possible. Through evolution land creatures rapidly filled the earth.

After billions of years of the evolution of land creatures the human species evolved into what it is today.

I find it interesting that the sequence of evolution and the sequence of biblical creation hold many similarities. I am sure my comparison has holes (for instance where do birds fit in), but as a non-expert of evolution I am appreciating both the scientific views and religious writings of the history of this Earth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Headlines: Don Imus

When you think of "nappy-headed" does Imus's stellar hair not come to mind before the Rutgers women's basketball team? Mr. Imus has no credibility or place making comments in regards to people's hair.

In all seriousness, we need to work together to eliminate the use of rascist derogatory terms. And there is NEVER an excuse to refer to a female or females as hos. Unacceptable.

Click Here For Story

Monday, April 9, 2007

Testimony Through Revelation

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday's priesthood lesson on testimony. A few of the quotes from President Kimball hit me like a ton of bricks!

There are people who pride themselves on their keen minds, who think they can delve into mysteries, but they can never define or explain or understand the spiritual things through their logic or through their mental processes. The spiritual things can be understood only through the Spirit. It must come through the heart and that is where the testimony is lodged. -Spencer W. Kimball, H. Stephen Stoker and Joseph C. Muren, comps., Testimony (1980), 167–68)

This quote hit me the hardest. Too many times in the Church I feel like our communication is too heavily intellectual. Many times our conversations are filled with musings of the mind, and not enough exploration of the Spirit. One is not the antithesis of the other, but without a healthy balance of both conversations about the things of the Spirit are robbed of their effectiveness and sincerity.

This is the one area that LDS blogging has left me hungry for- more spiritual, testimony-building dialogue. I know some would write this off as overly positive, insincere fluff, but I believe with a healthy balance of intellect and Spirit the internet could be used to fulfill two missions of the Church - proclaim the Gospel and perfect the Saints.

Testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the [Church] in the whole month, if you have the spirit. If you are bored at a testimony meeting, there is something the matter with you, and not the other people. You can get up and bear your testimony and you think it is the best meeting in the month; but if you sit there and count the grammatical errors and laugh at the man who can’t speak very well, you’ll be bored. …-Spencer W. Kimball New Era, Aug. 1981, 6–7.

We are probably all guilty of rolling our eyes, or getting bored when someone bares a testimony. I am sure that the leadership of the Church would agree that many members bear testimonies that are too long, and in some cases not testimonies at all. But our responsibility is to be in tune with the Spirit and take away from every testimony what the Lord desires us to. As tough as it may be to swallow, I believe if we find ourselves bored or frustrated during testimony meeting the fault is ours.

Maybe a testimony that is goes on and on, with the member complaining about their life and situation is really a invitation for help. Maybe a testimony that becomes a travelogue from an elderly couple in the ward is really a invitation for someone to listen. Or maybe a testimony in which the member says a few flighty, gospel-unsound comments is really a invitation for more attention and better instruction.

Some of our good people get so terrified at triteness that they try to steer around and away from their testimonies by getting out on the fringes. Don’t you ever worry about triteness in testimony. When the President of the Church bears his testimony, he says, “I know that Joseph Smith was called of God, a divine representative. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You see, the same thing every one of you says. That is a testimony. It never gets old, never gets old! Tell the Lord frequently how much you love him. -Spencer W. Kimball, H. StephenStokerand Joseph C. Muren, comps., Testimony (1980), 167–68)

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the use of the words "I know" when bearing testimony among members of the Church. This phrase has been examined, ridiculed and criticized by many. I have been guilty of this, at times believing that we should try to elaborate and be more specific as to what we believe. But while I read the above paragraph the Spirit whispered to me that saying "I know" when meant sincerely, can be the best phrase to use.

I believe that someone can gain absolute knowledge by means of the Holy Ghost. They may continue to struggle with their intellect and logic, but we can receive a witness and know gospel truths.

If you haven't already, I would suggest that you read this chapter and apply its truths to your life.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Interesting Scripture Correlation: Exodus 21:12-13 and 1 Nephi 4:11-18

In my personal scripture study I am reading the Old Testament. Currently I am in the Book of Exodus. A couple of days ago I read this passage which peaked my interest:
12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
-Exodus 21:12-13

As a family, we are currently reading the Book of Mormon. We are in 1 Nephi chapter 4 and just finished reading about the slaying of Laban. Last night I was intrigued when I read this passage:
11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
-1 Nephi 4:11-18

I find it interesting that the slaying of Laban is in harmony with earlier commandments given to Moses and the people of Israel. And just as it says in Exodus that God will provide a place for the person to flee, Nephi was able to flee to the wilderness for safety without being caught.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Cheney and BYU...

My humble two cents...

I have been surprised at the reaction of some BYU students and church members when it was recently announced that Vice President Dick Cheney would be giving a Commencement Address.

Some students and members against the address say that having Cheney give it violates the LDS Church's long standing policy of political nuetrality. Having Cheney speak shows the Church supports his views and policies.

On the flip-side, some supporting the address have pointed the finger at non-supporters declaring that they are challenging Church leaders and apostatizing. Since the First Presidency of the Church must be aware of Cheney speaking, their approval is comparable to modern-day revelation.

The Church released a statement in response to the controversy. In regards to political nuertrality the statement said:

"Whatever the personal views of individual students or other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the invitation is seen by the university's board of trustees as one extended to someone holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather than to a partisan political figure."

Cheney giving a Commencement Address is not an admission or declaration of support for his views or platform, but for his office of Vice President.

The 12th Article of Faith states:

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Some may disagree with this approach to government - to obey, honor and sustain. However, this has been the Church's long standing policy alongside of political nuetrailty. Having Cheney give the address is in harmony with political nuetraility and the 12th Article of Faith.
To those who support Cheney speaking I would say it is not wise bind every decision by Church-owned institutions to "Thus saith the Lord." To point the finger of apostasy at those that disagree with the Cheney giving the address shows a misunderstanding of revelation in my opinion.

Did the Lord reveal to President Hinckley that Vice President Dick Cheney should give a Commencement Address at BYU? I doubt it, but the truth is we don't know. And unless someone is privy to a statement by the Church that Cheney being invited to speak was a decision made by the Prophet himself we shouldn't tie this decision to him.
I have been amazed at some comments by Church members saying that those in opposition to Cheney speaking need to be quiet because when the Prophet speaks, we need to listen.

My personal opinion is that having the Vice President speak is an honor. I disagree with many actions and choices made by the Bush Administration. However, to have someone who holds the office of Vice President speak at a Commencement Address is good exposure for the Church and shows its support for the US Government.
Those that have a problem with Dick Cheney don't need this address to protest him. They should have been protesting him long before this announcement, and I am sure they will continue to after it.
I would hate to see those in opposition hold actual rallys and protests during the graduation ceremony itself. To me this attacks free speech, and also damages the signifigance of this special event for those students graduating.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Tag.

Yesterday I reflected on the importance of Elders and Sisters of the LDS Church wearing the missionary tag while serving their full-time mission.

I believe that the missionary tag serves several worthy purposes:
  1. It helps those who may be interesting in the LDS Church recognize those ordained and qualified to teach the Gospel.

  2. It helps the Church become more recognized in the public.

  3. It helps missionaries remember who they are and what they are doing

The third reason listed may be the most important of them all.

I strongly believe that the missionary tag does as much or more in protecting the missionaries than mission rules. It is a constant reminder to them of their callings and expectations.

I will share a story that helps illustrate this. One night on my mission I awoke with an asthmatic attack. I reached for my inhaler but it was not there. I got up and searched the apartment but it couldn't be found. My breathing became heavier and my wheezing louder. My companion called the Mission Medical Coordinator. She first advised us to call 911. I told her that I would be fine if I could just get a replacement inhaler. Knowing that, she advised me to go to a 24 hour drug store and purchase an inhaler. We both threw on our dress clothes with tags and left.

It was 3 a.m. and my companion and I felt very uncomfortable as we drove the dark and lonely streets in the middle of the night. Neither one of us had been out past 10 p.m. in a long time. I began to realize how horrible it would look if a member saw two missionaries driving out at 3 a.m. I started to become very aware of the tag I was wearing. Every time I saw it looking at me in the side mirror of the car my worries would grow stronger.

Of course we were not doing anything wrong, and following the direction of our mission leaders. Of course if a member would have judged us harshly the fault would be theirs. But I became very aware of how important the missionary tag is in keeping Elders and Sisters out of trouble and reminding them of who they are and what they are doing. They are representatives of the Church and of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday I couldn't help but wonder if we as members need tag. Do we need reminders of who we are and what we should be doing? We are members of the Lord's Church and also represent Jesus Christ.

Missionary tag or not, I hope that I can live my life continuously remembering what I stand for and who I represent, my Savior.