Monday, June 16, 2008

God Will Not Allow...

I occasionally hear these kinds of statements made by faithful Church members, in Sunday School lessons and in talks. "God will not allow our leaders to lead us astray" or "God will not allow the true Church to be taken from the earth again."

Now I understand that when Joseph Smith restored the priesthood authority, he did receive certain revelations along the lines that the priesthood would remain upon the earth until Christ returned again to rule in glory upon the earth.

But how do we as Latter-day Saints interpret such prophecies?

American culture has been strongly shaped by Calvinism. In the Calvinist world view, God's will is absolute and supreme and overrules everything else. Human will and agency are so contingent upon the will of God, that it is more appropriate, from the Calvinist perspective, to say that human beings have only the illusion of free will. Everything is predestined by God according to a will and a wisdom that belongs to God alone, and which are far beyond human beings' ability to influence or even comprehend. In the strictest Calvinist view of things, you can spend your whole life living righteously and believing you will be saved, but you may still be destined for Hell, and there is nothing you can do about it. Because God ordains, and the only ultimate freedom you have is to acquiesce in what he has ordained.

In such a world view, prophecies about what will and will not happen are interpreted with a sense of absolute inevitability. And because Calvinist views of God and divine will permeate our culture (and permeate the world views of those who convert to Mormonism), it is possible that many of us have a tendency to interpret prophecy in that way. But in the understanding of the divine plan afforded through latter-day revelation, can anything possibly be ordained in this way?

In light of latter-day revelation, we understand the entire structure of our mortal existence as being framed by the principle of free agency. We understand that human intelligence is co-eternal with God. It was not created and cannot be created. Exaltation is a process by which God has imbued our intelligences with spirit bodies and then created a world in which we could receive physical bodies, as part of a process of enabling us to achieve eternal life like God. Indeed, we may have been co-creators of this world with God. We have been active participants in this plan from the beginning, a plan to which we freely consented. There were attempts made in Heaven to establish a plan that would impinge upon our freedom, that would force us. That plan was utterly rejected by God, and by us.

The whole drama of human history has been a drama in which God reaches out to us, reveals truth to us, and is present to guide us and help us, so long as we reach back toward God. But it is a drama in which perfect knowledge is eclipsed, to enhance our freedom, to heighten the truthfulness of a test whose purpose is to enable us to make the choices that can cultivate the traits of divinity (or blind us for eternity). We have always been free to reject God. And the tragedy embedded in scripture becomes most evident in those moments when Christ and the prophets have reflected on the nature of our choices, and have been forced to confess, "How God would have gathered you as a hen gathers its chicks, but ye would not."

With such an understanding, is there anything that God will not allow? Or is prophecy more a statement of Divine intent? Of divine hopefulness? When God restored the priesthood again through Joseph Smith, and promised that the true Church would never be taken from the earth again, would not such a prophecy always be contingent upon our faithfulness, just like all promises and blessings we have ever received and will ever receive at the hands of God?

Is it not the statement of a parent who loves us, who desperately hopes that we won't mess it up this time?

1 comment:

Jay said...

I love the way you write and think. Thank you so much.