Friday, May 27, 2011

Words of Mormon 1:8

Words of Mormon 1:8

"And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people."

What does it mean to Come to the knowledge of God, and the redemption of Christ? Life eternal is to know God (John 17:3). So to come to the knowledge of God connects to Eternal Life from God.  To "come to" is a well known phrase for waking up, or regaining ones senses or bearings.  I like that thought in connection to coming to a knowledge of God and the redemption of Christ.  Joseph Smith taught that a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.  This knowledge is linked to becoming a delightsome people.  Someone in whom the Lord can delight rather than morn.

Many folks, including some religious teachers, and many from the sciences assert that converts to a religion or faith merely experience an emotional high which in the mind becomes linked with the organization, missionary, or charismatic leader and that is what comprises a testimony or "conversion" and is the basis for religion and conversion.  That's not a knowledge of God though. A knowledge of God and the redemption of Christ is not an emotional high.  It's actual knowledge.  The individual according to some views will get various social, emotional, and instinctual needs met by the organization, further reinforcing the positive emotions and the correlating mental associations with their "conversion". This is what some people say a testimony is and what a "conversion" boils down to.  To me that is not what the scripture is talking about.

I do agree that such emotional highs and social pay offs occur as a result of organized religion.  They happen, and many people may indeed have a "testimony" that is exactly what is described above. Can't argue with that. However that in my view is not the goal, nor the end, nor what ought to be after or settle for. The scriptures speak of much higher and holier things. If our conversion or spiritual experiences are nothing like those in the scriptures than we should do some evaluation.  It may be us that is off.  And redefining their experiences to fit into the mold and vocabulary of our darkened perceptions is complete religious malpractice.  If a culture that uses the lexicon of the scriptures but with the wrong meaning behind them applies incorrect meaning back onto the vocabulary of scriptures.  That seems like the mess we are currently in.

I asked John Delihn at a Sunstone symposium seminar a few ears ago if he would explain further about the difference between an emotional conversion and the workings or influence of the Spirit or spiritual experiences. He presented the idea that converts to the church are brought into the church by an emotional experience and charisma of a powerful leader. That may be the case with some, but that's not how scriptures define nor suggest conversion should consist of.  He for whatever reason beat around the bush and said that most people cannot describe the "workings of the spirit" or spiritual experiences and that it is usually too vague to really analyze.  So he said it was difficult to differentiate between the emotional experiences and the spiritual ones.  That was the extent of the answer.

Emotions can be difficult to communicate maturely.  I'm amazed people get along as well as they do given the lack of emotional health education in our culture. We prize intellect but later than day those same folks can't sort through our own feelings.  Church general counsel on emotional intelligence has about as much to offer as this: "Avoid anger", "Don't let you temper get out of control" "Cheer up and sing a hymn when we're sad, or lift someone else up", "There are plenty of people who have it worse than you, and if you are feeling down and depressed you need to serve others more", "Don't go to self awareness groups as they can be dangerous and out of harmony with the Gospel".  The Church counsel beyond that is to refer to counseling professionals.  It's no wonder we can't differentiate between spiritual experiences and emotional ones.

And then there's the striking statistic about Utah's pharmaceutical drug use which according to national statistics ( ranks top state for antidepressant use, twice the national average. If we as a culture are needing so many mood altering drugs.... then I'd also expect widespread confusion about differentiating between emotion, spirit, and knowledge from God.  This post is not addressing medication, or some folks legitimate need for it.

The Redemption of Christ is the knowledge this verse is talking about.  Is there another kind of redemption offered by the world?  In truth no one else has redemption to offer. The verse talks about a delightsome people....that sounds like a happy people, a free people, a converted people (Psalms 37:4) (2 Nephi 9:51) (Psalms 119:174) (Isaiah 54:14) . A city of Zion even. Those who delight in the Lord because they know Him, and what a delight He is.  It's not an emotional conversion with social payoffs.  It's so very much more.

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