Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Seek the Truth

To My Children,

Why do we try to live our lives in a certain way? We do so because we know that certain things are true.

Truth provides the basis from which we make decisions on how to best interact with our world and how to live our lives. If we make decisions based on faulty premises, it stands to reason that those decisions will be flawed. "Garbage in; garbage out." Thus, in my view, the most important questions we need to answer are regarding truth; whether we're buying a refrigerator or contemplating our place in eternity.

 Personally, I'm infinitely more interested in the latter. So, where can we go to find the answers to eternal questions?As we are advised in James 1:5 and exhorted in Moroni 10:4-5; through sincere and humble prayer in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ, we can come to know the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. Through scripture study, we find wisdom and knowledge. We receive additional guidance and revelation from our latter-day prophets

However, what if we don't believe in or are not willing to trust scriptures, prophets or Our Lord? It is still reasonable, even essential, to seek the answers? Alma said:
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. ( Alma 32:27)
As Alma advised, we can conduct our own experiment.  We can turn to the aforementioned sources, follow their advice and record the results.

True faith does indeed come through the power of the Holy Ghost, in response to prayer and scriptural study. However, it doesn't hurt to search for physical and historical evidence as well. Austin Farrar, in speaking about C. S. Lewis has often been quoted: 
Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows that ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,” in Light on C.S. Lewis, ed., Jocelyn Gibb [New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965], 26.)
 Thus, in addition to spiritual evidence, it helps to provide rational argument. Contrary to the view of many "non-Mormons", there is abundant material data to support that the Book of Mormon is what we purport it to be.This is important because, if the "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ" is authentic, then Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the Son of God and Joseph Smith was undeniably a prophet. 

In summary; personal spiritual revelation combined with the plethora of historical and scriptural confirmation available should be more than sufficient to support the major tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beyond a reasonable doubt. However, first you must seek!

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matthew 7:7)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do Pets Go to Heaven?

I am not a pet person! I just want to make that clear. Oh, I've had my share of pets. Over the years, I've even known some for whom I've developed an affection. We have two now; a cat, Skitty, and a dog, Zeb. Both are curmudgeonly and well into their "golden years". Although I admit that I do have somewhat of a soft spot for each, by-in-large, I consider pets a nuisance,  especially those who belong to others.

That's one reason that when a friend and I found ourselves comparing our beliefs and faith, I thought one of her statements was particularly odd. She said, "I think as long as you are a good person and you are good to animals; God is pleased." As you might guess, this statement chafed my Mormon sensibilities in multiple ways. But, I was puzzled by the part about animals and I couldn't seem to let it go. After all, hadn't our Lord given man “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth?"

Animals are animals. So what!

More recently, my 16 year old son; the one who goes to a Roman Catholic High School, has an LDS father and has more than a passing interest in eastern and Native-American philosophies, told me that he thought animals must go to heaven.

"Here we go again! What's up with this animal stuff? Why do you say that, Matt?"

"Well, Dad; they don't ask for anything. They do a lot of good for us. Since they don't have a conscience, they are without sin. Doesn't it make sense that they would go to heaven?"

I have to admit, he got me! Then, I thought about the assortment of pets in my life. There was my black lab, Sam; who, when I was a boy, would come running when and from wherever in my neighborhood, I called. There was my cat, Jet. My son Marc insisted that I adopt her to keep me company after my divorce. I remembered the tears in my eyes when I had to put her down after she developed some sort of idiopathic paralysis. Okay. I was starting to get it.

But, what do the scriptures say about our Heavenly Father's plan for animals? And, do they go to heaven, especially pets?

Let me offer the following commentary recorded in "Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants". Volume 2, page 39 by L. G. Otten and C. M. Caldwell:

The Lord has revealed the following pertaining to beasts and animals of the earth: (See Doctrine and Covenants; 77: 2-4) They will be resurrected and placed in their appropriate places in Heaven. As the fall of Adam affected animals, (See Book of Mormon; 2 Nephi 2:22) so also through the atonement will the animals be heirs of salvation in their respective spheres. “2. The spirits of animals are in the likeness of their bodies. The spirit is eternal and does not change. The spirit of an elephant looks like an elephant; the spirit of man looks like a man.  This is true of all creatures under Heaven. Therefore, the body of the creature cannot change and evolve into something different and still look like its spirit. This principle is simply stated by the Lord that there might not be misunderstandings.“3. They will be given knowledge, including power to move and act and as such, have the capacity to enjoy their eternal happiness and destiny.”John saw curious looking beasts in heaven; he saw every creature that was in heaven,-all the beasts, fowls and fish in heaven,-actually there, giving glory to God. How do you prove it? (See Revelation 5:13) And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.“I suppose John saw beings there of a thousand forms, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this, strange beasts of which we have no conception: all might be seen in heaven. The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven. John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them.“Says one, “I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.” Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God. (HC, Vol. 5, pp. 343-344)”

Wow! I still may never be a "pet person", but I'll try to be a little more tolerant of old Zeb, when he decides he needs to "go out" thirty minutes before I'm ready to get up in the morning. And, maybe I'll show a little more patience with Skitty when I find her cat hair all over her favorite chair on the back porch.
Maybe, on Judgement Day, they'll put in a good word for me.
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