Thursday, July 5, 2012

Will aspartame kill us? We want to know!

Two talks I heard last week in a branch I was visiting are today’s topic.  One was given by the branch president, and the other was given by his wife.

Sister Branch President (SBP) opened with a quote that at first sounded hopeful but which eventually filled my heart with despair.  By the way, SBP—poor dear—is headed for a nervous breakdown: I recognize so many qualities that I had that lead to my unraveling. 

I've searched in vain for the exact quote, but it started out by asking why we should be ashamed to be ignorant of the gospel of Christ?  Then it told us why we should be ashamed and asked why we would devote more time to reading the fantasies of men than the word of God.

At first I thought the quote was going to be about how it’s OK to ask questions, which would be reassuring to me, since I seem to ask them possibly annoyingly frequently.  But no: it was about how there is no excuse to not know the answer to a question because you should devote a massive amount of time to studying the scriptures.  This could be extrapolated to be saying that you shouldn’t read anything for pleasure other than the scriptures because it would just be a waste of time (I know that’s an extreme, but it’s also an implication).  The part about the fantasies of men particularly seems to imply this.

I have an answer: because the "fantasies of men" are entertaining to read.  Also, I believe you can get as much out of a novel as you can from out of the scriptures—really.  You can observe human nature and true principles.  You can learn about yourself by reading about others, even if those others aren’t prophets.  Books can take you on an emotional journey and touch your heart.  (Also, novels can include many more women as characters!) 

Anyway, the talk that followed was earnest and well meaning, but ultimately more of the you-should-be-doing-better stuff I hate.  It was about how we’re lacking and how we’re wrong.  She mentioned a missionary experience where she shared with a friend that the church has a living prophet through whom god speaks.  Luckily, she said, the friend didn’t ask her for any specific examples of what the prophet had said recently because she wouldn’t have known!  (This is the second time I’ve heard of this situation in a sacrament-meeting talk: not knowing the contents of the Ensign in the context of a missionary experience.)  She said that after this ‘chastisement’ from the lord (ugh) that she was sure to go home and read the church magazine.

Well, maybe if the prophet had something that was really interesting or groundbreaking to say then she would have remembered it.  If there had been a conference talk about how we have to evacuate Mississippi or how aspartame definitely causes cancer for example, then she could have shared that with her friend because it would have actually been memorable.  I’m pretty sure the basic gospel principles are the subject of most talks, so she could have shared  those with her friend had the question come up.  I say this not to chide her, but to point out that she was being too hard on herself for not remembering the sparkling wisdom that had recently been shared.

A bright spot in the talk was when she mentioned the counsel to slow down and not over-schedule.  She mentioned that when she hears the moms of her son’s class mates talk about what extracurricular activities their children are involved in, she feels that she needs to provide all of those opportunities to her one child.  At least she realized that this was unrealistic...I think.  (That kind of thinking though is an indication that a nervous breakdown might come sooner or later.)

Brother Branch President gave a talk summarizing Joseph Smith’s King Follet discourse, definitely a meaty subject.  I was actually pleased that the sermon was being talked about and that BBP quoted extensively from it.  It made me think about how I wish that certain beliefs were talked about more and not ignored. 

The King Follet discourse talks about how god was once a man and how man’s destiny is to become like god.  It asserts that god was a savior for another world before becoming our father.  As you can see, it’s pretty significant stuff (and the source of the ‘Mormons gets their own planets’ hearsay).  I thought it was great that BBP was sharing it—the church has for whatever reason dropped the discussion about these topics.  In fact, in an interview in 1997 with Time, Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked, "Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?" he responded, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”  (By the way, I got the quote from FAIR, which I mentioned in this post.)

BBP taught Sunday School too, and it was apparently customary to open the hour with a call for questions of any kind on any topic.  Inspired by his talk, I asked , “If god had a father god, and that god had a father, and so on, then where did it all begin?”  There wasn’t a satisfactory answer for that question (I didn’t really expect one).  I also asked for clarification about whether the discourse indeed said that god was a savior for another world, and when BBP said that it indeed suggested that, I asked if that meant that Jesus would next become a Father?  The answer was that probably yes.

What stuff!  What deep, significant ideas!  Why don’t we talk about this more?  Because it’s all hearsay, philosophizing, speculation.  But I feel that it’s important.  I feel that you could find an answer to these questions and that discussion would help.  A better question than ‘Why don’t we talk about this more?’ is: Why don’t general authorities clear up doctrines like this in General Conference?  Surely these are important things to know.  Maybe the beginning of time is a difficult concept to grasp, but surely the principle that Jesus will next become God for another world is worth knowing and talking about!   It regards the nature of God!   (And Jesus!)

The lesson was on chapters in Alma, but we did get into a discussion about the pre-existence because of a verse about being foreordained to a calling.  We talked about the meaning of foreordination and it was a great discussion.  We talked about what kind of decisions you could have made in the pre-existence and if you could have had the ability to sin.  I was worried that it might veer into the “some people were less righteous in the pre-existence and they are punished for it by their situation on earth,” but the fear was unwarranted.  I’m just wary of that explanation because it was used to justify blacks not having the priesthood and, more innocuously (?), why some people are killed en masse by god (think the flood). We could have gotten into determinism, fate, etc.  I think it was a good example of what Sunday School should be like.

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