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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Supreme Court and an inclusive faith

As we eagerly await the decision on Obamacare, conservatives everywhere (Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh as two prominent example) celebrate that these suits against Arizona and Montana were ruled in favor of freedom (and the Constitution). That bodes well for Obamacare, is our hope. Naturally, the press is trying to spin each Supreme Court decision into a win for Obama, which is arguable at best - hence both sides claiming wins. Arizona gets the short stick however - and the Obama administration effectively tells them to "drop dead." From Rush:
So the responsible people, the adults in Arizona, said, "We are going to enforce the law ourselves." So they wrote law which mirrors federal law. They did not go one step further. It mirrors federal law. The Supreme Court said, "You can't do that. This is a federal government job and you can't do it," and Antonin Scalia in his dissent said it boggles the mind. A sovereign state writes laws that reflect and mirror federal laws which are not being enforced. The people not enforcing the law then sue the state of Arizona for trying to enforce what is, essentially, federal law -- and they win!

Meanwhile, I ran across a writer on Patheos who provided a great perspective with his article Misunderestimating Mormonism. He's been learning more details about the LDS Church for himself from the missionaries, attending LDS Church services, and reading materials about it.

He's more than a little peeved at undereducated statements that Mormons condemn all others to hell. Rightly so, because that is NOT what we believe. So, allow me to explain what he did, but hopefully in a clearer way.

First of all, unlike some other religions I've heard about, Mormons do not ever preach against a particular faith. Ever. Even when and if other faiths are teaching their congregations falsehoods about the LDS Church, as they have since the very foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Detractors everywhere. Even with all that persecution, Joseph Smith taught respect for all religions and said in essence that whatever faith a man had and whatever truth was embraced by that faith; let him come and see if the Mormons could add to it. Mormons believe in continuing revelation.

Part of that revelation is that, we believe, truths that were lost or edited away from the Bible, are restored through the Book of Mormon. The most basic of these truths is the complete plan of redemption, also known as plan of happiness or the plan of salvation. There are bits and pieces of it surviving in the Bible as well.

First, we believe in a premortal existence which included a counsel of all God's spirit children before the formation of the earth. We were presented a plan whereby we could come to earth, get a physical body like our Heavenly Father, and prove ourselves by our actions and choices on earth. If we were faithful to God (obedient to His laws) on earth, we could inherit all that our Father has. Right now it would be really handy to see this diagram but I can't get it to upload.

For this plan to work, we needed a Savior. Mortals make mistakes - obviously. Yet, no unclean thing can feel happy in the presence of God. This means we needed a way to repent and be cleansed from our sins. Jesus Christ offered to fill this role of Savior, as a divine Son of God on earth. He alone able to make a lasting sacrifice for all of us so we could repent, and to have power over death so we could all live again in the flesh through resurrection. Jesus Christ really is the way, the truth, and the life.

Satan and many of God's children weren't happy with this plan. They prefered that people be denied agency (the ability to choose for themselves) and be forced to be obedient to God's laws. This prevents progression, however, and such people could never become like God because their desires and choices could never be transformed without this ability to choose. Satan and his followers were cast out, and are collectively called the devil and his angels.

As we enter earth as babies, a veil of forgetfulness is put over our minds so that we can be tested by temptation. Thus, we don't remember our life with Heavenly Father before Earth. If we follow God's laws, we can have eternal life. When we die, our spirts and bodies are temporarily separated. If any of God's spirit children die having never learned about Jesus Christ or the plan of salvation, then they may learn about it in the next life before Judgement Day. This is where temple work for the dead comes in. If those who have died choose to accept the gospel, they also accept the ordinaces such as baptism performed in temples on their behalf. If they don't choose the gospel, it's as if these ordinances were never performed. Agency (the ability to choose) is still the most important part in individual salvation, whether during mortality or afterwards.

When we are judged, we may be assigned to one of three kingdom, or three degrees of glory. You may think of it as three tiers of heaven. The highest of these levels is for those people who chose to keep all of God's laws and ordinances of the gospel. They have eternal life and become as God. Those in lower kingdoms stop in their progression, never becoming as God, but still in a happy place nonetheless. If someone is so bad as to not merit a degree of glory (rare and difficult) they are cast out with Satan. Call it Hell, if you wish. The kind of people there are the ones who knew Christ completely and absolutely yet still denied Him.

See? Mormons don't believe that they're better than other people. They don't condemn others to hell. On the contrary, they work hard to teach people of the full plan of salvation, so that all people can choose for themselves whether they will follow Christ and gain eternal life.

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