Do Mormons do theology?

mcginn coverDepending on who you ask you’ll get a different answer. I offer a qualified “yes,” which may be against the grain depending on who you ask and how the discussion goes. BYU professor James E. Faulconer has called Mormonism “atheological,” stressing that Mormons emphasize history, practice, and lived experience above rational, propositional content.1 In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Louis C. Midgley characteristically skewers theology along similar lines, saying that in spite of a few caveats, theology is “not entirely at home in the LDS community.”2 Philosopher Adam Miller has paradoxically or puzzlingly depicted theology as excess, likening his own work to the construction of a Rube Goldberg machine (it depends on how you read Miller whether this is a good or bad thing).3 Blake Ostler’s three volume series is heavily theological, but he uses a different “T” word in the title: Exploring Mormon Thought.4

Soon, Terryl Givens will publish his ambitious overview of “the foundations of Mormon thought.”5 I’m not yet all the way through it, but from what I’ve read so far I can say Givens’s book, despite being framed more as a history of thought, does itself formulate a bit of Mormon theology. This is especially apparent in the rhetorical advantage given by Givens to particular conclusions where the historical record is a bit cloudy. Givens sometimes points out the lack of a clear position on a point but nevertheless articulates where he thinks mainstream LDS thought rests (as with the discussion of the eternal/created nature of intelligences or spirits) or he alternately advances something more likely to be resisted by mainstream LDS thought (such as his description of the war in heaven issue about agency or his depiction of apostasy/restoration).

What I’m saying is that even when trying to simply write a history of theological ideas, it’s difficult to resist doing a little theological work.

But I think that’s okay. The stigma against “theology” (which Hugh Nibley famously described as what people do when revelation ceases) is unnecessary and even somewhat uncharitable to people of other faiths. More importantly, I think the stigma suggests widespread misunderstanding of how Mormon thought has actually developed. Rather than consisting of a pristine corpus of fact bestowed upon infallible prophets from heaven since 1830, the Restoration is an ongoing project as recently described by President Uchtdorf.6 The heavenly and the human continue to participate in the process. The best part of Givens’s book so far comes right at the outset, pages 6–22, “Mormonism and Theology.” It’s one of the best and most concise overviews of the place of “theology” (doctrine, revelation, authority) in the Church from the 1830s to the present. Givens concludes with the observation that “Mormon belief through the years” is made up of a “still evolving and sometimes inconsistent amalgam,” meaning that “all attempts to capture the essence of Mormon thought…are limited and provisional” (22).

Which brings me to Bernard McGinn. I just published one of my favorite interviews I’ve done so far on the Maxwell Institute Podcast. McGinn, a Catholic theologian, joined me to talk about his new biography of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae, a massive and classic work in Catholic theology. We spent time talking about what theology actually is, what it means to do theology. I recommend the entire interview (please, for real, go download it, share it with your friends, please fall in love with the MIPodcast!), but in this post I’ve typed up an excerpt to spur some conversation about the place of theology in Mormonism.

Here are two excerpts, pasted together:

BHodges: Before we get into the book in general, Bernard McGinn, I want to start off by talking about the idea of theology in general. So if you can talk about how you became interested in theology, and what “theology” means to you, it will give Mormon listeners a good idea—because the word “theology” tends to set off some alarm bells for Mormons. They might say “well we don’t have a theology, we have revelation,” or something like that, and since you’re a theologian, given your background, I’m really interested to hear what theology means to you and how you became interested in it.

Bernard McGinn: Yes, well, you know, all Christians and many other religions like Judaism and Islam have a revelation, we all enjoy some revelation from God. Theology means thinking and talking about that revelation, and about the faith that you have. So in terms of the origin of the word, it’s just a Greek word [combining theos and] logos, or word about God. Any time that any believers in any tradition are talking about their revelation, the belief that’s fundamental to their lives—talking about it, thinking about it, writing about it—they’re doing theology, whether they want to call it theology or not. So it’s a broad term, and I think there’s Jewish theology, there’s Islamic theology, there are certainly Christian theologies, and I think Mormons who are seriously devoted to thinking and writing about their own revelation are doing theology—Mormon theology.

BHodges: There’s a certain caricature of theology, and especially scholastic theology, and that is that its sole purpose is to nail down the answer to every single question or to have this system in place that’s all perfect. But it seems that within Catholicism there was always at least a certain recognition that there would be open questions, there would be things to be discussed. They did have certain boundaries obviously; there was orthodoxy and heterodoxy. But also there seems to have been room for some different perspectives in the church. Is that accurate?

McGinn: I think that’s very accurate. And Thomas [Aquinas] always considered himself a theologian, and he always tried to be the best theologian he could be. He was always willing to engage in discussion about his views. At one stage he writes and says if you don’t agree with what I said, write against me because the only way to get to the truth is by really good discussion and argument, etcetera. So he’s always willing to be corrected if necessary, or to learn something new. And the structure of the Summa of course lends itself to the idea that somehow this is all cut and dry because it’s so academic. It was designed as this specific form of textbook. But as you begin reading it you see how many open questions there are both in terms of Thomas’s own views and also in terms of how we interpret some of the things that Thomas said. Thomas’s marvelously clear but we’re not always quite sure [laughs] what the best interpretation of his thought may be.

 

You can listen to or download the full episode here, or in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and other such podcasting programs. 

FOOTNOTES:

1. James E. Faulconer, “Why a Mormon Won’t Drink Coffee but Might Have a Coke: The Atheological Character of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” in Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2010), 87–107.

2. See http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Theology. Midgley himself does a good deal of theologizing in his description of Mormons not doing theology!

3. Adam S. Miller, Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012). See my review here and Miller’s brief piece in SquareTwo calling theology, which he does, “gratuitous.”

4. For instance, Blake T. Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God vol. 1 (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2001).

5. Terryl L. Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity (New York: Oxford University Press, fall 2014).

6. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Are You Sleeping Though the Restoration?” General Conference address, April 2014.

Comments

  1. Glenstorm says:

    Different perspectives on theology can also open doors: theology needs not always be propositional or rational, a la Aquinas; it could also be consciously metaphorical, iconographic, narrative, and focused on embodiment, as one might discover in theologies focused on various marginal groups (feminist, womanist, chicano, etc.). While historically Mormonism has leaned toward the propositional–describing things as they really are–there is also a symbolic tradition dealing with things as they are perceived that could provide an alternative road for Mormon theology to explore.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Glenstorm. One of the things that surprised me about Thomas Aquinas is his repeated emphasis on embodiment in his theology, though of course in a different key than Mormonism’s.

  3. “Rather than consisting of a pristine corpus of fact bestowed upon infallible prophets from heaven since 1830, the Restoration is an ongoing project …”

    The problem the church confronts is that many of its leaders have conveyed the impression that the doctrine they teach is immutable and eternal, never changing, and that it has been revealed to and expounded by infallible prophets. So, we have been led to believe that unequivocal answers to virtually every gospel question can be found in works like McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine or the writings of his father-in-law, both of which have, for decades, served as the foundation of the Church Education System. For generations, many members have found solace in this false certitude, which obviates the need for hard thinking or the thoughtful exercise of agency.

    Today, the emperor has lost his clothes and we are learning that the evolution of Mormon thought/theology/doctrine (pick your euphemism) is messy, contradictory, inconsistent and subject to frequent revision. In other words, it is in large measure a human endeavor sprinkled with elements of the divine, much like many other churches. Frankly, I like this new world, and the refreshing honesty and candor exhibited by leaders such as President Uchtdorf. It gives me hope.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Harrell’s outstanding history of the evolution of Mormon doctrine in his work “This is My Doctrine,” which highly recommend. And I look forward with equal anticipation to the publication of Givens’ new book.

  4. Because I define “theology” merely as an attempt to think through or make sense of or situate one’s self in relation to the revelations we have received, it seems to me that theology is inevitable. However, there is definitely a difference between good and bad theology. Virtuous theology inspires and opens new vistas and informs with elegance; and there is bad theology which is mostly just dogmatic assertion without realizing the implications of one’s views or the options available given the loose-ends of revelation and developing tradition.

    I appreciate Blair’s OP and agree with it wholly. Those who think that they are merely doing Mormon history without also doing theology appear to me to be blind to how their suppositions and how their theological views often determine their stance on historical evidence and what counts as evidence.

    However, what I do is philosophy of religion; not theology. I am thinking philosophically about the scriptures and tradition, but doing so as a philosopher in the analytic tradition. I admit that the approaches of Adam and Jim often seem like postmodern fog to me — at least when it is intelligible to me. What they do seems more like playing games (in a good sense) than

  5. I like the definition of theology as “talking/thinking about revelation,” and as such I agree with both McGinn and Blake that it’s pretty inevitable, given that we have to *do* something with revelation in our lives. Whenever we as a church or as individuals attempt to liken the scriptures (or revelation) to ourselves we either do so out of revelation or thinking about revelation. As such a great deal of the Bloggernacle is theology whether people want to admit it or not.

    I also wonder at times about the role of theology in Mormonism. There’s this aphorism that floats around philosophy circles that I’ve seen that “if you think you’re not doing philosophy, you’re probably just doing it badly.” So I’ve seen some examples of Mormons who say they’re relying on revelation rather than the “philosophies of men,” but are clearly expanding on revelation, taking it several logical steps past what it says, etc. At least with formal theology this process is done in a rigorous and structured way.

    There are also instances where I feel that theology has even shaped revelation. For instance, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, where Jesus literally felt some kind of violent, painful legal punishment for our sinful infractions, was a Reformed theory about the Atonement – something that didn’t have any real place in Christianity’s thinking about Jesus’ Atonement for the first millennium after Christ. But then in the Doctrine and Covenants we have Jesus saying that he “bled from every pore” a punishment that we would suffer if we don’t repent – obviously some kind of Penal Substitution going on. I admit I approach those verses now naturalistically (I am not a real believer in Mormonism anymore) so perhaps this is my bias speaking, but this seems like a really obvious example of a theological theory of relatively recent vintage which shaped Mormon revelation, not the other way around. But I know Blake has a different way of framing those verses so maybe he might not see it that way.

  6. No, we don’t.

    LOL– just an over-educated LDS laughing at the attempts to shoe-horn our unique and at times frustrating religion (not ‘faith-tradition’–[vomit]) into the modern shackels of PC. ‘Cuz reality’, baby! If Mitt bothers you, you are a fringe LDS and I don’t think you belong. Run along, little pony . . .

  7. Syphax- I think te history of atonement theology is a bit more complex than what your comment suggests. I think your general point (which seems to be a charge of anachronism) is nullified by the complexity. What’s interesting is that your level of analysis stops at the point of what Joseph Smith could or couldn’t have known. Rather than asking questions about how circumstances impact the sort of theology we develop or find compelling (including through claimed revelation), which is a much more interesting discussion to me.

    Also I’ve written elsewhere about inevitably injecting the philosophies of men into our faith here:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/10/13/trailing-clouds-of-hermeneutical-glory/

    Realist: I tried but I can’t make sense of your comment based on the syntax. I’m not sure who you’re calling over-educated or who is laughing. U mad, bro?

  8. Good to see you drop by, Blake. I agree there can be good and poor theology.

    Also of interest to you despite your distaste for what you call postmodern might be the Mormon Theology Seminar’s guiding principle that theology should lead to repentance. I’d like to see them unpack that more. MTS is led by Miller and Spencer.

    As for the philosophy/theology divide, I’m not sure it’s so easy to separate the two when dealing with things pertaining to God. You mentioned that historians should be more cognizant of how theology informs their interpretation and I think the same is easily said of philosophers.

  9. I think I’m missing your point about the charge of anachronism thing and about complexity in general. My only point is that the whole concept of a punishment substitution mechanism in Jesus’ Atonement seems to be “at home” in the early 19th century, given the way that 19th century theology framed the Atonement. It seems to me unthinkable to imagine a 5th century, eastern Christian text mentioning Jesus hemorrhaging blood from his skin, suffering a literal punishment for our own sins. It wouldn’t make any sense given a 5th century eastern Christian view of the Atonement. I agree that the history of Atonement theology is “complex” but it’s beyond me how it’s so complex that this point is somehow nullified – an eastern Christian view of the Atonement has no place for Jesus needing to suffer the literal violent punishment of our sins and never has.

    And actually I don’t think that I’m “charging Joseph with anachronism” or something like that, or at least it doesn’t really feel that way to me. I’m not trying to stir the pot or “prove” that Smith was or wasn’t a prophet. It could be that Joseph was right about the Atonement. Or he was wrong. Or D&C 19 should be interpreted in a different way – like Blake does. My only point is that that particular section seems to fit a 19th century, Protestant theological context – and thus a certain theological worldview seems to have shaped the way the revelation came about. That’s how I see it anyway.

  10. I see what you’re saying Syphax. For some reason I had the Book of Mormon in mind as the revelation you were referring to she you clearly referred to D&C 19.

    As for me, I think there are a number of different atonement theories invoked in LDS scripture and I personally don’t know exactly how the atonement works. I read these instances of revelation as being delivered through human instruments and invariably influenced by giver and receiver.

  11. As long as theologians acknowledge their work is seeing through a glass darkly, and trying to help others understand what they’re seeing, that’s good theology. Theology isn’t so good when it decides the answers that others must adopt to be right, because those who are learned say so. Theology is only useful, in my mind, when one person tries to teach another, such as parent to child or friend to neighbor, where both acknowledge they are pilgrims — to me, theology doesn’t work in an academic setting, such as professor to student where only the student might be seen as a pilgrim.

    Whenever we endeavor to explain the WHY of something in the gospel, we’re on shaky ground. But parents must try to explain some of the WHYs to their children, and less often church leaders to members, and so forth. It isn’t necessary that they be accurate in their explanations, it is more important that they be sincere. A person’s approach to WHYs may change as time passes, and that’s okay. Thankfully, there cannot be a book of definitive theology — and thank goodness — I certainly don’t want such a academic book.

    Really, to me, the WHYs to esoterica aren’t really as important as the practice of deeply-held faith, hope, and charity. To me, that’s how Mormons do theology. Theology can only be profitable when those who practice it don’t establish academic truth claims.

  12. Hi Blake,

    I’m interested in your comment and would love to hear a little more, since nearly every sentence but the last surprised me, given what I’ve read of your works, which I take to be the most concerted and sophisticated effort ever to construct a systematic Mormon theology (not merely a philosophy of religion). I’m completely baffled to hear you say that what you do is not theology. I’ve heard you say (SMPT 2011 Keynote) that you were the only serious Mormon theologian. I noted the claim at the time since it was so bold. I don’t want to get in a position of insisting that you’re something you’re not, but I do remember you saying that, and if I were to show any Christian theologian your books who had no prior knowledge of you work and ask them to characterize it, I have every confidence that they would say it is a very clear effort at systematic theology.
    I appreciate that you are trying to accommodate the notion that everyone is a theologian and so characterize your work, as philosophically informed and formal as it is, as something further than that. Agreed. So would you allow or confess to “systematic theology”? Otherwise the clear Aristotelian categorization of things that secures my world-view and allows me to function as a human will fly to pieces, I will doubt whether I ever knew anything, and I will descend into a postmodern jelly.

  13. rameumptom says:

    Syphax, I’m not convinced that D&C 19 necessarily leads to the Penal Substitution Theory. Blake Ostler suggests a Compassion Theory that shows Christ suffered so he could understand how to succor us (Hebrews 2:18, Alma 7:12). It isn’t that Jesus’ suffering substitutes for our pains, but that he is warning mankind in D&C 19 that they will naturally suffer if they don’t repent, and they will feel the same kind of pain he has already suffered. To impose the Penal Substitution on the verse is to wrestle with it more than is necessary. Jesus has already offered a rescue, we just have to grab onto the lifeline.

    As for theology, Mormons do it. Alas, most Mormons do it poorly, or focus more on praxeology than thought. But our theology must be different than that of many other religions, simply because we know ours is potentially in flux. Catholic theology rarely changes in any material way, and then in only a few points that have not fully been ironed out (Limbo for children). Their written scripture is complete and so there isn’t much beyond it that 2 millennia of theologians have not already discussed. For Mormons, as we begin to think something is solid theology and doctrine, a revelation comes along and changes it (blacks and priesthood, polygamy, etc). While Catholics have many well established doctrines, Mormon have very few. Once beyond the very basic core doctrines, we quickly get into the gray areas where theology is done, but never established.

  14. “Syphax, I’m not convinced that D&C 19 necessarily leads to the Penal Substitution Theory. Blake Ostler suggests a Compassion Theory that shows Christ suffered so he could understand how to succor us (Hebrews 2:18, Alma 7:12). It isn’t that Jesus’ suffering substitutes for our pains, but that he is warning mankind in D&C 19 that they will naturally suffer if they don’t repent, and they will feel the same kind of pain he has already suffered. To impose the Penal Substitution on the verse is to wrestle with it more than is necessary. Jesus has already offered a rescue, we just have to grab onto the lifeline.”

    Help me understand what you’re saying. Jesus suffered so he could understand how to succor us. So, presumably, he is suffering all the pains that humans feel in order to more perfectly understand what we’re going through? But then when you say that he is warning us that we will naturally suffer some kind of pain if we don’t repent – haven’t we already suffered that? Aren’t we currently suffering that pain simply by virtue of us being separated from God and subject to death now? So are you saying he’s simply warning us that we will continue suffering the way we are now if we don’t repent?

    I also don’t understand why Jesus had to suffer some kind of extra suffering in Gethsemane beyond what he naturally suffered as a mortal human. It seems to me that, simply by living as a human with a human body, he would have gained the knowledge of how to succor us (he experienced death, sickness, emotional trauma, etc. because we all do). Or he simply could have suffered the maximum suffering that any single human has experienced. Experiencing some kind of cumulative suffering that is infinite or near-infinite (enough to cause him to bleed from his skin) is far beyond what any other human has experienced, and therefore unnecessary to succor any single person.

    Personally any type of Atonement theology that centers on brute suffering as a pivotal moment seems to be missing the mark. Suffering by itself can be useful and bearable if we have a purpose for suffering. It seems to me that the Great Threat of our existences is absurdity or meaninglessness, not suffering. As such, it seems to me that Atonement theology must deal, at its root, with the threat of absurdity or meaninglessness. This is why Eastern Christianity appeals to me so much more. When the great God of all Existence suffered a humiliating death at the very cusp of what his followers thought would be a great worldly victory – when the Apostles stood, stunned, at his bloody feet and thought to themselves, “What the Hell just happened?,” absurdity/meaninglessness had a temporary victory. That false victory was defeated when Christ rose again. This triumph over the meaningless, purposeless void of absurdity was the victory of Christ.

    Whether the suffering in Gethsemane in D&C 19 was a substitute for our sins or Christ somehow learning what it’s like to be human, either way seems to me to be hugely missing the mark, and completely unnecessary. It just seems like a tacked-on fetishizing of suffering – when in reality suffering per se is not the greatest problem of mortality. Maybe this is some emotional bias of mine or something. I have suffered in my life. Knowing that someone has also really, really suffered doesn’t provide me more joy – especially if it were an innocent man (the Son of God even). Instead, knowing that my suffering has meaning would bring me joy. The former just seems like “two wrongs make a right.” The latter makes life bearable. As such I guess I just never “got” or needed some additional excruciating event in Jesus’ life besides the torture he experienced at the hands of his executioners. But that’s just me.

  15. rameumptom says:

    The Book of Mormon teaches that all will come into the presence of God. Those who are not ready to be in his presence, who are entirely outside his influence, are filled with pain and anguish (Alma 36), yet the thought of being in God’s presence is an even worse thing. Christ understands the pain of being out of God’s presence (My God, why hast thou forsaken me?), and has not necessarily experienced our exact pains while in Gethsemane. However, he experienced sufficient pain to understand the breadth of mankind’s suffering. In repenting, we prepare ourselves to reenter into God’s presence, as with Alma. He suffered until he repented, not because of anything God did, but because he refused to accept the path to real happiness for three days and nights of suffering. Christ did not have to pay for Alma’s sin directly, but only needed to understand the depth of the pain, so he could heal it. Then, he only had to wait for Alma to accept the gift of Christ, so he could be healed. Suddenly, Alma not only could bear to be in God’s presence, but he was glad to be in it. Note that he is still at a distance from God and his throne, wishing to be closer – I would presume he was still in a telestial, but saved, state and would require some continued righteous living in order to gain the spiritual strength to stand in closer proximity to God’s throne.

  16. I do believe that Mormons do theology.

    But not nearly so well as we Lutherans do it :D

  17. Morgan: Thanks for the observations — let me see if I can surprise you some more. What I have written is an exploration using analytic philosophical arguments. My work is deeply informed by the kind of work done in the analytic philosophy of religion especially as it flourished in the late 70s through the early 2000s (and in my view has lost a good deal of steam).

    I agree with Blair that the line between theology and philosophy is not always a bright one, but there is a line. For me theology is explication of the canon of faith; whereas philosophy is logically based argumentation to explore and see where it will lead (may the best argument prevail). Theology gives arguments for a position or explicates the faith as received, philosophy follows arguments to a position be what it may. So for example I argue that foreknowledge and free will are not compatible because I believe that is what the best take on what constitutes free will and what is logically implied by foreknowledge demands. I also explore scriptures to see if they can be squared with such commitments and the scriptural arguments are more properly theological. So I call my work an exploration rather than a theology. It is systematic only in the sense that my views logically follow from where I believe that exploration leads me. When I start my exploration I am not sure where I will wind up.

    In addition, I do not give any arguments to prove (or disprove) God’s existence. I happen to believe that all arguments to prove God’s experience are unsound (though I believe a form of the teleological argument gives eyes to see with faith as a guide). I argue in the next volume of Exploring Mormon Thought that spiritual experiences of the kind I have experienced (and I believe Mormons are most wont to talk about) are a legitimate though pre-rational foundation for belief in God. I explore that pre-rationality in my fourth volume. Because belief in God is pre-rational and also pre-verbal (in a sense that I explain) in terms of existential experience, belief in God cannot be either logically established or challenged in the same way that rational arguments can be. It can be challenged in terms of trust, being overwhelmed or having a re-orientation of the grounds of experience and reason; but one cannot be argued out of pre-rational-experience. This is a thoroughly philosophical argument (departing from Kant and arriving with Kierkegaard — much to my surprise!) that is not really theological. In a real sense I am exploring my own faith, my own best way of exploring Mormonism given my vantage point.

    I also explore the problem of evil in my next volume not as a possible disproof of God’s existence; but what it teaches about what God can be given our various views and moral commitments and what it can teach us about God’s purposes. Evil could disprove God’s existence for one who approaches the issue without prior spiritual experiences that ground one’s own experience as it is experienced even before we can experience it or think about it.

    In terms of theology, I believe that any thoughtful believer will inevitably engage in theology any time one seriously thinks about one’s faith and tries to position one’s self in relation to that faith — but that does mean that it is philosophically informed. However, philosophy is also inevitable. I had Joseph McConkie for a religion class at BYU. He knew that I was the only philosophy major so-declared at BYU at that time (1979). He took an entire religion class to teach how evil the “philosophies of men” are and how philosophy had corrupted the gospel and brought about apostasy. At the end of his lesson he looked at me and said: “So brother Ostler, what do you think about the danger of philosophy to the gospel as we have discussed it today?” I answered: “Well brother McConkie, I think that is an interesting philosophy.” We cannot escape our own skin; nor can we gi e arguments and attempt persuasion without doing at least a little philosophy.

  18. Syphax: I give the same “double-suffering” against the Penal view of atonement in an article on atonement available on my web-site. However, that argument does not apply to the Compassion Theory of Atonement that rameumptom refers to.

  19. ‘“So brother Ostler, what do you think about the danger of philosophy to the gospel as we have discussed it today?” I answered: “Well brother McConkie, I think that is an interesting philosophy.”’ Haha, that’s awesome.

    “So for example I argue that foreknowledge and free will are not compatible…”

    I find this position illogical, and I think it is unfortunately the major downfall in your otherwise very well-thought-out theories.

  20. @Syphax. I would guess general mortal experience is not sufficient to attain the experiential knowledge necessary to save the world.

    I believe His suffering was necessary to become a Savior, to be enabled to lead and to guide us to light and truth in all things. And I believe if He did not become so qualified, that our suffering would be in vain, and we would fall into sin and misery and become like unto the devil and his angels. But because of Christ’s suffering, and His attained ability and power of a God, a personal God, to lead and save us by His knowledge and through governing and offering the blessings of the Church and gospel, our suffering does not have to be meaningless, but can be a means and path to greater spiritual knowledge, understanding good over evil, and thus a means to even greater happiness.

    Why come to earth to do this? To give us an example here and now, a full embodiment of the nature of the Gods (which is perfect love, love enough to descend below all things to be enabled to ascend above all things and save all who would but look and live); and to be a concrete source to which we may look for a remission of our sins and the blessings of heaven, a true mediator.

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