30 martie 2015

The Perfections of the Godhead

Read the previous post in this series here.

Lecture Five of the Lectures on Faith is where we start getting to the really fascinating doctrine: the Godhead. This is also the lecture that was one of the main excuses the 1921 committee used to remove them from the scriptures. The first reason was that they were "not received as revelations by the prophet Joseph Smith"--so what? He vouched for them and was willing to "be called to answer to every principle advanced." The second reason is supposedly that they are explanations of the principle of faith, but not doctrine. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. The preface to the original edition specifies that the lectures cover the "important doctrine of salvation": they represent the "Doctrine" in the title Doctrine and Covenants. And as I have said so many other times, there is only one true doctrine: the doctrine of Christ, as set forth in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11, and the first principle of this doctrine is faith in God--exactly what these lectures are about. I don't understand how anyone can say that these lectures are not doctrine, unless they are simply restating that the administration of the Church has removed them from the official canon. But the fact that they are not part of the canon doesn't take away the fact that they are still about the doctrine of Christ. The third reason the committee removed them was that they believed the explanation of who the Godhead is to be incorrect. They were wrong, and I'll address this in my post today. But consider this: who do you want to believe about the nature of God: Joseph Smith, who talked to Him face to face, and who vouched for the accuracy of the explanation in the Lectures on Faith, or a committee almost a century later, none of whose members ever claimed to have seen or spoken to God, making executive decisions without the sustaining vote of the Church? I'll let you decide.

Note: I highly recommend that you study Lecture Five along with D&C section 93. You'll see why shortly.

So let's get started! The first bit of confusion for me comes immediately in the second paragraph, when it begins talking about two personages, instead of the usual three. However, the lecture does specify that the Godhead consists of three people: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so I'm sure it's not a mistake. These two personages "constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things--by whom all things were created and made." We are speaking of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is currently being excluded from the description of the governing and creating power. More about him later.

18 martie 2015

A Correct Idea of His Attributes

Read the previous post in this series here.

I've neglected the Lectures on Faith a bit over the past few weeks; I've had a lot of other things on my mind. But in the past few days, the importance of knowing God in order to exercise faith in Him keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. So the fourth Lecture on Faith is a great place to start, with its discussion of the attributes of God.

As I said previously, I think characteristics are something you have, whereas attributes are something you are, and that is perhaps how the list of qualities in lecture Three differs from lecture Four. I'm not actually sure the difference is important. The purpose of the fourth lecture is to "show the connection there is between correct ideas of the attributes of God, and the exercise of faith in him unto eternal life" (4:1). This is a good time to remind ourselves that we are still talking about the doctrine of Christ, which is to have faith, repent, be baptized, and press forward in Christ until we obtain a sure promise of salvation from the Father (2 Ne 31). Put in context, we are still trying to figure out what it means to have the kind of faith that gets you from the first step to the last.

"For without the idea of the existence of the attributes which belong to God, the minds of men could not have power to exercise faith on him so as to lay hold upon eternal life" (LoF 4:2)--it is the mind which exercises faith, so it is essential that the mind have a correct understanding in order to "enable [us] to exercise faith in God, and through this means to be partakers of his glory" (LoF 4:3). To lay hold upon eternal life means to be partakers of his glory: something worth the effort and faith, no? So in order to exercise faith in God to reach that goal, we must know what kind of being He is (attributes), in addition to knowing what kind of powers He has or what kinds of things He can do (characteristics).

This lecture has an interesting structure: it covers each attribute three times. The first pass is just a list of scripture references referring to each quality; the second is a detailed explanation of what it means, and the third is a quick summary. I will address each attribute once, and integrate the material.