Friday, November 13, 2015

A beautifully confusing doctrine

A sister who I never knew but who served with my mission president popped up in my facebook feed today.

She was participating in the new fad: Saying "I am a member in good standing and I believe in the church with all my heart, but I have to make a public statement that the church is actually wrong when society says they are."  They always use the phrase "stand with" in the statement (as in "I cannot stand with the church on this issue"). I assume you've seen one. I only recognized it today as a viral behavior--a fad.

Aside from pointing out how odd it is that it has become faddish to publicly express apostasy rather than privately turn to God for understanding when something doesn't make sense, I thought a phrase she used was interesting.

She quoted my mission president (who I loved and who helped me through some very difficult things) in saying that God will never make us eternally unhappy. And so, she concluded, the Church will change that policy about gay marriage and she'll just wait it out until they do.

The problem with that interpretation of what Pres. Bates said is two-fold.

First, it doesn't say that God will never make us unhappy in this life except temporarily, and if we wait He will fix it. In fact, God does leave us in unhappy circumstances for a long time in this life. Some people (many people, in fact), are left in unhappy circumstances for their entire lives. God is in the eternally happy business, not the happy every second of my life business. As far as I can tell, eternally happy is created by earthly unhappiness. That's how we grow.

Second, that interpretation assumes that we know what will make us happy eternally. But, given that we don't understand our own nature as gods in embryo, and given that we are actually not capable of understand eternity, how could we possibly determine what will make us happy there? I can't count  the number of things that I thought would make me happy and I didn't get and then later was so glad that God denied them to me.  Obviously I can't even determine what will make me happy next week--how could I determine what will make me happy eternally?

I believe the right approach to the idea that God will never make you unhappy eternally is to assume that God knows more than you do, and God wants even more than you for you to be happy, and He knows who you really are, and His ideas about what will make you happy eternally should always, always trump yours.

Which means, as unpopular as it is to say, that even the rules that are socially unacceptable (like no sex outside of marriage) are designed to make us happy if we have the faith to obey even when it makes no sense. The key is that we have to obey even if it makes no sense, and even if the entire world comes down to say that it's wrong.  Even if that means we don't get to have sex ever, for our entire lives. We have to trust God more than we trust ourselves or our understanding.

And that absolutely necessitates that you first figure out who has authority to speak for God, how those messages come, and what obedience looks like. Who can we trust? Who brings us the word of God? And if they bring us the word and we don't like what we hear, what do we do about it?

And yes, the sister was right: we do have to wait, often. Wait for rescue, wait for help, wait for understanding, wait for the eternities.

Good thing praying for understanding and praying for patience are some of the most useful things I've ever learned to do.  Also, I've found it extremely beneficial to pray that if there is something I'm pretty sure I know for sure that isn't actually true, could God help me understand what the truth is instead?

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