Sunday, 23 July 2017

There is No Gold in China, There are No Aliens in Outer Space, There are No Elephants in America, and What Agnostics Get Right

Archeology Elephant

There is no gold in China. This analogy was told to me some time ago, and has stuck with me, despite its flaws. The idea is this: China is really big, a flake of gold is really small. To say there is no gold in China would require endless searching. I would never really be done. That is why it is far easier to say, like an agnostic, that there might be gold in China, rather than saying there is no gold in China. During my search for gold in China, I might be fooled by fools’ gold. When I find the fools’ gold to be fake, I might admittedly declare that there is no gold in China. However, the presence of fools’ gold does not negate the possibility that under a rock is a flake of 18-caret gold. The problem I have with this analogy is, there is gold in China. I don’t think people are prone to disagree. So, to make the same point, we could talk about lifeforms in outer space. Space is big, really big, and we know so little about it. Here it is easy to side with the agnostic and say, I don’t know.
Back to China. I have been to China, I have seen gold, but the best I could do was take someone’s word who told me it really was gold. I have not the ability to discern between real and fake gold. And yet, if all the gold I saw in China was fools’, I still cannot conclude that there is no gold in China.

It has been a while since I have studied out any of the “Elephants,” but I was invited to take a look at the Book of Mormon and archeology, and see what there is to see. Yet, I recognise that a lack of evidence does not mean the Book of Mormon is not true. I also recognise that there may have been fools’ gold found. Various artefacts have come up that people claim support the historicity of the Book of Mormon, which, in reality, have no connection. These poorly supported claims do not then require us to denounce the historical reality of the Book of Mormon anymore than finding fools’ gold in China should convince us that there is no gold in China

My biggest concerns with the historicity of the Book of Mormon, are not the lack of archeological evidences (My 8th great-grandmother was Lucia Nilsdotter, and while I cannot find any archeological evidence of her parents or her grandparents, I do not doubt that they existed. Our knowledge of history, and the remaining evidence is spotty), but that which seems to go against the history we know. Elephants in America? The ancient inhabitants of America from Israel?

I have heard it said that there are 56 different locations suggested as to where the Book of Mormon could have taken place (I have heard a statistic of this sort, but I do not actually remember the number given. It may have been higher). The accounts recorded in the Book of Mormon are but a small sampling of all which went on in the western hemisphere in the thousands of years pre-Colombus.1 To draw from this any sort of broad strokes as to what should be found by archeologists ignores the vast amount of activity going on during this time of which we have no written record. I will not here deal with any archeological discoveries that seem contradictory to the history written in the Book of Mormon. Rather I will consider anachronisms and seemingly out of place details.

The problem is, the more I consider this route of study, the more I realised that I am not bothered. Maybe there was steel made in Israel long before we previously had thought, and yet we have no traces of it today.2 Maybe there were horses and elephants. The possibilities of history seem endless. Maybe Joseph Smith when translating was given an image rather than a word, and it looked to him like cement, so he wrote cement when it was really agglomerate rock, but he did not know what it was.

A third possible reason for anachronisms in the Book of Mormon is that when Nephi and his family landed in the Americas, that they used words from their home land to describe similar objects in their new surroundings. The may have cultivated plants similar to what they had previously grown, and called them by the same name though they were different.3 Imagine for a moment that there is no gold in China, but I go to China, see golden coloured stones and write home about the gold I saw. I might even know that it is not gold, and yet have no better word to describe what I see.

Even if all that is mentioned in the Book of Mormon could be found on the American continent, the would not prove the veracity of the Book of Mormon. Likewise, the lack of archeological evidence does not disprove the historicity of the book. I am convinced that God knows if the Book of Mormon is good, if it teaches true principles, if it is a nice story and if it is based on historical events. God knows if the book will bring us closer to him. So, the Book of Mormon invites us to ask God if it is true4 as James counsels us to ask God if we lack wisdom.5 Furthermore, we can test the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as we apply its direction in our lives and become more like Christ. These are the ways I have come to know the Book of Mormon is true. I am grateful for that book, for the many ways that it has helped me come closer to Christ. There might be gold in China, there could be aliens in outer space, and perhaps there were anciently elephants in America, I do not know history, but I know God loves his children.

Two pictures that I like which depict how little we once knew and suggest there is still much we do not know:



https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/File:BoM_Archaeology_1842.PNG 
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/File:BoM_Archaeology_2005.PNG


1 John L. Sorenson, Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1984/09/digging-into-the-book-of-mormon-our-changing-understanding-of-ancient-america-and-its-scripture?lang=eng#pop_001-03178_000_016.
2Or do we? See: Matthew Roper, Laban’s Sword of “Most Precious Steel” (Howlers #5), https://www.fairmormon.org/ blog/2013/06/17/labans-sword-of-most-precious-steel-howlers-5-2.
3https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Anachronisms/Basic_principles#Elder_D._Todd_Christofferson:_.22The_absence_of_evidence_is_not_proof._Here.E2.80.99s_one_small_example.22
4Moroni 10:3-5

5James 1:5

Friday, 14 July 2017

Shadow


My institute teacher shared about how we can be a shadow of Christ. Our image, that is out acts, character and countenance can point others to Jesus Christ. As I was in the temple, I was considering how keeping my covenants can help others come to Christ. Afterwards, I took some pictures, not really wanting to leave. As I got in my car, I noticed the couple in the vehicle beside mine were saying a prayer together. Their action was a shadow of Christ, a reminder of who he was, and who he wanted me to be. They inspired me to pause and pray.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

What Do These Letters Mean to Me?



I could put myself within LGBT, find some belonging and identity.  Perhaps a label is not all it is cut out to be.  Does it help me understand me better when written on the inside of my eyelids is LGBT.  Does that help me understand what I see?  Should I leave the letters behind and be free, and just be me?  Yet, they seem to find me.  They want me to agree.  They beckon to me, “we are the you, just be true.”

Monday, 24 April 2017

Congratulate Me! Today I Peed in the Potty!

I like to think my appreciation for affirmation and praise is only human.  Perhaps it is fuelled by my low self-esteem that is buoyed up by the praise others give. I like to be acknowledged.  I have been thinking about integrity.  Integrity is taking onus to do what is right even when no one is around to clap for me.  When people are new to church, their efforts are acknowledged.  They are asked if they have been reading the Book of Mormon and receive affirmation for a positive response.  They begin to learn that these habits are good.  This is much the same as to how we treat young children.  They are praised when they zip up their own coat, eat all their food and pee in the potty.  Eventually the child is expected to carry on these habits without receiving praise.  When I was a child, it was expected that at the end of the meal I took my dishes to the dishwasher, and expressed gratitude for the meal.  Perhaps at one point I received praise for these behaviours.  I do not remember that, but I do remember the gentle reminders to clear my dishes.  When I am at my mom’s home I perform these habits, partly because they have become part of my nature, and partly because, whether my mom expresses it verbally or not, she is pleased by this routine.  This is the transition which needs to happen with my faith developing habits.  If I expect human, or even divine, praise every time I say a personal prayer, read my scriptures or go to church, I am going to be very disappointed.  As much as I long for this kudos, I am missing the point.  The point isn’t to get a pat on the back every time I do good.  I need to do that which is good even when no one cares, because it is good.  I can do it knowing God is pleased, whether I can feel his pleasure or not.  I should do it because peeing in the potty is better than peeing in my pants, and if I don’t zip up my coat, I will get cold.  I should do it because as I take care of myself, I can take care of others, I can acknowledge their efforts with understanding that some of the littlest tasks take great effort.  And as I do the little tasks, they will become habits, they will become part of my nature and I will become one who seeks to please God if people notice, or even if they don’t.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Saying Good Bye to My Past

As I have been unpacking my belongings, I have found all sorts.  Notebooks filled with stories, a bag full of dreadlocks, clothing I forgot about, a box of photos I have yet to look through, and three hockey pucks (but I have yet to locate my skates).  among all of this I have also found reminders of who I used to be and what used to be important to me, bits of my past with which I can no longer identify.  Though I know this, I do not want to let go.  I am great at trying to justify my reasoning.  After all, isn’t having my selves lined with books that speak agains my beliefs evidence as to how strong my faith really is?  After all, I still do think that closets are for clothes.
Those are the two categories of belongings onto which I am holding.  Many of the books which speak against the Church i have never even read.  Sometimes I think I ought to read them to get my money’s worth.  My knowledge as to what critics say against the Church is no indication as to how strong my faith is.  I knew much of the critique before I has any faith.  Furthermore, I have no intention to read the literature, and just having it on myself is not going to do anyone any good.  I could give the books away, but I do not think they well do any good for anybody.  
The other category could be summed up as gay pride.  As I was driving earlier this week I came to understand that pride cannot be part of my life.  I feel this is counter-cultural, and all of societies reasons are my means of justifying holding on to this piece of my past.  I echo the words of society, it is who I am, I cannot change, i am not bad.  And perhaps it is part of who I am, perhaps it will never change, and quite certainly God created me good, but all that considered, pride is not the way forward.  If the opposite of pride is denial, that is not the answer, nor is the answer somewhere between those two points.  I would posit that it is some place two feet above.  I can acknowledge and accept that I am attracted to women without making it a point of pride.
Philippians 3:7-8: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
I must put my past behind me, recognize that it is rubbish and rest in the rewards Christ has offered.  It is time for church, but I must pass by the recycle bin first.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

No More Whining

In my sister’s car I noticed a container of brightly coloured Tic Tacs.  I picked them up and my sister informed me that they are for those who put on their straps themselves without whining.  Feeling a childish sense of pride, I pointed to my secured seatbelt and happily took a Tic Tac.  I had, after all, put it on without complaining.  I was reflecting on this experience as I walked to church this morning.  I was wondering what made it so hard for my three year old nephew to put on his straps, and for me a returned missionary, to go to church, without whining.  For my nephew, perhaps when he knows what he has to do, whining is a way to keep hold of a little bit of control.  I may be no different.  I know it is important for me to go to Church.  I know it is required if I am going to receive all the blessings God wants to give me, if I am going to progress and become who I want to become.  For my nephew to receive a candy, it is not good enough for him merely to get the straps on himself, he must do it without whining.  When he does, the candy is guaranteed.  I am sure the same is true with me and God.  His promises are sure.  I believe that if I go to Church, digging in my heels and whining, he will still bless me, but I will be miserable. If I cheerfully go to church, holding nothing back, not even my attitude, he will pour out blessings in abundance, and I will be able to receive them all.  Until I give all, I will not be able to receive all the Father has to give.  This reminded me of a talk given by Neal A. Maxwell in which he concludes “Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!”  I want that total victory, and so I must totally surrender.  Cheerfully. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Blessed to Love



The main idea which stood out to me when my stake president laid his hands on my head and set me apart to serve a full time mission was that I would be blessed to love.  Even as he said it, I selfishly wished that he blessed me instead to be loved.  Though I do not always comprehend, I know the blessing he gave me is far greater than the one I hoped for.  It is greater to love than to be loved, harder too.  On my mission, I many times prayed that I may love those around me. Many times I was able to love them and focus upon them, rather than on me. 
I miss that blessing.  Now I am as I was before: I want to be loved.  I want to be noticed, valued, cared for.  I am seeking affirmation.  All of that I want on my terms.  I’m waiting around for someone to tell me I am spectacular.  I do not want to do anything to gain that approval.  I just want to be.  The truth is, when I laze around, I am not all that spectacular.  I am far from living up to my potential.  The truth is, as long as I am focused on others loving me, I am missing the point. 
I miss being a set apart missionary, because I miss that blessing.  That blessing, however, is not limited to me as a missionary.  Love is not just an attribute of a missionary, but a defining characteristic of Jesus Christ.   Now, even now, I, even me, can be filled with Christ-like love.  Moroni (Moroni 7:47) invites us to pray for that love, with all of our energy.  It is not that I should pray for that love, so others will love me in return.  Rather, I should seek to have Christ-like love that I may be like Jesus Christ.