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An Easter Message

by Brad Porter, April 16, 2017

Some time ago I had a discussion with a friend who described himself as an atheist. His occupation requires difficult problem solving, and he is good at it. He has also given some thought to the universe and the future of mankind. I asked him: “Can you foresee mankind discovering immortality?” Barely giving this a second thought, he said “Yes”. “Can you foresee mankind discovering interplanetary space travel?” With only a second of delay, he said “Yes”, again. “If we discover immortality and space travel, we can live forever, because we are not bound to the inevitable slow end of a solar system. Have we not become ‘gods’? And what would you do if you were a god? Would you not do what has brought you the most happiness here - have children? And would you not search out and discover the eternal laws which secure the most happiness for them and which will bring order to civilizations and the universe? And once you have discovered these things, would you not teach them to your children so they will have the knowledge to secure their happiness? And would you not give them experiences which would allow them to learn all you have learned, and tests to assess their reverence for these eternals laws and willingness to obey them? Their consistency in obeying these eternal laws would be the test for whether they are capable of handling the power you have gained through knowledge. Those who are found capable, or worthy of this knowledge would have become like you. And now, in the vast infinity of time and space, how can we believe we are the first civilization to contemplate, approach, and achieve immortality? We are not. It has already occurred. God exists.” After I said words similar to the above, my friend paused and thoughtfully replied: “You have a point.” He did not immediately agree what I had proposed must be true, but he acknowledged the possibility.

There has never been a time in the history of the world in which it should be easier to believe in God. Some would have us believe just the opposite. They suggest that clearly mankind has achieved all these great things through their own intellect and genius, a consequence of evolution. “If there were a God, He would not permit the tragedies which occur here”, they may say. Yet they miss the mark, for if they carried this great intellectual achievement one step farther, they would see that what we are learning will make gods out of us. Then the startling realization occurs: The probability this has not already occurred in the vast infinity of time and space has infinity in the denominator. Infinity in the denominator is what mathematicians call “vanishingly small”, or essentially zero. In other words, the probability it has occurred is 1. Immortal beings exist.

Couldn’t it be that our solar system is a singular anomaly in the vastness of space? Once again, never has there been a time in the history of the world in which it should be easier to believe in universal life. Radio astronomers have discovered the building blocks of life in a solar system only 452 light years away. An astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics observed following this discovery: “Now we know we’re not unique in organic chemistry. Once more, we have learned that we’re not special. From a life in the universe point of view, this is great news.” [1]

My friend and I have subsequently had other discussions similar to: “Suppose, in all your efforts as an immortal being to teach your children, something was missing. Some of them could not quite grasp everything you wanted to teach them because they did not have the same perspective. They did not have the same experience. You realized the only way they could learn, and the only way you could test their willingness and to be obedient to the eternal laws of happiness, was to give them an experience like you had, in your world, prior to immortality. And so it was necessary to veil their memory, and send them to a world similar to yours, where they could learn from experience. Here we are. This is all part of the experience we must have in order to learn to become like our Father and prove our willingness to be obedient to the eternal laws of happiness under all circumstances.”

One of the more difficult concepts we have to learn is the concept of agency. Wouldn’t it be better to just make sure everyone is obedient? We wouldn’t become like our Father, but close enough. At least we would still be able to live with Him. Without having a choice, we couldn’t go wrong. However, we also would not learn the critical lessons needed to learn to be like our Father. We would not be tested to see whether we would follow the eternal laws of happiness and therefore we could not be trusted with all the responsibility our Father wishes to give us.

Perhaps because they had been disobedient to the eternal laws themselves for so long and consequently knew they would fail the test of mortality, many were adamant in their efforts to persuade Father to remove agency from the test. When Father made clear the necessity of agency, they rebelled. It was necessary to bar them from the privilege of having an immortal body, a condition which requires a level of obedience. Because of this they are miserable, but there was no other choice because of their disobedience. So angry are they for the consequences of their disobedience, they now wish for us all to be miserable like they are. Cast down to earth to attempt to persuade us to be disobedient, our test would be harder, but necessarily so, to prove whether we will choose the good under all circumstances.

We would be given clear directions as to how to become like our Father - clear instructions. One would be sent to set an example and show us how to live - a likeness of our Father in heaven. “Follow me and do the things which ye have seen me do” [2] he would say. Father has learned through much experience the laws that govern joy in the universe and the instructions would show us how to obtain this joy. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” [3] Learning and obeying these eternal laws, essentially becoming like Father, is the only way to experience this joy. “I am the way ... no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” [4] “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [5] “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” [6]

He knew His children would struggle with various challenges as they tried to follow the instructions. We would bring with us dispositions from our pre-earth life, both strengths and weaknesses. Our biological genes we are born with would give us strengths and weakness. Further, the circumstance and environments we are born into would result in the development of additional strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths would benefit us in following the instructions, but our weaknesses could make following the instructions more difficult. Yet we would be promised: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” [7]

We would all have a conscience, or light within us, which would allow us to discern one of His instructions when they are brought to our minds by His Spirit, or when they are taught to us by others. How obedient we are to His instructions as we become aware of them will be our test. If we are obedient, we will be learn more. If we are not, the light within us will become dimmer - not as a punishment, but as a natural consequence. All of this was necessary for us to have an experience like our Father had, without which experience we cannot become like Him.

What if we failed the test by disobeying the instructions? The light was given to us and we did not obey it. The consequence will just. The consequence is separation from our Father. In order to govern our universe perfectly, His presence must be completely free from darkness, and as a natural consequence, free from those who have chosen darkness over light.

Can’t we make up for it somehow? We agreed to the test and the consequences and now justice must be satisfied. What can be done? What about mercy? Surely our Father wishes to be merciful to us and give us another chance. Yet, the test of mortality was essential to becoming like our Father. Now there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to pay the debt to justice.

Even if there was a condition for recovery from our disobedience, our nature is to beat ourselves up for our failures. We dwell on them, and if we did not dwell on them, our adversary would remind us. So furious was he and his followers that agency was part of the plan, so angry are they with their misery, they now seek night and day to make us miserable. “It is hopeless”, he tells us. “You have gone too far. You have made one too many mistakes. Your mistakes are too severe.” We hardly need his help in beating ourselves up, so great is our frustration with our weaknesses. We beat ourselves up well without the irritation of our adversary. We ultimately conclude it is hopeless, our weaknesses are too great, and we will never succeed. This melancholy becomes a significant hindrance in the mental attitude which is required to progress and become like our Father.

Even if we did not understand what we had done in breaking the eternal laws of happiness, and even if we did not understand this punishment meant separation from our Father forever, some of us would still try to recover from our error by never making mistakes again. Yet by and by, we would discover we continued to make mistakes; perhaps fewer, but enough to make the road to perfection seem too long and hopeless. Some having made mistakes which in their judgement were simply too awful, would out right give themselves up to failure.

Isn’t there something that can be done to alleviate the melancholy resulting from our self inflicted wounds so we can move forward unhindered, without the chains of self doubt? Isn’t there something that can be done to recover from the consequences of our disobedience? Isn’t there some way the consequences of eternal separation from our Father can be reversed? If this consequence can be called a punishment, could someone else suffer this punishment for us so we can return? The action of this someone else would have to be voluntary or it would not be just. It would alleviate our melancholy, unchain us from self doubt, and allow us to return to our Father. It would be too good for us, and too painful for he who suffered the punishment for us. Yet, if someone volunteered it would be a brilliant plan for our benefit.

Someone did volunteer. He bore our punishment himself. Having borne the punishment, he can grant forgiveness. He becomes our creditor, and sets the terms for our pardon. All He requires of us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and to take upon us His name and covenant to follow Him. His name is Jesus Christ, the same One who was sent to show us the way by example. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” [8]

Some will reject this offer, not because they don’t believe He can do it for others, but because they believe what they have done is too awful for forgiveness. This is false. “The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.” [9]

Some believe in Jesus Christ as our mediator, but not fully. “Yes, I can be forgiven,” they might say, “but I’m not fully clean, I can’t be fully clean. My mistakes were too willful and too severe for me to be fully clean.” This mantra cripples them and prevents them from becoming all they could be.

Our adversary whispers this in their ear: “You aren’t quite good enough. You might be forgiven, but your not quite clean, nor will you ever be because of things you have willfully done.” I love the words of the Savior to the Nephites. “Repent all ye ends of the earth, and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” [10] Spotless means without blemish, 100% clean. A garment without spot is white. It may not be complete, as is takes time to become “even as [He] is”, but it is pure and clean. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” [11]

Without this knowledge, we are constantly plagued with uncertainty and self doubt. With this knowledge, we can move forward unhindered by our past, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I love this video analogy: “A young man who fails to pay a debt is saved from the grasp of justice through the mediation of a friend.”

Footnotes



[1] https://public.nrao.edu/news/alma-molecules-disk/  ⇈Back


[2] 2 Nephi 31:12  ⇈Back


[3] John 15:11  ⇈Back


[4] John 14:6  ⇈Back


[5] Matthew 5:48  ⇈Back


[6] 3 Ne 27:27  ⇈Back


[7] Ether 12:27  ⇈Back


[8] John 14:6  ⇈Back


[9] Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness”, Ensign, Nov. 1995.  ⇈Back


[10] 3 Nephi 27:20  ⇈Back


[11] Isaiah 1:18  ⇈Back

 

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