Tuesday, December 15, 2015

God's plan to exalt his children (April 1971 General Conference)

I hope it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone reading this that The Church of Jesus Christ's views on morality are becoming increasingly unique.  I also hope it isn't a surprise that for many it is difficult to defend such views to those not of our faith.

It is important to remember that Latter-day Saints view their moral standards differently then those not of our faith do.  In April 1971, for example, Bishop Victor L. Brown gave a talk called "The Meaning of Morality." In it, he opened his talk on standards such as chastity with a discussion of the Plan of Salvation:

"First, we should understand who we are. Before we were born, our spirits dwelt in heaven with our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, who is our elder brother. We were faithful to him during that period of our existence. Had we not been faithful, we would have followed Satan as did one-third of the hosts of heaven. This would have prevented our coming to this earth as mortal beings, which was necessary if we were ultimately to attain eternal life and return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. We were faithful, and we are here in mortality with all the potentiality of exaltation."

More recently, several apostles (Elders Perry, Christofferson, and Bednar in Conference, and Elder Hales in a recent Ensign article) have all used the Plan of Salvation in explaining the church's stance on marriage.

Allow me to suggest that one reason the commandments are seen differently by the world and by the Church and its leaders is that, in the church, commandments are like glue:

glue icon
LDS standards of morality are like glue.

Why is glue an appropriate analogy for LDS moral standards? Glue enables us to hold things together.  The plan of salvation is held together by the commandments. Just as you can't build a model airplane without some sort of adhesive, so families and the plan of salvation are held together by "covenants of chastity" that the prophets teach us. See the Family: A Proclamation to the World. As Bishop Brown stated in his talk: "Infidelity and promiscuous sex activity destroy the basic, vital institution of the family, which in turn destroys all that is good in life."

For Latter-day Saints, moral standards hold the plan of salvation together.  These moral standards enable the plan of salvation to operate.  To Latter-day Saints, they are the glue that holds the plan together. This is why the church insists on high standards of conduct for church membership and fellowship: the commandments enable us to be bound and stuck to Christ and Heavenly Father (See D&C 82:3).

The world views the commandments of morality in many different ways. Some people view the commandments as a brick wall, keeping people from happiness.  Others view the commandments as a good idea for some, but not for others.  Still others view the commandments as one of many paths to a happy life (these people will sometimes question why we emphasize our own path and not validate the paths that others take). (Feel free to comment below on other ways that the world views standards of morality.)
Some view the commandments as a brick wall keeping us from happiness
Others view the commandments as one of many paths leading to a happy life.

These views are important, and there are doctrinal explanations of the plan consistent with these views.  (To give two of many examples, one might say: "don't be too critical of the barrier.  It's the only thing that is keeping you from being devoured." or say: "His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.")   But when those not of our faith still don't agree with our views, we should remember that we are talking about commandments as glue in a much larger plan, some are talking about commandments as a boundary or road that may be less essential to salvation then glue. (Again, I don't mean to be simplistic here, feel free to comment with other ways to view the commandments.)

Speaking of the commandments in the context of the plan of salvation helps us Follow God's plan and gain joy.  Speaking of them without the plan runs the risk of making something as essential as glue look sticky, arbitrary and even harmful. (To be sure, many people understand the value of glue without seeing an example of its application, and so with the commandments).

As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,

Other blog posts this week discussing the Third Session of the April 1971 General Conference:

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