Friday, July 21, 2006

Revelation by any other name

Revelation is an interesting term. By definition, it can mean many different things to different groups and people.
We have some that disbelieve in any revelation, some that believe that revelation only occurred anciently, and some that believe it is on-going today.
Some believe that revelation is the inspiration one receives through their conscience or through the thoughts and ideas that pops up in one's head. Others believe revelation is a lightning and thunder theophany, where the mountains shake and the waves crash violently against the cliffs.
Are all of these different ideas, revelation? Or are some revelation, and some just natural events? Or are they all just natural events that mankind mistakes for the Divine?
LDS belief in revelation is very expansive. We believe that God sends the Light of Christ throughout all of space (D&C 88, 93), and it is the power of Christ that causes all things to exist and have agency. A higher form of this power is displayed through the Gift of the Holy Ghost, but it is still worked by the same processes.
While many LDS focus on the burning/swelling in the bosom feeling; LDS scripture insists that this is only one of the many manifestations of revelation. We can have it inspire us, expand our spirits/souls, enlighten our minds, and make truth delicious to us (Alma 32, D&C 8, 9).
Why is it that the LDS claim to have the fulness of the gospel, yet we can read in the Oct 2005 General Conference and in the August 2006 Ensign that the Reformers were inspired of God? Because we believe that all people, nations and tongues can be inspired to the level of truth they are ready to receive (Alma 29:8). In essence, Mohammed was inspired to lead the Arabs to a greater truth, as were Buddha, Confucious, and Martin Luther for their peoples. This is not to say that they had the end-all truth and authority. They did not. But they had the power and gifts given to raise people from a telestial state to a terrestrial state: the same role given Moses and Aaron at Sinai when the people rejected the fulness of the gospel (D&C 84).
Revelation is necessary. Inspiration came from the heavens to bring Columbus to the New World. It created the first printing press. How did Einstein imagine the theories of relativity and space/time that he did, except via inspiration of God? The Bible even suggests that wicked people can be inspired occasionally of God, such as Caiaphas' prophecy of the death of Christ.
The Book of Mormon has a special purpose in witnessing for modern revelation. It tells us that if the gifts of God, including miracles and revelation end, then it is because of the loss of faith among the people, and woe to the people if they end up in that predicament.
So, our purpose in life is to seek truth and inspiration of God. And, as Brigham Young stated: claim all the truth for ourselves, regardless of where we may find it. One of the wonders of truth and information is, there is an endless supply. Unlike physical materials, which must be rationed and consumed individually according to need and scarcity, I can share my knowledge with the world, and it only costs me a little time/space. Once it is on this blog, it costs me nothing else, since my time and effort is already spent on it, and I owe nothing else. Yet, millions can download it (wouldn't that be awesome?), but it still would be as fresh as the day I write this, ready for millions more to download and use it as they will.
The Internet does not become a primary source for revelation. It does, however, become a primary source for information to consider, weigh, judge, and ponder. It is in the studying and then pondering of an idea that God can then instill within us that feeling, or thought, or understanding, or peace, that tells us that an idea is valuable and worth keeping until a higher idea comes along and passes our inspiration test.
God truly has flooded the Earth with truth in our day, and it is only getting more impressive.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Publishing from the housetops

Isn't it interesting how email groups, blogs, RSS, Podcasts, etc., have all exploded onto the scene in the last few years.

I recall not too long ago having to write my journals on paper. Now I am in the process of typing them into the computer, so I have ready access to the information, and so all of my descendants can have their own copy. Of course, most of my kids are still in the attitude of preferring to await the highly edited Reader's Digest animatronic Disney version. And in this case, they prefer it to be no longer than a commercial.....

With scriptural verses that suggest the Earth will be flooded with knowledge in the last days, who can say that we aren't approaching such a prophecy's fulfillment in our time? Doctrine and Covenants 87 tells us about each celestial person receiving his/her own white stone Urim and Thummim, which will teach the higher order of kingdoms. This stone is personally programmed to work according to the new name an individual has, which is the "key word." Today, we would call it a "password" as we log onto our favorite site(s) and share our souls with the world.

Where once upon a time, displaying one's underwear (or less) occurred solely on Jerry Springer's show, we now have both visual and literary exhibitionism and voyeurism occurring on a continuous basis. High school restrooms are now locations for victims to be caught on cell phone cameras. Men and women display their own (and others') dirty laundry as a badge of honor. Perhaps this is suggestive of the Book of Mormon's warning on the Urim and Thummim, that one should be careful at what he seeks in it.

But there also is the potential for great knowledge. While many ruin or waste away their lives with technology (how many Paris Hilton photos do you have on your hard drive?), some are using it for great purposes. Knowledge is sweeping the earth, as never before. At one time, nations were able to control the information spread within their boundaries. No longer. It is too easy to spread differing views and ideas over the Internet, cell phones, and other technologies today. While the bad is found, much good is also available for use by the world.

In his book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin Toffler mentions an experiment done recently by a physicist in India. He set a computer with high speed connection into a concrete wall near a ghetto in India. Across the street was set up a camera, to watch what would occur. Soon a few street urchins found the computer and within minutes were clicking links across the world. A steady stream of kids started showing up, teaching one another how to use the computer. Within weeks, the kids were doing some amazing stuff, learning about the world, playing games, and starting their own blogs. All of this without a class in computers!

As we continue deeper into the Information Age, we continue seeing more and more people throughout the world entering into new opportunities of knowledge. And as they study the differing views: political, religious, philosophical, and scientific, we will see an equalizing of nations.

Why did the Iron Curtain fall when it did? Because information was streaming into Eastern Europe at a rate too fast for the Soviet Union to quell. Why are many Arab leaders condemning Hizbollah's actions in Lebanon? Because information is now getting around to the people, showing them that Israel and the USA are not the only ones to blame for their problems.

The key now is to ensure that information keeps flowing freely, but responsibly. Protecting innocents from being exploited by information technology is critical. Whether it is child pornography websites, women sold into slavery on the Internet, or the technology to build a WMD emailed to a terrorist, there are grave risks involved in the new technologies. A free Internet will tend to spread information - whether it is good or not, depends upon the people. Garbage In, Garbage Out means that one million monkeys at one million keyboards given one million years will NOT create the works of Shakespeare. It requires mankind to be responsible enough to think through what they are going to post. It requires much reading and study, prior to opening one's mind to the world.

But the danger of imposed restrictions can, in many cases, limit the spread of information. Only the most dire things should be restricted, and that as a protection to innocents who are accosted for illicit events (as those mentioned above).

Why does China impose major restrictions on search engines, such as Google and Yahoo? Because they understand the risk to communism in allowing too much freedom. The Bamboo Curtain can fall just as easily as the Iron Curtain. And they understand that. The trick is to try and allow as much freedom as they'll allow, and hopefully their grasp will loosen over time, allowing more and more information.

While the LDS scriptures teach us that Satan wishes to keep us in the dark, that God fills the universe with his Light. The Light of Christ is in and through all things. It is what animates living things, and causes the rules of nature to operate correctly. And as mankind seeks more light and truth, the world will be able to develop low-tech Urim and Thummim to teach us all the secrets of this world and the physical universe we now live in. Perhaps the day will come when we can all get that permanent upgrade to the celestial version, as well.

Why Joel's Monastery?

Joel's Monastery was originally organized in the 1970s in Missoula Montana by Joel Haverfield. It was a group of returned LDS missionaries, whose goal was nothing in particular, but who enjoyed life as one found it.

We had some very deep conversations. Not really. But we did show pride those in the group who had reached the age of 25 without being married. Brigham Young considered such to be a menace to society, and so we have Joel's Monastery.

While the original group has all married, I desired to honor, in perpetuity, the name of the select few that belonged to such an erstwhile association.

Given it is a monastery, I expect all to give consideration to their words prior to posting. Be it scientific, political, philosophical, or just plain testimonial, let's have fun on this list.