Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Creation and God's Love: Hints from a Surprise Encounter with a Geologist

On Sunday I'll be speaking at District Conference for the the Shanghai International District on the topic of the Creation. I'll begin with a journal entry of mine from August 1995:
I'd like to share a recent experience with you that points to the kindness of God and perhaps His desire for us to appreciate the wonders of His artwork in nature. I just got back from a wonderful vacation in the western United States (mostly southern Utah), where the wonders of God's creation can overwhelm the observer. (The majesty of one location -- Cedar Breaks National Monument -- literally brought my wife to tears.) A geologist and relative of mine, Paul Crosby, had taken us on a brief tour around the St. George area, explaining some of the processes that had created such strange beauty. A few days later, my three-year old son and I were walking along a deserted trail (once a road) on Butler Hill, right next to the Wasatch Mountains [near Big Cottonwood Canyon] by Salt Lake City. I was surprised at the huge variety of rocks I was finding -- igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, in many colors and shapes. I paused and examined the setting and the beautiful mountains and wondered how such variety was possible on that former shore of Lake Bonneville.
As I looked over the valley and recalled the inspiring morning with a geologist a few days earlier, I wished that I could talk to a geologist again to better appreciate that part of God's creation. My son and I then returned to picking through the many rock piles, looking for treasures of beauty. Just moments later, a man and his dog strolled by on that isolated lane. He interrupted us, saying, "I noticed that you are looking at the rocks here." Before I could say anything, he began to explain why there was such a variety of rocks to be found. The road that once went up this hill had been closed off by dumping random truckloads of rocks from around the state of Utah -- whatever rocks Salt Lake County happened to have it its trucks. As a result, there were varieties of lava rock from southern Utah, rocks from the Oquirrh mountain range, granites from Alta Canyon, metamorphic rocks from elsewhere in the Salt Lake area, and even some loads containing Indian artifacts.
I was impressed and asked him how he was so well informed. "I'm a geologist for the State of Utah and have studied this area." Thrilled, I bombarded him with a number of other questions before he had to go, thus learning the identities of many of the rocks that had stirred my curiosity. It was a true treat for me -- and a marvelous blessing.
The Lord may seem to ignore most of our foolish pleas and may choose to let us suffer pain and disappointment for our own good, somehow, but through it all His loving kindness shows in marvelous ways. That gentle but flagrant act of kindness -- sending a geologist to visit me on an isolated stretch of long-closed road -- shows me something about the loving Parent we worship. Not only is He kind, but He wants us to know about His works and appreciate them -- even to the point of sending a geologist our way at just the right time.
Blessings of love, comfort, and knowledge, the tender mercies of the Lord, can come in quiet, easy moments or in times of turmoil even as we are in distress and the powers of darkness rage against us. We may not find the relief we want now in our biggest trials here in mortality, but we can find treasures of knowledge, inspiration and evidences of God's love.

It was in what may have been Joseph Smith's darkest hour, after months of suffering in the cold, gloomy prison called Liberty Jail, when he turned to the Lord in anguish, as recorded in Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants from March 1839, and wondered where God was and how He could ignore the cries of the suffering Saints who had been driven from their homes by violent mobs. The Lord answered but did not remove the problems. But He did give assurance and revelation. Interestingly, part of this assurance and revelation dealt with the wonders of the Creation and the details that would be revealed in the future:
26 God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;

 27 Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;

 28 A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.

 29 All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 30 And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars—

 31 All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times—

 32 According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest.
God seems to care about the details and wonders of the Creation, and I think we should, too. These words in Section 121 echo a previous revelation from 1833, recorded in Section 101, when the Lord hinted at what would be revealed in the great Millennium about the glory of the Creation. But what good is that to those who will have died already? Do they miss out on those blessings? Section 101 kindly reminds us all of us can participate in those blessings of knowledge and glory and that we need not worry about missing out, though patience will be needed:
32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
 33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
 34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.
 35 And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory.
 36 Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
The knowledge the Lord wishes to share in the future about the Creation is described as "most precious," and is part of what the Lord describes as "glory" of which we can partake. This earth, this galaxy, this cosmos, are majestic and glorious and to know them is to encounter the glory of God in a sense.  This is knowledge to seek, to yearn for, to treasure, and today, more of that is already available than ever before in human history. What a wonderful time to be alive!

And yet what a trying and difficult time for many, a time that challenges us to do more to bring relief and hope to other, to do more to proclaim peace, to do more to prepare for trouble ahead, to do more to resist the evil and pain that interrupts the joy that should be found in our lives. There are still greater trials ahead for this planet and far more tears to be shed, though none of us will have to descend below what Christ has taken upon Himself in bearing our sins and tasting our pains in His infinite Atonement. The great Creator Himself, the Son of God who carried out the Creation under direction of the Father, also took the pains and anguish of our sins upon Him that He might be able to comfort us and bring true deliverance in the end thus fulfilling the grand purposes of the Creation. That is the greatest source of glory in God's creative work.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was in what may have been Joseph Smith's darkest hour, after months of suffering in the cold, gloomy prison called Liberty Jail, when he turned to the Lord in anguish, as recorded in Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants from March 1839, and wondered where God was....

So, Joseph Smith finds himself face to face with what strikes him as cosmic injustice, and what does he do? He calls upon God to kill his enemies:

Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs. (D&C 121:5).

And here is how God responds to this petition, according to D&C:

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun....


"Not yet as Job," indeed. Compare the comforting, petty vengefulness of D&C with the radically challenging magnificence of God's response to Job's cry in that great literary masterpiece, the Book of Job:

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?

When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,

And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,

And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

. . . .

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;

To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;

To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?

Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?

The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?"

This, my friends, is scripture worth reading and pondering. Talk about the "wonder of God's creation overwhelming the observer"! I hope someone at the District Conference takes the time to talk about Job.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

OK,

It would appear that you indulge in a bit of hyperbole but your hyperbole is pretty close to the mark - the "cosmic injustice" was because of the "Mormon War" in Missouri that caused 10,000 Mormons to be expelled and an extermination order to be enacted. I personally am willing to give Joseph a little bit of leeway for feeling put upon and calling upon the Lord the way he did. But, as the Lord is just, He responded appropriately to Joseph although it would appear He did not respond as eloquently as he did to Job.

Both sets are scripture allowing us to draw closer to God. One passage reminding us of the majesty of God and the other reminding us that we should endure our trials well because our trials will be finished allowing us to move on with life.

Steve

Jeff Lindsay said...

The ancient Hebrews, when faced with similar persecution of their people, did not ask for blessings upon the heads of their enemies or for increased wealth and weaponry to be added to their murderous assets. Hope that doesn't come as a surprise to you. Suggest you take a look at Psalms or almost any book of the Bible. And yes, Job is terrific poetry, a real gem in fact, but even gentle, patient Job wasn't keen about his enemies. Indeed, he implored God to bring the punishments of the wicked upon his enemies in Job 27:

7 Let mine enemy be as the wicked, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.

8 For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?

9 Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?

10 Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?...

13 This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty.

14 If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword: and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread.

15 Those that remain of him shall be buried in death: and his widows shall not weep.

16 Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay;

17 He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.

18 He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh.

19 The rich man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered: he openeth his eyes, and he is not.

20 Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night.

21 The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth: and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.

22 For God shall cast upon him, and not spare: he would fain flee out of his hand.

23 Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place.


So maybe Joseph was a little more like Job than you realize. But of course, there is nothing that Joseph could say that you are not going to ridicule because of your animosity for the Church. Sorry about your obsession!

6:30 PM, March 16, 2017 Delete

Anonymous said...

I've often had the philosophical question about freedom of choice and God's ability to influence our lives. At what point does your desire to have a geologist appear interfere with the geologist's ability to choose what he is going to do that day? If God is causing the geologist to appear, what happened to his agency? How far can God influence events before we lose our eternal gift of choice? Was Paul a borderline case? Can God actually change someone's heart?

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions. In the case of the geologist, I doubt he was forced to go where he went. Prompted perhaps, but not forced. Makes me wonder how many times I have failed to be the answer to someone's prayer by using my agency to ignore a prompting. As for Paul, I'm not so sure his heart was changed. I think he always wanted to do God's will, and just needed some correction regarding what that will was. Alma Jr is a different story, but in his case the angel gave him the option to choose destruction if he wanted it. Does that help?