Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Revelation Sometimes Comes through Means Not Normally Seen as Revelatory

I think we live in a day and age when much of what used to be seen as clear-cut revelation now is interpreted as non-revelation. I think we have seen what happens when previous leaders interpreted their own feelings and beliefs as ordained of God (e.g., the Priesthood ban) - and so current leaders are careful now only to attribute "thus saith the Lord" to things where they are certain it has been communicated through extraordinary means.

I'm OK with that - since many people chafe at being told specifically what to think and believe. It's a two-edged sword - and I'm not sure anyone really wants the President of the Church and the apostles laying out lots of things we simply MUST believe as coming straight from the mouth of God in a way that closes the discussion and says, essentially, "Shut up and accept this." I believe most members don't want a return to the Law of Moses and its myriad regulations, restrictions and legalism.

It's one thing to be able to say, "Our leaders are fallible, and it's up to us to ponder and pray about what their words mean to us personally;" it's a completely different thing to say, "Please tell us, 'Thus saith the Lord' and take away our need to find individual meaning and divine connection for ourselves."

I also think there is validity to the scarcity of "new stuff" between Nephi and Alma in the Book of Mormon - and the blunt statements of the leaders at the end of the small plates of Nephi that say, essentially, "I know of nothing new, so I'm not going to clutter the plates with my own ramblings." The Church makes changes (and sometimes pretty radical changes) on a regular basis in both what it teaches and what it does. I'm fine with attributing that to revelation - which I define as "insight from God" received in some way.

Given that definition, I'm fine with revelation being the result of long-time dedication to striving to understand and come closer to God - even when it happens through what we might naturally consider to be "normal" means, and even when it doesn't appear to be revelatory in nature.


Bonnie said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately too; certainly we all probably have with recent events. I wrote about what it means to me to have a God who expects us to challenge him sometimes here: and when we had our GD lesson last week on the allegory of Zenos I spent significant time on the evolution of the relationship between the servant and the master. So, was the master erring when he decided to burn his vineyard, and did the servant need to correct him because he was more aware of current conditions (that's not what I'm suggesting you have discussed, but what some have challenged in Jacob)? I think it's more a matter of a God who tests us and tries us, even sometimes in what he tells us, quite possibly even through revelation. That takes it to a whole new level, huh?

Papa D said...

Bonnie, One of my favorite interpretations of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is that God was testing Abraham to see if he had rejected totally the practice of human sacrifice with which he was raised - and that Abraham failed the test by making God step in and stop it.

I don't know if that is accurate in any way, but it doedn't matter to me (like in my post on Monday about factual history vs. myth). I love looking at things in multiple ways to see what I can learn from mutliple perspectives - even if, sometimes, the lessons seem to contradict each other.

Howard said...

There is revelation and there is inspiration. Joseph received revelation much of it can be read in the D&C.

Anonymous said...

Not understanding your comment,Papa. How did Abraham make God step in,and how was that failure?

I see it as a test also,but as God stepping in when Abraham had got to the point of raising the knife in obedience,in order that he might understand that it would be necessary for God to suffer in sacrificing his son in a similar manner.

The turn of the screw was in the fact that he was being required to inflict upon his son what had been inflicted upon himself. Agonising circumstances,which enabled Abraham to be called the friend of God,in that he had been enabled to have a particular understanding of His nature.

As an afterthought,it has occurred to me that many of the sufferings of my own childhood that had resulted in bafflement and alientation on my part towards my parents,have been repeated,although in perhaps more beneficent forms in my own children's lives,giving me a deeper insight into my parents behaviour. Although I don't find the way they dealt with those circumstances acceptable,it has made me more aware of my own failings and given me a deeper insight into them as human beings, and thus helped the process of forgiveness on my part. I sometimes wonder if that was part of Abraham's life lesson here,and one in which I can share.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, as I said, I like looking at things from different perspectives and seeing what lessons I can take from different interpretations. In the case of Abraham and Isaac, I also can get a LOT of good from the classic interpretation you described - and I am totally fine with that interpretation, but I also like the lesson I can take from the idea that God was teaching Abraham that human sacrifice was over and not to be accepted - that only He (GOD) would be required to sacrifice a child (another volunteer God) at some future point.

The "failure" part of this interpretation would be that Abraham was saved from human sacrifice and, in this scenario, told that it was a wicked practice. He then was instructed to go against what God had taught him previously - and it was his lack of questioning (like Lot arguing to preserve his city if a lower and lower number of righteous people could be identified) that constituted his failure.

Again, I have no idea if this is accurate in any way whatsoever - but I really like the lesson of actually communicating with God about our qualms and concerns when we feel impressed to do something that goes against our conscience. I think that type of questioning and asking is important, so I like that view of the story - even if it might not be factual.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Papa, so a thought experiment.

Abraham doesn't need me to defend him but I just get very protective, he's a personal hero.