Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children, by Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I came upon an interesting online discussion related to a video hosted by a Christian video service (similar to YouTube). The contributors were discussing the beliefs and motivation of atheists and agnostics, but I think they were fairly off base. For example, many of the posters expressed the attitude that not believing in God frees a person of any (and all) goodness, morals, and sense of right and wrong. In fact, some even went so far as to say that if they weren't believers, then they would live lives of the worst kinds of sins. A few seemed to even wish they could "be bad" without any guilt stemming from their knowledge.

Obviously, the caricature of humanity portrays by these supposed-Christians is generally false: People are inherently good, but we react to our upbringing, experiences, and teachings.

Reading the video comments helped me to consider seriously my own motivation for the things I do. Am I motivated by guilt? Do I seek after rewards (e.g. recognition, fame, money)? Or, am I moved by something higher?

While the true answer may be, at times, a combination, I hope that my main motivation is the quest for a more excellent way (see 1 Cor. 12:31).

Just as the vloggers had an incorrect view of non-believers, non-believers may have similarly unfounded views of us:

Nonbelievers find it hard to accept the miracles of the Old and New Testaments and the Savior’s virgin birth and Resurrection. They view these events with the same skepticism as the appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith. They are not open to the possibility of a heavenly plan presided over by a supreme being.

Elder Cook discusses salvation through the lens of damnation. In particular, he contrasts our beliefs of a "more liberal salvation for the family of man" with "incorrect doctrine that most of mankind [will] be doomed to hell," the latter being regularly taught, apparently, by many other faiths. Perhaps as a reaction to ages of being regularly condemned to hell by Christians, an atheist group launched a bus ad campaign in London, which Elder Cook mentioned. (I, myself, may have reacted similarly with "militant atheism," as Elder Christofferson termed, if I felt spiritually oppressed by others.) A counter-movement ensued. Images of both follow:

Elder Cook rightly stated that his "principal concern is for the honorable people on the earth who are open to religious faith but have been discouraged or confused by incorrect doctrine." How can we avoid clashes with those of differing faiths? I think the answer is encapsulated in his earlier words:

Because of the uplifting doctrine of the Restoration, members rejoice in the gospel and find joy and satisfaction in the Church. We are viewed favorably when we live the teachings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. When members don’t live the teachings, it can be a stumbling block to those who do not belong to the Church.

This answer is amazing in its simple obviousness, but it might easily be overlooked as we all try to live our lives. I'm reminded of two examples of this: Matt. 5:14-16, where the things we do can positively influence others; and Alma 39:11, where the actions of a missionary frustrated the progression of a whole people.

Elder Cook quoted President Hinckley:

Live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are frequently criticized for believing that their exaltation is influenced by the things they choose to do. Perhaps what I need to more fully realize is that my actions also influence the salvation of others.

Elder Cook sums up his message, including a quote of Orson F. Whitney:

A loving Father has provided a comprehensive and compassionate plan for His children “that saves the living, redeems the dead, rescues the damned, and glorifies all who repent.” Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious.

1 thought:

M&M said...

Thank you! I needed some ideas for my HP lesson, and this is great!