Is examining the mysteries wrong?

BHodges over at Life on Gold Plates published Kevin Barney’s recent article on Mother in Heaven.  I have of course alluded to this article earlier.  But if you want to read it follow the link.  It is well worth it.

One of the commentators attacks, maybe chides would be better, the concept of focusing on the wrong Gospel items.  He focuses exclusively on specific gospel points.  Almost to say other items are not really worth knowing,  I found myself writing a huge entry that just got to unwildy for a comment page so I decided rather to enter a smaller version there and expound upon it a bit more here.

For me, I understand the mysteries of God as being those things which can be important, but not relavent to today.  In other words, we can know the principles of the gospel without really getting into mysteries.  Most of what we need for salvation is contained in a few basic principles.

However, often I would argue that we have been called on to ever increase our knowledge, while something may be seen as not important for our salvation I can see it as important for our later exaltation.  I am not saying we get so bogged down with whether God was Jesus on his own, world/universe or whether Book of Mormon people were separate, or integrated with local indigenous populations.  These questions are usually not salient.

Yet Joseph Smith taught that if we are to know God we must start at the beginning, we must really see him as he actually is, then build from there.  And he was not talking about some basic learning, he was talking council of the Gods, sort of mysteries.

I think Kevin Barney has inheritable that thirst for something more.  His articles have always been well thought out and certainly contain an understanding of the Gospel that does go beyond the Sunday School lesson.  And that is a good thing.

For every missionary, we also need deep thinkers in this church.  James Talmage, Hugh Nibley, and B. H. Roberts were not content with what they knew or were taught.  they went farther and risked more.  In part because they wanted to continue to progress in this life.  They were solid in their testamonies, and solid in their understanding of the Gospel of Christ but that was never going to be enough.

For me that is my goal, to expand my knowledge continually, because with that expansion comes understanding that cannot be had in many places.  For me it is just as testimony driven to understand that God is a man, that he lived on his own world, that he has a wife(s).  I think it is a builder for my testimony to understand that being an eternal intelligence we are co-eternal with God.   All these things build for me a case that continues to argue for this church.

Mysteries are a crucial part of expanding that knowledge.  If I am a missionary or a new member then I would expect to understand the first principles are most important.

What I look to as my example is Joseph Smith.  He was a simple far boy, not completely unlearned but certainly not educated as we would normally classify it.  Yet by the end of his life, he knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German.  He would preach out of German bibles over the KJV because he felt they were closer to the truth.  He would consistantly learn and grow and as each level was reached there was so much more to know.

For me that is what I expect and hope to achieve.  An understanding that can stretch the capacity of my learning to the point where I realize I still have much to learn.  Yet that I feel I have tried my best to keep moving forward.  For me examining the mysteries of God, the Book of Mormon, the Bible and coming to grips with them brings me peace.  It allows me to go to church every Sunday knowing that this church is the one I want and need to belong to.  It has the power to exalt me where none else do.  That is why I study the mysteries.

3 Responses to Is examining the mysteries wrong?

  1. There are mysteries and then there are mysteries.

    For some questions, there is a dearth of information. Thus, searching for answers to those questions amounts to little more than speculation. Yet,, there seems to be no shortage of Saints who are willing to wander such bizarre paths. But, such lines of inquiry are unproductive, speculative and misguided.

    On the other hand, there are a number of gospel topics that commonly fall under the rubric of mysteries for which there is considerable information. But they are not easily unearthed. They require real research and study. They are seldom considered in church manuals or classes. Those are well worth the time and effort it takes to learn them. In my experience, those who have failed to make the effort to look for answers to such questions use the term ‘mystery’ to cover their ignorance. Others so brand them because they’re fearful, afraid they might be misled by someone less qualified than a church authority. The majority feel such topics are of questionable relevence to their salvation and exaltation. So, they avoid them. The excuses are legion.

    One such topic is the role of symbolism in the gospel, in our temples and in prophecy. These are the red headed stepchildren of the restored gospel because discussing them has become “verboten.” They are not forbidden mysteries, to be avoided; they are mysteries with answers, if we are willing to look.

    May I suggest you visit these sites for more information:

  2. BHodges says:

    A few quick thoughts.

    Mormonism has so much within it (and most religions likely do) so as to potentially take up all of our time contemplating the deepest mysteries the mind can conceive. As you note, Joseph Smith was dedicated to expanding by using his mind and also revelation. He once said he loved to present “new things” to the Saints and so would dig up the mysteries. It seems he tapped into that Jewish understanding of study-as-worship mentioned by Barney in the article. Of course, as Jacob noted, such a thing can turn into a problematic “looking past the mark,” a self-centered navel-gazing, perhaps a prevention of adding the “weightier things” to ones load. Perhaps it can be an exercise in pride. A means to differentiate ones enlightened self from others who don’t share the same enthusiasm. So there is danger there, as well.

    The trouble is, the commenter on my blog seemed to think there was only danger there, and thus may miss out on seeing some of the things someone else might see. For me, deeper understanding of certain things gives me greater appreciation, greater interest, etc. I notice more and I feel more. I was given the chance to bless the sacrament a few months ago and it was such a different experience than it was when I was younger, for example. Additionally, I believe that further learning only ought to lead to more of the same (learning more). You note “An understanding that can stretch the capacity of my learning to the point where I realize I still have much to learn. ” I agree. Indeed, believing I have it all figured out (even about the supposed “basic principles”) seems too creedal for me; it sets up a stake that tells me how far I can go, and I may close myself off from real and important knowledge down the road. Who can even really understand the depths of faith, hope, and charity? Who can grasp the revelations of God that are apparently so ineffable to our current state so as to render them incapable of being written down (such as what the Savior prayed when he was with the Nephites)?

    Certainly the commenter is right in warning people not to rely on the arm of flesh, to beware the philosophies of man, to not look past the mark, and so forth. But on the flip side of the coin, (there aren’t two sides, it’s a spectrum, but for the sake of argument) there are dangers just as real and just as close. As I already mentioned, believing you have things all figured out is, in my view, a great danger. Another one would be general apathy. Better not get into anything that isn’t already familiar, might as well flip on the TV.

    Ultimately, however, I join with the commentator in recognizing there is a hierarchy of things that ought to be learned more so than other things (think of Elder Oaks’ recent conference address “Good, Better, Best”). The weightiest matters include the 2 great commandments.

    More here:

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