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.