Tuesday, September 13, 2005
My Religion and Me
ARE THERE ETERNAL LAWS?
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. (D&C 88:34)
FREEDOM AND THE LAW
Thus far we have discussed your individual position in eternity. We have described the power and promise of the freedom of becoming. We have spoken of the limitlessness of your potential, of your responsibility for developing it. Let us return now to an idea mentioned in the first lesson and discuss some of its meanings and significance to us. You will remember that we discussed things which are eternal—intelligence, God, certain laws, etc. We have discussed to some degree how God brings blessings to us. Let us now discuss how law is also a source of great blessing. We may well ask ourselves if there is anything besides God upon which we can depend—anything permanent we can count upon which is not subject to anyone’s whims. Are there any laws that everyone—even our Heavenly Father—must respect? What is the relationship between freedom and the law?
THE POSITION OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
The standard position of Christian orthodoxy is that God is the source of law (as of everything else). He “made” the laws, and they (even, some say, the laws of logic) are binding only because he has so decreed. This view has resulted in at least one controversy: Are the laws right because God wills them, or does he will them because they are right? In other words, is God responsible for the laws or to them? The traditional Christian solution is this: God wills them and thus makes them right; and his will is unchangeable. God is not finally responsible to anything except himself.
Thus the view of many Christians if that God is the “author” of the ( 1 ) natural laws (gravity, motion, and energy), (2 ) metaphysical (supernatural) laws, (3 ) mysterious laws governing his own relationships to the universe; and finally, (4 ) moral laws.
THE PROPHETIC PICTURE
Again the prophets present a different picture: Law is as eternal as God. There are laws that govern, control, and condition things animate and inanimate, spiritual and temporal. God himself works within the framework of thee laws. In fact, it is by his understanding, abiding, and fulfilling these conditions that he has gained his dominion, exaltation, and glory. The principles of the gospel are eternal.
It is the reverse. If there were no laws, nothing would be possible; we could not do anything. Every purpose would be in danger of being thwarted; there could be no constancy of expectation, a possible different result from every act. This, of course, would be an impossible situation.
Thus law is the guarantor of freedom; it assures us that when we know and understand eternal laws, and abide them—when the “mystery” of law is replaced by “mastery,” we can us them to our everlasting happiness and progress, and no sudden intrusion of lawless chance can spoil it.
The revelation further says:
That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin. Cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice nor judgment. Therefore, there must remain filthy still. (D&C 88:35.)
Notice the word cannot—“cannot be sanctified.” This is not a decision that God has made and refuses to change. It is an announcement of an unchangeable fact. One can so abuse his freedom, both his innate capacity and his gift, that he cannot receive the benefits of obedience. If you disobey you take the consequences.
Why should God not have mercy and sanctify the sinner anyway? Restitution comes through the application of another law, through repentance. The only avenue to the result is through the law. To receive the glories, one must abide the laws of those glories. We cannot offer an education to anyone by handing him a diploma. You work to become educated or you do not become educated. Abide the conditions to become a competent physician, or you do not become one. No power in the universe can pat you on the head and confer upon you any competence. So it is with the highest award of all. Godliness cannot be conferred, but must be acquired. That is one of the eternal principles that God himself cannot change. The enlightenment of knowledge cannot be bestowed. (D&C 93:28-29)
We may hesitate to acknowledge the importance of eternal laws because in our experience some laws change. Even some laws of nature seem to change as scientific knowledge increases. So it is with all areas of our understanding. For example, it was universally believed that matter could not be changed, until Einstein showed the inter-relationship between matter and energy. The laws of nature do not change, but our understanding of them does.
Man-made laws are often adjusted to suit changing conditions. For example, there are traffic laws which are enforced as they are written to meet a present need. These are just statements of what orderly people should do and are not based on some eternal condition. If the need changes, the law changes.
Eternal principles are inescapable; they bind all of us; and they free all of us. Temporary laws that help us to live better lives together are important. Change in these laws should not lead to some misunderstanding which would keep us from recognizing the eternal, unchanging laws. If we seek to become perfect as our Father is perfect, and if we yearn for eternal life, which is his greatest gift, the unchanging, eternal laws of the universe must be taken into consideration. We must understand and obey them if we want to be successful. They do not cease to exist if we ignore them; we are bound by them even though we may try to work against or around them. The downward path is outlined in the above scripture: (1 ) we break a law, (2 ) we abide it not, (3) we seek to become a law unto ourselves, (4) we will to abide in sin, and (5) we abide in sin and cannot be made holy unless we repent (which would involve obeying a law.)
It is better far to be preserved by the law by willingly letting ourselves be governed by it in every way we can, to have it going for us instead of against us. To do this, we must learn what the various points of the law are. All that we need to know for our salvation and exaltation has been revealed to us. If we will allow ourselves to be thus governed, the law will perfect us and sanctify us (make us holy.)
We can put ourselves in harmony with all things in heaven and in earth if we will conform our lives to the pattern set by eternal law. In even beginning to realize the great truth of our need for unchanging law, we are taking a step toward conformity with it. We are moving closer to our Father in Heaven and the path he trod. These principles, clearly understood, affect our attitudes toward God.
We must not assume that man-made laws are bad because they change. Our parents make rules for us to obey because they love us. Often these rules may be changed because they were not carefully thought our or are difficult to enforce. If so, they should be changed. We all grow together as a family, and the fact that rules may change to meet growing needs does not detract from the unchanging love our parents have for us.
Our greatest opportunities arise when we learn the relentless and eternal principles. The Lord knows what we are to learn. Eternal laws neither wait nor bend for any man. Everlasting principles can bring enduring deprivation or enduring glory.
Any discussion of freedom that does not recognize this fundamental fact about man and the pattern of his life is based on something other than the whole truth and can lead only to confusion and misunderstanding.
For example, the law of gravity, a natural law, is one commonly given as an example of an unchanging eternal law that if anyone tries to flout or to ignore they do so at their peril. In modern days, science has put other natural laws into effect to make it possible to raise greater-than-air craft to great heights and to protect the occupants of the craft with parachutes should they fall. Any skydiver knows well the fate that awaits him should his chute fail to open, and some have plummeted to that fate by toying with the immutable law of gravity.
The consequences are just as predictable with the law of repentance, the law of chastity, the law of consecration, or any other of the great laws that form the basis of the gospel plan. Anyone who toys with them, procrastinates or rationalizes about any one of them does so at the risk of his eternal happiness. The choices are made individually, even doing nothing is making a type of choice, a choice by which to be bound.