Rational and Intelligent Beings

General Musings

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The Third Lecture on Faith asserts an important prerequisite principle we often miss but which is essential to the process of gaining faith. It is a simple principle that has been bulldozed under mountains of emotional conditioning.

Verse 2 of Lecture Three begins: “Let us here observe…” How do we observe? Is observation felt? Or is it experienced, empirically, by the natural senses, and then analyzed which becomes understanding? An apple and an orange on a table, empirically, become two pieces of fruit.

One plus one equals two. We can experience that and when that experience is shared with another they get it. Easily. Because it can be empirically demonstrated. When the invitation here is given to “observe” we are invited to a process whereby we may gain light and truth. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36) Some of that light and truth can be empirically shared and some is only for our personal knowledge but is, nonetheless, true.

Joseph, and the Lord, invite us, by our observation, to gain intelligence, light and truth, and the glory of God. I’d say that’s a pretty valuable invitation. Now let’s continue in Verse 2. We are informed that three elements are necessary to gain sufficient exercise in faith in God that we may attain unto life and salvation. Are we likely, then, to be in a hurry to know what are those three elements about God? Of course we are, so here they are.

“First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.”

But, in our haste to get to the meat of the message, we must not overlook the prerequisites. Without them, the three elements will have little or no effect on us or our faith.

Here are the two prerequisites, (now we’re back at the beginning of Verse 2): “…three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” (Italics mine.)

The invitation requires that the searcher for faith in God unto life and salvation must not be anything other than both rational and intelligent. These two prerequisite attributes are the catalyst which begins the spiritual process which is analogous to the chemical reaction between a catalyst and reactant.

When I was a boy, making skateboards, I mixed a “hardener” with epoxy resin and then poured and painted the mixture on the skateboard’s carefully shaped but soft mahogany wooden surface. Before long the resin hardened and the wheels could be added and the skateboard was finished. Without the hardener, or catalyst, the epoxy resin would have remained in liquid form and useless to the skateboard. With it, the resin hardened and the skateboard’s surface was well protected and pleasing to the eye with its glossy sheen.

A “spiritual reaction” occurs when the catalysts of rationality and intelligence are combined with the “three things” noted in verses 3-5 and ourselves seeking after these things. Without rationality and intelligence, the three things Joseph says are necessary to an exercise of faith unto life and salvation, will simply remain a useless liquid and never harden into faith within us. Feelings and emotion are irrelevant to that process. We, combined with the three things Joseph mentions, are the reactant. Rationality and intelligence are the catalyst. Without the catalyst, we remain outside of the ability for the three things mentioned to affect us with faith.

We cannot “feel” ourselves into faith. No amount of emotion can drive us along the road Joseph describes. Rationality and intelligence are the fuel which can power our journey to faith. We progress in no other way.

Is the answer, then, to become like those Epicurean philosophers and Stoics encountered by Paul in Athens? (Acts17:-22) These, and others, had, (and currently have), “itching ears” (2Tim4:3) and were “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” (2Tim3:7) Are we to seek endless debate for the sake of intellectual exercise? Are we to embrace emotional detachment? Of course not, on all counts. Our emotions are as much a gift from God as are our rationality and intellect. Each, however, has its purpose. If we allow one to overshadow, we become unbalanced and unable to properly function in a mortal world that requires all in proper proportion.

In John 17:20-22, the Lord cries out to the Father as the disciples listen:

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:”

Was this an emotional prayer? Of course. But, more importantly, it is filled with essential doctrine, (both rational and intellectual), about becoming one with both God and each other. And how do we become one? Do our bodies somehow merge together? Well, that would mean the Father and the Son had become one body and we know that hasn’t happened. They are two separate beings who have, in some way, become one. Joseph explains “oneness” in Lecture 5:

“…being filled with the fullness of the mind of the Father; or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father, which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on His name and keep His commandments; and all those who keep His commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind…being filled with the fullness of His glory, and become one in Him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.”

So it is the Holy Spirit, or the mind of God, that is the connecting link that makes us all one. We are invited to share the same mind which provides all knowledge, power, and glory. Again, from Lecture 5, Joseph describes the Son and His position in the Godhead:

“And He being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one;”

How can we become one with Father and Christ if we are not rational and intelligent? The simple answer is: We can’t. If we allow emotion to overshadow rationality and intelligence, we become blind to light and truth, and therefore, the glory of God. Joseph once made a remarkable statement in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (pg. 349-350) that ties all this together:

“When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us.

“Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.”

The “learned men” referred to by Joseph are emotional in their response. Joseph is one with the mind of God and, therefore, is calm and self-assured. That is one of the effects of being one with the mind of God. Another is the melting away of the mortal differences between us. When we understand that the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, is not a who, but a what, the journey toward the comprehension of all things really begins. The Lord provides a perfect description of the “what” in Moses 6:61:

“Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.”

This is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, the Mind of God with which we may become one. It is all rational knowledge, all intelligence, and the power in all things. The who in the equation is the Father and His Son, our Savior. To become fully one with this Spirit is to become fully rational and intelligent. Upon the realization that we have achieved even a sliver of this oneness, we will likely be filled with an emotional gratitude that may cause the fires of the Holy Spirit to shower us with an inability to speak or move but during which grateful tears flow in abundance and a feeling of God’s immense love will overtake and banish all our mortal cares and fears. Emotion can be wonderful and cathartic.

Our understanding of such doctrine as the true composition of the Holy Spirit does not come easy when we have been immersed in fanciful emotional traditions for all our lives. I used to ask the question: When does the Holy Ghost get to have a body after all he’s done for us? That question is like asking why ice cream has no bones. It is a non sequitur. The conclusion both questions seek does not follow any logic. But when we’ve been fed a diet of emotional inferences wherein the Holy Ghost is described as a kindly fellow who, because of his lack of body, can dwell with each of us, the question means something.

We are like a five-year-old who wanders into a physics lab and asks to be useful. About all the physicist can do is hand the child a broom and dustpan and hope for the best. We do not know enough nor are we capable enough to please the Lord any more than that 5-year-old could contribute anything worthwhile to the physicist’s efforts in the lab. And yet we fancy ourselves learned. And we use vain emotion to justify our efforts as meaningful. While, objectively, we are less than the dust.

A rational and intelligent being understands these things. A rational and intelligent being seeks the most understanding and knowledge regardless of the emotional cost. A rational and intelligent being is willing to lay all on the alter of sacrifice for the Lord, to gain knowledge and intelligence. A rational and intelligent being seeks the face of the Lord, as he promised and commanded we should. A rational and intelligent being seeks truth.

But how do we judge what is truth? First, we can separate what can be empirically known with those things that can’t. For instance, if I were to ask you to prove that God appeared to Joseph Smith, you couldn’t do it empirically. That’s by design. Belief is an important and necessary component in the process of discovering God for yourself as you, believing, ask Him, and He reveals Himself to you. Belief is not an empirical exercise. I cannot use my experience with God to prove anything to you.

But if I asked you to confirm that ten amendments were required to be added to the Constitution before it could be successfully ratified, you could easily prove that to be true through historical documentation. It is not difficult to prove that one plus one equals two. Both these latter examples are empirically provable by available evidence. If, however, let’s say someone close to you has told you all your life that the Constitution is a racist document because it only counted 3 out of every 5 slaves for representational purposes. You would probably be angry and not be a fan of those who wrote the Constitution. When, in fact and without going into all the detail here, the three-fifths compromise, as it was termed, was actually a great victory for liberty because there were those who would not have counted slaves at all. And most of those people were from the North. What a surprise when you actually do the research and get passed the emotional conditioning.

The process of empirical proof by available evidence is relatively easy for a rational and intelligent being until emotional attachment to a tradition enters the picture. For example, if we have heard something repeated often enough by a group upon which we rely, socially, then we will tend to believe what is repeated, regardless of its truthfulness. In fact, we may deny the value of any historical analysis which may or may not establish the truth of the tradition. For instance:

A rational and intelligent being could not stand at a pulpit and testify that the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, when that church stands in direct opposition and disobedience to the commandments of God. One easy but disregarded example of this disobedience can be empirically and historically analyzed and proven using the very scriptures that same testifier also says are true, presenting an obvious conundrum.

Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants describes, in detail, how the Lord’s church is to be administratively organized—four groups, equal in authority; a presidency which decides administrative issues relevant to the whole church and a stake high council deciding administrative issues for each stake, and two (the twelve apostles, or travelling elders, and the Seventy) are groups of missionaries with only missionary-related authority and only where stakes are not organized. Four groups, all equal in authority in a distributed power structure where no one person or group may coercively rule. This is empirical evidence of the Lord’s command in black and white in the scriptures.

Brigham Young unilaterally changed all that for his own purposes after Joseph, Hyrum, and Samuel were murdered.1 If you rationalize that Brigham must have received a revelation to make the changes, you’ll be kind enough to read it to me. But you can’t. Because there wasn’t one. Brigham just did it. Today, the presidency has been dissolved and the apostle-missionaries have added three to a new presidency of their own who coercively rule the rest in a vertical hierarchy and do little, if any, missionary work. They simply can’t. They’re too busy managing a multi-billion dollar business conglomerate. The current church is blatantly disobedient to the Lord’s commandment about the organization of His church and, interestingly, no one after Brigham has bothered to fix it.

Those who bristle at the previous paragraph and wrap themselves in their emotional traditions are unable to enjoy rationality and intelligence and, therefore, are unable to develop faith sufficient to life and salvation. They, acting of their own accord, damn themselves. We’ve seen it over and over in the scriptures and have learned nothing. Worst of all we deny the Savior’s own prophecy about us and our disobedience in 3Ne 16:10. Do we continue to sin against the Gospel and even reject the fullness of the Gospel in favor of our emotionally-driven traditions? Or do we seek God and His forgiveness and let the cards of tradition and social position fall where they may? The Lord has given us a way out:

“But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.” (3Ne 16:13)

No man can save us. No institution can save us. Only the Savior can save us. It is our relationship with Him that is important to cultivate. And yet we irrationally place our faith in men and institutions and unintelligently expect them to pile us all in a train to Zion. And yet the Lord said, “I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion…” (Jer 3:14) This is His work and no man or institution can take credit for it or make it happen.  Becoming one with God and each other is another prerequisite to being gathered by the Lord to Zion. Faith is required for that. And faith comes only to the rational and intelligent.

There is so much more to learn. So many questions to answer. And yet, without the prerequisites of rationality and intelligence, faith in God to life and salvation is impossible to attain. It is disheartening that so many value their emotional traditions rather than the glory of the Lord. The scriptures are filled with such examples and related warnings, and yet we continue down our current blind-man’s path of “all’s well in Zion” as long as we have a fancy mall in Salt Lake and billions in the bank.

I can picture Russ Nelson, upon hearing that the Lord was approaching in the air, running out the front door of the church office building waving a ream of paper with charts and graphs and spreadsheets and yelling, “See our portfolio? See what we’ve accomplished! We’re worth billions!!!” And then he bursts into the flames of iniquity and pride.

Let us learn the lessons the Lord, in His unimaginable patience, continues to attempt to teach us. Let us leave our useless traditions of Nauvoo pride behind and become rational and intelligent beings. That is one of our two choices. The other is unthinkable.


Note 1. For an in-depth analysis of the Nauvoo period of the LDS church and the changes made by Brigham Young, please see these two excellent resources:

The Exoneration of Emma, Joseph, and Hyrum by Ronald Meldon Karren. An intricately documented and unsanitized historical analysis of what really happened in Nauvoo regarding the origins of LDS polygamy and lots more. Highly recommended.

How Jesus Christ Was Ousted As Head Of The Church of Jesus Christ, a blog post on Pure Mormonism by Rock Waterman where he transcribes a podcast from Radio Free Mormon entitled “Apostolic Coup-D- Etat.” An analysis of how Brigham Young changed the LDS church into his own vision. You may listen, or read, or both. Highly recommended.


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