Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth", Pres. Uchtdorf, Oct 2014

This talk can be found here.


  • I wonder if the worlds we see in space are the same worlds the scriptures really refer to when they say "worlds without number".
    • He refers to Moses 1:33. It's often instructive to read a few verses before and after whatever verse someone is citing, and verse 32 is definitely interesting. It echoes the book of John in calling Christ the "word of [God's] power".
  • This idea that the world is "mind-bogglingly bigger than anyone had previously believed" applies in other ways, too. Joseph Smith famously told us that if we could "gaze into heaven five minutes, [we] would know more than [we] would by reading all that was ever written on the subject" (TPJS, p. 324)  This probably still applies, suggesting we should avoid getting uppity when someone suggests an idea about the nature of heaven which doesn't square with whatever dogma we've hitched our personal wagon to.
    • This squares nicely with what Pres. Uchtdorf says toward the end of this talk, as well as what he said in Oct 2013: "regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church." He doesn't include "your opinion" in that list, which may well be because the Church regularly kicks people out these days for their expressing their own opinions (cf. Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Rock Waterman, Denver Snuffer, Adrian Larsen, to name a few off the top of my head). This idea of kicking people out for belief differs from Joseph Smith's view, when he said, "I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please."
  • "It seems to be a trait of humanity to assume that we are right even when we are wrong." What would the world be like if more of us could remember to quit assuming we were right all the time?
  • "He will speak in a way that is unmistakable and that transcends human experience." This is not necessarily true. Ether 12:6 tells us we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith. Until we have experience enough to know what's from God and what's not, we have to experiment on His word, and wait for witnesses to appear afterward. We won't immediately know that what we think we're told is coming from God.
    • Pres. Uchtdorf gets this right later on, when he tells us, "when you are trying to verify the truth of gospel principles, you must first live them," implying that we'll find out after living them whether they're true or not. This is the correct method.
  • Unfortunately Pres. Uchtdorf's most consistent reference to scripture is a misapplication of "Moroni's Promise". The promise says we need to study the Book of Mormon, so we can be told by the Holy Ghost whether the Book of Mormon is true or not. Claiming "the Church is true" doesn't actually mean anything, so it's pointless to ask if the Church is true.
    • Perhaps it's the teachings of the Church that are meant to be true. So what about when they contradict each other? What about when they contradict scripture, yet maintain the claim that they're bound by scripture as the law of the Church?
    • Perhaps it's the Church's authority claims that are meant to be considered true. But they come without much proof, or fruit, much like when the children if Israel had the priesthood taken from them.
  • Incidentally, it's a fun experiment to try to "remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts." It's a good reminder just how much world history there is, and how much you probably don't know.
  • "The more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls. And each time we willingly and earnestly seek that light, we indicate to God our readiness to receive more light." This is definitely true, from my own experience.
  • "By the same token, if we remove ourselves from the light of the gospel, our own light begins to dim—not in a day or a week but gradually over time—until we look back and can’t quite understand why we had ever believed the gospel was true." Alma 12 calls this receiving the lesser portion of the word, and the way I read history, that's what the Church has been doing especially since correlation began in earnest in the 1960's. Where we used to have nuanced doctrine (compounded with obvious philosophies of men, true) we now have over-simplified slogans accompanied by earnest warnings against seeking mysteries.
    • Joseph Smith encouraged his listeners to seek ever deeper to know the mysteries of Godliness. "The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God." (from the letter that produced sections 121 - 123, available in History of the Church, vol. 3)
    • So did Nephi, in 1 Ne 10:19.

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