In response to Hassan and the Faithful Dissident in their article An Open Discussion with Hassan and FD
Who is God?
Mormons believe that God is not much different than we are. “When the Savior shall appear, we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves”. D&C 130:1. In that light, God is a finite being, in a resurrected body, who like Jesus Christ, his Son in the flesh, became a resurrected being after having overcome death. And together with the Holy Spirit, the Gods have infinite power to challenge violence, counter sin and overcome death – to progressively turn back the tide of evil in the world. On the other hand, He – a Heavenly Father figure for now – and His Son are, for some reason, in Mormonism limited or restricted by the laws that govern the Universe. This, I interpret in the following manner: since we were there from the beginning (as spirit-children of God), together we established the rules of the game prior to life on earth. Then we came to earth and the process of Creation – of establishing the rules – did not stop. The act of Creation and re-Creation continues, it evolves, independently from God’s intention, but not without His continued participation.
What the Gods (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) are doing is to try to win us over to Their intention with creation – to win us over to their side of the game. For until now, the Gods and the forces for good in the world have over time, through their goodness and examples in recorded history, awakened in us the desire and placed the power in our hands to counter the negative effects of our human existence. This they did by planting in us the hope that we can live with each other in peace and in harmony with the earth, and in balance with the Universe and the laws that govern it. Since we have a divine origin and in that way the divine ability to distinguish between good and evil, God intended for us to work alongside Him (or Them). Unfortunately for God and for us, we still commit violence, we still commit sin and we are killing ourselves and each other – albeit very slowly and sometimes very fast.
The Gods, or the forces for good in the world (the divine in all things that have been, that are and that will be), try to counter the negative impact we, who still have the power to do evil in the world, have on the planet and on each other. God and Jesus, and probably many of the prophets before us freely gave up that power to do evil, and one by one, we are little by little being recruited to their side of the game to challenge violence with nonviolence, to redress the effects of sin through forgiveness and restorative justice, and to counter sin itself through learning and doing and undoing, and ultimately together as a community we may be able to overcome premature death – or even death itself.
Death for me is currently a passage – into another sphere, into another stage of being – that unfairly seems to come earlier for some and later for others. There, in death, the dead work in trying to overcome the reasons for why people did die. Was it war? Was it disease? Was it cancer? Was it anger? Was it regret? Was it unhappiness? I think that the dead are trying to figure out a way to come back to earth – to be reunited with their bodies, with their children and their grandchildren, and with all those who are living with the effects of the sins that they committed and under the negative influence that the dead have had over history in the world. This does not mean that their influence was solely negative. In the contrary, they gave us cultural and philosophical and technological tools, like religion and science for example, to make things better, to improve, to continue the act of creation!
What is our destiny?
In my field of work, we believe in a participatory approach to changing our destinies, called community development. Through that approach, we enable and empower each other through community to take part in the design of our common future. I see God in the same way. He or She desires that we participate in our own development. They want us to own the process and for us to give this process meaning and direction.
Hassan, it seems to me that you feel you don’t own your destiny: that God, by placing you in a certain place under certain circumstances, has decided for you what will be the outcome of your life. In order to own your destiny and thereby be able to change it, you must decide to own what you were given at the start, and to make sure to use it to the best of your ability, to improve on it. My understanding is that we need to take ownership of what we were given or not given at the start, in order for us to take ownership of our destiny, or of what we will achieve. Our destiny is what we, as a community of individuals, decide that it will be. Of course, because it is a community, we depend on each other for realizing that potential.
Is God “nice” and “just?”
Yes, that’s the nature of God, because that’s what God wants us to be.
But you cannot reverse the choices of those who came before you. I believe it is up to you to accept those choices that they made and to undo them if they were not good – in the light of the knowledge that you now have.
You cannot prevent the choices that will be made by others after you. But you can teach them to make the right choices and then they will decide for themselves what to do with what is given them – in the light of the knowledge that they will have.
Because it was difficult for those who came before us to predict or to prevent the negative effects of what they did with the limited knowledge and light they had, you were not able to decide what constraints and opportunities you were going to get at the start of your life. Neither could you decide the religion you would belong to, or even decide the rules of the society in which you were going to live. But now, a young man with your own abilities, opinions and responsibilities, what will you do with what you now have – with the person that you now are? Perhaps you feel you didn’t get a fair start – compared to others? Well, you are right. You didn’t.
If God planned everything for human beings from the beginning, why does he treat people differently?
God says: well, my child, you have several choices in life. With what you have been given, the direction you take might lead to this or that. In fact, the consequences of what you decide to do in this life are uncertain and perhaps even unclear at this stage, but as your life goes by, and as you gain greater understanding of how the game is played, you will discover that the way things will finally turn out depends a lot on you and on everyone else around you.
You think you are a victim of the past. Well, yes, we are all victims. You think it is up to God to make it right, since you think He made you a victim? He didn’t give you what you have – those who came before you did, and they did it with limited knowledge and understanding. You can blame them, but is it not more important to counter the negative effects of their decisions on your life with better decisions?
God is not deciding where or how this world will end up – alone: you have the power to decide that – with God. Together – you, me, and God – we can all make a difference. If you decide not to do good with the little time and resources that were given to you, then things will take more time. If others try to stop you from doing good, then yes, things will take more time. But to think that God does not care or to think that He has the power to decide on everything, the good and the bad, and that He did so right from the start, is to take away from people who came before us and from those like you and me who are here today, the possibility to decide for ourselves, to own up to our own destiny, to create the right conditions for those who come after us, and to do so based on our current limited knowledge and understanding. We need to accept now the things we cannot change at this stage and decide to change for the better all the things we can. God, through his Spirit of Truth (Gandhi said: God is Truth) is giving us the wisdom of experience (knowledge between good and evil) to help us see the difference between what we can and cannot change. Then we must count on those who come after us to improve on what we did.
For me, this means that the potential to be God (or good) lies within each and every one of us – already in this life. The power of creation and of recreation, the power of invention, the power to grow, learn and develop seems to be unlimited with this particular worldview – of eternal progression. Does it only apply to Mormonism? No, it’s a way of thinking about your life, about any life. Life that was, life that is and life that will be.