Friday, November 20, 2009

The Material Gift: Scripture Study Session, November 14

Last Saturday I went to a little discussion group thingy with two guy friends of mine. There's a student professor who teaches philosophy at UVU who has scripture study nights on Saturdays. We choose a passage of scripture and talk about what it means. I knew we'd go in depth, but I DIDN'T know we would end up talking about five verses for five hours!
At the beginning I was really quiet. But the minute I felt comfortable, I talked up a storm. This professor -- Brother Spencer, I think his name was -- is definitely a guy I wish to be like some day. He was SO intelligent and he just loves to think. He's read like every book on human thought imaginable, and he provided so much insight it was amazing. He also said I asked poignant questions, which made me feel very smart. To be complimented by a guy like Brother Spencer is definitely an honor in my book.

Anyway, what did we talk about for those five hours?

Our passage of focus was Moroni 7:6-10.
I will quote it....

"For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
And likewise also it is counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; eya, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift."


What does it mean to give a gift or say a prayer "with real intent?" And what does the Lord mean when he says it "profiteth a man nothing" to give a gift grudgingly. When does it "not count for righteousness?"
In regards to Profit:
A double negative is not a positive conclusion.
In classical thought, if something isn't NOT A, it's A. But not all lines of thought see things this way.
So the term "profiteth him not" doesn't necessarily mean there's a way to actually get profit.
If we don't give a gift with real intent, we get no profit. But if we do give with real intent, that doesn't mean we'll get profit either. But the cool thing is if we give with real intent, we won't be looking for profit, so it doesn't matter. The minute you start looking for profit, you lose the profit. That's what the scripture actually means! All you have to do is give the gift! Do or do not. There is no try.

How do we pray with real intent?
Real intent: Without pride.
Pray with "our father" in mind.
"Thy will," not "My will."
Christ, when he taught us to pray, told us to "enter into our closets and secret places." AKA we should pray alone. Completely alone.

But then he goes on to recite the Lord's prayer, he tells us to use the words OUR FATHER. We're alone, yet we use the word "Our." What does this mean?
It's still collective. Consecrated. It's not about us.

"Vain repetitions" in prayer doesn't necessarily mean stuff that's repeated over and over again. We use vain repeitions all the time when we babble or when we use words we normally wouldn't say... "bless the hands that prepared it," "thank you for the moisture." Even "in the name of Jesus Christ" can be vainly repeated. Remember that.

We put a "halo" around our gifts. We tie other seperate meanings to a gift. For example, we say, "I don't deserve this," or "I can't believe you took the time to get this for me," or "Oh, great, now I need to give something back." These are all halos. We do this for a ton of things. We take God's gifts of tribulations and trials, for example, and say "Well, let's think of all the things this trial is supposed to accomplish." Halo has just been created. We are not accepthing the gift for the gift itself. All gifts carry baggage for us.
Brother Spencer's ideal is to accept the MATERIAL GIFT for exactly what it is. No baggage attached. That way we are truly accepting the gift for the gift's sake, and without grudge. He believes gifts go through a MATERIAL CHANGE when they are given. I don't know if it's that extreme but there is definitely something to that. The minute you give something, it's not just that something; it's a gift. The question is, how do we define gift?
The atonement is a gift from God.
We want to earn it. Or we want to do something in return. But we can't. These are halos. Get rid of the halo. He's giving us eternal life. He is not asking us to justify or to even say thank you. He is just asking us to accept it.
My problem with this is I think a gift is supposed to have a certain halo.
A gift:
1. Required time and thought (see Aristotle's three causes below)
2. Is actually -- in retrospect -- a gift from God.
3. Is an opportunity to be Christlike. To be like God. To play God, almost. We can manipulate what we own in a righteous way by making it not our own anymore.

Aristotle Talks about Different Causes. I can remember three, though I don't remember what they are formally called. This is interesting.

1. The material.
Example: You need tools, metal, wood, land, manpower to create a building. Without proper earthly materials, the building could never exist.
2. The idea.
Example: Without the knowledge of structure, architectural principles, and the creativity to design a building, a building cannot be built. You need a blueprint, a plan, a thought.
3. The goal.
Example: A person needs to WANT to build a building before a building can be made/created/built. You need a desire, a goal, a will to create something.

Apparently there's also a fourth... I can't remember what it was.

God used these causes to create the world. He took materials that were already present, had a will to create earth, and had the knowledge to do it.

Creation out of nothing vs. Creation out of something already there.
Honestly, which one sounds more mystical? Obviously creation out of nothing.

Spirit = matter. Is there spirit matter in gifts?

Compare, in the passage, these two forms:
If man, being evil, vs. If man being evil
Do you see the difference? Both of these forms are used in the scriptures. We, personally, referred to the first of these two forms. This implies that all men are evil, and can only be evil. (Remember, natural man is an enemy to God).

Evil = Fallen. To be "fallen" is to be unable to do something you know you should do. We relate this to the idea that mankind is evil. The natural man is an enemy to God. It is fallen.

The opposite of the natural man is an immortal. Overcoming the fall.

One of my friends asked, "Why do man and God have to be so different? We're the same species!"
Perhaps it's really all about exaltation and an eternal perspective. We have the poential to be like him but we are still in a fledgling state. A bird in an egg is still a bird, but a full grown bird and an egg are very different.

Law of Consecration:
Stewardship vs. Ownership.
You had to give everything up before you became a steward, which means the whole process originally began with ownership.
Giving, then, is redeeming an object from ownership...
Which is therefore redeeming an object from the fall...
Which is therefore giving an object back to God.
Maybe this is what is meant by the phrase, "Service of fellowmen = service of God."
Is that the material change Brother Spencer talked about?

Does that mean a gift is like Aristotle's cause of will?

What does it mean for God to own everything? Does this really mean we own nothing? Does that allow him to give things to us as he does?
Perhaps the eternal definition of ownership is different than ours. I, personally, believe God is able to actually own things because he truly and completely understands them. We do not. Perhaps it has also to do with the fact that he created everything. Do you own all things you create?
When God gives gifts, he is releasing stuff from his possession. Man then has dominion over it -- stewardship.

Paul refers to "use" of a woman.
Not ownership. It's another relationship. It's about potential.
Prayer is use.

USE is what keeps things from being owned. That's what capitalism is. To own something but not to USE it. Not good.

So instead of putting that useless piece of junk grandma gave you on a shelf, give it to someone else so it can be used! So it can reach its full potential.

Faith vs. Works vs. Forks... or Waith.
Those who base their life off of faith, alone, live in a telestial environment. It involves proclaiming belief but not following through, which is dishonest, telestial behavior.
Those who base their life off of purely works live in a terrestrial environment. There is a good desire, but reliance on the atonement is lacking, and this is deeply important.
Works AND faith is the celestial environment.

Faith is not an excuse to sin. But you don't have to save yourself, so now there's nothing stopping you from actually working.

Sin is a refusal to believe. Any time you sin, you lose grace, and must find it again. It is a symptom of unbelief. We also touched a bit on punishment.
According to Brother Spencer...

People worry about the big picture, but forget the small things. No good. True belief -- TRUE belief -- is fidelity. The minute you step away, you are no longer faithful.

Sin = Punishment = Misery.
(not to be confused with "Sin LEADS TO punishment LEADS TO misery.)
Sin IS punishment. People CHOOSE to be punished by choosing sin. And deep down, they know that. The reason people sin is because they WANT misery. In the end, people will realize that this is not joy and owe up to the fact that they are lying to themselves. But in the long run, we all choose where we end up going, and we all will be satisfied with that choice.

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