Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"I'd like to share a revelation..."

Revelation is an important part of LDS living. Although it cannot be reduced to anything close to being scientifically verifiable, it is nonetheless a part of our lived (yes, even my lived) Mormon experience and unfalsifiable on those grounds. This may seem a convenient claim, on our part, in the mind of the skeptic, but it remains an important part of religious life in the hearts of saints worldwide.

Revelation is often accompanied by the feelings described in the book of Galatians "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Say what you will for qualia, or the correct neurons firing in my hypothalamus or wherever I'm not sure where or how it all operates, experiencing the sublime is sometimes vague and profound all at once, it's just another one of the infinite paradoxes of life (lets leave this aside for another time).

What I'm interested in is personal revelation. Dalin H. Oaks says there are two channels through which we receive communication from God. The hierarchical vehicle which accounts for many (some might say all) the churches policies and then there is the direct line wired into each of our souls. Now I am of the mind that when we touch or are touched by God -- according to Newton's third law you can't really have one without the other -- that we don't just instantly become puppets rattling off whatever is dictated to us. Fist of all, it rarely seems as if any particular words are being dictated to me at all. Secondly, my Patriarch speaks broken English and I unsurprisingly received a patriarchal blessing in broken English. Thirdly, this model of personal revelation equals us plus the promptings/sensations of the spirit, seems to make sense of why the Book of Mormon is written in the style that it is (i.e. King James English).

Well, as we start to recognise the Spirit what happens when revelations collide? When the Hierarchical and Personal disagree? That is for each of us to decide in our time and in our own way. We are instructed to follow the Brethren and we are also instructed to find out for ourselves. When facing this tension, it may be important to remember that personal revelation trumping all else is implicitly built into Mormonism. When we accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God, we also accept that we may one day be moved to decapitate another person and that if we follow through it will have been the right thing to do.

Perhaps I've gone too far...

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