Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Book of Mormon (This Years Study in SS)

This Sunday in the LDS Church, we begin studying the Book of Mormon in Sunday School. There are two topics that I fear are usually overlooked, that can greatly enhance our understanding of the Book of Mormon.

The first is the significance of the teaching of “opposition in all things.” This principle is often glossed over as some tangential teaching that is really not that important. Nothing could be further from the truth. Opposition in all things and how forces are resolved is the core of the gospel, and until we get this, we are sipping milk. Without understanding this “opposition in all things” there is no purpose in a “chiasmas." The point of a chiasmas is to demonstrate the opposition and the resolution of a thing. The purpose of much of the Law of Moses was for the same reason. (Mormon Mysticism on Opposition)

Second, the Tree of Life can also be under appreciated. The scriptures are laced with Tree of Life teachings. Understanding that the Tree of Life, the Temple, The Love of God, and Christ are all the same thing can give so much depth to our understanding (Link).

If we could somehow read the Book of Mormon for all it’s worth, most of us could not stand it. There are levels of meaning in the Book of Mormon, like an onion, and most of us only just nibble the dry skin on the outside.

In the student guide, it asks about the four positions people find themselves in, in relation to the Tree of Life. This is critical to understanding the gospel. Here are some clues: (Rev., Temple, Water, Ezk., Seed, Bread).

This is going to be a good year!

11 comments:

mckenzi said...

I have been thinking a lot about the tree of life and opposites. I want to follow your thoughts on sunday school.

The concept of opposition makes me think of dance. My thoughts here: http://www.ourstory.com/thread.html?t=167214

I will be back.

David Littlefield said...

McKenzi:

Very nice post on Dance (Woman and the Priesthood), I am going to link to that elsewhere.

I hope to see you often.

How do the margins look? Better? Do they need to be larger still?

Thanks,

David

mckenzi said...

Thank you! There IS more space now isn't there. Looks like you did it the hard way for me. That is so kind of you. If you want to change the template, blogspot has some with narrow script columns I find easier to read. I just changed my template to show you an example. Take a look, you might like this one. If not, that's ok. I figured out that I can minimize my browser window and get a similar affect. It was so kind of you to work at this though. Thank you very much David!

Anonymous said...

I feel that you are looking in the wrong direction, God himself gave us the right to choose our own path in life, WE need to teach our children right and wrong, make them aware of what is out there in the world and show them how to deal with the things that they may encounter in there everyday life, such as maybe a friend having gay parents, teach them not to judge, as God himself told us we have no right to judge one another, homosexuality is already here and the fact that they can get a licence dosn't make any difference to you or me,This has nothing to do with prop 10 and teachings in schools, if you feel so very strongly about the issues in LA, I would move to a different school district, and that would be your right. Also just because some people, that you don't know have a licence to be married dose NOT mean that you have to accept it.How about not fighting and teaching our children to LOVE and accept one another?

David Littlefield said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for your comments. Please allow me to address several of your issues. I am not sure why you posted your comments here (a opposed to one of the prop 8 posts), but I will go ahead and respond here.

You said “God himself gave us the right to choose our own path in life.” This is the very heart of the issue. If I don’t wish to have my children indoctrinated, you would have me leave town. Would you feel the same way if a school district decided to mandate a Christian indoctrination of your children? Would you be satisfied with me suggesting you leave town? You are not suggesting freedom, you are suggesting that I am not free to opt out of a system of education that is repugnant to my belief system. Can’t we just teach reading, writing, math, etc.? Why do have to assault one another?

You said “make them aware of what is out there in the world and show them how to deal with the things that they may encounter in [their] everyday life..” But that’s up to me as a parent to determine when my children are exposed to such things, not you or the state. Your views are very similar to the likes of NAMBLA, ideas that repulsed Americans a generation ago, but are close to being the norm today. Again, you are not trying to establish freedom, you want to take mine away.

You said “Also just because some people, that you don't know have a licen[s]e to be married dose NOT mean that you have to accept it…” But you are wrong. The very purpose of the law making same sex unions legal, is to force people, third parties, to accept those unions.

You said “How about not fighting and teaching our children to LOVE and accept one another?” But there are plenty of actions people do that I don’t accept, and I have taught my children not to accept. Do you really have such an egalitarian view that you think all people’s actions are equal, and should be accepted? What about the views of the KKK, the Black Panthers, or Nazis? Should we accept them, and teach their views to elementary schools kids?

Let’s get to the real problem. There is an agenda being forced down our throats. It sometimes has a civil face, but it is not a civil agenda. The pushers of this agenda have no concern for the rights of people, they have a godless destructive plan, that will likely destroy America. That is not to say everyone involved in that movement is evil. The communist called them the useful idiots; people involved in the struggle, but lacked the mental horsepower to understand what is really going on. They are manipulated for an evil cause.

The issue is freedom or force. I choose freedom.

-David

Michael said...

Part 1

I have just discovered this website and ordered the book "Mormon Mysticism" to see how it corresponds with my experiences with Kabbalah, the Restored Church, and personal ascension through the Atonement of Christ. I say this to let y'all know that I am not familiar with everything discussed here and patterns that may be the most prevalent. I love the Book of Mormon and could not help commenting on this page. As I am learning to seek God unconditionally through Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, He is teaching me things that transform my life into being able to receive more of Him. It is funny that later I always seem to come across some Kabbalist's comments that almost speak verbatim portions of my experiences. Although I am learning to become more open minded and trusting to the methods of Kabbalah, I know that God has always given first and that without His gifts I don't think I would benefit as much as I do from Kabbalah methodology.

Kabbalist offered a method of benefiting from the scriptures (teaching recorded under the influence of the Holy Spirit-D&C 68:4) called "the language of branches." In order to use this method successfully, the participant has to have made a choice to want to learn God from God, and then be open to receive what God gives in the manner in which God decides to give. No matter how intelligent the participant may be, they must learn to no longer rely upon the arm of intellectual flesh and learn to trust wholly that God will give them what they need when they need it. As I was reading the Title Page to the BOM one day the statement "To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof...The interpretation thereof by the gift of God" stood out to me like never before. I had always passed over this statement as meaning Joseph Smith translating the plates. But that is not what is says. As I contemplated this double emphasis on interpreting the BOM by the gift of God, the warmth and love of God overwhelmed me. I could feel Him telling me that He loved me so much, and even though I was good at finding patterns and seemed to be above many in my understanding of the deeper things of the gospel, that He wanted to teach me what it was all about. I even argued a little and said things in my heart like "but this goes with that" and "so and so said this," but God again reassured me of His great love and appreciation for me as my loving Father and repeated His desire to be able to go over this special book with me and explain it to me Himself. I felt like such a small child in the arms of my loving Father. I did not want to rob Him of His special offer as I had been doing these many years. I know He wants to have such experiences with all His children listening openly as He teaches them what it is all about.

God began to teach me as I learned to be open. I slowly stepped away from filtering the scriptures through information that I already had (building an arsenal of weaponry much like Anonymous) and began to get out of God's way as He sought give me what I could not receive on my own. Kabbalist Michael Laitman describes some of my experience in these words as he defines the language of branches.

"All the worlds...everything the Kabbalah speaks of, exists in us and will be revealed in us, depending on the degree of our correction. We will find our inner Moses and Aaron, King David and the angels, the evil, the righteous, and the degrees of attainment called 'Jerusalem, ''the Temple' and more. Every word in the Torah [scriptures] speaks of our own forces and our levels of ability to sense the Creator...Hence, to discern the actual picture of the world, we must find what we read inside us, as we read the Torah, because every written word exists within us-it just hasn't been discovered.

Michael said...

Part 2

We feel what the books speak of in accordance with our spiritual growth, hence the importance of the study from genuine sources...The best way to make progress is to study while the books actually speak of what is within me, that all this already exists somewhere inside me. All these worlds and Partzufim are things that I must discover within. They are my own properties. The more we acquire control over these attributes, the more we can feel how the Creator operates inside us (Laitman, Michael. The Path of Kabbalah. pp. 10-11). The language of branches is a language that uses familiar terms of objects, places, and people to explain the unseen makeup of our existence from Light and Truth to intelligences to spirit children through mortality to the fullness that God promises through Christ Jesus.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of Lehi, a righteous man from Jerusalem; a city that had become stagnant in its spiritual progress. He was lead out by the hand of God, journeyed to a place where a watery veil separated him from the Promised Land, and successfully made the journey to the Promised Land. After arriving, his civilization continued on for one thousand years. The Book of Mormon is very personal as we learn to liken it unto ourselves.

I was once a righteous man from the Holy City of God in pre-mortality. As chosen intelligences clothed with the spirit bodies of the covenants of God, we reached a point of being stagnant in our growth. Some were lead out by the hand of God to obtain a more choice promised land (exaltation) and some were lead away captive. Although I was righteous, there are as many aspects to my personality as there are personalities in Lehi's entourage. After much difficulty in learning to humble those portions of myself that I feel by nature should rule, I have learned to allow myself to the place leadership in those portions of my personality that are willing to seek that Lord and cooperate with Him. As I continue to do this, He is teaching me how to create a vessel capable of carrying myself across the veil that separates me from the Promised Land or the Kingdom of God. Even throughout all of these strong spiritual experiences are the intimate struggles within myself to pull the family together despite rebellions. Although I am not perfect, the Lord in His abundant mercy is allowing me to make it there if I can humble myself to those aspects that trust Him. If I can obtain entrance into the Kingdom of God by learning to obtain the Holy Ghost as my constant companion, then He will help me progress within His Kingdom so that I may obtain Jesus Christ as my Second Comforter and personal minister and eventually obtain Heavenly Father as my final teacher in the ways of eternal life. Hopefully my civilization of desires and intentions will not be destroyed, but will prevail with God like the city of Enoch.

Everything depends on the FREEDOM OF CHOICE, as I stay focused on spiritual attainment. The best thing I can do for anyone else is to put God first and to learn Him from Him. In this way my intellect will not condemn others and I will be most likely to act as God would and love as God would in any given situation.

Now, to comment on the tree of life. Lehi’s dream is an explanation of the many paths our journey can take us within that portion of our mortality where we have left the presence of God and have not yet gained full entrance into the Kingdom Life offered by the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Michael said...

Part 3

To better explain this, let me summarize my understanding of what the Kabbalist refer to as “the study of the upper worlds.” The study of the upper worlds is like a roadmap that leads to equivalence of form with the character, attributes, and perfections of God. It is normally laid out in what some call the Tree of Life and others call Ha Sulam (the ladder). As Jacob of old was traveling to look for a wife, he had a dream one night of a ladder that touched the ground and reached all the way up to heaven. He saw the angels of God going up and coming down. Then the Lord appeared to him and covenanted with him that He would protect him and lead him to the land promised to his father and grandfather. Upon crossing the veil of water (the Jordan) into the Promised Land, Jacob (the usurper) humbled himself sufficiently before God but was persistent enough to receive God’s promise and the new name of Israel (one who prevails with God). Kabbalists teach that there are ten of the upper worlds or emanations of various aspects of God. Ascending from the bottom upward, the fourth through the ninth are condensed into one, making five. As we look at the five-rung ladder we see that it reveals six open spaces. The bottom space that touched the ground contains Jacob, the sleeping man in this world. The remaining five spaces, separated beginning with the first rung, represent the Kingdom of God. These upper worlds are only obtained as we are able to “Awake…[and] put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which [we] are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:23). As we are able to use the influence of the Holy Ghost, the ordinances and commandments of God, and the benefits of the opposition provided by mortality for us to freely choose, God can then prepare us through His grace to lead us to the Promised Land of His Kingdom. Thus transforming us from our desires to usurp (Jacob) God’s sovereignty unto the development of the ability to humbly, consistently, and diligently prevail with God (Israel) and be sealed up unto Him forever. The Kingdom Life begins as we are born of the Spirit, meaning that we have learned to obtain it as our constant companion. (I know people who have been members for years and still struggle with obtain the influence of the Holy Ghost). As we learn how to benefit from this companionship, we are ready to cross the next rung and obtain the Second Comforter and personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. His personal ministry prepares us to obtain the personal ministry of God the Eternal Father and progress through three stages represented by the three levels of the Celestial Kingdom; thus making five upper worlds. The three levels of the Celestial Kingdom are like the three levels of the Kingdom collective (Telestial/Holy Ghost, Terrestrial/Jesus Christ, Celestial/God the Father), but they are more refined. Preparation and entrance into any of these upper worlds is initiated by the will of the Father, able to be brought to pass because of the grace Atonement of Christ, and communicated/experienced through the power of the Holy Ghost. All three members of the Godhead are present and needed to progression in any of the realms although some may seem to be more prevalent and others more hidden along the way. Within the second world represented by Jesus Christ and the Terrestrial Glory, are the six hidden worlds first mentioned in the original ten. These six are represented by the six companionships of the twelve Apostles and reveal a representation of the six spaces within the ladder. The upper five companionships are perfect and represent the perfection of God’s Kingdom and the sanctification of gospel progress.

Michael said...

Part 4

The bottom companionship is that of a righteous Apostle and the traitor Judas, representing the mixture of our righteous proven spirit and our corrupted fallen bodies of flesh. This representation of the entire path of progression contained within the realm of Jesus Christ show the emphasis on Him, as it is properly named the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only “name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 31: 21). (Note that further supporting evidence of this consistency is that the body is ruled over by the five senses, but must develop the sixth sense of spiritual discernment in order to advance past the first rung).

My message was longer than I intended it to be, so I will briefly explain Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life without directly quoting from the Book of Mormon as much as I would like. Lehi’s dream takes place within the first space on Jacob’s ladder; it is an explanation of the many paths that pre-Kingdom Life can take. Lehi begins his dream by accepting an invitation to follow the Holy Spirit. He finds himself lost in a dark and dreary waste and then calls upon the tender mercies of God to rescue him. After doing this for an efficient amount of time, his vision is made clear (awakened) and he sees the world and the tree most beautiful and desirous above all other things. He then chooses to partake of the tree. He rejoices in this gift and after finding it even beyond his initial awe, he invites his family to come partake of it. Next there is a group of people that feel after the tree and finds the path that leads there, only to wander off and become lost in the mist of darkness. Following them is a group that finds the path and the iron railing that accompanies it. As the mist of darkness enshrouds them, they cling to the rod and are able to eventually make it to the tree and its fruit. They are not able to enjoy the fruit and look around as though they are ashamed. Then they discover the people in the great and spacious building making fun of them and so they decide to wander away from the tree. Afterwards comes a description of various groups of people from those seeking the tree to those being destroyed to those within the building. Lehi’s success in his dream comes because he heeds the invitation to follow the influence of the Holy Ghost. When he becomes lost, he turns to God and relies wholly upon His tender mercies (grace/Atonement).

Michael said...

Part 5

Because of this his mind is opened and he is able to see more clearly and is FREER to make choices. Lehi is attracted to and is able to enjoy the fruit of the tree/the pure love of God because he has been properly prepared through trust and reliance on the collective teamwork of the Godhead. The first group that follows him only obtains the path, or the steps that lead to the love of God. They don’t do this by accepting an invitation to follow the Holy Ghost and they also never obtain the rod of iron. Because they have only obtained the steps or ordinances, they are easily lead astray into forbidden paths. The second group obtains the path/ordinances and the iron rod railing or the safeguard associated with the path to enjoying the fullness of God’s love. As well, they don’t do this by accepting an invitation to follow the Holy Ghost nor do they rely upon the tender mercies of God when the mist of darkness is upon them. They cling to it by their own strength and are unprepared to enjoy and abrupt confrontation with God’s pure love. Their minds are never awakened and they are not as free as Lehi in choosing the tree of life even though they choose to initially feel after the path that lead to it. Lehi succeeds where they fail because through the influence of the Holy Ghost and the Atonement of Christ he is prepared within his trials to enjoy the fullness of God’s love. Although the others may have participated in the outward steps and held firm to the safeguards of commandment and standards, they could not enjoy inspired views or and abrupt confrontation with the fullness of God’s love because they were virtually unacquainted with any of the members of the Godhead, and were unable to remain and gain entrance into His Kingdom. The other groups obviously don’t obtain the tree. Although Adam and Eve were driven from the garden, mankind is not held accountable for Adam’s transgression. It is our privilege, through the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to become prepared and partake freely of the fruit of the tree of life. As we do inherit a knowledge of good and evil from our first parents, through Christ we can learn to enjoy and trust His perfect love instead of our limited judgements based on our understanding of good and evil. It is the developed ability to learn Christ’s love firsthand, and share it with others, that is the sign of His true disciple and the sign by which the world will know them (John 13:34-35). This account from Lehi is a loving warning from God to the members of His Church about what happens when we rely upon our own strength and go through the motions devoid of the companionship of God.

Please forgive me for such long comments, I've been needing to get some of these feelings out for a long time.

David Littlefield said...

Hey Michael!

I enjoyed reading your comments! And they deserve a better response than I have time to respond right now, but I will respond in full as soon as I can.

I suspect you will like Mormon Mysticism (the book). Please let me know what you think, good, bad, or ugly.

Thanks,

David Littlefield