Things To Act
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Today's observations
*Someone ended a sacrament meeting talk with one of my pet peeves, "in the name of thy Son" in a nonprayer setting, which is not only grammatically inaccurate, but blasphemous.

*A high council speaker decried a supposed Supreme Court decision that 'replaced Christianity with secular humanism.' He claimed to be quoting something said by one of the modern prophets, in which case I hope he badly mangled the actual quote, as the constitutional and doctrinal analysis are so bad as to be staggering. Between the First Amendment, hymn 240 ("God will force no man to heaven), and several other scriptural sources about agency and government, you'd think more members would stop implying that we should try to make Christianity the state religion.

*In a non-peeve related note, in Sunday School the teacher raised, but didn't follow up on the question of why the Lord reveals certain things in dreams, which I hadn't thought of in those terms before. She mentioned, besides the tree of life vision in 1 Nephi 8, Pharaoh’s plenty/famine dream from Genesis and the dream of the stone cut without hands from Daniel 2. The best I can come up with is the following: largely symbolic narrative teaching will have more of an impact if experienced than if explained; thus, the original recipient of each vision had a far more powerful experience than if the Lord had just said, 'imagine a wide field, &tc.' This could also shed light on why Nephi was so desirous to see the things his father saw--hearing about it isn't as powerful as experiencing it. Further, dreams often have an air of reality about them--the experience you get upon awakening and not being quite sure if something you were dreaming about really happened or not. I suspect that such powerful dreams leave a much deeper impression than if the imagery had been revealed by other means. On the other hand, I suspect that more direct revelation works better for detailed doctrine and such.

*In a final peeve-related note, one of the sacrament speakers said something to the effect that Ammon must have been a better missionary than the other sons of Mosiah since he had baptized so many people, while the others ended up in jail. Saying something like this is sometimes enough to set me off in full rant mode, because:
*as far as I know, we have no evidence that Aaron et al used methods any different than those employed by Ammon.
*the Lord judges us not by how others use their agency, but by how we use ours.
*Judging missionary success based solely on baptisms is really really stupid, not only for the above reasons, but because it encourages stat baptizing rather than conversion or establishing the Church.
*And ultimately the implication is that successful Church work, in any form, will lead to obvious tangible results. This concept is something I've decided to call the Efficiency Fallacy. We hear so many stories of people being inspired to do such-and-such, whereupon the target is baptized/reactivated/healed/whatever. While such things do happen, the implication that the Spirit will hit us upside the head whenever anything urgent is going down, or that every time the Spirit hits us upside the head something tangible will result is, in my opinion, wrong and destructive. It's easy to construct a model where every home teaching visit leads to greater activity, every missionary contact leads to conversion, etc, and we feel good about how efficient we are being. However, I don't think life works like that. Just as the Savior's Atonement doesn't, in my understanding, only cover those who repent, but rather would allow all to take advantage if they only would, our labors will yield mixed results. Some people won't join the Church, but needed to be warned anyway. Some inactives won't ever reactivate, but need to be home taught anyway so that we can say that we've done all we can. In my understanding, no one will get to heaven and be told "even though no one tried to reach you, you still don't get in because you wouldn't have accepted anyway." [long, complicated discussion about the interaction of agency, foreknowledge, salvation, accountability etc omitted for purposes of not getting too bogged down]. The ultimate point is that most of the work we are called to do is worth doing for its own sake, regardless of how others respond. That doesn't mean that we don't need to make intelligent decisions about how best to use our time, but it does mean that we shouldn't expect the best decisions to always have the most tangible results. God's ideas of efficiency are not the same as ours.

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