A guest post by our friend Ray
I view the purpose of this life as becoming like Jesus was in His mortal life – and the purpose of the next life as becoming like Christ is now in His post-mortal life. For me, everything else (specific doctrine, intellectual understanding, nuanced discussions of exegesis, whatever) is secondary to that.
Joseph Smith was asked how he led the Church, and he responded: “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” “Principles” is not equivalent to “doctrines” or “intellectual understandings”. I read this to mean that the Church should give us the broad, general outline (connect the border pieces of the puzzle, if you will), but it should leave it up to us to complete the puzzle for ourselves. This might produce slightly, or even radically, different puzzles, but they all will share the basic outline – the core principles. That’s important to me.
When it comes down to it, I base my core principles on three main statements of Jesus:
“Be ye therefore perfect,” (Matt. 5:48 – meaning “complete, whole, fully developed” not “mistake free”); “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20 – meaning our works must flow from our connection to a pure tree or vine); “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 – self explanatory). Basically, my core principles derive fundamentally from the Sermon on the Mount, but those three verses are the key.
When push comes to shove, I simply don’t care exactly what someone says they believe – only what they do and what they are becoming. If they teach Buddhism or if they claim atheism – if their background is of solid testimony of the Restored Gospel (TBM) or of disillusionment and leaving the Church (DAMU) or of never embracing what I believe (“non-Mormon”) – Again, when push comes to shove, I don’t care one bit. I really don’t, as long as they are trying to do the will of the Father as they understand it and become perfected (whole and complete). I believe God will sort that all out in the end, and my responsibility simply is to do His will, as I understand it, and help others do the same, as they understand it.
Why do I share that in this context? I believe in the Restored Gospel deeply and passionately, and I enjoy the intellectual stimulation I find on various blogs. However, my intellectual efforts do not define my discipleship. That is defined by my realization that no matter how my brain constructs my doctrinal understanding, it’s much more important what I do than what I say – what I am becoming than how convincing my arguments are. I believe I am intelligent enough to construct a solid intellectual justification for whatever I decide to believe. I also am intelligent enough to realize that others can do so, as well – often constructing different justifications than mine. I’m fine with that, as long as both of us are sincere in our efforts. My understanding may be different than another’s, but if we both are working to become the same thing (perfectly complete and whole and righteous [“right with God”]), our journey can be one of mutual respect and camaraderie and joy no matter our doctrinal differences.
I engage in internet conversations specifically to find ways to hone my discipleship – to plumb the depths of others’ understanding to find new ways to bring me closer to my Father. That’s what I long for in the discussions in which I engage – a place of refuge and rest, where I can drink deeply from the cup of perspective and insight – no matter the theological or denominational affiliation of those with whom I converse. I don’t want to fight and argue over minute points of doctrinal interpretation, although I will challenge statements that I think are hyperbolic and mean-spirited. I want to share and sup. That is the sustenance for which I hunger and thirst – the soothing sips of insight that restore and reaffirm my resolve for righteousness. I don’t hunger and thirst after insight for itself; I hunger and thirst after insight that leads me to greater *righteousness* – to be imbued more fully with the Holy Ghost – to do the will of my Father – to bring forth fruits meet for repentance – to become therefore perfected (whole and complete).
Everything else is meaningless if it isn’t involved in getting there.