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laronius

Agency and the Atonement

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I have recently been pondering over, what I perceive to be, two incompatible doctrines (teachings) that we sometimes harbor about life and the plan of salvation. First of all we espouse the true doctrine that through the atonement of Jesus Christ everything can be made right (from an eternal perspective) so long as we remain faithful. Every loss, hardship, unfairness, and pain we experience in life can and will work to our good in the end. Every single one! And yet at the same time we sometimes think (speaking from personal experience) that God has a definite detailed plan that maps out every step of our individual lives (at least the big ones) that we need to follow in order to be successful in this life as though agency only exists in terms of accepting or rejecting this detailed day to day plan and that our own personal preferences take a back seat to what God has essentially already foreordained for us. But this kind of thinking, in my mind, completely voids the reality of the first doctrine. Now I probably didn't do a very good job of explaining that so let me add some clarifying comments. Does God have a plan for us his children as a whole and as individuals? Yes. Does he lead and direct us in life if we are willing to listen? Yes. But is it all as detailed and specific as we sometimes want to make it out to be? I don't know and I lean towards probably not. For example, let's say a 40 year old husband and father of five children decides to go sky-diving and his parachute doesn't open and he dies. Let's also say that there was no spiritual impression telling him not to go skydiving and that this man was worthy of such an impression if there were to be one. So, is his death an expression of divine will or is it possible that it was just accident, a result of his choice to go skydiving and that had he not made that choice he could have possibly lived for another 40 years? The common view by I think most would be to say "It must have been his time" as though this man's choice was irrelevant and inadvertently implying at the same time that the atonement could not have made up for his untimely death unless the Lord intended for it to be so. Now maybe it was his time to go. But is it possible that the Lord simply allowed him to make his own choice and live (no pun intended) with the consequences knowing that the atonement would see his family through life in his absence? I think yes that is possible. My point in all this is that while God can and does direct us we need to take much greater accountability for our choices because God's plan for us leaves a lot of room for us to make decisions (sometimes huge one) without his intervention that could greatly impact our lives and the lives of others. Am I right in this way of thinking or do you believe that God will direct us in all the major decisions of life or at least protect us in them?

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1 hour ago, laronius said:

I have recently been pondering over, what I perceive to be, two incompatible doctrines (teachings) that we sometimes harbor about life and the plan of salvation. First of all we espouse the true doctrine that through the atonement of Jesus Christ everything can be made right (from an eternal perspective) so long as we remain faithful. Every loss, hardship, unfairness, and pain we experience in life can and will work to our good in the end. Every single one! And yet at the same time we sometimes think (speaking from personal experience) that God has a definite detailed plan that maps out every step of our individual lives (at least the big ones) that we need to follow in order to be successful in this life as though agency only exists in terms of accepting or rejecting this detailed day to day plan and that our own personal preferences take a back seat to what God has essentially already foreordained for us. But this kind of thinking, in my mind, completely voids the reality of the first doctrine. Now I probably didn't do a very good job of explaining that so let me add some clarifying comments. Does God have a plan for us his children as a whole and as individuals? Yes. Does he lead and direct us in life if we are willing to listen? Yes. But is it all as detailed and specific as we sometimes want to make it out to be? I don't know and I lean towards probably not. For example, let's say a 40 year old husband and father of five children decides to go sky-diving and his parachute doesn't open and he dies. Let's also say that there was no spiritual impression telling him not to go skydiving and that this man was worthy of such an impression if there were to be one. So, is his death an expression of divine will or is it possible that it was just accident, a result of his choice to go skydiving and that had he not made that choice he could have possibly lived for another 40 years? The common view by I think most would be to say "It must have been his time" as though this man's choice was irrelevant and inadvertently implying at the same time that the atonement could not have made up for his untimely death unless the Lord intended for it to be so. Now maybe it was his time to go. But is it possible that the Lord simply allowed him to make his own choice and live (no pun intended) with the consequences knowing that the atonement would see his family through life in his absence? I think yes that is possible. My point in all this is that while God can and does direct us we need to take much greater accountability for our choices because God's plan for us leaves a lot of room for us to make decisions (sometimes huge one) without his intervention that could greatly impact our lives and the lives of others. Am I right in this way of thinking or do you believe that God will direct us in all the major decisions of life or at least protect us in them?

I believe that God is willing to direct us in all the major decisions of life (or at least protect us in them), as expedient in His mind and as we exercise the required faith and obedience. The atonement of His Son allows for that in this life, and also allows for the eventual blessings of resurrection and eternal life when His intervention is not expedient in this life and as our faith and obedience grows later on in life and the post-mortal spirit world.

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I can’t begin to process the sort of calculus in which God must engage to make everybody’s personal decisions interact together for the good of all; let alone how He can insert His own guidance to various individuals into that mix while accounting for the fact that some folks will take His advice while others won’t.  

In my more bewildered moments I have hypothesized that perhaps God actually exercises very little direct control over most elements of our lives; and that earth is more or less like a boarding school to which a parent sends her child—not knowing EXACTLY what will happen, but having a general idea of what the experience entails and knowing that at the end of the process, the result will be an “educated” child (and the more a child at school corresponds with his parents and heeds his parents’ wise advice, the easier the child will find it to navigate the boarding school experience).

I do think that perhaps the idea of all things being “made right” in eternity is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, or at least frames things in the wrong perspective.  Maybe the point isn’t that I’ll finally “get what’s coming to me” or finally be avenged/vindicated of the wrongs I have suffered.  Maybe the point is that I’ll be so happy just to be back in God’s presence, that I won’t really care about much of the stuff that happened here. 

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1 hour ago, laronius said:

For example, let's say a 40 year old husband and father of five children decides to go sky-diving and his parachute doesn't open and he dies. Let's also say that there was no spiritual impression telling him not to go skydiving and that this man was worthy of such an impression if there were to be one.

1. Husband = responsibilities to his wife
2. Father = responsibilities to his 5 children
3. Choice = he choose to thrill seek. He was not required as part of his military service for example.
4. We shouldn't expect or feel entitled to spiritual impressions of further guidance if we a) should already know better b) have already been guided/taught on a subject

Elder James E. Faust shared the following:

Quote

Some of you may think that you will discover your strengths and abilities by living on the edge. Perhaps you also think it is a way to find your identity or manliness. Your identity, however, cannot be found from thrill seeking, such as intentionally and unnecessarily exposing your life or your soul to any kind of danger, physical or moral. There will always be enough risks that will come to you naturally without your having to seek them out.

I realize I'm not addressing your core question, I'm just tossing out an additional observation.
 

Edited by NeedleinA

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2 hours ago, laronius said:

For example, let's say a 40 year old husband and father of five children decides to go sky-diving and his parachute doesn't open and he dies. Let's also say that there was no spiritual impression telling him not to go skydiving and that this man was worthy of such an impression if there were to be one. So, is his death an expression of divine will or is it possible that it was just accident, a result of his choice to go skydiving and that had he not made that choice he could have possibly lived for another 40 years?

I am reminded of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_of_Random#Death_of_Grant_Thompson

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2 hours ago, laronius said:

Does God have a plan for us his children as a whole and as individuals? Yes. Does he lead and direct us in life if we are willing to listen?

From what church teachings I have seen, God's plan for Adam and Eve was for them to disobey 
Him in the garden; otherwise the Plan of Salvation would have been frustrated.

Apparently God chose disobedience as the means to start their progression.  Or maybe,
despite Him telling them not to eat from the forbidden tree in the garden, He really wanted 
them to eat from it and the Fall is not viewed as a transgression from heaven's point of view.

One thing that is not clear is whether all the heavenly hosts were rejoicing the moment Adam
and Eve partook.

Jim

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1 hour ago, theplains said:

From what church teachings I have seen, God's plan for Adam and Eve was for them to disobey 
Him in the garden; otherwise the Plan of Salvation would have been frustrated.

Apparently God chose disobedience as the means to start their progression.  Or maybe,
despite Him telling them not to eat from the forbidden tree in the garden, He really wanted 
them to eat from it and the Fall is not viewed as a transgression from heaven's point of view.

One thing that is not clear is whether all the heavenly hosts were rejoicing the moment Adam
and Eve partook.

Jim

The presumption here is that God’s injunction to Adam and Eve was “don’t eat ever”, as opposed to “don’t eat now, and I’ll tell you when it’s time to eat it”.

I’ll grant that if all we have to go on is the scripture, “don’t eat ever” is logical reading.

But Latter-day Saints who have received their endowment have cause to consider the alternative interpretation.  

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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It seems to me that this is essentially the "Is God Sovereign" vs. "Does Man have Free Will" debate that has been rumbling through Christianity for ~2000 years. I don't claim to know how the two seemingly contradictory ideas mesh together -- as @JustAGuy said -- this is the kind of calculus that God can do that I cannot. Somehow my choices are mine and they are meaningful (for good or ill) to me and those around me, but my choices cannot frustrate God's plans and will for others and mankind on the whole. How that really works, I don't know.

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On 1/4/2020 at 8:33 AM, laronius said:

I have recently been pondering over, what I perceive to be, two incompatible doctrines (teachings) that we sometimes harbor about life and the plan of salvation. First of all we espouse the true doctrine that through the atonement of Jesus Christ everything can be made right (from an eternal perspective) so long as we remain faithful. Every loss, hardship, unfairness, and pain we experience in life can and will work to our good in the end. Every single one! And yet at the same time we sometimes think (speaking from personal experience) that God has a definite detailed plan that maps out every step of our individual lives (at least the big ones) that we need to follow in order to be successful in this life as though agency only exists in terms of accepting or rejecting this detailed day to day plan and that our own personal preferences take a back seat to what God has essentially already foreordained for us. But this kind of thinking, in my mind, completely voids the reality of the first doctrine. Now I probably didn't do a very good job of explaining that so let me add some clarifying comments. Does God have a plan for us his children as a whole and as individuals? Yes. Does he lead and direct us in life if we are willing to listen? Yes. But is it all as detailed and specific as we sometimes want to make it out to be? I don't know and I lean towards probably not. For example, let's say a 40 year old husband and father of five children decides to go sky-diving and his parachute doesn't open and he dies. Let's also say that there was no spiritual impression telling him not to go skydiving and that this man was worthy of such an impression if there were to be one. So, is his death an expression of divine will or is it possible that it was just accident, a result of his choice to go skydiving and that had he not made that choice he could have possibly lived for another 40 years? The common view by I think most would be to say "It must have been his time" as though this man's choice was irrelevant and inadvertently implying at the same time that the atonement could not have made up for his untimely death unless the Lord intended for it to be so. Now maybe it was his time to go. But is it possible that the Lord simply allowed him to make his own choice and live (no pun intended) with the consequences knowing that the atonement would see his family through life in his absence? I think yes that is possible. My point in all this is that while God can and does direct us we need to take much greater accountability for our choices because God's plan for us leaves a lot of room for us to make decisions (sometimes huge one) without his intervention that could greatly impact our lives and the lives of others. Am I right in this way of thinking or do you believe that God will direct us in all the major decisions of life or at least protect us in them?

There is a tendency to try to understand divine revelations from what we understand or experience between birth and death.  If we are to understand anything concerning G-d - we must understand that such an approach is inadequate.   If there is agency - there must be intelligence - for there can be no agency without intelligence.  I have expressed before that in my profession I deal with artificial intelligence.  I would like to tell you all that I am an expert in such things - but the technology  of artificial intelligence has greatly expanded in the last 5 years.  I have a son that is current and an expert; that is light years beyond my understanding of artificial intelligence.

Scientifically we define intelligence as the ability to learn and change behavior.   I find this to be an excellent definition - even from a spiritual perspective.    In order of something to be intelligent, a necessary element is the ability to remember.  Without memory there can be no learning in order to change behavior.  There is however, a severer and critical element of intelligence concerning our mortal birth.  Our memory was wiped clean with what is called "The vale" in the Plan of Salvation.  There is more to this vale than just memory loss but for sake of discussion I intend to reference the memory loss for our understanding of the Plan of Salvation and how agency is the most important element of our transcendence via the Plan of Salvation. 

Agency demands that we determine our own outcome of the Plan of Salvation.  And yet it does not take a genius to realize that we cannot determine our birth or death circumstance based solely on our current knowledge and intelligence.  In addition, for thousands of years, it has been argued what if anything any individual can change even the least circumstance concerning anything in this mortal experience - how is it possible for G-d to be in control.  Thus the main argument concerning agency in religious circles revolves around the idea that if every individual has means to change anything - how can it possibly be, that G-d is in control?

I want to introduce another thought, idea or principle of the Plan of Salvation.  This is the principle of a test or trial.  I think that many have the wrong idea about tests or trials in relationship to the Plan of Salvation.  One thing I am famous for in my profession is in the field of testing or trials.  I do not believe that anything "works" unless it has been fully tested.  But then, I do not believe that testing or trials is for the purpose of passing or failing.  I see testing and trials for the purpose of preparation and determining what needs changing is necessary in order to be useful under what circumstances.

I do not believe that our mortal existence is so G-d can have an excuse to place us in outer darkness or some place of Glory in the next life.  Such thinking just does not jive with agency nor the Plan of Salvation or even the love and compassion of G-d let alone that we are intelligent beings in the image and likeness of G-d.  Those that employ this logic will always come to false conclusions - which is the same as believing a lie. 

I submit that in the next life, with our full memory restored and as a result of our complete and entirely adequate testing and trials of our mortal probation we can, through our intelligence and agency make all the changes for what best fits (perfectly fits) our desires and self induced and determined destiny.  The reason this works - is because we will all have tasted of the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil and as such became fallen beings subject to sin and death.  And then through the love and grace of G-d and by the atonement all our sins will be mitigated and wiped clean.  Then we, by our by knowledge, intelligence and agency choose for ourselves.

 

The Traveler

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Guest Mores
On 1/4/2020 at 12:18 PM, theplains said:

From what church teachings I have seen, God's plan for Adam and Eve was for them to disobey 
Him in the garden; otherwise the Plan of Salvation would have been frustrated.

Apparently God chose disobedience as the means to start their progression.  Or maybe,
despite Him telling them not to eat from the forbidden tree in the garden, He really wanted 
them to eat from it and the Fall is not viewed as a transgression from heaven's point of view.

One thing that is not clear is whether all the heavenly hosts were rejoicing the moment Adam
and Eve partook.

Jim

Thank you, Jim.  You've been able to answer a question that I have been wondering about.

My testimony on the revealed doctrine of the fall (both the means and necessity) is stronger now because of it.

I hope that one day you'll come to understand it as I just have.

Edited by Mores

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