via Herald Extra

Practical Christianity

The concept of eternal man, with its refinments in the prophets of this new era, has an immense philosophical and theological strength which is only beginning to be recognized.

What matters is that Christ and his prophets are, in all history, those most immersed in these realities and therefore in ours. If I had not known that self-understanding on the scale Christ had it, and through him others, can endow life — all of it — with glorious meaning, these articles would never have been begun.

No insights, no set of flashes, are more revolutinoary to the axioms of relition in the Western world than these three: a) Man and woman are not derived from a void. They are beginningless. Their primal existence, as uncreated and indestructible intelligence, is everlasting.  b) The ‘creation’ of spirit or soul is not a fiat act at the time of mortal conception or birth. It is really divine procreation in a world of glory. c) Physical birth in mortality is not totally at the initiative of God the Father. It is in part the result of premortal, individual election and foresight which are in harmony with uncreated law.

1 — Your conscious and purposive existence is guaranteed forever. The elements composing your intelligence, or begotten spirit and mortal body, are indestructible. Through stages, either of growth or degeneration, selfhood remains. Both utter extinction and permanent regression to a prior state are impossibilities.

2 — There is no creation ‘from nothing.’ There is ordering of elements: movement from simple to complex truth; from one degree to a greater degree, and from part to whole. You are not just a product; you are an originator. In space you are coexistent with God. In time you are coeternal with God.

3 — All three modes of your being — intelligence, spirit, and body — are essential to your self-fulfillment. Perfection of any one requires inseparable union with the others. God himself is God because of His tripartite perfection.

4 — Freedom was not created. You are, and always will be, indepedent in that stage of developement to which your voluntary decisions and divine powers have led. There are limits all along the way to what you can be and do. But you are not a billiard ball. No power in the universe can coerce your complete assent or dissent.

5 — God is responsible neither for the innate limits of uncreated element nor for the eternal and inviolate principles within the Gospel plan as instituted. By application of these, not by a cosmic accident, He became what He is. Likewise He aids all of us in reaching our fullness. Thus it is not a ‘decree’ that stress and pain are part of growth and enlightenment. The universe and the selves within it simply operate that way. It is enough to know that  God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, though not the source of tragedy, yet have the power to enable us to climb above it into everlasting joy.

As to present ills, we aticipated them. Yes we chose, and chose with knowledge, these very conditions and risks. In a word, we were not -contrary to French nihilists – ‘thrown’ into the world. Every mortal… did ask to be born. We might have avoided mortality. Billions did, and thus drastically limited their possiblities.

These are direct quotes from — forming my boiler-plate version of — Eternal Man by Truman G. Madsen. Madsen’s book (a collection of fleshed-out, somewhat apologetic essays on the five points above in relation to eternity of man) is a mere 78 pages, inclusive of an introduction and a preface. Still, I spent a week just reading the text, another sorting through meaning and application to my personal life. I can’t say I’ve produced much coherent or concrete thought yet… but the wisps are finally coalescing.

550 words doesn’t nearly do Madsen justice, but I do hope it links well enough the platform on which my following observations stand:

  • Could you imagine a world where each individual saw themselves as intelligences, co-eternal with God?

The recent trend on Top 40 radio is female power-ballads. Katy Perry, Pink, Lady Gaga all released dance anthems with accompanying inspirational lyrics. A subconscious reaction to the media frenzy over bullying, I’m sure… but they make for an interesting study nonetheless. Strangely, Katy Perry’s “Firework” comes closest to the truth while Pink and Gaga take to defending the route of misunderstanding and staving off accountability. In a world where art imitates popular sentiment (or vise versa? the eternal debate), it’s more than mildly distressing that human beings are so far from seeing themselves as they truly are: eternal, purposeful, agents of change, capable of overcoming great and long odds.

  • Could you imagine if we all saw each other as intelligences, co-eternal with God?

As heady as it might be — realizing you’re made of the same stuff as God — more profound is this: so is everyone else. That includes the idiot who cut you off in traffic this morning, the girl behind you who smacks her gum like she’s breathing, the  ridiculously rule-driven bureaucrat at your local Government office… the list goes on, and only gets more humbling.

About a month ago, I sat in the Bishop’s office updating him on our out-of-control Ward Unemployment list he’d asked me to tackle.  Our ward boundaries span a variety of cultural and socio-economic areas and in the same day, I could find myself in the richly furnished home of a genetic researcher and the shabby apartment of a waitress with three kids and no husband. Needless to say, working through this included a strange balance of getting out of my comfort zone and motivating the jobless to get out of theirs. More often than not, it was frustrating. However, the list started to shrink as resumes turned into interviews that turned into full-time positions.  At the conclusion of our meeting, the Bishop said something that struck me: “What you’re doing here is real, practical Christian service. Everybody prays for people to get handed a new job, but very few are willing or able to get down in the trenches and really help.”

Reading through Madsen’s text reminded me of the Bishop’s definition of practical Christianity — to actually do the good you pray for — and provided insight into why Christ was able to teach and serve the way he did. He saw human beings as they are — co-eternal with God — and he used his Divinity to inspire us to see ourselves and each other the same way. It’s not an easy mindset to keep (indeed, it took a member of the godhead coming to earth to provide a good example), but what are we here for if not to improve? Improvement and progression is not an overnight change — it takes place in each moment of every day and how we choose to see and treat those intelligences around us.

If you’re like me and looking for a challenge in 2011… there it is. To practice Christianity.