Well, here's the title of my Pandora playlist!
Tarzan Soundtrack! Son of Man by Phil Collins, baby!
Son of Man, look to the sky
Lift your spirit, set it free
Some day you'll walk tall with pride
Son of Man, a man in time you'll be...
Yeah... That's right. I bet when the Daniel (and a plethora of other Jewish apocalyptic writers of the 2nd Kingdom) were writing about the Son of Man who would come, cast out the taskmasters of God's people, gather the 12 tribes, restore Zion, and make big, bushy Jew-beards a mandatory requirement for entry into Jerusalem (O.K., the last one isn't true, but it should be!) he couldn't have imagined their concept of 'son of man' would be bastardized into a vine-swingen', totally-ripped, near-clean-shaven Caucasian-American ape man with Steven Tyler hair and a totally-bad loin cloth.
And I'm not even talking about Tarzan.
So, I make a disclaimer: I've been staring at either a computer or a book with really-shiney pages all day. My eyes feel like I've been blowing up those really tiny variegated water balloons all day. Puffy and raw.
Also, my thoughts are interlocutory. I don't have this whole Mormonism thing all figured out just yet, and I reserve the right to be wrong. But, heck, let's take a stab at it.
First, like a good Platonist, definitions.
Mercy: not allowing a something bad to happen to someone who doesn't deserve it.
Grace: giving a gift from one's own merit/resources to someone who doesn't deserve it.
Flesh: the physical manifestation of the Mormon conception of matter.
Spirit: the spiritual (mental, intellectual) manifestation of the Mormon conception of matter. Tiny-tiny matter we can't initially perceive with our fleshly eyes without help of the Spirit.
Soul: a spirit inhabiting a flesh body; e.g., the sum of the parts.
Mormonism begins from the a priori assumption inherited from historic Christianity that God must be both perfectly merciful and perfectly just. He must be both to be God.
So, back in the day there were these two pseudo-Tarzan people (about as intelligent, more naked, less acrobatic) who God created to have dominion over the earth. (And be exalted. But we'll get there in another blog post) To these two God gave what's called 'Law' and 'Agency.' These two concepts, in Mormon theology, are inseparable. God planted two trees in the garden: tree of life, tree of knowledge. Sound familiar yet? Now, God told these two "I've put these two trees here. I'm telling you: DON'T EAT THE KNOWLEDGE TREE (Law). However, you have the choice to disobey me (Agency). Don't screw this up or you'll die."
The rest is history (well...). Satan possesses the snake, snake pulls a Paris and gives the apple (or some other fruit) to the babe, babe eats apple (yum!), dude eats apple, both get kicked out of Eden.
Alright, so here comes the first offshoot from (some facets of) historic Christianity.
God is stumped. Just for a moment. (for only, like, one-trillionth of a half-second or so).
Here's the dealio. God is enslaved to keep both his Word and to honor man's Agency. They ate the apple: now, even though God wants to show them mercy and bring them to Exaltation, in order for God to remain perfectly just He had to kick them out of the garden and abandon their bodies and spirits to Satan. Thus, man's flesh becomes carnal and fallen, and Satan now has a claim on their spirits.
Well, crap. I hope the apple was a Mt. Fuji and worth it...
So, God really wants to be merciful to Man because he's perfectly Merciful. He has to be! But in order to maintain his good image of a Just God, disobedience to his law must be punished with death (both physical and spiritual). SOOOOO, God has a quick-plan session with Father, Son, HS, and comes up with what's called 'the plan of happiness,' or 'plan of salvation' to rescue his fallen spirit-children.
According to this plan, in about 5500 years, in order to satisfy His own Just character, God's gonna 'take on flesh' and condense into the world of physical matter (as Jesus Christ), die on a cross, and make INFINATE ATONEMENT for all mankind. Infinite. For all sin. Everywhere. Even that one spot under your ugly brown living-room rug you haven't swept in about forever. If there's any human spirits down there, Atonement is for them. Such will satisfy the demands of Justice that his Word demands be enacted on mankind.
Essentially, God finds a loophole in his own character.
So, He does it. On April 20 (depending on if it's a leap year or not) in year 0 B.C. (or would it be A.D... wait...) God condescends into Mary's womb, is born of flesh, spends 30 years going 'from grace to grace' growing in a knowledge of his Spiritual Self (the Father) and then paints the sky black with his death. Atonement done.
This is grace. God gives himself, his death. Because original sin warranted both spiritual and physical death to negate the latter there had to be an infinitely atoning physical death or nobody would ever resurrect physically. Spirits, eternally divorced from their body, would wander around the spiritual plane and turn into demons. Jesus' death enables a resurrection for all men, not just those who accept him.
But how did all the unfortunate souls who died before Jesus died on the cross? Did they just get the short stick off the Tree of Life? Well, God doesn't keep this plan a secret from his people (the Jews). He reveals very early to them (first to the prophet Zenos, that we know of, as recounted in Jacob 5) that he's going to send himself as a Christ named Jesus, that he's going to be born of a Virgin, die on a cross, rise again, and in the process Atone for all mankind. This is where, like I wrote several days ago, the patriarchs had to preach Christ. All pre-Jesus-death people were saved by conscious profession of the coming messiah. Commence redaction.
So, Christ has come, Jesus died, rose again. Grace has come into the world. So, it's all good, right? Wrong.
Justice has been satisfied for both physical and spiritual death, but only the physical death is automatically efficient. There's still man's Agency to be satisfied. The negation of man's 'spiritual' death still hasn't been enacted because it was Adam and Eve's spirits that made the conscious decision to disobey God. Jesus' death intrinsically satisfied only the physical death. In order for spiritual mercy to be enacted (e.g., for God to say GTFO to Satan when he comes at the first death and on the last day and demands your spirit for his own) man must consciously choose to return into covenant with God. God can't wiggle out of this one.
So, to return into covenant (e.g., agreement to obey God's commandments in return for eternal life and eventual exaltation) two things must happen. Repentance and baptism.
In order to have baptism, you must have repented.
In order to repent, you must have faith.
In order to have faith, you must believe in Christ.
In order to believe in Christ, you must believe what God's messengers and disciples say about Christ, his relationship to you, and how you can be reconciled with Him. (and everything else, for that matter. But we won't get into that now...)
Thus, God sends out his angels, apostles, and (eventually) disciples to preach belief and faith that leads to repentance which results in covenant by baptism into the Church of Christ. Baptism is the act of re-entering into covenant with God and is literally necessary for salvation, as the Catholic church also preaches. But don't get baptized into the Catholic church, the great whore of the earth. That would bebaaaaaddddd...
So, people believe and get baptized. Whoo hoo! Covenant is restored like it was in the beginning before the Tarzan pair swung out of the garden on big-black snakes! Man can inherit eternal life! When Satan comes, first, at physical death, and demands your spirit for the first hell (yes, there's multiple hells in Mormon theology) God will say take a hike and your spirit will go to paradise until the final physical resurrection. Do you get virgins and fruits and wines and baths in cool, brisk streams wearing no goggles (no pesky water ever gets in your eyes) on 85 degree days like in Islamic theology? LDS scriptures don't say. Maybe if the angry black mobs hadn't martyred Joseph Smith in Missouri we would have found out. We didn't. But I'm sure paradise will be good.
So, it's all good, right? Not quite.
O.K. So, ironically, the Mormons and the Catholics agree on something. Rather than seeing eternal salvation as something that happens at a point in this worldly life (like Protestant theologians), according to Mormon theology salvation is the act of God rejecting Satan's claim on your spirit first at death and second on the last day of Judgement. Until then, ultimate mercy hasn't been given, at least Ultimate Mercy (sounds kinda like a WWE wrestler, doesn't it? Body slammed by Ultimate Mercy!).
So, in order that Ultimate Mercy will be given you must endure in covenant until death. You can't pull an Adam and Eve. Don't break the covenant. Don't be that guy (or girl).
This involves following the new Law set down by Christ through Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. Essentially, what the LDS Scriptures, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the ongoing Church Presidency says you do, you do. Your covenant with God is through them and the LDS Law. If you reject the LDS Church after you're baptized, you're rejecting the Holy Ghost that has been made manifest truthto you. Blaspheming the Holy Ghost.
Stop reading my blog, grab your Bible, and read Mark 3:28-29 to see what happens to Holy Ghost blasphemers. We'll cover Outer Darkness in another blog post.
Now, so far most of this seems pretty traditional, correct? That's because it is.
Up to this point, to my knowledge, the Catholic and Mormon doctrines of salvation are strikingly similar. Mormon and Protestant doctrines of salvation are also mostly similar minus the concepts of Agency (if you're a Frozen Chosen as my wonderful charismatic friend likes to denominate) and Church. A Protestant's covenant is in his heart with the Spirit alone, and with no one else, though that covenant manifests in his/her interactions with others.
After this point is where Smith's revelations really get fun.
We'll cover that in another blog post because it's nearly 8 o'clock and Grampa's bedtime is in an hour. Big papa Will still has to sit cross-legged on his torn-up prayer mat and watch blotches of light through his eyelids play Aurora Borealis. And pray, of course.
Edit: As I was freewriting this morning I had a thought. Well, I had many. But this one applied to this post.
I believe that I was incorrect in asserting that the doctrines of salvation between Mormonism and Catholicism are nearly identical. Many of the means are similar, as is the progression; however, the Mormon doctrine of salvation seems to be a hybrid between the salvation models of penal substitution (God dying to satisfy God's claim to Justice) and ransom theory (God dying to ransom human spirits from Satan), the former being the predominant Catholic (since Anselm) and Protestant doctrine, while hardly the only one extant (as is assumed by most Protestants).