Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Empathy, Spinoza, and the First and Greatest Commandment

Several years back, while working on a Philosophy minor degree at the Utah Valley University, I was introduced to the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza. At the time I was taking an early-modern philosophy class and learning about the prominent philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, it was Spinoza that really stuck out to me. While I never really agreed with his treatment of God (Spinoza argued that in order for God to be omnipotent, omniscient, etc. he must be a substance that contained all essences. Or, basically, in order for God to be God he must contain all things in existence. This is basically a fancy way of saying that God is in and apart of everything, rather than a physical entity) I did appreciate how he was willing to go the extra mile in order to resolve the ontological problem of evil. However, it is through his treatment of God that I was first really introduced to the idea of the expression of empathy in order to understand or better perceive God. Spinoza has heavily influenced the way I look at others, nature, and the world (or even the universe) in general, especially in relation to God.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Twelfth Apostle

While on my mission, I came upon a scripture that caused me to think of the status of Judas. Judas is painted as this bad guy, he is associated with the worst of sins -- the unpardonable sin of denying the holy ghost. But how much of this is accurate? Could we go so far to say that he was or is a son of perdition?

The scripture that first got me thinking about this was D&C 29:12, which reads,

"And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, but the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else."

Monday, November 10, 2014


I love nature.

I guess I could leave the whole blog with just that, but maybe I should elaborate. After all, anyone who is reading and commenting on this I am probably paying off, and those of you not getting a weekly check are missing out.

I love nature. I love being in it, I love experiencing it and sharing it with my kids. It's wonderful. I suspect I got this from my parents. We would go on hikes in Schenck Forest when I grew up in North Carolina and my Dad would take my brother and me on "Journey's of Discovery" where we would hike down rivers, bike in the rain and explore the many forests in NC. We learned about bugs and trees and more bugs and other animals and we learned to appreciate what nature has to offer. We learned the importance of preserving it. We learned that our awareness of God grows and is determined through our interactions with nature.

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Sentence On How You Perceive God

A while back I began asking people the question, "How do you perceive God?" and I got a number of responses back. All were wonderful. I left the question wide open and let them answer in any way they wished. Now, I want to share some of the responses I got. (Some may be longer than 1 sentence. The title is a lie).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Polygamy and Human Complexity

In recent years, and even more so in the last few weeks, a lot of information has come about dealing with Joseph Smith and polygamy. Information has been brought to light that he'd married others as early as 1830 and some as young as fourteen. Evidence has also come about showing that he had married women who were already married. While learning this of the man who founded the church I believe in is hard, it still has no affect on my faith and testimony.

It is unfortunate that over the last few decades our church has put its leaders on a pedestal -- expecting no fault from them and taking every utterance as doctrine. However, this was never the case.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Wild "Mormonism" Appears

A short simple thought that occurred to me . . .

I couldn't sleep last night. I stayed up thinking of God, and religion, and the many questions I have. An analogy came to me then -- I guess it was some kind of realization on how it is that the church functions and grows. A metaphor for its functionality, if you will.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Perceiving God Through Empathy

"Both insofar as the mind has clear and distinct, and insofar as it has confused ideas, it strives, for an indefinite duration, to persevere in its being and it is conscious of this striving it has."
                                                                             -Ethics, Spinoza, pp. 76

While not entirely linear, this idea pushes the importance of knowledge to bring about empathy. Spinoza explains that to the extent we understand the world the better we are, or become. Or, the more you understand the more you'll act from your own essence -- act, rather that be acted upon.