Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mormon Jesus

Dear Hannah,

Your brother is scheduled to arrive on 4/20, a day notorious for international pot-smoking and Hitler worship.  Neither of these things particularly appeals to me at this stage of my life, but a baby has to be born some time, and I thank God babies are rarely born on time.  We could have a total change of affairs and have him born earlier; and if we luck out, there's a chance we'll get him April 6th -- too early, in my opinion, but the ostensible birthday of Mormon Jesus, which in every sense seems to be an improvement.

The Mormons have rejected December 25th on several grounds, the first (and most obvious) of them being that it happens to suspiciously coincide with a pagan festival*; and the second of them being that all signs in the New Testament point to Christ's birth in the springtime.  How they got the 6th is the mystery, and one I'm not willing to delve into at this moment; but so far as I can tell this scrupulousness about the birth of our Savior is the best anyone has literally pulled out of a hat, and is likely to remain so until the Second Coming, when Christ forever ends this mystery by immediately telling us the hour of His birth.

The birthday isn't the only thing I prefer about Mormon Jesus, of course; and aside from a few blunders about his family tree (the "brother of Satan" thing is a bit much), it appears they picked up a few facts the other Christians have missed.  For instance Mormon Jesus is conclusively white, which ends all the bickering about whether we've been painting Him all wrong.  And to the Mormons, so far as I've been able to sort out after attending their Institute, Jesus is not a manifestation of God but an entirely separate person; and beyond this He appears to be exactly like God.  God to the Mormons is not an ethereal, all-encompassing being, but a real man in time and space with a real body with real functioning gonads which He has put to real good use.

When they say you're a child of God they mean it; and that's why they believe in a Heavenly Mother.  Where Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father came from is beyond me and probably beyond the Mormons, but the idea seems to hearken back to the gods of the pagans and Plato: a horde of living, breathing beings responsible for making the world what it is, and then behind them all an Inscrutable, Faceless Being responsible for their existence.  Who this God-Behind-The-Gods is is a mystery not yet penetrated, so far as I am aware, by the Mormon layman -- but He isn't God in the Christian sense, and Christ is definitely not His Son.  Christ is probably His grandson; and maybe a few times more removed than that.  The divine family is very old, the chain could be extremely long, and a Mormon deity is an insatiable lover; so who knows.

The question is, who was this God before the gods?  Both Christians and Mormons have tried to describe God's existence before any of us arrived***, and both alike say that God was always merciful and just and wise and generous and fair and gentle and loving and honest and orderly and purposeful and disciplined and understanding, and nobody can question it because nobody could disprove it.  Before creation there would be nobody around to disprove it.  Nobody has a record to go by because nobody was taking the record, and beyond this nobody was being the record.  The goodness of God is etched in our hearts not because He is what He is, but because of what He is to us.  We were created in the image of God.  It would be just as correct to say that when the angels were formed and God breathed into the dust, God was created in the image of us.

Without us, without the existence of conscious, moral beings with real needs and real dreams He could prove nothing about Himself because He could be nothing.  The Faceless Being acquires a face when He looks into our faces.  The God of mercy becomes merciful when He has something to forgive.  He becomes just when He has something to judge.  He becomes righteous when He proves that we're wrong.  He becomes a Father when a smaller version of Himself grows into maturity, thinks for itself, judges for itself, pardons for itself, gives of itself -- in a word, becomes like God for itself, and then, taking these powers, thereby promptly turns around and judges his Creator****.   

The Serpent in the Garden offered this to us and the Christians believe that's why we're in this mess today.  Perhaps the Mormons are right -- and Satan and Christ are more related than we originally thought.  Maybe God created the world so He could make Himself into what He wanted, Satan offered us what God needed to do it, and Christ was there to pick up the pieces.

At least this is how I would see it if I believed in Christ and the Devil.

Your father,

*Seneca writes about Saturnalia (aka Christmas) in his epistles to Lucilius (Letter XVIII),
It is the month of December, and yet the whole city is in a sweat. Festivity is given unrestricted license at state expense.  Everything resounds with mighty preparations, – as if the Saturnalia differed at all from the usual business day! So true it is that the difference is nil, that I regard as correct the remark of the man who said: "Once December was a month; now it is a year."
People who claim we celebrate like the pagans rarely forget the second part -- that, like the pagans, we also ruin the celebration.

**Mormons in general are about the sweetest and most orderly people on the planet, and at this moment I'm not sure whether it's because of their culture or because of their theology.  So far as I can tell they seem to be Arminians; and this belief, that Christ died for you but you are personally responsible for your salvation and can lose it, may be responsible for them wearing their ties tightly and tying their shoelaces rightly.  2 Nephi 25:23 states, in no uncertain terms, that 
we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
The key words here are after all we can do -- a terrifying proposition to anyone who actually thinks about his salvation, and particularly about how much he doesn't do.  To be a Mormon must be a nail-biting experience, and beyond this to believe you're saved requires a lot of self-delusion.  A Christian, at least in many circles, and according to a few Bible passages, knows he's a piece of shit but that Christ's got his back anyway.  But how can you sleep at night if you believe The Book of Mormon?  Thankfully they don't believe in Hell, and "Outer Darkness" is a space prison reserved primarily for apostates.

***Many Christian theologians, in the attempt to explain the perfection of God, have decided to portray Him as eternally happy in Himself, and beyond this entirely self-contained.  They say He didn't need us, and that before we existed He lived in a kind of perpetual bliss with the other two members of the Trinity -- a load of hooey if there ever was one.

One thing we know about being completely happy, supposing there ever was such a thing, is that there would be nothing to do to improve yourself.  All action is a result of our incompleteness.  Your desire for something you aren't causes you to dream of an improvement; this improvement you dream up causes you more discomfort; and then, recognizing you have the power to get rid of the discomfort, you create yourself a new version of the universe.  There is no such thing as an "ultimately happy" actor.  All action is predicated on an inability to thoroughly enjoy the present.

On a side note, since we're talking about the discomfort of God, "they" now say even the vegetables feel a kind of pain.  If the veggies feel pain, then what does God feel?  The enlightenment of man has led us to suffer far worse than the animals.  But what does the suffering of an eternal, omniscient, all-conscious God look like?  The God who not only has feelings of His own, but knows exactly what we feel?  Perhaps it looks like hell. 

This being said, I refuse to stand by any of these speculations under any kind of persecution; and if hard-pressed, I would recant them faster than you can say Limeny-Snicket.  Theology, coming even from the soundest intelligence, is a game that eggheads play when their minds turn from culture and science and industry and politics to things they don't know and can't know without God speaking for Himself.  To have an opinion on theology is one thing -- a great joy, like playing Scrabble or Nintendo.  An interest in enforcing your brand of theology ought to get you shot; and a religious persecutor, supposing he ever arrives, deserves nothing less than the best of our lies.  He wants us to agree that God has two "substances" instead of one, or that a man elected by a bunch of Italians is the representative of God on earth, or that a band of obscure and troublesome rule-ninnies is the people God picked above everyone else, or that when people die they turn into cows or chickens, or that some illiterate towel-head from a long-gone century is the last you'll ever hear of the Almighty.  Why tell them the truth?  As Mencken put it, what's one lie on top of another?

****What right do you or I or anyone else have to judge God?  My only answer is that praise itself is a judgment -- something we have only forgotten because we read the Gospels wrongly. 
Christ says Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment; and Jonathan Edwards, with slightly less authority than Jesus Christ Himself, insists in his The End for Which God Created the World, that the purpose of mankind is to praise God.  We fail to measure the meaning of praise; and in the process have thrown out the glory of judgment.

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