It's been two weeks since my last post and a lot has happened in the world. I needed some time away in order to reflect and recharge, to "sharpen the saw" (to borrow Stephen Covey's phrase) ― or as the apostle Paul put it, to "be renewed in the spirit of [my] mind" (Ephesians 4:23).
During this brief sabbatical I read poetry and pondered on the goings-on in the world around us.
I traveled to Portland Oregon and walked along the Willamette River as the first fingers of Fall brushed against my neck, giving me goosebumps as I watched the sun setting on the City of Roses. I ate fish & chips and drank Pepto-Bismol and made new friends from different walks of life.
I returned home and sat in my blue leather chair, and read picture books to my little boys and studied the New Testament with my family; I attended a wedding for a nephew and went to Church and listened to testimonies from the pulpit; I drove my kids to marching band rehearsal and learned my neighbor of 14 years is moving to a retirement community because he can't handle stairs anymore . . . and on and on, a thousand things have entered and exited my life during these two weeks, some great and some small ― the difficulty is telling which is which ― and what to keep and what to let go.
And I've wondered.
I've wondered what God is doing.
I've wondered what God is thinking.
I've wondered what God desires.
I've wondered what God wants me to share with you.
So welcome back.
The Purpose of Life
I've concluded that Adam and Eve's reason for partaking of the forbidden fruit, though noble, was largely wasted on us (I'll explain why in a moment).
Remember in the Garden, the serpent's great selling point to Eve? The thing worth leaving Eden for?
And the serpent said unto the woman . . . Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Notice what, specifically, is the thing that makes us "as gods"? Of all the wonderful attributes of God, which characteristic was the focus of the Fall?
Knowing good and evil.
Well, Satan was correct (at least in this one thing). The Lord Himself corroborated the truth of it, stating Adam and Eve had become "as gods" by partaking of the fruit.
And the Lord God said: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil.
Question: What is the difference between being "asgod" versus being agod?
You see, we're "as gods." We resemble the gods in our faculties. But to become "a" god, we've got some work to complete.
Alma taught the folks in Ammonihah that after the Fall, mankind:
becam[e] as gods, knowing good from evil.
We find a subtle difference here in Alma's rendering: instead of knowing "good AND evil," he said we know "good FROM evil."
The point: The reason mortality is necessary for us is not just to EXPERIENCE good and evil, bitter and sweet, pleasure and pain. It is foremost to gain the ability to DISCERN the difference between them (and, naturally, to choose the good).
For example, if I blindfolded you and gave you a lemon to suck on, and then offered you a bit of honey, would you be able to tell me which one was sour and which was sweet? Of course.
But when it comes to spiritually discerning good from evil, we are so easily confounded; we confuse them all the time. We chomp down a grapefruit and tell people it's a ripe juicy peach.
Why are our spiritual taste buds so messed up?
Why do we have trouble discerning correctly?
Why do we call good evil, and evil good?
Wanted: The Gift of Discernment
I am worried (and I'm generally a happy-go-lucky guy, so this is saying something).
Something that has been weighing on me for awhile is our lack of discernment.
The irony is that we quote Isaiah's words (a formal "woe") regarding judging wrongly, when labeling things we don't like as "evil" (or "good", but generally evil, since we whip this verse out to condemn others who hold different values than our own).
Thereby we invoke the scripture and fulfill it in the same breath, as we opine and mischaracterize what is evil without knowledge, and without wisdom. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
I mean, 9 times out of 10 when someone cites this text, the things they're accusing of being "evil" aren't; and the things they think are "good" are not.
Now don't worry, I confess to being guilty; I am not a pot calling the kettle black. The gift of discernment has often been lacking from my own life. So I am speaking of myself as much as I am anyone else.
This is why I have earnestly sought and asked the Lord for the gift of discernment (see D&C 46:23).
How are we to judge?
Not just good from evil, no, but the harder thing: judging good from good?
Christ vs. Anti-Christ
We're told to not judge a book by its cover, but how else are we supposed to judge it?
After all, there's a reason it has the title and author on the cover!
Look, has someone gone into the library late at night, deviously, and switched the dust jackets on all the books, so each one sports the wrong cover? How awful would that be! How would you be able to browse the shelves and know what you're picking?
Well, life is sort of like that. The only way to truly "know" a book is to actually read it. But who has time for that? Far too many of us are going around reading what's on the spine only, or skipping to the last page, or reading the Cliff Notes and pretending at Book Club to have read the thing.
Discernment only works if we know (actually know) the thing we're judging; it is a gift born of knowledge; too often we think we have some sort of spiritual antennae that starts to twitch and so we judge hastily, without really knowing what we're doing, assuming "the Spirit" is giving us smoke signals and interpreting the tea leaves pridefully, but poorly.
In this Series I hope our eyes will be opened, that we will "see" (discern) as gods through the gift of "pure knowledge" (D&C 121:42).
Because it's time we prepare to discern between Christ and the Anti-Christ.
"Tim!" someone says, "I think I can tell the difference between Christ and the Anti-Christ. I mean, they're not alike at all."
Au contraire. They are more alike than we think; to almost every sense they appear the same ― and yet they are utterly opposed. They are so similar even the very elect, if it were possible, shall be deceived.
(How else do we account for Satan's ability to lead away a third-part of the hosts of heaven?)