Thursday, January 29, 2009


President Joseph F. Smith counseled:
“It is not the words we use particularly that constitute prayer. Prayer does not consist of words, altogether. True, faithful, earnest prayer consists more in the feeling that rises from the heart and from the inward desire of our spirits to supplicate the Lord in humility and in faith, that we may receive his blessings.”
(Gospel Doctrine, p. 219.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love is everything it's cracked up to be

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
-Lord Alfred Tennyson

"You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough"
-Frank Crane
"Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
-Erica Jong

Good Days

The bad days make the good days even better.
-Garry Scoville (Dad)

Infinite Atonement

What exactly does the word infinity mean? I have heard from great men who teach that "infinite" implies the overcoming of time and space.

Jesus Christ suffered for the pain of all mankind, from Adam to the new born baby who was born 10 seconds ago. His Atonement passes all time.

It's also true that the atonement reaches to all mankind, from the island dweller to the city folk. It also reaches to all of God's children across the universe. His Atonement surpasses all space.

Put these thoughts aside for a moment and think about another example that deals with 'infinity'. What does infinity really mean? It defines a measurement with no beginning and no end. Incomprehensible, right? Suppose one were to add 10 units to infinity. What would be the result? Infinity. Suppose one were to add 10 million units to infinity. What then would be the result? Still infinity. Again, Darin has provided me with an insightful example:

Suppose that each individual on the earth can accomplish good, and we begin to rate ourselves based upon the good we do. The vilest of sinners will be a 1, and the most holy, unselfish person will be a 10. I probably stand somewhere around a 5. It's fairly depressing to begin comparing our personal numbers to the numbers of those around us. I suppose you would feel really good about yourself if you were a 7--because you are 2 points better than I am! However, comparing gets us nowhere.

Enter Jesus Christ. What's his number? It is infinity. How would you like to compare yourself to Christ? When I stand myself up against Christ, my number 5 is worth nothing. There is no way that my 5 will increase the number infinity. It's mathematically, hogwash. The atonement, in essence, makes us one with Christ. He adds his 'infinity' to our feeble 2 or 5 or 9. Do you see how our little number, even if it were a ten, stands as nothing compared to Christ? It doesn't matter if we're a 10 like Thomas S. Monson or Mother Teresa. These individuals still require Christ's infinity.

Jesus Christ is our redeemer. May we understand our complete reliance on His atonement. May we see our own nothingness, and finally, may we stop comparing ourselves. We're all as little children, in constant need of nourishment. Why don't we live together and laugh together in the journey of life. I say this as much to myself as to anyone else.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

We MUST rely on Christ

Below is a string of messages that were started by me out of curiosity over a small article I read about socialism. However, tangents led the theme to Jesus Christ and the atonement. Start from the bottom, for that was the first message. Then read up, as different people make comments in replying emails.

From David (me)

I wanted to further discuss something I wrote here. Don't feel obligated to read, I'm just thinking out loud: However, if we choose to be diligent out of complete "unconditional love" (the type of love where we still follow even if we're denied salvation), then we're doing it unselfishly and trying to copy the same grace that Christ gave us.
Being completely unselfish in doing "good" is not a saving principle. "No one is good, no not one." Christ has already saved us... If we think we are supposed to be completely unselfish (meaning we ask for nothing, not even His grace), then we have failed in understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ. We NEED Christ. There's no way getting around that, and he's already offered an escape from the personal hell we put ourselves into. We can become healed and cleaned. Lost experiences, trust, and faith, can be returned. Here I present a sort of paradox: We MUST rely on Christ (we must ask for His grace--we must, in essence, think of ourselves), the author and finisher of our faith, in order to learn charity--the most unselfish, pure love. Does that seem a little confusing to anyone?
But the part of the gospel that talks about redemption, atonement, unconditional love, being born again, the love of the Savior--that confuses them. They don't really understand it. They don't really get it. They could give a great sacrament meeting talk on it, because they're very bright and they know how all the words fit together. But in their hearts, that part of the gospel confuses them. Many of them are men who think to themselves or who seem to view it as though, "I can accept the atonement of Jesus Christ after I've repented and overcome this and left all this alone. After I've done this, then I can accept the atonement to kind of clean up the mess I made along the way. But not right now, not while I'm so bad. I've got to overcome this on my own, and then the atonement is available to me." It's the equivalent of saying, "I can accept the atonement as soon as I prove I don't need it, as soon as I prove I don't need it."

Dr. Robinson -

After reading that statement, I think that not accepting Christ is more selfish.
So what are we to do with this life? Christ has already redeemed us. Life is to be spent in His service out of absolute gratitude for His grace and love.

From David Scoville (me)

We all will be resurrected and at least obtain the telestial kingdom. That is the free gift. To go beyond that requires diligence, repentance, and obedience.

I know I am putting this conversation into a "faith and works" tangent, but I would like to gather more discussion. Wouldn't it be somewhat of mockery before God if we were to say we had a hand in our own exaltation? That's a question you get frequently in the South. No man can save himself. But can man help in saving himself? Does one say, "I'm in the celestial kingdom because Christ and I worked on it together" or does one say "I'm in the celestial kingdom because of Christ alone"? Maybe it doesn't matter, and I shouldn't worry about it--but I still think it's a worthy thought. When reading Paul, we can easily interpret him in saying that there is nothing, and I mean nothing that we can do to receive salvation, except accept (ha ha awkward wording) the gift of the atonement.

This then goes back to motives. What are our motives for "diligence, repentance, and obedience" - is it to "return to heavenly father" as we hear so often from nursery to young mens/young womens? If that is our motive, then we are technically selfish and capitalistic. However, if we choose to be diligent out of complete "unconditional love" (the type of love where we still follow even if we're denied salvation), then we're doing it unselfishly and trying to copy the same grace that Christ gave us. However, this logic is becoming circular. No one, in my opinion, can be completely unselfish. However, it's much better to follow the commandments 'selfishly' then not to follow at all.

Below is a chat conversation I had with Tyler concerning capitalism:

Tyler: As far as capitalism's not the best or the ideal economic system, but it's the best we've got.
Just like democracy is not ideal, but it's the best we've got and it's lasted for a long time.
Ich: yeah, I agree
Tyler: The thing about socialism is that it has good ends
Ich: I haven't seen any lately
Tyler: Well, it INTENDS good ends
but the means deprive people of AGENCY, which is our most valuable possession
It intends to provide for everyone, but in a way, it forces citizens to be charitable
Ich: satans plan in disguise
Tyler: Bingo
So the plan of salvation is interesting because there are no guarantees for success
Ich: interesting
Tyler: You have to CHOOSE to be charitable
if you're not, you'll be judged accordingly
So, capitalism, or free market economies, are about freedom. The "problem" is that there is no guarantee for success
So, ideally, those who are successful in capitalism should share their wealth of their own free will and choice

From Garry

Interesting conversation you've started here, David.

First, my comments assume that capitalism is - you get what you work for.

In our mortal world, capitalism is skewed and inconsistent. Some people do not get what they work for. Some work hard and even smart, but still fail. Some people are disadvantaged due to physical, mental, or emotional detriments. Some people are greedy and take advantage of others and get ahead by maintaining poverty. In capitalism there will always be wealth and poverty and it's not always based on what I do.

I believe capitalism depends on some being poor and some being wealthy. Service workers can't make $100K / year if the business owner wants to make the same. So the privileged, greedy, hard working, and intelligent rise to the top. That's not to say that all wealthy are greedy, but I still wonder how someone who makes millions is willing to pay the single mother $10/hour.

The principles of Mormonism are almost pure capitalism (I get what I work for). The Lord's plan says, be obedient and you will have eternal life. Everyone, including the disadvantaged, has an equal opportunity to receive the eternal life and become like God. It may take some longer but everyone who desires and follows the rules, will make it.

The idea that the atonement is a free gift is true, but there must still be some diligence to receive the highest reward. We all will be resurrected and at least obtain the telestial kingdom. That is the free gift. To go beyond that requires diligence, repentance, and obedience.

But the church is more than "you get what you work for." It also teaches mercy and charity. It recognizes that people in this life will be disadvantaged and need help regardless of the reason. That's why King Benjamin said:

16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

The beggar often appears as if they deserve what they got. But Christianity says help them anyway. That's not capitalism.

When I was younger, I was a pure republican and very capitalistic. As I've grown up, I've become more moved by King Benjamin's teaching and the principles of charity and mercy. In the early days of the church, Joseph Smith started a business - a retail store. It went bankrupt because he kept giving to people who couldn't pay. That's remarkable and admirable; but not very successful or capitalistic.

Ok, I've rambled too much.

From David (me)

We are all capitalists in our own lives even for finding our daily bread.

Yes, but wouldn't a true Christian have no thought for his personal daily bread but be more concerned that others are fed. Christ took no thought for his own life but gave it freely to others. True sacrifice means giving. However, I create a contradiction in my own words: logically, if everyone gave, who would receive? Interesting. For Christianity to work, there must be both giving and receiving. Thus, receiving (taking something for our self) is not necessarily selfish or wrong. The question then is, how do we balance giving and receiving in our lives.

From Nelson

I like the article and am impressed with your thinking and interests. In regards to your question one thing that comes to mind is our understanding of God. He is perfect and although He can't become more righteous His kingdom is continually progressing. I can't image a heaven where Gods are socialistic relaying on the angelic governments and other Gods/angels for their kingdom to grow. I believe God is a capitalist in the true and correct definition (take away personal bias). Definition- Capitalism: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. We are all capitalists in our own lives even for finding our daily bread. Our goal is to grow toward him and in this world of strife we are learning how to love him. I am interested in your thoughts on how the atonement fits in with my comments.

From David (first email message sent)

This is one of the reasons that I am not a fan of socialism--I'm still a fan of Germany though. At least read this excerpt:

"While at the beginning of the 1960s social spending in Europe was only slightly higher than in the U.S., by the end of the 1990s, it was twice as much. "Americans are not as obsessed with social insurance because they think if they work hard they will get rich," says Robert MacCulloch, a professor of economics at Princeton University. And they think that once they get rich, they won't want to be burdened with high taxes to cover welfare costs. In Europe, many feel their chances of improving their lot are lower, increasing their appetite for assistance from the state, he says. Europeans also favor income equality more than Americans, surveys show."

It is interesting how our culture really defines our economic policies: "Americans... think if they work hard they will get rich" I agree with that. The more people that believe in work, the better our economy will be. The catch is that we don't force people to work--socialist policies lean in that direction.

I don't mean to say that American culture is the most "holy" but it ties in more closely to Mormon culture. We are transforming members all over the world to be more "capitalist minded"--through our PEC fund and our emphasis on hard work. In essence it goes back to some our underlying (and possibly skewed) beliefs: He who keeps the commandments, gets the rewards of eternal life.

I would also like to make a note about that last sentence. That is a major principle of the gospel, but our belief shouldn't rest on it. I understand that D&C 130 says all blessings are retrieved by obedience. However, it makes no guarantee that we will receive blessings in the first place. Our diligence does not entitle us to any blessing or reward. The atonement is a gift, and the definition of a gift is something unconditionally offered with no obligation for returned compensation. All we've got to do is accept it. From this standpoint, the ideal of capitalism (you get what you work for) seems in direct conflict with true Christianity. So why are Mormons such capitalists? (I would appreciate your thoughts)

David Scoville

P.S. I am still a great advocate of German economics and there can be some worthwhile ideas within socialism. After all, Germany has the 3rd greatest economy in the world. I still wouldn't mind living there.


David Scoville

David Scoville
-- Sincerely, David Scoville

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Miracle of Miracles: Forgiveness

Indeed the day of miracles has not passed except for those who will not heed the call of the Lord and of his servants, who night and day warn and plead and implore. There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change. Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night. When souls are reborn, when lives are changed--then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift. When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death--when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth.
-Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Ch. 23