Ward Talks (2/25/07and 7/05/09)

I want to thank to Brother Bird for this invitation to speak which is really a license to preach. This invitation gave me an opportunity to organize my thoughts with sufficient time to discuss them. (ad lib – Brother Bird asked me to speak two weeks ago. In those two weeks, he never called to remind me of the assignment. Brother Bird is a man of exceeding faith. On the other hand, Brother Bird is not here today.) *


I will expand on the testimony I gave at the first of the year and talk about why the LDS message is so appealing to me as a scientist. I will discuss why science should not be used against religion as it is many times, for example, in discussions of the theory of evolution.

After the Sacrament Service, I usually attend Brother Stag’s very interesting Gospel Doctrine class. He says that in the old cultures when a stranger meets a new group they ask for his credentials – genealogy etc. How the stranger answers determines whether they invite him to dinner of have him for dinner. So here are my credentials.

I am an ordained Priest in the LDS faith and have a PhD in physics. Finally, like all of us, I am a Child of God. For as in Romans 8-16: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; ….” (Notice here the Biblical indication that Christ is our brother.) As Children of God, we all have the right and duty to think, reason, and achieve great things.

I worked as a scientist until I retired. My wife is not a member. Neither are any of my children, relatives or friends. Thirty some years ago, I became inactive – though not from any problems with LDS doctrine. Because of the constant visits of the Aaronic Priesthood and their drivers for Fast Offerings and Home Teachers over twenty years in the our Ward, I started to attend church eight years ago. After all, how could I take comfort in the LDS doctrine and not attend Sacrament Service, the least of those duties requested by Jesus?

I was born into an inactive Episcopal family. They did have me christened. I have always been blessed with a love and respect for God, family, tradition, and a reverence for the hardships that people all over the world have to endure to survive. I believe He is a loving God. I went to church on my own, was baptized, joined the choir, became an altar boy, lead the procession etc.. When I was a teenager, I became inactive because there did not seem to be any deeper part to the Episcopal theology. Sure, the gospel story was told and Christian behavior was taught, but there was little said as to our purpose in life or what would happen after death. Gradually, the mysteries and injustices of the Christian religions (at least my perception of them) caused me to argue with the faithful. By the age of 25, I was an anti-religious zealot.

* I was asked to speak just after being anointed for my heart condition by Brother Bird. It turned out that Brother Bird was absent for my talk because he was having open heart surgery himself. When I found this out the next week, I could not help but reflect on the coincidence and thought “I hope Brother Bird got some splash-back”.

At the same time I was in Graduate school in physics. This was a very stressful time. First, I thought (like Charlie Brown) “500 years from now, who’ll know the difference”. Later, it became “The purpose of life is death” - not at all a healthy frame of mind. Although I did not seek them out, occasionally, I would meet missionaries from various faiths. I had a rule. Their doctrines must have some basis in the Bible. I did not require that all bible words must be taken literally. Eventually, by chance, I met the LDS missionaries. In their discussions, they answered all of my questions and objections. With a leap of faith, I was baptized in 1965. This is the doctrine that is so beautiful to me.

1) We believe the priesthood of Jesus was restored to earth. It is not a continuation of Peter’s line of authority. My problem, like Luther’s, was the corruption endemic in the clergy throughout the Middle Ages and the Church practice of trading heavenly favors for money. How could authority as important ordination be so debased in practice? Someone once asked me with some disdain if they have to become a Mormon to go the Heaven. No. Ours is not the priesthood of Joseph Smith. It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. Our priesthood is not just to serve Mormons. It is to serve the world.

2)We have Temples and perform baptism for the dead. In John 3/5, we read.”Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” I feel that if baptism is required for salvation, justice requires that all of God’s children have the chance to be born of water. Other churches go to great lengths to baptize everyone they can – but of course they cannot baptize everyone. What happens to those souls that are not baptized? We have the answer. They can enter the kingdom of God via temple baptism for the dead an old ritual noted in passing by Paul in Corinthians 15/29.

3) We believe our faith to be an extension of the biblical tradition of the early Saints and their predecessors. The Old and New Testaments are our heritage. Joseph did not start a new religion. It is the continuation of the biblical faith starting in Genesis.

4) We place great emphasis on the family and how they work together and support each other. Love of our family and our ancestors is an obvious feature of humanity.

5) We believe that we developed in a place called the First Estate before we came to Earth. In this Spirit Word we developed an identity and personality. This could explain why people are born here in what we call the Second Estate into such different circumstances and with such different personalities.

6) The missionaries told me that God works according to natural laws. In that sense, he is not omnipotent although to us, he may seem so. Things that seem to be impossible miracles to us may be quite possible according to laws known by God. This was very appealing to me as a scientist.

7) Most importantly, the missionaries told me of the doctrine of Free Agency used for development of the body and the soul. In the Pre-existence, we chose to come to earth to get a body and to have the opportunity to choose good over evil. Our memories of the Pre-existence were temporally removed so that we would be tested on our true natures. This earth is a stage upon which the test is being held. Since we are given the opportunity to succeed and to fail on our own, we must be shielded from outside influences. I am reminded of a variation of the old Civil Defense warning - This life is a test; you may do as you will; if this were Satan’s plan, the authorities would tell you what to do. Only by exercise of free agency can we develop the character and independence required of a maturing child of God. What is the purpose of this test? It is to develop the maturity and restraint to handle the great responsibilities forever before us. With great power comes the ability to do great good or great evil. What can be a greater purpose in life than to be part of an Eternal Progression?

I am a scientist by training and inclination. Let me tell you what science is and what it is not and how a scientist thinks. A scientist is trained to observe the world, collect and categorize facts, do experiments and look for connections between the facts he discovers. He develops theories to explain the connections. To be useful, a theory is required to make predictions of other facts previously unknown. The theory is then validated by observation of the predicted facts. Mathematics is used as an aid in logic and predictions. To help the scientist observe the fact of the world, he builds devices and machines. Examples of such devices are the microscope, the Space Shuttle and the Space Telescope. They all aid in the collection of data.

A scientist must be honest, objective and open to new ideas. He can never know whether a theory is true even if it explains all the known facts. At any time there may be new discoveries or experiments that contradict the existing theory.

For example, Sir Isaac Newton explained the motion of the planets according to the forces from the inverse square law of gravity. Newton was a brilliant man in the 17th century and invented calculus just so he could do his calculations. (Incidentally, he also thought that, Jesus and God the father were separate Gods and that Jesus was the lesser of the two. In those days he could not discuss those ideas openly.) Two centuries later while Einstein was trying to explain an experiment relating to the speed of light, he developed a theory showing that space, time and energy were interrelated. You have perhaps heard of the equation E=mc2. His theories also allowed calculation of planetary motion. Newton’s theories were seen to be incorrect and Einstein’s theories were accepted. But now even Einstein is being questioned. Some of his predictions are wrong. Observations show that the galaxies do not rotate as his theory would predict. A new theory called String Theory with complex math using nine dimensional space is being considered. You can read about these controversies in magazines such as Scientific American or Discover. Perhaps the Lord is waiting to see if we can work out the math before he comes again.

Science has no place for miracles. They are too unpredictable and shed no light on the physical mechanisms involved. Scientists are not wizards. In Harry Potter’s world, the wizards read incantations out of old books. In Harry Potter’s world, the scientists would have written these books.

Religion, on the other hand, depends on miracles. All of Christianity depends on the resurrection of Christ. As Paul writes in Chapter 15 verse 14 of First Corinthians: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain”. (Incidentally, the whole of 1 Corinthians seem to be a plea to believe in the resurrection. It is a key belief for Christians.) The Jews have their Passover, the parting of the Red Sea and many other examples of belief in miracles. Thus, science and religion cannot contradict each other. Science must discover the physical laws of our universe to make things work, to produce results and to improve life. Religion knows that physical laws are just the rules of the game for the Test we are undergoing. We shouldn’t ask religion to make a cell phone. We should use our brains for that. We should not use science to answer questions outside that which can be observed by experiment. Religion does that.

This cell phone is an example of how well we can work together and how smart we are. The cell phone is a marvel – not a miracle - of modern engineering. Someone on earth understands every principle required for its operation and has built the necessary tools and satellites. Just the fact that all of the necessary materials exist in this world to build this device is remarkable. That we could make it out of these materials is doubly remarkable. The Children of God are a clever people.

Many times I have seen the Theory of Evolution used as a hammer against a person’s faith. When the missionaries first told me that they believed in Adam and Eve, I could not believe their gullibility. It was only by luck or intervention that I did not walk away from them to live out my life without a purpose. The Theory of Intelligent Design was invented as a scientific alternative explanation for the Theory of Evolution. The trouble is Intelligent Design is not science. Do you think that God would allow his children to prove his existence by leaving convincing scientific evidence of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden? Instead, God has provided an alternative explanation. And being God, he provided a very good one. Don’t let science be used to challenge your faith. Your faith is based on miracles. Miracles are outside the realm of science. Of all people, we Christians should know this. We should be proud of our miracles.

I would like to propose a hypothesis (a hypothesis is what scientists call a theory before it has established a convincing body of evidence) in the form of a story. Since the Bible says that we are created in His image, I assume that He is very much like us and so I will use common language to describe the hypothesis. I mean no disrespect.

One day, God the Father and his Family were looking out at their children as they played and developed in their spirit world. They enjoyed watching their children, just like us. He loved them all. Just like us. Their children were numerous and diverse. Some were bullies who liked to cause pain. Some liked to work together and be helpful. Some were leaders and some were followers. Some were friends and some were enemies. Just like our kids.

God blew his whistle and said “listen up kids”. “It is time for all of you to graduate into the next dimension of your development”. I have asked your brother Jesus to build a place called earth where you will go to strengthen you character and show that you can work together. Earth will be a place of pain and joy and hard work. You will make it your home for a while. Your skills will be tested. You won’t remember this place here but you will know what you should do down there.”

”To provide some structure to the game and tests, you will play in teams. One of the teams will be a little different from the rest and will keep a record to remind you of what you should do and what will happen. Jesus will be the Captain of that team. We all will be watching you but We will not interfere unless it is very important. Most of the time, you will be on your own and will make your own choices. Now I want you to choose up sides and go to your brother Michael over there and get your uniforms, equipment, and assignments.”

”Oh, while you are on earth, I want you to find some special water that you all will need later on.” One of the kids yells out ‘What’s water, Dad?”. “Well, that’s hard to say but you will know it when you see it. Anyway, if you can’t find any don’t worry, one of your buddies will get some for you. When you finish with the test, we will all meet back here and discuss how you did.”

One group of His children, mostly bullies and followers led by Lucifer, didn’t want to play the game. Perhaps, it looked a little too risky. Perhaps they thought that everyone should be told what to do. God said, “OK, you can still go down to earth and watch but you won’t get any uniforms or special water and you can’t interfere with the players unless they specifically ask you. But if they do ask, you may influence them.” My hypothesis is that we are playing that or a similar game. What are my observations to justify this hypothesis?

First, I note that throughout the world, we humans, whether large or small, are of the same species. Though of recent origin, we have dominated and subdued the earth. I note that wherever we are, we develop a religion to satisfy some need. It is almost like we want to remember something.

Second, I note that there seems to be an ongoing battle between Good and Evil in this world. This is not just a rational Evil that wants more land or more wealth and power. This is an Evil that revels in pain and suffering. How else can we explain it when a nation’s leaders and their assistants to kill 1/3 of their own countrymen, 40 million of their own peasants, 30 million of their own serfs, and 6 million Jews without any discernible profit to themselves? What else can explain people so consumed with hatred that they will strap explosives on their children’s bodies and send them to kill other children?

Finally, I note that the Bible is a book of uncommonly large influence written by an uncommonly small tribe of people – the seed of Abraham. They are the only people in the world that claim a covenant with God. They count in their number the only person who claims to be the son of God. (If you claim something, it may or may not be so. If you don’t claim something, it is not so.) These people are so different that they have been persecuted throughout their entire history. They never have lost their identity as a group and they are the only nation whose identity is their religion. They are at the center of the great religious conflicts today. Why are the foundations of the world’s three great religions located at the same place – the home of these people? I have talked about verification of theories using predictions that turn out to be true. This tiny nation of Israel has gained back their homeland against all odds and surrounded by many more of those who wish them ill and has survived all their attacks to this day. This people stand as a beacon to the rest of the world.

I realize that there are other ways to explain these observations. However, the establishment of a Jewish homeland is a prediction fulfilled. So, while these observations don’t completely validate my hypothesis, they should not be ignored and should cause us to watch for further developments with great interest. The difference between these and other similar observations that may be made right now, and the complete set of observations that produce a complete validation of my hypothesis is what I call faith.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.graph here.

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Theory of God

          Of LDS Christianity

The Logic and Physics

Testimony on 7/5/09

This is why I converted to LDS 45 years ago while in physics graduate school.

I have always wanted to be a Christian. I thought that church was a good thing and I revered the Bible, family, and tradition. Born into a semi-active Episcopal family, I walked to church as a youth, was anointed with water at 8 years and was a choir and altar boy.

During my early twenties, I became troubled by John 3:1-10 which I shall now paraphrase. Nicodemus came by night to visit Jesus and Jesus told him that you must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus asked how this is possible. Jesus replied that you “must be born of water and of the spirit” to enter the Kingdom of God. I don’t know what “born of the spirit” meant but certainly “born of water” must have something to do with water. If this water thing is not done, you cannot go to heaven. The logic is very clear. So, I had to decide whether to ignore the words or treat them as truth.

The statement about water is only in John’s gospel and said only to Nicodemus and a note taking evangelist. Perhaps he got it wrong. I began to look for other evidences or witnesses. A second witness was John the Baptist or, as he was known then by the Greeks, John the Immerser. John the Immerser’s story is part of all the Gospels. Whatever he was doing was certainly of water. Water was almost his middle name.

The third witness was Jesus himself. We read that Jesus, (born of Mary), was born again. And Jesus, (who was without sin), was “born of water”, and as demonstrated with the dove, was “born of the spirit”. It was as if he was pointing at his words and saying “First I said it; then I had it demonstrated, and then I did it. What more can I do? That should last through 2000 years of mistranslation and misdirection.”

The forth witness, the Christian Church itself, taught that baptism was essential to go to Heaven. Their missionaries were sent out as much to “save the heathen” as to spread the gospel. I asked, what of the people who have died or are far away and would never hear the word. Are they denied Heaven? I am no better than they. Jesus died for the sins of all the world, not just for the sins of baptized Christians. I was angry and offended. God is Who He is: but the God I will worship is loving, merciful and just. This was not just. I left the Church. For two years, I was an obnoxious anti-Christian zealot.

Then, by accident, I happened to hear the LDS missionary’s discription of Joseph Smith’s first vision: God the Father and God the Son were two personages. I had always wondered how someone who says “Thy will, not mine, be done” could be one person with God the Father. Physicists do not do well with logical mysteries. After that, they had my full attention. The pre-existence and free agency stuff was reasonable. When the missionaries told me that Mormons baptize for the dead and showed me a fifth witness – Paul’s passing mention of baptism for the dead in First Corinthians: ch15,v29, they had me. After some anxiety about joining a cult and evolution, I was baptized. If I chose not to be baptized for myself then, why should I expect someone else to do it for me later.

I have been an LDS member for 45 years. As a physicist, I have been trained to be objective, perceptive, and skeptical. I do not have your faith but have come here by a different path. I receive the Sacrament from young men and boys who hold the same priesthood that tends the Temples in which the words of John are being satisfied every day - one person as a time. Taking the Sacrament here is the least I can do. This is as close as I can get to Jesus. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Objective

Our objective is to use passages of the Bible and Christian practices to start a franchise of a series or movies about the battle of good and evil. The premise is that religions – mainly those of The Book – are manifestations of real spiritual laws that must be satisfied by a less than omnipotent God (The Father) trying to produce children (us) to grow up to be like him. The data is the Bible which starts out correctly but is twisted over the years by the free agency of man and the interference of the Adversary (a child of God almost equal to The Son, {Jesus}) and His agents among us. The Father should win. But there is a real possibility that because of their free agency the Children of God will not make it to be Gods themselves. Instead, they will end up as failed spirit/physical beings.

The following interpretations are Christian, LDS and mine. Since I am talking about existing religions, this series has the potential to develop a strong following and possibly violent enemies. It could even attract the notice of real angels and demons (one never knows). The Bible may turn out to be true in unexpected ways.

The series is the adventures of a physicist studying the origin of the universe via String Theory. He tries a different quasi-scientific approach. He acknowledges the significance of man’s spiritual side and tries to make sense of the confusion of the Bible and religions as practiced. Using the Bible as an imperfect and distorted fact book, he deduces patterns that may be spiritual laws. These are the same techniques a physicist would use to deduce natural laws in the world: except that with spiritual laws: 1) you cannot perform experiments and predict results and 2) Gods are free agents and not impersonal beings as is Nature. The physicist looks at the irrational behavior (e.g., the Taliban) around the world and tries to deduce the influence of The Son and The Adversary and the battle between them. The physicist notices the continuous prejudice of the world against the “chosen people of God” - the Jews - and the long time, irrational conflicts of the “People of the Book” which is now reaching a climax. He postulates that being “born again” and “born of water” is a spiritual law like “the Atonement of The Son” (John: ch3) in that it must be done to enter heaven and your entry (once you have qualified as Just) is independent of the goodness of your soul. The attempt to fulfill this command for every soul in the world is the final chapter in the battle between Good and Evil.

The ideas are not new. In “Matrix” the world is not what it seems. “ScrewTape Letters” shows subtle guidance of demons. “The Great Divorce” is a story of the separation of good and evil. “Total Recall” demonstrates that, when the mind manipulation is involved, one is never sure of reality. “A Man for all Seasons” advocates keeping one’s head down and avoiding spiritual mistakes.