“For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

(Galatians 2:21)

I find this an interesting verse to mull over. Sometimes it seems our reaction to sin and bad habits is to try and conquer them purely through our own efforts or mortal means. But this isn’t possible. What is true of addictions is really true of all our sins: we, as natural men (and women) cannot overcome them by our own efforts (indeed, in this light addictions are simply the adversary getting smarter about how he preys upon our fallen natures), no matter how hard we try.

But Christ did not die in vain. Freedom from sin, from addiction, from bad habit is possible, but only through his power. Through him, we can be cleansed from all wickedness and have the power to put off our fallen natures to which we are otherwise prone:

Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

(Alma 7:14)

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

(Mosiah 3:19)

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2 Nephi 2

2 Nephi 2 has been one of my favourite chapters of scripture for several decades now (and I really feel old saying that). There is always so much in it, and more to be found.

While reading today, the early verses stuck out to me:

Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.

Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.

2 Nephi 2:2-3

Verse 2 really needs no elaboration; it just seems a precious promise that Jacob’s (and hopefully our) afflictions can be consecrated by God for our gain, that he can turn evil into good.

In verse 3 I was struck more than usual by the line that ‘I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer’. It’s an invaluable reminder that – while full redemption comes only to those ‘who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ (v.7) – it is by Christ’s righteousness, and not our own, that we our saved. Indeed it clarifies that later offering: ‘by the law no flesh is justified’ (v.5), so we cannot simply offer up our deeds on our own merits. Rather we offer up ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and all ‘they that believe in him shall be saved’ (v.9).

Minor notes:

There really is so much in this chapter: from the importance of meaningful opposites and consequences (vv.10-13); the concept of ‘things to act’ and ‘things to be acted upon’ (v.14, and which are we? Are we choosing, or are we being acted upon by outside forces or our own passions?); being ‘enticed by the one or the other’ (v.16); the fall (vv.15-25); the necessity of knowing misery to know joy (v.24); the choice that is before each of us (v.27) and so much more.

Theological Musings on the Existence of Spiders

Warning: The below is highly speculative, albeit in my opinion based on sound reasoning…
Also some readers may find some pictures rightly alarming…

I freely admit that I am not the greatest fan of spiders. I don’t really mind the little ones, but the big and fast ones that make a beeline for my feet are another matter. Likewise those sorts that end up spreading over the entire garden when they have shape, size and colours that have no business being in an English garden. I am not incapacitated when such creatures make their surprise attacks, but I do strongly feel that such actions warrant immediate action via means of my copy of Josephus.

However, the existence of such creatures and others has been a subject I have pondered over the years. The ancient Zoroastrians believed that animal life was in fact divided: thus on one hand there were good creatures created by Ahura Mazda, the wise Lord, such as the dog or the cow which were to be protected and cared for; on the other hand were the xrafstar, the evil animals, who where created by Ahriman, the evil one. And on one holy day each year they’d make a special effort to go out and kill such beasts.

xrafstar.jpg

I’m not quite certain why the poor tortoise ends up on the list…

Now of course Latter-day Saint doctrine doesn’t attribute the ultimate creation of anything to the adversary, but I have wondered if the Zoroastrians (who are very interesting from an LDS viewpoint, and who have quite a bit right) were maybe onto something. For I look around at the natural world, and some bits are pretty horrifying. Now we understand that we live in a fallen world, and so just as Humans beings naturally are “enem[ies] to God” (Mosiah 3:19), creation itself is currently under “the bondage of corruption” and “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:21-22).

However, when I look around at nature, I begin to wonder if everything necessarily fell the same distance. On one hand, there are many parts of nature which bear witness to a benevolent creator. One might look at things like Elephants, or say Swans. Swans are part of a fallen world, but are one of things that beautify it. They mate for life, and look after their young. In both appearance and their life habits the hand of a loving creator may be detected.

On the other hand (and readers of a gentle disposition may wish to skip this next picture), I see things like this:

 

(Honestly, it’s your last chance…)

 

(Okay, here it is:)

 

Meet the Brazilian Wandering Spider, an exceptionally nasty piece of work whose bite not only contains a neurotoxin, but also affects the serotonin receptors of the sensory nerves so that the victim really feels the pain. This need not be are only example. There’s countless horrible organisms. There’s a large part of Australian wildlife. There’s the various parasitoid wasps such as the Glyptapanteles, which not only lay their eggs inside other creatures, but the victim is “mind-controlled” while the larvae eat their way out. What loving creator created that, I ask you?

Hence my supposition that certain organisms may well have fallen further from the design of a benevolent creator than others. There is, however, another side to this in LDS doctrine that I believe may strengthen such a supposition. We understand from the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price that it is not only Man that has a spirit, but that God “created all things… spiritually” (Moses 3:5). Likewise in the book of Moses it is not just man that receives “the breath of life” but “the beasts of the field and every fowl of the air” likewise do and “they were also living souls” (Moses 3:19). We furthermore learn from the Doctrine and Covenants that animals too will inherit an afterlife, some of which receive glory “in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity” (D&C 77:2-3, commenting on the beasts seen in Revelations 4:6). This won’t be the same destiny as human beings (especially those that inherit eternal life), but the implication of D&C 77:2 (and Revelations 4) is that this may well share some of the same space.

However, to my mind it makes little sense that all animals will have their eternal destiny in the celestial kingdom, and that it is only human beings who will live in other kingdoms. I may well be very wrong about this (for little has been revealed and I am definitely speculating), but it makes sense that just as humans end up in different kingdoms to receive their different degrees of glory, the resurrected animals too will be divided amongst different kingdoms. And while animals do not have human agency, the higher life forms might even have some gradation, as there are (for instance) good dogs and bad dogs. For the lower lifeforms, however, it would make sense that they are assigned as classes or species.

In other words, if you’re looking for additional motivation not to end up in the Telestial kingdom, consider that you may end up sharing it with zillions of immortal wasps and spiders…