Site talk:SS lessons/DC lesson 40
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This page allows you to see in one place the talk pages associated with the commentary pages for the reading assignment for this Doctrine & Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson. Click on the heading to go to a specific page. Click the edit links below to edit text on any page.
 Merely human (v. 7)?
I'm following with fascination, Joe, sorry I don't have much to add. A question though: what do you mean by the mighty and strong one not being "merely human"? Would Isaiah in Isa 6 after his cleansing experience be more then "merely human" in the sense you mean? That is, is a mortal on God's errand "merely human" in the sense you mean? More specifically, I don't see anything (yet) to indicate whether this "might and strong" one would be a resurrected vs. non-resurrected being--but maybe I'm not seeing something you're getting at.... --RobertC 01:22, 26 April 2007 (CEST)
 Whither next?
Great work, Joe. Again, sorry to be only be a bystander (but an enthusiastic one!) so far. Where to next? I'd be interested in trying to drum up some discusson of this on the blog (a la wik-blog-wiki)--thoughts? I'd be happy to start a blog post (I'm thinking a series of posts are due, not just one...), but I don't want to interfere with any plans you might have to do so. Just let me know. --RobertC 13:53, 3 May 2007 (CEST)
Yes, I agree. Great work. I haven't been in the loop much for the last week or so. Now I'm back. I just rewrote verse 8. Please re-revise as you think is best. One question I have here is how to make sense of this verse (and verse 7) as part of a letter to William Phelps. Is the warning of verse 8 directed to William himself? If so, what is he being warned against doing? If not, if this is to some of the other saints, what are they being warned against? Any ideas anyone? --Matthew Faulconer 07:11, 9 May 2007 (CEST)
Interesting. So what do you think the overall message to William Phelps is related to the original question "what shall be done about the saints who come to zion but don't live the law of zion"? It sounds like the answer is--don't do anything, that isn't your job, that is the job of one mighty and strong that will be sent by God. Is that right? --Matthew Faulconer 08:57, 10 May 2007 (CEST)
Something isn't quite fitting together for me. Verse 8 seems like such a strong response to what one might assume is a pretty humble question (what should I do about people who were told not to come to Zion unless they were ready to live the law of consecration and then arrive in Zion and aren't willing to live it?). Verse 8 is one of the strongest warnings anywhere in the scriptures. I'm not really expecting an answer to this, more just mulling it over in my head. Thanks for your work on this Joe. Also, I think having a copy of the letter would be cool if you have time to transcribe it. --Matthew Faulconer 09:03, 11 May 2007 (CEST)
 Of the list of priesthood possibilities
 Definition of priesthood?
I like the parsing of several other possibilities for the priesthood here, Sean. I wonder, however, at the list of the more likely possibilities. I don't understand the reason for selecting some of those and leaving the others out. For example, the "book of remembrance" is explicitly stated in D&C 128 to be the power of the priesthood in all ages of the world. And the "appointed seed" business seems to be quite explicitly a question of priesthood in D&C 84:33-42. Teaching one's children to use this peculiar language seems to be a part of the patriarchal order, and it seems odd to leave it off. And, last of all, calling upon the name of the Lord seems especially to be a priesthood question, if not a rephrasing of the way you've defined priesthood in your first paragraph (the ability to act in the name of the Lord). This is not to say--not at all--that the ones you've selected are not more likely, but just to say that it is not clear why you have selected those. I'm interested in knowing why, and I think the selection comes across as somewhat arbitrary. Also, is the priesthood ever defined as the authority to act in the name of God in scripture? I can't think of any such instance. Wouldn't it be better to read a scripture like this as helping us to think of what priesthood is? --Joe Spencer 16:10, 13 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Well, this has become quite fruitful, for which I'm glad. Thanks for your responses Sean. They give me a better idea where you are coming from. In the end, I think Robert is right to suggest that verses such as these question the "working definition" of priesthood, and I'm very interested in following out this thread to see where it takes things. At the same time, I think your concerns about abstracting the priesthood to some sort of "general fatherhood" sort of thing are justified. The priesthood cannot be reduced to patriarchy. But there is a great deal more at work here than what we usually call "the priesthood." I'd like to pursue some of these questions with everyone else. I'm off to the temple here in just a minute, but that will probably only prepare me (excite me) the more to discuss some of these questions later on today. Onward... --Joe Spencer 17:34, 14 Nov 2006 (UTC)
 Too speculative?
I personally think too much liberty is being taken to throw out the standard definition for the sake of "the joy of speculation". There is so much solid Exegesis that could be written. I feel it a shame to ignore that in favor of pet theories and hobbies. It's too bad. :-/ The site really could have been useful, but I can't teach this kind of thing and it seems to be crowding out the things I might be able to use in a lesson.--Seanmcox 18:25, 16 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Sean, we may be bumping up against the limitations of a tool like this, as I know I'm frustrated because I still am not sure what your major complaint is. If we could sit face to face and discuss it, I'm sure we could come to a better understanding. In the meantime, like I said, feel free to show us how you think your interpretations are better than what we've put up recently. For our part, I wonder how much of the ambiguity that you find off-putting is merely a function of our struggling, and still not finding yet, a clear way to express what we are thinking, and how our two ways of talking about these issues actually relate to each other.--Rob Fergus 23:19, 16 Nov 2006 (UTC)
While I was writing some notes out, Robert went ahead and preempted some of them. Mine still apply though:
I think this whole question comes down to an ambiguity regarding the whole site--since we are speaking of ambiguities. The site might be understood on the one hand as a community of scriptural thinkers (Rob, etc.) and on the other hand as a tool or resource (Sean, etc.). I don't think either is wrong--and I don't think anyone in this conversation thinks either is wrong. Matthew himself has been quite explicit on the fact that he feels the site can be several things at once. However, I do think that to approach the site as a tool or resource is perhaps a few years too early (there are far better resources elsewhere, and we are far too few to change that any time soon). I personally get much more out of the site as a community than as a resource, in great part because I have a rather large library of my own with resources for most any question I will come across. And where nothing has yet been written, obviously this site wouldn't be likely to be much help.
I suppose what this little addition to the conversation amounts to, then, is a sort of plea for understanding, Sean. I hope you find things here to help you in teaching, but I have to confess that there are better resources for such things. I'd love to see you bring things from these other resources to the site, so that discussion can proceed all the time in a better manner (better: more in accordance all the time with the truth, with the will of God). But I think everyone involved with the site has to recognize that we are hardly so many professionals. We are rather so many people interested in thinking about the scriptures. Most of what I, for example, post is written in the process of thinking out a scripture for which I can find no real resource. I write things in my stream of consciousness approach, and others do a wonderful job in drawing out problems in it, cleaning it up, and shortening what becomes, in the writing process, too wordy. But that is precisely what the community is for.
I admit that I look forward to a day when this site is comprehensive enough to be a resource for others. In the meanwhile, I think we all have to be somewhat patient with each other. The scriptures are filled with possibilities, and there are (and I think there should be) just as many ways to read any given verse as there are people in this Church. I should hope we can rejoice in each other's company in the process of thinking the scriptures. To do any less is, in the end, terrestrial. But to worship God and to do it together in the bonds of charity is to enjoy the companionship I anticipate in the Celestial Kingdom. Anyway, a thought or two. --Joe Spencer 03:15, 17 Nov 2006 (UTC)
 Another issue implicit in all of this
The discussion may--and probably ought--to continue in the direction it has gone to this point, so I make a separate heading to offer another way of thinking about all of these questions. I spent some time thinking hard about these questions last night, and I think I was able to see some things--very broadly--about what is at work here. And I think that there may be two very different conceptions of truth at work here.
On the one hand, the "true" might be understood as a statement or proposition that corresponds with some actual state of affairs. On this understanding, "truth" is a question of a sort of correspondence between what is said (as on the exegesis pages here) and how things are, were, and are to come. This point of view reads truth essentially as a subset of the larger category of "possible propositions," a category that divides into the subsets "true," "false," and perhaps "non-assertive" (a third category that could further be broken down into subsets such as "poetic," "imperative," and the like). The "true," in other words, is here taken as a sort of limitation on propositions, perhaps as a sort of ethical demand about what can and cannot be said (ethical in the sense that Wittgenstein's Tractatus was ethical). If "truth" is understood in these terms, then there seems to be reason to be upset or at least concerned whenever propositions are made that do not, according to the required rigor, correctly correspond to states of affairs. That is, those who love the "truth" have a sort of duty to do battle against--perhaps even to eliminate--"false" propositions; and they have a right--perhaps even a responsibility--to be annoyed with "non-assertive" propositions, because they try to accomplish indirectly what a "true" statement can say quite simply (is this what is sometimes behind the common frustration with Isaiah, for example?). Speaking quite broadly, this view of "truth" regards it as a restriction or understands it as concerned with propositional impossibilities ("truth" is what excludes those other propositions from rightly undertaken discourse).
On the other hand, "truth" might be understood, as in D&C 93:24, as "knowledge of things as they are", etc. I have italicized a number of words in this phrase so as to recognize how carefully worded it is. If "truth" is a question of "knowledge," it might well be taken right out of the realm of language--or at least out of the realm of language understood as a collection of propositions. That is, because knowledge is a direct engagement of a thing (yd' in Hebrew just means to relate to something directly--this is why it can refer to human sexuality and can even imply covenant--as does the Greek gnosis from which our "knowledge"--g/k-n/n-o/o, etc.--comes directly; for those who know any spanish, "know" is cognate with "conocer," which means to be acquainted directly with something, to have engaged or met it), it oustrips language as so many propositions (propositions may well be spoken in such an engagement, but they do not make up the engagement itself). This knowledge is of "things," actual stuff, not propositions, but things in the world (I'll take it that this can refer to people as well): "truth" is one's actual engagement with actual stuff. But "truth" is this engagement with things only "as they are" (were, are to come). It is not, then, to know them abstractly (in, perhaps, propositions), but to know them as they stand, as they are, as they play themselves out in the world. "Truth" is not knowledge of concepts or of objects, but of things as they exist in the world complex, as they move about and interrelate and so forth. And that is the literal meaning of the verb "to be," anyway: to relate, to enter into relation with other things (this is the meaning of Shakespeare's famous "to be, or not to be" speech: do I retreat from all relation, or do I thrust myself into the flux of the world, of this situation?). On this reading, "truth" is a relational thing, a question of relationship or of engagement, even intimacy, rather than a question of "correct" propositions. And here, I don't see how "truth" can be a subset at all: it is simply knowledge of things as they are, and hence, it is a sort of infinity of possible situations where one might find oneself. In other words, "truth" seems here to be what opens linguistic possibilities, rather than what limits them. Whereas "truth" as correct propositions places an ethical limit on possible propositions, "truth" as knowledge of things as they are opens up an infinity of possible things to say. Any given situation can be described infinitely, from an infinite number of standpoints, in an infinite number of idioms, through an infinite number of metaphors, etc. In short, "truth" here is what frees all linguistic possibilities, rather than what limits them.
It seems to me that the latter of the two ways of reading "truth" is what is at work in the scriptures, and not only because I've gleaned it from D&C 93. That the New Testament variously reads prophecies from the Old Testament (sometimes while performing visible violence on the strict meaning of the text); that four gospels describe the same event in radically different terms; that the Book of Isaiah even exists; that the Book of Mormon reinterprets Nephi's promise in 1 Ne 2:20ff over and over and over again; that the Doctrine & Covenants can redefine entirely a word like "eternal"; that Joseph can retranslate the same Bible verse five times over differently each time; that the prophets have since then contradicted each other in most everything they've said; all of this suggests that truth is not--at least in the LDS tradition--understood as a rigid qualification of propositions (this would be the most absurd religion of all, it seems to me). When Hugh Nibley was asked in 1990 about something he had written on the papyri in the 1960's, he replied that he wouldn't be held accountable for anything he had written "before two years ago." The point is simple: truth is a question of where we are, and what is going on right now, and how things are before us. Truth is wherever the Spirit leads, even if it contradicts everything that has ever been said, even if it undoes everything that has been said, even if it suggests something ridiculous or speculative or even poetic. Truth is right now. And right then. And in the future. But I can't escape the fact that when I read the truth of back then (that is, when I read the scriptures), that truth is complicated by another truth: I am knowing the book in front of me, just as the prophet it describes knew things as they were then. That truth encountering truth engenders words, commentaries and thoughts and interpretations that have to be updated, have to be rethought through, etc.
Now, I recognize at least two objections that might be made to all of this. First, it might be argued that this is a sort of relativism. In a sense, that is right. If to say that my engagement with things (and with Things: God, Christ, the Spirit, the sacrament, the temple, etc.) is ultimately the truth, rather than what I say about those things, then one is bound to a sort of relativism. Maybe better, a "relationalism," a recognition that the truth is primary a question of the relationships that make up the world. But this seems insuperable. Second, it might be pointed out that on this reading of truth, it is no longer clear what "false" would mean. Two responses occur to me. First, the scriptures do not seem to be concerned with "falsity." Only a few scriptures mention "false doctrine" at all. It is hardly the burden of the scriptures. Second, "false," when it does appear in the scriptures, most often means something like "unfaithful," someone who betrays a (covenant) relationship, like a false friend, a false spouse, etc. To be false is to be unfaithful, to cut of relations, etc. And this double response to the second objection amounts to a response to the first objection: if the "false" is what destroys relations, then it might be best to maintain a sort of "relationalism," or even a "relativism." To allow God to take me up as His relative is precisely the burden of the scriptures: "thus may all become my sons." Regardless of what God is conceptually, it is in my being bound to Him that I will find salvation. Within that binding relationship, He can quite easily teach me to speak correctly (is this what is ultimately at work in these first verses of Moses 6?), to read and to write. But He can never do so without the covenant. If I decide in advance that I have got to get to propositions, I might, for the sake of linguistic correctness, be false to God, and then I have nothing in the world. In other words, all is relative, that is, all is relative to Him. Whatever He says--be it "false" or whatever--is right. (This, incidentally, is what seems to be missing in projects like the New Mormon History--Dialogue, Signature, etc.--that if Joseph was a prophet, then whatever he did was right, even if it looks to us now like he was "lying"; Abraham was commanded to dissemble....) In the end, it is my relation--my own relativity--to God that matters above all. And only in that community can the Spirit dwell (the old words for Spirit in the Western languages means precisely that something more that exists when two or more people commune, as in the "spirit of the meeting," etc.). If the "Spirit of truth is of God," then we shall encounter it only when we face Him in a very real relation of knowledge: "this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God [the only God who actually is, and who maintains a faithful relationship], and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
Now, to bring all of this back into the pragmatic realm.... Isn't this site more fundamentally a community of worshippers than it is a project to bring together a collection of the most correct propositions about scripture possible? Isn't this a place for so many people who know or are trying to know God to come together in community, to think together, to allow one another to open possibilities for thinking (read: speaking) about the God we know? Isn't the point to become so many angels crying to one another "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, for the whole earth is full of his glory"? If it isn't, then I have been terribly mistaken over the past months, because I have so regarded it from the very beginning. I think I have learned a great deal communing here, and I hope to learn a great deal more. My prayers over this project are not that more people will come to make a great resource here, but that more people will come because they desire to think/thank God in a genuine community of charity, because I want to worship with them. My thanks go to Matthew who has brought something into being here, a place of so many relations (being) where we can know each other as we seek to know God. It is my constant prayer that every institute and seminary class, every church meeting, every study group, etc., is the same in this Church: a place for communion and worship. These are, at least, my humble thoughts on the matter. --Joe Spencer 15:34, 17 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Joe, interesting comments and if it is right, to what degree really are these same revelations really unintelligible to us with out revelation? We might say that all of the scriptures and revelations are unintelligible in some sense without the Holy Ghost. Do we want to distinguish between the role of the Holy Ghost in helping us understand the gospel and the more (what's the word?) magnificent revelations given to Nephi and Abraham to help them understand? --Matthew Faulconer 05:08, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)
 Ham / Pharaoh / Priesthood
I am curious. Are the following true?
On a related note, RobertC, thanks for the interesting links about Ham. The story of Canaan's curse is odd and curious and the explanation there helpful and interesting. But since that explanation comes from non-LDS biblical scholars it doesn't address the point you make on the commentary page here that Ham walks with God. It seems that Ham is righteous which makes Canaan's curse based on Ham's action more strange still. What are we to make of it?
--Matthew Faulconer 15:05, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Two quick thoughts on these issues. First, have you guys read Nibley's "The Best Possible Test" towards the end of Temple and Cosmos. If not, you should. Nibley has a good discussion there about whether or not this curse is so absolutely negative. Second, I think most of this needs to be rethought through the difficulties concerning "Canaan" that arise in the JST and Book of Abraham manuscripts. It may be that there is reference here not to Canaan but to Cain, or some other tribe at least that predated the flood. I'm not saying I have any answers, but that there are some unresolved issues there that remain to be thought out. --Joe Spencer 17:38, 29 Jun 2006 (UTC)
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