Replies to Thomas

Tag: jesus

The Living Christ: A Poem

His life surpassed all—His atoned;
By Sacrifice our souls are owned;
Mid mortals—as He too was tried—
None other’s strength mankind shall bide.

Moses wrote: Immortal power,
John composed: His mortal hour;
In testament old: Jehovah;
In testament new: Messiah.

He went and did good, as The Light—
Opened minds and Healed broken sight—
But the proud could not distinguish,
Darkness sought Him to extinguish.

He walked each road in Palestine,
That He the lost thereby might find
,
Then on The Way toward Heav’n direct,
The sons of God from sin correct.

His death required He saw afar,
His Bread and Wine—a sure memoir;
The justices called Him “outlaw,”
Rejecting Him though without flaw.

A Gift to each life on the earth—
A gift—the Life who had no worth!
To all, through grace, Life Immortal;
To some, by works, Life Eternal.

He first loved us, and so atoned—
He came, saw, wept, and for us groaned—
Who formed the ground where Bethle’m stood,
And rent the earth ‘neath Calvary’s wood.

Perfect Son, Only Begotten;
Father’s will not once forgotten,
Whose will decreed: “Clothe Him in flesh;
“Redeem all man, Author afresh.”

His work did not end at death’s jeer;
To Mary first He did appear;
Then with Eleven, He broke bread,
Saying, “Fear not; for you I bled.”

Other sheep did see His glory,
Charging them to write His story.
Translated through boundless Grace,
By he who saw Christ face to face:

Who said, “His eyes are as a fire;
“Like snow, His hair and white attire;
“His Countenance above the Sun;
“Voice as water—beloved Son.

“By Him, and through Him, and of Him,
“Worlds to God ascribe patronym;”
We too, then, with thanks to God’s Word,
Have mem’ry Eternal bestirred.

“He lives! He lives!” The prophet said,
“He lives, our Savior though once dead!”
No greater message could He give—
We—with Heav’nly Parents—may live.

His priesthood and His church again,
Are found among the race of men;
Built upon a sure foundation,
Of Christ, Apostles, a holy nation.

This woman He deigned through labor,
To bear His Zion of favor;
That when He comes to earth—to His—
Some shall be like Him, as He is.

He then will rule, as king of kings;
Every knee bows, every tongue sings;
He’ll hold in hand the Book of Life,
Judgement’s Word, a double-edged knife.

Awaiting His day here I write—
Denying wrong, defending Right—
That His way is strait and narrow;
No unclean bone shall hold marrow.

Hence enter by the gate, He asks,
Feast on His word—fulfill His tasks;
And as the Light of the whole world—
His mercy comes in wings unfurled.

I, His leastwise disciple, say,
That His life is the only way;
I have tried His works to the end,
A faithful prize: called by Him “friend.”

His life surpassed all—His atoned;
By sacrifice my soul is owned;
Mid mortals—as He too was tried—
None other’s strength my life shall bide.

God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

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“The Doubting of Thomas” Carl Bloch

Click the link below to download a PDF copy of this poem:
The Living Christ – A Poem

Scripture citations in order of line number and stanza breaks:

1. Rom 5:11;
2. Eph 1:10-14;
3. Alma 7:11;
4. 2 Chr 32:7-8;

5. Gen 1:1;
6. John 1:1;
7. 3 Nephi 15:1-5;
8. John 1:41;

9. Acts 10:37-38;
10. Mosiah 3:5;
11. John 1:5, 1 Jn 2:16;
12. Luke 22:2;

13. 1 Jn 2:5-6;
14. John 9:35;
15. John 14:6;
16. John 1:12;

17. John 13:1;
18. Luke 22:12-20;
19. Matt 27:24;
20. Heb 4:14-15;

21. John 3:17;
22. 1 Nephi 19:9;
23. Eph 2:8;
24. Rom 2:5-7;

25. 1 Jn 4:19;
26. Matt 26:39;
27. John 1:10;
28. Matt 27:50-51;

29. 1 Jn 4:9-10;
30. John 6:38;
31. 3 Nephi 1:14;
32. Heb 5:8-9;

33. 1 Cor 15:3-8;
34. Mark 16:9-11;
35. Mark 16:14;
36. D&C 45:3-5;

37. John 10:16;
38. 3 Nephi 23:4;
39. D&C 135:3;
40. JS-H 1:25;

41. D&C 110:3;
42. Rev 1:14;
43. Rev 1:16;
44. D&C 133:22;

45. D&C 76:24;
46. D&C 88:61;
47. 1 Jn 1:1-3;
48. D&C 38:7-8;

49. D&C 76:22;
50. Rev 1:18;
51. 1 Jn 3:11;
52. D&C 110:18-19;

53. D&C 84:17;
54. Rev 14:6-7;
55. Isa 28:16;
56. Eph 2:20;

57. Rev 12:2,5;
58. Isa 66:7-9;
59. Mal 3:16-18;
60. 1 Jn 3:2;

61. Rev 19:16;
62. Rom 14:11;
63. Alma 5:58;
64. D&C 12:2;

65. Matt 25:13;
66. Jude 1:3;
67. 2 Ne 9:41;
68. Alma 11:37;

69. Luke 13:24;
70. 2 Nephi 31:20;
71. Mosiah 16:9;
72. Mal 4:2;

73. Eph 3:8;
74. Alma 37:46;
75. 2 Ne 33:9;
76. D&C 93:45;

77. Jacob 4:11;
78 1 Cor 7:22-23;
79 D&C 93:11;
80. Moroni 10:32.

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The Holly and The Ivy

Breaking from the usual letter-response format of my blog, I’m posting a poem I’ve written for this Christmas season that I would like to share with my readers. A little background will go a long way to appreciating the content of this poem:

In olden times, a Christmas tradition was a song competition between the men and women of a given town. The contest was to see who could sing the highest praise of their respective symbol: the men were to sing of the holly; and the women, the ivy. At the end of the singing, the two groups would reconcile beneath a row of mistletoe. Many of these songs have been forgotten to time, but some, particularly those sung by the males, have survived. The carol, The Holly and the Ivy, is a product of such remembered songs. I’ve combined those ancient themes, along with the legend of mistletoe being the Herbe de la Croix, whose wood was said to be that used to make the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion, to form an original poem set in the meter of said carol and using Middle English (as best I could).

The Holly and The Ivy
A Retelling of a Classic Carol

  1. As the snow falls at that dark and dreary time of year,
    Friends and fam’ly gather to grow a feeling, O so dear;
    To remember what was born, and ended with a pall,
    When a love and a life was giv’n, at once to save us all.
  2. But seldom is remembered, the story of a pair;
    Whose budding romance betoken’d our savior, O so fair.
    When the woods are blast by ice, and in color are grey,
    These lovers then appear evergreen, in the light of day.
  3. The holly and the ivy, when they were both full grown,
    Upon the wintry day did meet, when they were both alone.
    The holly loved the ivy, and she did love him too;
    But she kept her feelings hidden, to see if he’d be true.
  4. “Now Christmas is tomorrow,” said the doting holly,
    “Thou my wife I plan to make; ‘twill fill my life with jolly.”
    “Not so,” denied the ivy, “when all is grey and iced.
    “These days I am striving outwards, to be like Jesus Christ.
  5. “I started in October, to blossom and to bud,
    “So animals I could give food, when else is draped in mud.”
    The holly stood uprightly, and said, with humble heart,
    “I too am like the savior—I’m trying to do my part.
  6. “In May I bore a blossom as white as any milk;
    “And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, and swaddled him in silk.
    “Nay, Ivy, nay, it shall not be on Christmas we shall wed,
    “For Christmas day is on us now; by new year I’ll be dead.
  7. “Now hear the words I say,” continued the old holly,
    “Thou my wife I plan to make; ‘twill fill my life with jolly.”
    “Not so,” denied the ivy, “when all is grey and iced.
    “There’s yet more ways in which I try to be like Jesus Christ.
  8. “Though other shrubs can’t abide, ’till spring my fruit I keep,
    “My berries black feed the fowels, who neither sow nor reap.”
    The holly hunched uprightly, and said, with trembling heart,
    “I too am like the savior—I’m trying to do my part.
  9. “In fall I bore a berry as red as any blood,
    “And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
    “Nay, Ivy, nay, it shall not be on Christmas we shall wed,
    “For Christmas day is past us now; by new year I’ll be dead.
  10. “Now hear the words I say,” pleaded the aged holly,
    “Thou my wife I plan to make; ‘twill fill my life with jolly.”
    “Not so,” denied the ivy, “when all is grey and iced.
    “There’s one more way in which I try to be like Jesus Christ.
  11. “I only grow my flowers high atop my briery face,
    “Kept neither under bushel nor in any secret place.”
    The holly stooped uprightly, and said, with fainting heart,
    “I too am like the savior—I’m trying to do my part.
  12. “Beneath I bear a bark as bitter as any gall,
    “And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
    “Nay, Ivy, nay, it shall not be on Christmas we shall wed,
    “For Christmas day is long past us; and now I shall be dead.”
  13. “Now Christmas day is long past us?” questioned the ivy.
    “But thou my spouse I planned to make; to fill my life with thee!”
    “Not so,” cried the lone ivy, “now thou art grey and iced.
    “There’s one last way I wish that I could be like Jesus Christ.”
  14. “To restore that which is lost?” came a voice from above,
    “To conquer death, to green the wood, to mend forever love?”
    “Who art thou?” asked the ivy. “Doth thou the savior know?”
    Then softly came the stranger’s voice, “I am the mistletoe.
  15. “I know sweet Jesus Christ,” said the old plant draped in frost.
    “I was once a great tree from whom they fashion’d out His cross.
    “For that painful sacrifice, the Lord gave a power;
    “Kiss thy man beneath my care and have him from this hour.”
  16. Then the faithful ivy, crying teardrops like a mist,
    Picked up her cold, dear loved one, and gave unto him a kiss.
    “Nay, Ivy, nay,” came the voice of he who once was dead,
    “The new year is upon us now; this day we shall be wed.”
  17. Now for always remember, the story of this pair;
    Whose flowered romance betoken’d our savior, O so fair.
    When thy woods are blast by ice, and in color are grey,
    Through Him thy love shall be evergreen, in the light of day.

—Joseph

The Postman

Dear Joseph,

I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like towards reinterpreting my world view, as you’ve suggested. I mean, I find it hard to be grateful for things in my life when I’ve spent so much time waiting for things to be grateful for and instead have received things I believe manifestations of either God’s lack of care or God’s lack of existence.

I feel like I maybe I could better appreciate praying to Jesus instead of the father because I know something about him—he’s just more relatable. You know, there’s a whole book out there about him called The Bible. You’d think the father of our spirits would make more than a couple casual cameo appearances in there. Sounds like another thing to be “thankful” for.

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

I want to address the important concept of the Godhead in a way that I think will help you more fully and appropriately approach the Father. I’ve already written to you about the fact that God, our Heavenly Father, is a real person—a being of flesh and bones. But with that said, it’s important to note what else He is and what else He is not: He is a man, a human, like you and I, but enthroned in glory; He is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, two other separate individuals.

By way of analogy, let’s say that you are a farmer in the middle ages (perhaps not a pleasant thought). The Father, then, is like the king in the castle, the Son is like the postman who goes between your home and the castle, and the Holy Spirit is like the town crier (this is a fairly loose analogy). As you can see, these are obviously three separate individuals, yet their duties and roles are complementary and their mindset is perfectly unified. As one, they flawlessly represent the king.

Now, I would be surprised if the bodily separateness of the godhead wasn’t one of the first things the missionaries taught you when you first began meeting. So why do I bring it up now? Let me ask another question to lead up to that answer. Why do we pray to the Father yet go to a church named after His Son? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go to the church of the Father since he’s ‘the king’ of the castle? It may serve to make Him more ‘relatable,’ right? The saints in America during the time just following Christ’s resurrection asked a similar question:

“And [the disciples] said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter.
“And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
“Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; […]
“And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. […]
“And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it” (3 Nephi 27:3-5,8,10, emphasis added).

I’m not pretending to have received revelation on the specifics of the so-called ‘disputations’ that these people faced concerning the naming of the ancient church, but I have a hunch based on the last verse I quoted up there: the people then, as now, were taught to pray to the Father for all things as the giver of life and blessings—and they were taught these things by none other than The Son of God, Himself—”So,” they thought, “maybe the church should be the church of the Father, you know, because it’s Him we’re being taught to seek after in our communications with Heaven after all.”

But, as the scripture above shows, The Lord says that the church He established is clearly not the Father’s church but Christ’s church, so call it after His name. Hence we have The Church of Jesus Christ established originally and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints re-established in, as the name says, the latter days. But that doesn’t answer the burning question:

If our prayers are like letters addressed to the king, why do we worship the postman?

“…I come quickly; and my reward is with me…” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:34).

Universally throughout the scriptures, when a revelation (a return letter) was received by a prophet, it was curiously signed by the postman and not the king. For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants, the book of scripture that accounts the revelations of God to the newly restored church in the prophet Joseph Smith’s day, there are at least eleven instances wherein a revelation includes the identifying phrase of the sender of the answer, “I am Jesus Christ.” In the Book of Mormon and the Bible there are similar examples. But despite the postman signing return letters in behalf of the king, He insists that we continue to address the letters directly to the king:

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (3 Nephi 13:9-13, which is similar to Matthew 6:9-13, emphasis added).

The point is that the scriptures make it abundantly clear that the postman wants us to write to the king, just as the postman himself does. In fact, whatever we do should be done as just as the postman himself does (see 3 Nephi 27:7, and 27). Why should this be? Because the postman is the only person in the kingdom who knows how to get into the castle, what the scriptures call receiving of the “fullness” of the Father.

“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
“And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
“And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
“And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. […]
“I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness” (John 14:5-6; Doctrine and Covenants 93:11-14,19, emphasis added).

Will there be those who the postman will not admit into the castle? The scriptures again provide the answer. Speaking in a parable concerning the time when He would finally take others into the castle, the postman declared that:

“…They that were ready went in with him… and the door was shut.
“Afterward came also the [others]… saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
“But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:10-12).

The postman will only admit those who are ‘ready’ into the presence of the king (remember, the king resides in the highest degree of glory in Heaven). I will now reveal the the key of this whole analogy, which is the key to getting ‘ready’: the postman doesn’t just take our letters when He comes to our door, He knocks quietly to give us a personal invitation from the king:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:20-21, emphasis added).

The whole point of the postman’s mortal life was to prepare and show us the way back to the king—He ‘overcame’ and went from ‘grace to grace’—it is how the postman became the postman, and thus it is only by Him and His grace that we could ever get a letter—or ourselves—through the castle doors.

Do you see that if we desire to communicate with the king, we must go through the postman; if we desire to worship the king, we must worship through the postman; if we desire to go to the king, we must go through the postman? The church bears the postman’s name not because we are not to worship the king, but because the church is but another conduit through which man must go to approach Him. If it were not so, it would called by some other name.

So, Thomas, Heavenly Father—our king—may yet be a stranger to your heart and mind, but I exhort you to look to the postman. He is the very likeness of His father insomuch that “he that hath seen [the Son] hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Next time you have a letter to put in the mailbox, wait a moment and listen for a knock at your door. It won’t do to yell “it’s open” or “come in”; you must let Him in from within. Go to church, pray vocally on your knees, read the scriptures daily—these simple things open the door for that unassuming post man.

And when you come to know Him, know that you are also coming to know the Father through Him. You may find that the Father is a lot more ‘relatable’ than you once assumed.

—Joseph

Mother Earth: Eternal, Geographical Inheritance

Dear Joseph,

I can’t help but wonder if my insistence on trying to solve my mental dilemmas with God’s nature is just a by-product of having been raised to believe in him. My psyche can’t let go of something that has been so deeply-ingrained into it from such an early age. I look around to find His holiness at work and all I can see is that blessings and cursings seem to be scattered about all over the earth, independent of anyone’s religious tendency.

I feel like God ought to take more responsibility for the world He gave us and the people He populated it with.

“Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen.”

The missionaries and I talked briefly about what faith really means. I told them I’m not holding out for the clouds to part and ethereal light to descend from the Heavens before God Himself alights on a mountain top to proclaim the truth of His existence to me personally. If you have proof of something, that’s not faith, that’s knowledge. What I would like, what I think I am waiting for, is just a feeling, the awareness of some sort of connection to something—anything—when I pray. Then I can exercise my free agency and choose to have faith that it is God on the other end of that connection.

I was once certain I had the love of God and then when I reached out for it, it wasn’t there.

I’ve felt like God’s a general and I’m a soldier, but were of two different camps, and even though I’m not under his command, our two armies still fight the same foe. I feel like I can respect His position without feeling like I have to serve under Him.

For me, It’s the implied obligation and debt of servitude to God that causes so much of my anger and turmoil. Like that marathon runner analogy I wrote you before: just because He finished the race first shouldn’t mean I owe him my unflinching obedience.

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

You have many seemingly scattered thoughts to address in your letter to me, but I think there’s a common thread I can touch upon that will help answer all of your questions at once. But first I need to quote you:

“… Blessings and cursings seem to be scattered about all over the earth, independent of anyone’s religious tendency.
“I feel like God ought to take more responsibility for the world He gave us and the people He populated it with.”

To our limited, mortal perspective, the world does seem to be in turmoil no matter where we look or what groups of people we look to. After all, God “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). But part of the test of life, is not to see if God will take care of the world, but if we will. He gave dominion to Adam, and that responsibility passes to us (Psalm 8:6). We just happen to be failing miserably, and the earth, a living thing with a spirit, cannot abide our wickedness upon her face without herself revolting and dying.

Old Alexandrian notions of matter being evil led to the eventual loss of the original Christian teaching that God organized the world from unorganized matter that already existed (you remember my letter on the correct Hebrew of Genesis 1:1, right?). These same false notions thought that if God dwelt in “Heaven” it was necessarily high above the earth in a place free from the ‘evil’ matter of the earth. Hence Hell was seen as being even lower than the earth—deep down beneath it in an underground pit of fire, to be exact.

But this is simply not the case. The truth is much more ennobling and wonderful to comprehend: the earth herself is to become the abode of the celestial—the celestial kingdom, the third heaven, the greatest of mansions—whatever you would like to call it, it is the destiny of the earth to become such. This place where we now live is what some are destined to inherit (see Mathew 5:5, for example, where it is said that “the meek… shall inherit the earth;” see also Doctrine and Covenants 88:25-26, 130:9; and see Genesis 15:18-21 for an example of someone actually inheriting their portion in eternity).

The issue, then, is not for God to ‘take more responsibility for the world,’ but for us take the responsibility to tend and beautify it, like God, the eternal gardner, did when Eden was still upon its face. This is done both through physical care and spiritual righteousness.

When wickedness abounds upon the face of our planet, as it does now, she reels in pain. It is only a matter of time before our pollution (and I don’t mean just physical pollution, but spiritual pollution) causes the earth to act strangely and in a manner inconsistent with the predictions of science. The prophet Enoch saw the spirit of the earth mourn with sadness at the wickedness of man in his day:

“And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?” (Moses 7:48).

What Enoch here observed was prior to the great flood of Noah’s day, an abnormal world event spurred by the wickedness of her ‘children.’ If in our day we look about for physical segregation of curses and blessings into geographical camps that delineate the location of false and true religions, respectively, then we will come up to the conclusion that all is for naught and no one religion contains the whole truth. But what would then be observed is not the lack of a people who worship the truth, but the result of great spiritual pollution blocking the light of Christ from nourishing the world so that even the righteous, who are themselves scattered about the globe, cannot be known by their crops and their sunshine.

Earth: “notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again… and the righteous shall inherit it.”

In dark times as these, the ability to recognize truth by one’s spiritual senses becomes paramount. As the prophet Brigham Young taught:

“… Man can be deceived by the sight of the natural eye, he can be deceived by the hearing of the ear, and by the touch of the hand;… he can be deceived in all of what is called the natural senses. But there is one thing in which he cannot be deceived. What is that? It is the operations of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit and power of God upon the creature. It teaches him of heavenly things; it directs him in the way of life; it affords him the key by which he can test the devices of man, and which recommends the things of God.”

You, Thomas, have been presented with the Gospel in its restored fulness. Many things in the world will appear to contradict its message and to testify that it is false. But you have a feeling heart, that is where you may sense the Spirit of God, and it is there that you must plant the seeds of belief (see Alma 32:27-34 and Matthew 13:1-23). It is not with the outward senses that you must judge the truthfulness of anything; instead, by the spirit of God you can “know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5, emphasis added), including the nature of God, which you believe to be somewhat imperious.

Joseph Smith said, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God….” I believe you have every right to reach out to Him in faith and feel His love in return. Your expectations seem very level-headed, and your concept of faith versus knowledge (the former not requiring proof) is also very agreeable.

But faith contains a component often overlooked that goes beyond just the hope in the unseen: faith must also be in something that is true. The Book of Mormon phrases it thus: “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21, emphasis added). So I would posit that if you have not yet felt a connection to a being who you view as your ‘general,’ it is perhaps because there is no such being with whom you ought to be connected.

As an Apostle has noted:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part…. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer”).

One of God’s true characteristics is that He does not imply an ‘obligation and debt of servitude’ to Him, as you say. If He wanted it, He should have sent us here without agency to get it; instead, He desires for His children to willfully choose Him as their Father (reread my letter to you about Satan’s alternative plan of coercion for our lives). If we will be ‘under’ God in eternity, it is simply in the way a son is under his father: it is nature and the one who came before paved the way for the one who came after.

To return to the marathon runner analogy, you said:

“… Just because He finished the race first shouldn’t mean I owe him my unflinching obedience.”

You’re right: our Father in Heaven did in fact run His race long, long ago, and we owe Him nothing for it—not even obedience. It is and always will be our choice to run the course after He shows us how. The fact that you are here on this earth, however, shows that you started the race already—and with the intention of finishing, I would imagine. In other words, It’s too late to consider if you will run the race; now you must consider if you will finish it. Unfortunately, neither you nor I can possibly run the race to the finish: we’re too weak on our own! This is where Jesus Christ comes into your incomplete picture. He is “the way… and no man [could possibly run the race back] unto the Father, but by [Him]” (John 14:6). We must take His name upon ourselves and follow the instructions He has provided (the Gospel) in order to successfully run the race.

Thus it is not the Father to whom you owe your unflinching obedience, but the Son, if you desire to be where God is.

To re-quote Joseph Smith, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God… and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did.”

God’s earth, when He was a man like us, became His celestial abode because He pierced the smog of spiritual darkness that once presented Him with a choice: have faith in what is unseen yet true, or have faith in what is seen yet untrue. Likewise, this earth will become your celestial abode, as a joint-heir with Christ, if you too can see with spiritual eyes to a greater truth than what you have heretofore believed: God is your Heavenly Father and He loves you perfectly, and He is not a domineering, cigar-smoking authority figure who wants you to bend to his will.

Remember, “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). You cannot pray to both a true God and a false one. You must plant the seed of belief of the former in the soil of your heart now: your eternal, geographical inheritance depends on it.

—Joseph

One Eternal Non-Euclidean Round

Dear Joseph,

So God has been around as long as we have? I think I see what you mean. Might it be analogized like so: God knows he is ahead of us but it’s not something he’s gloating about or lording over us (if you’ll pardon the pun); He’s more like a racer who’s finished the marathon going back to cheer encouragement to, us, the other runners?

I like that idea, but I can’t quite understand how this no-end/no-beginning thing works, which is maybe the point. If God is cheering us on from the finish line, then isn’t he at some kind of end? Or is He not quite there yet and so He is available to cheer us on for the time being? I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but God is an incomprehensible being to start with, so why bother trying to comprehend Him?

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

Your notion concerning God’s nature (that of being “incomprehensible”) is still very influenced by your sectarian upbringing. God is not incomprehensible; God intends to be comprehended by His children. Though the word mysteries is sometimes applied to His Heavenly ways, what is meant is that we simply do not yet know the details of those ways; it is not that we cannot understand them. It’s also important to distinguish between what is unknowable and what is mysterious: the former applies to nothing; the latter is a consequence of the limitations of mortality. More on this later.

Your analogy of God being like a runner who has completed a race and is now cheering on other racers is a good way to understand our place relative to God in terms of eternal progression. But you’re right that the analogy then implies that there is a beginning and an end to the race. How can we make sense of this with the fact that we as eternal beings have no such thing as an end or a beginning? Allow me to explain:

I think a good place to start is with a relatively famous quote from Joseph Smith:

“I [will] take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end…. God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.”

I like this analogy very much, for it lays down a law concerning all things: if something has a beginning, it will have an end; if it has no beginning, it will have no end. Joseph Smith also identifies the “mind of man” as the immortal component of our being. This means that any other piece of our makeup, like our physical body gained at birth, is not eternal, and we likewise find that it had a beginning and so it will have an end, at death.

But then comes the glorious resurrection from the dead and we conquer death with Christ and receive perfected bodies that are not subject to death. God has already been through that and has obtained a perfected body long, long ago. We are His children and are going through that process that He went through already, and so He cheers us on because He has already run the good race. In other words, we can reconcile our eternal nature with your analogy of a race because within eternity there are many things that are not eternal, our mortal probation being one of them.

You’re next question maybe, “Well, if we receive perfected bodies in the resurrection, isn’t that another beginning, meaning that those bodies will have an end?” Now herein is a true mystery of God (not an incomprehensibility), for though we will all be resurrected to a perfected body that will not be subject to death, if it had a beginning it must have an end. What will that end be if not death? That much has not yet been revealed by God.

Let’s go back to Joseph Smith’s analogy of his ring (I believe it was his wedding ring, in fact). As he said, if it is cut then it has a start and a stop; if not, it goes on forever. How can we reconcile this fact with the fact that God expects us to progress? Isn’t going in circles not exactly progression if we are going over the same points over and over? The scriptures too state that progress and eternity can be two synchronous conditions of existence:

“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. […]
“If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after…
“And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they…” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29 and Abraham 3:18-19).

But the question remains: how do we reconcile Joseph Smith’s wedding ring as the symbol of eternity with the concept of ever increasing intelligence? These ideas seem contrary to one another because the ring implies a return to the beginning—that there is no beginning or end is a mere technicality because they are one in the same. With this contradiction in place, it seems as though that when God crosses the finish line, will He actually be crossing the starting line again!

Joseph Smith wisely taught that “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” We are about to do just that and discover the missing third truth that completes this puzzle: how can progression be measured in ‘one eternal round’?

The place to begin is with our comprehension of geometry. The geometry most of us are taught for a few months in our teenage years is known as Euclidean geometry, which is composed of parallel lines, circles, and the like. Euclidean geometry is very useful and nearly indispensable when it comes to the practical applications of modern engineering. But there is one very important thing it is not: natural. It is perfectly applicable to man-made contrivance (bearing in mind that mother nature often destroys such things) but no where to be found in nature—plants, animals, planets, galaxies, etc.—anywhere!

Let me give you a simple illustration. Imagine that you set out to draw a straight line in the ground from New York City to Tokyo (as if there was ground all the way around the world). If you were to walk along that line it would appear very straight to you, but if you were to project your course upon a map the line would actually be quite curved. You may have noticed this phenomenon when tracing your airliner’s path whilst flying a very great distance. I was once on a flight to China from Los Angeles and was surprised to find that we skirted along the coast of Alaska.

This is because we do not live in an Euclidean universe. The world is not flat, though on our scale it sometimes appears so. If you follow me so far I’m sure you’re wondering, “Yes, yes, I get it: nature does not produce perfect lines and circles because we don’t live on a flat world. But what does it have to do with an eternal round?” Well, let me ask you this, if we are currently living in the midst of eternity (we are), and reality is non-Euclidean, then what does that make eternity? Non-Euclidean.

Joseph Smith’s wedding ring, then, is in reality an imperfect illustration of the perfect truth he was trying to convey: an eternal round simply has no beginning or end. This can be readily illustrated, however, by non-Euclidean geometry that encompasses the motion of ring while enabling forward progression:

Take any seemingly circular course in nature and you will find that it is actually not quite circular: a planetary orbit, the circumference of the earth, a bird’s egg, etc. What these near-circular (near-Euclidean) shapes have in common is that they are all perfectly comprehended by the three-dimensional shape of a rectangular hyperbola vortex, sometimes called a Pythagorean funnel or horn. It, or a section of it, can be found in every form in nature from music to light. I really want to describe to you more about this phenomenal shape—I would coin it nature’s map—but it would get us far from the core topic at hand, the eternal round. If I am lucky, then perhaps you have already studied this shape and this form of geometry in the past.

Suffice it to say that it mimics the ever-changing forms of nature, including eternity, and one of these instructive forms is that of a spiral, like a conch shell. When viewed from above, the Pythagorean funnel can be seen to be mathematically composed of a line that circles about with ever increasing curvature (unlike an Euclidean circle of constant curvature). It is a visual display of the principle that no matter how many times you divide the number one in half, you will never come to zero. One direction of the line comes from infinity—Alpha, mathematically infinity—and the other continues to infinity in the other direction, or Omega. No segment of the line is the same as any other segment due to the constant change of curvature (see facsimile 1).

Facsimile 1: Rectangular Hyperbolic Vortex Spiral

In other words, ‘there are two [segments], one being more [curved] than the other; there shall be another more [curved] than they.’ As with intelligences, or the minds of men, there are no two segments that are the same, just those at different places along the spiral. From Alpha to Omega, the line makes an infinite number of ’rounds,’ but each continues to increase in curvature moreso than the last.

This then is the key that unlocks Joseph Smith’s symbol of eternity to our minds. It is not unknowable just previously unknown, and so it is a mystery to those who yet do not know. By mapping the patterns of nature, or reality, we can find the pattern to eternity. It has no beginning and no end and revolves in infinite ’rounds.’ This means that God has crossed the finished line of your analogy, and awaits expectantly our arrival there. By the time we get there, though, He will have progressed along the spiral of eternity and still be our God in eternity. As Joseph Smith said:

“Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? […]
“What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? ‘Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.’ So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before….”

I hope this very basic introduction to the geometry of nature can help you understand a mystery of Heaven, since ‘that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly.’ Intelligence, that immortal part of our being, is as old as God Himself because none of us ever had a beginning. God therefore esteems that the spark of divinity that is within His heart, and yours and mine, is of equal worth to that of any other person that ever was or ever will be. The difference is that God is more advanced in His intelligence than we are, and He has shown us, His children, where the starting line for the race is. Again as Joseph Smith said:

“The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.”

And that is where the ordinances and the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ come into play. If we are to advance in intelligence with God, we cannot do it on our own in this life. Without the atonement of Jesus Christ we would be forced to retrogress in the rounds of eternity. It is not merely a quest of learning about God and His mysteries, but showing forth our obedience to the principles God has outlined that inherently enable progress.

What sometimes dismays the mind hungry for the mysteries is the necessity to act like God, who acts in a completely selfless manner, to advance one’s own ‘knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence.’ This is because to do so is in opposition to what the natural man would desire, what “the spirit is willing” to do though “the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). This is why knowledge of even the deepest mystery means nothing “if ye have not charity” and if you cannot abide this command: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Moroni 7:46 and Mark 9:35).

—Joseph