“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

2 Nephi 2: 3-9 "and by the law"

Hobbes our Dachshund will not walk in the dark

The Place of Animals
Know this that every soul is free, 
To choose his life, and what he'll be; 
For this eternal truth is given 
That god will force no man to Heaven. 
He'll call, persuade, direct aright, 
And bless with wisdom, love and light---
In nameless ways be good and kind, 
But never force the human mind. 
Freedom and reason make us men;
Take these away, what are we then? 
Mere animals and just as well 
The beasts may think of heaven or hell.

The morning had dawned hot and humid. Rather than face the heat I postponed our usual morning walk and waited for an afternoon shower. But now it was well past dinner and our Vizsla was antsy. She wanted to walk, even if it meant walking in the dark. At this time of the night we could walk the entire neighborhood and not feel zapped by the heat. The idea of walking under the veil of a night sky exhilarated us both. "Go get your leash," I encouraged her yelps and begging whines.
When not walking with us the dogs enjoy resting.
They are always on alert 

But my Dachshund had other plans. When I asked him if he wanted to join us, (something he is normally eager to do), he tucked his tail and turned for his kennel. I laughed and thought he had misunderstood. So when the scene repeated itself the next evening, I began to see his obvious dislike for walking at night. I remembered how on previous evening escapades he had barked at every shadow, tugged on the leash in an effort to get me to turn back towards the house, refused to pass beyond our streets stop sign, and even once had to be carried out of the yard! By hiding under the covers of his kennel he was clearly showing his ability to make choice.

My dachshund knows what he likes and does not like.  Choice is not something known only to man.
Nature uses the ability to choose as a means for survival, to secure comfort and home.

Two weeks ago I became a student in Clemson University's Master Naturalist Program. It is a wonderful course that is meant to introduce me to the rich diversity of the natural world. As I learn the story of each of God's creations and their intricate role in maintaining a balanced ecology, my respect and awe for the laws of nature grew in ways I had never considered.

Biology Taxonomy teaches us that all of life is divided into three Domains. These Domains are divided into Kingdoms, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species. and even subspecies. The members of each kingdom are dictated upon by laws that govern their structure, their procreation, and their natural behavior. For instance I learned about a antlions more commonly known as lacewings or doodlebugs. Because of its four veined wings the mature doodlebug is often mistaken for the dragonfly. But that is the only similarity these two very different insects share.  Why? Because they belong to different genus and species. The field of taxonomy exists to study the different laws of each of God's creations and place it within the category of laws that best describe it.

So what does my dog and the laws of nature have to do with Lehi and his talk to Jacob? As I read about our Savior's mission of redemption, I wondered about God's creations and choice? I wondered why we alone seem to be able to make choices that dictate our eternal welfare? What about my dog's eternal welfare? If he can make choice where does the realm of his choice begin and end? And can he have joy like I have joy? (vs. 25) I wondered about the laws and the Kingdoms and what it all means.

Doctrine & Covenants 88: 36-38;42-43 
All kingdoms have a law given; And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and seasons. And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the plants. 

Concerning laws, animals, and kingdoms I found the scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants 88 and from Byron R. Merrill, a professor at Brigham Young University I found the following:

In all scriptural accounts of the Creation, animals stand next to man in the order of their appearance on earth. Man was then given dominion over them (Moses 2:285:1Genesis 1:26), and President Kimball indicated that animals were created "for man's respectful use." 3 St. Francis of Assisi taught that all creation was brought into being "to praise the Creator; every species in existence praises God in its own special way." 4
Joseph Fielding Smith said that Latter-day Saints "do not take the view that animals have no reason, and cannot think. We have divine knowledge that each possesses a spirit in the likeness of its body, and that each was created spiritually before it was naturally." 5 
 He explained that while there is some measure of intelligence in members of the animal kingdom, the limited bounds beyond which they cannot pass are set by divine decree. These limits are not set on man, who is the offspring of God and has received commandments to become perfect like his Father. 
President Smith concluded that God "placed each [animal] in its sphere, gave it commandments commensurate with its position. They have been commanded to multiply, not to pray." 6 
 Latter-day scripture states that animal-kind will have part in the resurrection (D&C 29:24-25). 
Brigham Young indicated that animals abide the law of their Creator, unlike men and women who are the only creations of God that are disobedient. 7 
 Some refer to wicked acts as resulting from our "animal nature," but sins are really human failings, the result of evil choices, and not bestial at all.

Merrill, Byron R. "Behold, the Lamb of God : The Savior's Use of Animals as Symbols"

Men are bound by laws of nature too. Some men erroneously believe that our choice, like that of the animal world, does not carry eternal accountability.  They believe that what they do here on earth stays here on earth and this gives them justification to behave in a bestial manner.  But when men behave like animals they receive rewards similar to the beasts.  In contrast, when men act like the children of God that they are, they have the opportunity to access the atonement of Jesus Christ and lift themselves above the natural laws that bind. When we live eternal laws we receive the blessing of eternity. Lehi teaches Jacob how salvation is available to men(v3) and that the law has been given to men to know good from evil(v4). Does a beast know good from evil? Do animals become miserable forever? No. They live under a different law. Like the different laws that govern the different families of animals, they have no need for an atonement for they have not been given choice over their eternal welfare. They have a different gift. Our gift has been one of dominion and choice. (Genesis) As children of God, we alone are able to make choice that offers joy. We alone are able to make choice that brings us peace and frees us from fear. We alone are able balance the gifts of grace and truth and find eternal life. And we alone are able to comprehend truth and what it means in the realm of our eternal lives. Lehi taught Jacob that he had the gift of choice. As a young boy who was about to lose his father and was still impressionable to the influence of older wayward brothers, I believe that Lehi wanted to impress on Jacob the power he had to choose his own life. We too have the power of choice that has been given to all orders of God's kingdom, but none to the degree of man, who is free to choose his own destiny. 

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