Monday, April 30, 2012

The Messiah

In the LDS church, as in all (that I know of) the Christian world, Jesus is acknowledged as the Messiah prophesied in Jewish scripture.  That's what "Christ," means, actually, it's just the Greek form.

Why didn't the Jews accept their Messiah?  Well, goes the LDS interpretation, they became so hung up on certain things they hoped for in their temporal lives that they failed to recognize the real mission of the Messiah (the Atonement).

The Jews hoped for the Messiah who would liberate them from Rome and all other captors, but Jesus did not do this.  The LDS theology attributes this to their undue concern for their well-being as a nation.  They missed their chance because they wanted their Messiah to come solve all of their worldly problems.

Fast-forward a couple thousand years.  The LDS church anxiously awaits the return of Jesus, who will kill all the sinners, clean up the Earth, and create an authoritarian system of government based on absolute truth that rules over an ecstatic utopia for 1000 years.

Time out!!   Isn't this almost exactly the thing  the Jews were waiting for from their Messiah?  The thing for which the modern LDS church condemns them?!

Frankly, this seems a bit hypocritical to me.
"The Jews were wrong to want their Messiah to save them temporally.  Meanwhile, Jesus is coming to show the world we were right all along and solve all our problems, yay!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

An Explosion in a Print Shop -or- Elder Nelson sets the Church back 100 years intellectually

I'm starting this post before the silly talk has even ended, but I'm ticked.

So far, General Conference (or General Nonsense, whichever you prefer) had been relatively benign in my eyes, many of the talks even surprisingly pleasant and accepting.  And then this!

In his talk on gratitude, Elder Nelson ridicules those who assume life began as the result of "a Big Bang somewhere!"  He suggests that this scenario is analogous to an explosion in a print shop producing a dictionary.
His basic argument is that the human body is amazing (I agree with this), and so cannot have arisen without design (but not this).  Even if it had, our healing capacities would never allow us to die, but mercifully (!), God invented aging to kill us off so we could begin our eternal lives.

Where do I begin?!

First off, I won't go into detail about the watchmaker argument, which I've covered before in both qualitative and quantitative examination, but it's a load of hokum.  Okay, yeah, life is amazing.  But to suggest that it had to be designed denies the elegance and beauty of the theories on the origins of life that have developed so magnificently from Charles Darwin's first innocent suggestion that the diversity of life might have something to do with inheritance and selection.  There is a whole century of scientific progress that tackles one puzzle after another in evolutionary biology.  Sure, not all the answers are yet available.  But for Elder Nelson to demean all of the best truth-seeking work mankind has done with an offhand comment simplifying centuries of scientific progress to a poorly-conceived metaphor about a print shop and a dictionary is infuriating.

Without comment like this, faith and rational inquiry could coexist.  But no, Elder I'm-A-Heart-Surgeon-So-I-Can-Comment-On-Cosmology Nelson couldn't keep his trap shut, so now the intellectual potential of millions of faithful LDS individuals has been stunted to a level found among subsistence farmers in the 1800s!
Why must leaders in the church do this?!

Now, on to aging: WHAT?!
So... a slow decline in physical and mental facilities, culminating in the loss of independence and, ultimately, the death of every human being is a divine gift?
This is not much better than regarding disease as God's wrath, and therefore rejecting treatment.
Never mind that there are plenty of biological reasons aging happens, not least of which is the fact that a limited life-span is actually an evolved characteristic maximizing the survival of the genes of an organism.
Aging as a gift is like... 9/11 as a gift!  Who are we, the Westboro Baptist Church?

Elder Nelson is an educated man, an accomplished doctor, leader, and orator.  Despite this, he has decided (in his talk on gratitude!) to ridicule the educational establishment and its most carefully-crafted ideas and theories, essentially stabbing the very organization that has helped him to success in the back.
That, my friends, is ingratitude.