The Purpose of Life

For the longest time, in the South visitor’s center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, hung the following mural by Robert Oliver Skemps (click the image for a larger view):


New I-Center Mural

It depicts God’s plan for our existence on earth, a probationary period during which we  have the opportunity to obtain a physical body to experience life’s blessings and challenges, and be tested to see if we will exercise our free agency to choose good or to choose evil. From left, the seminal events in our life are birth – our arrival in this world from our previous existence with God; instruction in the home; education; marriage; work; family; adversity; fulfillment; and finally death – our return home to the God who gave us life.

It’s a beautiful painting, but at some point the Church decided that it had a “dated” look – it definitely looks like something out of the 50s, and was originally commissioned for display at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. After being removed from Temple Square, the painting was sent to the Hyde Park Chapel in London where it hung for many years, until it was carefully removed by Scott M. Haskins and lovingly restored. It is now displayed at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Taking its place in the visitor’s center was a new version by Joseph Brickey. In a communication with me, he mentioned his challenge in “updating” such an iconic painting. Church authorities wanted the same painting with modern attire, and Mr. Brickey indicated that he solved the problem by advocating for “metadating” instead – that is, going backward in time to a pioneer setting that would be timeless and resonate with people of any generation.

I was able to go home to Salt Lake early this month, and took this picture (potato quality because it was shot with my ancient Galaxy S5, but good enough to give you the idea – click the image for a larger view:)


Purpose of Life Painting 2

The message – this time presented from right to left – remains the same, but the pioneer motif definitely seems more appropriate to past, present, and future.

As mentioned in this blog post, there is another version of this mural, also by Robert Oliver Skemps, depicting the purpose of life with Asian models, which hung in the visitor’s center of the Hawaiʻi temple. I once saw a thumbnail of it, but have been unable to locate it again. It was salvaged during the demolition/reconstruction of that visitor’s center, but I’m not sure if it was ever acquired by the Church. If it is ever restored, I’ll do my best to get it up here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

My Lifelong Wrestle With Mormonism

An insightful and poignant essay, very much worth sharing. His second list is much like one I saw decades ago, compiled by a good friend of mine, Dru White:

A Few Commandments

The Old Wolf has reblogged; be sure to read the full post below.

Love Refined

Since I’ve at times been grumpy, tired, the bad kind of opinionated, and wrong about things, I haven’t felt like I’m the right person, in the right moment, with the right amount of faithfulness to be the giver of the things I’ll discuss below.

I’m not a theologian or doctrine ninja. I’m not extremely well-versed in scripture and I haven’t always been on the straight and narrow path.

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Twisting reason – the false logic of desperate atheists and insecure believers

This image recently popped up on my Facebook feed, and I found it disturbing.

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Accompanying the image was the exposition,

“He either exists but can’t, in which case he’s not omnipotent, or he exists but won’t, in which case he’s not benevolent, or he plain and simply doesn’t exist.”

I’ve seen that before elsewhere; there’s a fallacy in there, one which many atheists seem to miss. I am reminded of a young Corrie Ten Boom, who asked her father what “sexsin” was. The father kindly asked her to carry his suitcase; upon trying, she found it far too heavy. He explained to her that like suitcases, some knowledge was too heavy for a child to carry, and asked her to trust him with it until she was older. She was satisfied.

Humanists who are bound and determined to disprove the existence of God, and show by demonstration that people of faith are fools, or benighted, or willfully stupid, often do so by attempting to shove God into a human box, as if they in their wisdom understand all there is to know about the human experience. They smugly postulate that if they would do X and God doesn’t, therefore God does not exist. I recall another recently-posted quote from Tracie Harris:

“You either have a God who sends child rapists to rape children or you have a God who simply watches it and says, ‘When you’re done, I’m going to punish you.’ If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God.”

Now this particular quote was directed at a degraded evangelical turd who put out there that raped children are “evil” and hence deserving of whatever they get; it’s easy to understand why in the heat of outrage over such an ignorant premise that someone might say something of that nature. But the quote annoyed me because it sets up the same false dichotomy – that God is somehow equal to humans and subject to the same rules and logic as humans are.

The picture itself is a perfect example of this compulsion by the atheist community to belittle people of faith at every turn. Showing the amazing and impressive ability of technology to improve the lives of people and raise the human conditon is a wonderful thing. Turning around and attaching a cheap shot at people of faith detracts from the message.

The same argument can be applied to people of faith, and most particularly evangelical Christians who condemn every unbeliever and agnostic (as well as the rest of the believing community who don’t happen to believe in exactly their version of whatever) to an eternal Hell, as though they had the authority to do so.

Oh & that’s why science has cured cancer right? I (along with a few other friends) prayed over someone who had pollups (sic) & the next week (without any medication) his pollups were gone.. I don’t see science doing that. The only reason some science works is because God wills it to. Science can’t heal a broken heart, nor can it comfort those who need comfort or save your soul or give you eternal life. When you die, you call out to science… & see where you end up. Until then I’ll be praying for all of you who are unsaved.

This quote is filled with so much wrong that I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just let it speak for itself.

Now, the picture above was posted by an intelligent and respected friend. He, and everyone else, is free in this world to believe in something metaphysical or not.But in the name of whatever you consider holy, be it some deity or the amazing power and creativity and goodness that can be found in humanity, stop taking pot shots at each other. It helps nothing, it convinces nobody, and it just ends up polluting the social environment and making everyone who does so look petty and vindictive.

Mohandas Gandhi is reputed to have said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” This is good advice, regardless of which side of the theological issue you happen to fall on.

The Old Wolf has spoken.2


1 Oh, wait, I’m forgetting about people who flog and decapitate unbelievers. Well, in most places in the civilized world, then.

2 I hate theological/political/scientific debates. As a result, I have disabled comments for this post. If you have a position to espouse, post it in your own blog. If it has merit, if it lifts me and inspires me to do better and help others and raise the human condition even more, I’ll consider it.

A gift from God

 

I consider all food a gift from God, but when you go into your garden and pick things you’ve grown yourself, it seems an occasion for extra gratitude: free food from the ground.

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Those of my friends and family who are of the atheist/agnostic tradition look at such things as an outgrowth of evolution, which is fine; on one level, that’s correct. But seeing such bounty merely in such terms leaves me with a sense of emptiness, of incompleteness. If there’s nothing but random chance and selective breeding and survival of the fittest, then there’s no one to thank for these gifts.

One take on gratitude was famously given by “Charlie Anderson” in the movie Shenandoah, played by James Stewart:

“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.”

It is certain, we wouldn’t have food in the stores if it weren’t for the backbreaking and often poorly-compensated work of farmers and laborers, but if it weren’t for the sun and the rain and the soil and the seeds and the wind and the pollinators, there would be nothing at all. So I often remember to thank the Lord for the work of everyone along the supply chain that brought dinner to my table, but recognize Him as the ultimate source of all goodness.

That’s just how I roll.

The Old Wolf has spoken.