Genuine spiritual practices come out of salvation [already being “alive in Christ”] — they are not the tools you use to attach spiritual life on to your normal everyday life. It is being in God’s love here-and-now and being filled-up with His overwhelming desire to share all that you have with everyone else that blossoms into joyous spiritual community — not your life-long effort to be active in the church in order to “earn” or “get” charity.
To put in plainer terms: Unless your heart and mind are given over to the passionate love and transcendent experience of God – then any outward behavior, expression of belief, or moral code of conduct doesn’t count one iota to making you either righteous or unrighteous.
Righteous actions describe things that people with justified, purified, and sanctified right-brain-hearts do – they aren’t the instructions you must follow to “possess” a changed heart.
- Prayer, fasting, donating money or time, attending church meetings, meditation, charkha cleansing, pilgrimages, temple participation, yoga, tantra, reciting the rosary, reading tarot cards, service projects, herbal correspondences, etc.
These may all contain truth and may be interesting and useful disciplines in their own right. But alone, they have nothing to do with an authentic response to the fundamental reality of the created universe: God’s unconditional, self-sacrificing, and utterly non-stingy love for you [personally and uniquely You].
The way to judge is plain:
Any spiritual devotion or technique can be genuine – but each can just as easily be someone’s vain attempt to gain some personal security by relating to God as some Sovereign in the Sky who returns stability in this life for certain services rendered [see, Making an Image out of God].
I remember the word of god
by their works
ye shall know them
for if their works be good
then they are good also
god has said
cannot do that which is good
for if she offer a gift
or pray unto god
except she shall do it with real intent
it profiteth her nothing
it is not counted unto her for righteousness
if a man
gives a gift
he does it grudgingly
it is counted unto him
the same as if he had retained the gift
he is counted evil before god
it is counted evil unto a person
if they shall pray
and not with real intent of heart
and it profits them nothing
for god receives none such
cannot do that which is good
neither will they give a good gift
a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water
neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water
being a servant of the devil
cannot follow Christ
and if she follow Christ
she cannot be a servant of the devil
Moroni’s words do not indicate that you can use a person’s actions to judge whether they are righteous or not. Meaning, it’s not:
If you see what looks like good fruit, then it must be good tree
Rather, it’s that:
If this is a good tree, then its fruit will be good
Notice he said that if a person is evil — then nothing they do, no gift they offer, can be accounted “good” before God. Even if it would be a thing we might describe as a “good work” if we were asked. Also, he says that a good fountain cannot bring forth bitter water — no matter what you might think about the quality of the water by looking at it.
It is often the case, with the sin of hypocrisy, that the outward appearances do not match the inner-state of the heart. The inner-vessel is playing the part of a righteous one – but it cannot manifest the miraculous works of the Father [which are the real “good works”] because all it has are the works of men [which, outwardly, can appear quite charitable and good].
It’s not about being “good enough”:
Whether or not a person is morally virtuous, charitable, pleasant, or nice has nothing to do with salvation or righteousness before God. Morality and niceness are not really the domain of the gospel. Though there may be ethical implications of a person accepting, by covenant, the earth-shattering love of God – non-theistic humanists can be equally moral and congenial human beings.
I don’t mean to suggest that being a “good and moral” person isn’t important. I’m saying that the gospel is concerned with the source of [or motivation for] our behavior — the spirit that is giving form to our actions. Someone who has covenanted with the Maker of the Universe may very well do some of the same things that a non-theistic person would — but the informing principle behind why each is acting that way will be different.
The gospel is concerned with whether or not people learn to act by Power-Faith [using persuasion, patience, gentleness, meekness, etc. only] before they die — and whether a person’s mind and heart are being led by the spirit of the devil or by the spirit of the Lord [see Alma 34:34-35].
This is an entirely different domain than the collective pool of human ethics and social morality.
The state of the right-brain-heart is the sole determining factor between “good/sweet-ness” and “evil/bitter-ness”. As the Lord looks – hard hearts desire evil things [by definition], whether the “thing” they desire appears to us to be good or evil matters not. Conversely, broken/soft hearts will desire good things – things that may appear “evil” to someone observing them from a different historical/cultural viewpoint.
There’s nothing wrong with subjective ethics:
There’s this Western ethic of viewing reality as this binary, yes-or-no, true-or-false, etc. category for things — one that also holds that anything “true” must be universally scalable to be “right”. You see it come-up anytime you propose or suggest an idea — and some genius pops-up with some outlandish, fringe scenario where that idea might not work. Like if they can invent just a single case where an idea might not be good — then that just invalidates the whole thing for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
There isn’t “One-True Answer” for how all people ought to live — and the search for such an All-True, Correlatable, Scalable, and Marketable Answer is a fruitless endeavor and leads away from getting towards any answer worth having.
God is about love: real love — chesed, agape — that open-faced, fully-naked, no-stinginess at all, complete sharing of all things kinda love. God is love — which is why God is uncontrollable [or all-powerful], even anti-control. But there’s a fear of relative truth or subjective ethics because they’re uncomfortable — they aren’t well-defined edges and lines that we can check-off and box-in. But love requires the situational, the voluntary, and the accepting.
I find it funny that among the religious one will encounter the most hostility towards the subjective/situational — given the situational ethics of the scriptures: e.g., it’s wrong to kill [unless it’s not], it’s acceptable to take plural wives and concubines [unless it’s not], it’s required to circumcise the flesh [unless it’s not].
The reason all of the law and the prophets hang on the single concept of love is that without the context of love — being “true” or “right” is meaningless. The gospel is meant to apply to every human who’s ever lived – ever. Each generation, each culture has to bring the word to Life in their language, their world-view, and the conditions found among them, at that time and in that place. One gospel, expressed through diverse forms according to the doctrine of expediency.
“Religion” must be pragmatic and provisional — a culturally-appropriate symbol of Reality and the Powers [elohim, or Gods] of Life that you’ve personally dealt with and experienced. Because of this, the only standard for determining that a person is a “true” believer [a good tree, a good fountain, etc.] is the presence of the miraculous works of God, or the signs that follow them that believe: flowing-out, into the world, through them.
Telling me you read the scriptures, participate in the rituals, are active in the church, etc. – tells me nothing about the experiences you’ve had with God. Those things are just the retelling or reenactment of someone else’s story. It is all pointless and vain unless it is pursuant to you having the same experience — seeing eye-to-eye with the seers who have laid down those stories before you.
Someone else’s story will not save you [no matter how “true” it actually was for them]. Reenacting events from their stories as a ritual will not generate Joy in you. Such things are meant to motivate you to get on the same pathway, to receive a similar connection with God yourself, and to see eye-to-eye with them.
I don’t want to hear anything about what system of stories a person believes in their brain are “true”. Whether those stories “happened” or not is completely irrelevant to me – because what matters is what “happens”, right now – in You. I don’t care if you believe the stories about Adam or Abraham or Moses or Lehi or Joseph Smith having real experiences with the Father – I care if you’ve had them.
There’s not much value in the religious-fundamentalist idea that This-One religion is “right” and the rest of Those-One religions are “wrong”. The human concept of “God” means something slightly different to each group that’s used it throughout history and across cultures. The idea of God formed in one generation could be completely meaningless to another. Saying “I believe in God,” has no objective meaning, outside the context of who said it.
That’s why our spiritual dynamic cannot be hand-me-down — but must be wholly personal. But “personal” does not mean “alone”. Humans are not one-man islands – for all our stories are intertwined and interconnected. So a community of like-minded believers may share the same story with you — and you may gather together and call yourselves a “church” or a “religion” or whatever —but each person must live out their own story and have their own miraculous experiences.
And it comes to pass…
I’ve read before that Art and Spirituality are [on a basic level] really the same activity. Both are an outward-expression of your inner-will, intended to produce definite and concrete results.
If used properly:
- a painting can be the formula that brings to pass what was painted
- a song can be the spell that brings about what was sung
And human religious activity is this same dynamic — it’s meant to be functional, meant to make something happen.
So, to me, all that matters is if a person experiences the miraculous works of God in their life or not. Their religion is “right” or “true” if it works – if it’s living and breathing, everyday in them. Conversely, their religion is “false” or “corrupt” if it produces no fruit through them, if it’s a dead recitation of by-gone stories inherited from others.
Being of this-or-that religion, practicing this-or-that model of worship, conforming to this-or-that belief system – none of that gives any indication about whether a person’s religion works or not. And therefore doesn’t matter. Whether it’s “true” or not should be judged by what it’s doing.
If it’s producing the result — if it’s manifesting the miraculous works — if it’s bringing to pass the vision — then it’s real and then it’s true.
If the painting is just sitting on the wall, being revered as “true” – but the vision that was painting is not coming to pass and it’s just collecting dust — then it’s empty, vain, and false.
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