Why Should We Trust Anything on Family Search?

In some recent playing around, I found that on Family Search there is a direct line all the way back to Adam and Eve.  I have also found that I am a descendant of Jesus Christ through one of his children.  I don’t really believe any of this.

I have long felt that the criteria for entering names into things like Family Search is a ridiculously low bar, and that people can submit ‘information’ based on almost nothing.  It also seems that Family Search and similar data bases are so open sourced (if that is the right term), that anyone can get in and do whatever they care to do.  This would seem to include sabotage, or just goofing around.

With these possibilities I wonder if any of us should trust anything on Family Search or similar sites.  Am I over reacting to this?  Should there be something done to verify what people submit?

Consciousness: I Think, Therefore God Exists

I have been struck recently by the phenomenon that we all experience called consciousness. It really is quite a remarkable thing. If all we are is matter and chemical reactions, then where does consciousness come from? Why should individual elements which have no consciousness combine in just such a way that consciousness emerges? This is a very curious thing which gets into the philosophy of the mind, and I feel it must stay in the realm of philosophy, since there is little if anything that any science can say about it. In the 1989 International Dictionary of Psychology Stuart Sutherland wrote “Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon; it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.”

I have felt that consciousness could be used as an argument for the existence of God. Perhaps instead of ‘I think therefore I am’ one might also say, ‘I think therefore God exists’. After doing a quick search I come to find out that there is an Argument From Consciousness. From the Wikipedia entry:

Genuinely nonphysical mental states exist.
There is an explanation for the existence of mental states.
Personal explanation (PE) is different from natural scientific explanation (NSE).
The explanation for the existence of mental states is either a PE or a NSE.
The explanation is not an NSE.
Therefore the explanation is a PE.
If the explanation is PE, it is theistic.
Therefore, the explanation is theistic.

This basic argument is that a theistic explanation is a better explanation for consciousness than a naturalistic one. This seems quite compelling to me, and it surprises me that I have not heard more of this argument. What do you think about the strength of this argument?

Public Execution Theory – Another Way to Think About the Atonement

I wanted to piggy-back on a post by Jeff G. over at the New Cool Thang blog. What I thought was both novel and unique was the idea of thinking of the atonement as a type of public execution. At first glance, thinking of the atonement that way seems repulsive. I think this is largely because we assume that anyone who would publicly execute someone must be arrogant, vain, and evil. But this is not necessarily the case. The idea of Christ’s atonement being a type of voluntary public execution interests me quite a bit, and I do think it explains a lot of things like animal sacrifice, the law of Moses, Abraham and Issac, ‘not my will but thine’, repentance as returning to God, etc.

Continue reading ‘Public Execution Theory – Another Way to Think About the Atonement’

Review of ‘Lehi In Arabia’ DVD

I was very pleased to review a new DVD called, ‘Lehi In Arabia‘.  It is a feature length documentary about recent research into key specific sites in the Middle East that add plausibility to the Book of Mormon being an authentic historical record.

The two sites involved include the place that was called ‘Nahom’ which was a specific spot in the Book of Mormon where Ishmael died, and the land called Bountiful which is where Nephi built the ship.  The researchers believe that they have found these two important sites, and this DVD documents their efforts and findings.  If you have heard something about the place ‘NHM’ or of Khor Kharfot as a potential Bountiful location and would like to know more, this is the DVD for you.

This film is both devotional and scientific, which I feel members of the church will appreciate.  I particularly liked the objectivity of dismissing site after potential site for not meeting the scriptural descriptions of Bountiful until a unique and plausible site was found.  I also liked the fact that they utilized scripture for the scope of their efforts.

I feel that serious archaeological research regarding the Book of Mormon is just scratching the surface (if even that), but this effort is the deepest scratch.  I recommend this DVD for anyone interested in Book of Mormon Studies.

An Analogy of the Gospel and Chess

There have been other analogies between the Gospel and chess, but I think I have had some unique insights to add that I hope you can enjoy and relate to.

In this analogy God is playing a game of chess against Satan that has some unique twists.  In this analogy the pieces are human beings who are children of God, who do not necessarily do what either player wants them to do.  I know this is unusual to the point of saying that this is no longer chess, but I hope you can hear this out.

Continue reading ‘An Analogy of the Gospel and Chess’

Why are You a Member of the Church in the First Place?

I have read with some sadness a few post on LDS blogs that have explored the idea of what sort of line would the church have to cross that would cause you to leave the church.  I left a comment on one that seemed pretty profound to me, but seemed ignored by everyone else (which may actually be a good sign).  The comment was a song lyric that goes, “The way out is the way in.”  What I mean by that is that some event that would cause you to leave the church would (or maybe better should) be similar to what moved you into the church in the first place.

Continue reading ‘Why are You a Member of the Church in the First Place?’

Christianity, Unconditional Love, and Absolute Tolerance: The Policy and the Wheat and Tares (Matt. 13)

Matthew 13 is a long chapter with several parables taught by Jesus.  For the purpose of this topic, the parable of the wheat and the tares really stands out.  Up to this point, the gospel of Matthew has largely been a gospel of repentance, with nothing resembling an ‘Anything Goes’ gospel.  But the parable of the wheat and the tares provides an example of significant tolerance for those who are characterized as the children of the wicked one.

In this parable, a man sows good seed in the ground, and at night an enemy sowed tares among the wheat.  When the seeds grew, the servants noticed that there were tares among the wheat.  They asked the man if they should gather the tares out from the wheat.  The man said that they should not, lest they should root up some wheat along with the tares.  The servants were to wait until the time of the harvest.  At that time the tares would be gathered and burned, while the wheat would be gathered into the barn.

If one wants to make a case for absolute tolerance, this would likely be the go to parable.  Here the Lord is saying to leave the tares alone, even though they are clearly tares.  The reason for this is to avoid destroying some of the wheat by hastily weeding out the tares.  In the wake of the recent controversial policy, this parable may be just as applicable to current events as my recent post involving the destroying leaven from 1 Cor. 5.  Should the servants of God be ridding themselves of a destroying leaven as Paul suggests?  Or should the rather leave the tares alone as Christ suggests?  Both instructions seem to apply, as do the examples.

Other than by revelation from God, I do not think one can know for sure what course of action should be taken.  Do circumstances warrant purging a destroying leaven (to protect the saints), or do they warrant leaving the tares alone until the harvest (to protect the saints)?

The parable of the wheat and the tares present an impressive amount of tolerance, and while this tolerance is not necessarily absolute (the tares are tares, and they will be burned at the harvest), it does seem to border on it, suggesting that sometimes we should leave the purging to God.




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