Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nibley on Easter

Okay, he wasn't discussing Easter, but I'm going to appropriate Hugh Nibley's writings for discussing Easter. This is from "The Terrible Questions," a FARMS talk given in 1988.
There is only one question, the sole question for religion, the only reason for religion existing at all. Religion alone is supposed to answer it, and if religion can't, then religion can't do anything - let us forget religion. ... The real question, of course, is, Is this all there is? ...

Who cares about how politics turn out? Or the economy? Or even the military threat? We're going to die anyway; what difference do any of these things make? Religion exists to answer that question, none others. ... If we exist only to drop into a sea of Nirvana, a sea of nothing - if we are to vanish entirely, we don't care whether there is one god or thousands; whether he's fierce and ferocious, or kind and loving. It makes no difference to you at all; you won't be there. You won't be anything. ...

[Nibley recounts the Gospel of Clement, who went to school and asked the learned men and scientists the terrible questions they couldn't answer. He traveled around, no one could answer. Finally he met Barnabas, Paul's sometime missionary companion.]

Barnabas gives a good answer: "I'd love to argue with you. Being a Jew, I could out-talk you anyway. But I'm not sent here for that. I'm sent here as an ambassador. I have a specific message to deliver, and I must deliver it. That's all. But, what I tell you is this [and this is what stopped Clement cold in his tracks], I can only tell you what I have seen and what I have heard."

[Barnabas takes him to see Peter, and Nibley leaves us merely with Peter answers his questions, but doesn't tell us really how.]

The terrible questions are terrible because they can't be answered. To those whose business it is to give the answers, not having them becomes a terrible dilemma, calling for all kinds of indirection and subterfuge. Here we are referring to the clergy, but it applies to science as well. ... Of course the scientists came up with the answers: the answer is no to everything. ... The object of science was to escape the terrible questions and put the fears and dreams and fancies and childish misgivings of men behind them. [There was] nothing to worry about.

Of course, that left people more frightened than ever. I'd sooner think there are goblins out there than nothing at all... If there was nothing there, that was more scary than anything else. ...

First, you assume you have the answer, and simply despair. That's what science does. [He describes the despair of a number of the luminary scientists of the 20s and 30s.] It's just more or less whistling in the dark, working to keep the mind off the real questions.

[He quotes The American Anthropologist and the League for Social Services, declaring that Mormons are dangerous because we believe in continuing revelation. He cites a number of authorities discussing the infiteness of God's creations and worlds, including apocryphal works, Leipniz, and Descartes. He cites many early Church fathers (Augustine, African bishops) ducking the questions. He also cites Wordsworth and Plotinus believing in a premortal existence. After 30 pages of this he says:]

In the interest of time, and my failing voice, my roaring, flaming, flaring peroration will have to be omitted. I apologize that I talked too fast and didn't say very much. Yet a few points should be made... How do I myself find an answer to the terrible questions? Well, many of us have received particular answers, though we don't talk about them. We have seen and heard, and it is that direct impact that counts as testimony. Seeing and hearing short-circuit all the other questions and issues ... [that] play around with incidentals while never addressing the simple, safe question, which is borne from testimony.

I wish to testify that I know that the gospel is true, which I do in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
From other talks from the same volume (and when I find it I'll write it in, but I hear my son waking from his nap), let me add to this conclusion that ultimately we each have to receive our own answer from God that there really is a life after this one, that death was conquered by the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today we heard a prophet of God testifying that he knows (link upcoming here). You've just read a professor of ancient scripture agreeing that he knows. Though my knowledge and experience are surely less than theirs, it comes from the same ultimate source.

Jesus is our Savior. He offered Himself as a ransom for our sins. We are eternal beings, sons and daughters of God, who He loves and invites to return home to Him. Death is a comma, not a period. Is all there is? No. There are worlds without end more. There is nothing I can or could say that would prove that. You'll have to get the answer for yourself from God through sincere prayer.

And now my son really is calling for me. Happy Easter.

Asides from Nibley:
Why on earth did God give us a brain that wasn't necessary for survival at all? Why do we have a thousand times more brian power than we ever needed to survive?

Dallin Oaks was in my priesthood quorum for years, and he always used to tell us that the worst settlement out of court is better than the best settlement in court. So before you go to see a psychoanalyst, or a spiritualist, or to court, look for an alternative. Brother Oaks was very emphatic about avoiding court if at all possible: Stay out of court, whatever you do!b

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