Wednesday, November 4, 2009

LDS Lesson #4

Arriving at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building a bit before 6.30 μμ, it took a while to actually find someone. There was a Greek class going on in a classroom on the first floor, but that surely wasn't where I'd find my missionaries. Venturing up to the third floor, I ran into Admetus – the CES (Church Education Services) Institute teacher—who was very happy to see me again. We chatted for a while, and we found that neither of us was entirely sure where the meeting was to happen or where the missionaries were. Just as we were about to go hunting for them, they arrived at the third floor. Creon was there, but I learned that Daedalos had been transferred to Cyprus, so in his place was an elder whom I'll call “Orestes”, after the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra who features so prominently in the Electra of Sophocles and the Oresteia trilogy of Aeschylus--to say nothing of Euripides' Orestes. Orestes was a missionary from Utah who technically is meant to be serving this segment of his mission in Thessalonica; however, because some missionaries from the States who are supposed to be coming from Athens can't get here just yet, Orestes will be filling Daedalos' spot at least until they can arrive, after which Orestes will probably be returning to Thessalonica. I'm quite glad that Creon is still there, though; I really like that guy.

And it came to pass that we moved to a small round table in the corner of the third-floor room for our discussion, and I should add the caveat that my records of the discussion are woefully incomplete, so I'll have to reconstruct it largely from memory. That means no extended quotes, less accuracy, and likely a greater-than-usual departure from chronological order. And, of course, there's no telling what I'll accidentally omit.

And it came to pass that at the beginning – after Orestes and I had a brief chance to make each other's acquaintance, though barely – Creon asked me whether I had any questions. As will be seen, I had plenty – so much so as to exclude the actual intended lesson for the evening. First, though, it came to pass that I informed the missionaries – as I had told Admetus before they arrived – that I had finished reading James E. Talmage's Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission about a week ago. And, lo, they were duly impressed, and I returned the book to Admetus' safekeeping. I said, however, that a number of questions had arisen as a result of reading the text.

And it came to pass, yea, verily, that my first question pertained to Talmage's occasional references to “the Gods”, in the plural and with the capital letter. Creon first turned us to a favorite Latter-day Saint passage, Genesis 1:26 (“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”). He first focused on the word “our”, saying that there must be plurality in the Godhead because God the Father can't just be talking to himself. He also focused on the Hebrew word for God, elohim, which is plural. (Technically, the word is most likely an intensive plural, or plural of majesty, in this case. This is a common feature in Hebrew and can typically be discerned by the use of a plural noun with a singular verb, as occurs in this passage and elsewhere in the creation narrative. As for the “our”, that surely denotes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but without any need for reference to “Gods”.) And it came to pass that Creon next said that in Latter-day Saint doctrine, we have the potential to become like the Father through God's love. In pre-mortality, he said, we saw God's body and came to earth in order to gain our own, thus becoming more like him. He also read Genesis 3:5 (“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [or: like God], knowing good and evil”), which in his version rendered the “like God” as “like the Gods”, as though there were many whom Adam and Eve were to be like, in Satan's promise. (Some translations render it as “as gods”, without implying that there already are a definite set of gods in existence.) We ideally undergo, Creon continued, an eternal progression to become as God is. We will thus have families and create our own worlds, for “we are gods in embryo”.

And it came to pass at roughly this point that Orestes stepped in and asked some questions to gauge where I stood already. He asked if I believed in Christ, and I said yes. He asked if I believed in the atonement, and I said yes. He asked if I believed that the atonement was infinite, and I asked him to clarify the sense in which he was asking the question. (This is something I do a lot, and I'm sure it drove them crazy.) He glossed “infinite” as “lasts forever”. I was tempted at this point to ask, then, whether by “the atonement” he meant the act itself or the state of affairs resulting from the act; however, I was quite confident that he meant the latter, and decided not to trouble him with further requests for clarification. So I simply said yes. He asked if I believed that the atonement is perfect, and I of course said yes to this. Orestes then reasoned that a perfect atonement must make us perfect, with which I agree – in some sense. He further reasoned that if the atonement is perfect and must make us perfect, then since God is perfect, we may be made wholly like him by applying the atonement to the fullest extent.

And at this point it came to pass that I spake unto them. Yea, and I made the point that there are many kinds of perfection. I said that I believe that the end result of having our sins atoned for will be that we will be morally perfect, perfect in conduct, and also made perfect for the kinds of being that we are: humans. In other words, we will attain to the perfection of our humanity. The first two kinds of perfection here are precise mirrors of God's perfection, whereas the latter finds a close analogy in God because God exists eternally as the perfection of his own divinity. Entailed in this, of course, is a further sort of perfection, a robust ontological perfection, that is something we can never attain. Orestes objected at a few points, when I used the term “nature”, that the atonement changes our natures; I explained that I was using the term “nature”, not in the sense of our character, but in the more metaphysical, philosophical sense of the fundamental kind of entity a thing is, like “human”, “divine”, etc. This, I said, is not something changed by the atonement. Orestes continued to object that this was putting limits on the atonement and limits on our growth, to which I replied that I don't believe we will ever stop growing, but rather that there are certain sorts of things into which we'll never grow. There is, I think, an exceptionally crucial distinction there. Orestes continued, of course, to hold his objection; Creon, I think, was getting a bit uncomfortable, so he tried to move us along.

My next related question – this was sort of a three-question package – was how many Gods there are in Latter-day Saint thought. And it came to pass that, after talking about how he believes we all have the capacity to become like the Father, Creon's final answer was simply that it wasn't God's purpose to tell us the answer to that at this point, but rather to bring us into eternal progression ourselves. In one sense, that's a valid answer, but in another, I think it's somewhat of a cop-out.

The third part of that question was asking for an explanation of Isaiah 43:10-11 (“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour”). This is a classic text that becomes difficult to handle within a Latter-day Saint paradigm, but is perfectly explicable for orthodox readers. And it came to pass that Creon's immediate reaction was to play prooftext wars by countering with John 10:34-36 (“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”). Technically, I had to help him find the passage because he was having trouble, but I knew from the outset exactly which passage he'd turn to for this as soon as he said it was a saying of Jesus. He explained that Jesus stated here that the Law shows a plurality of Gods. And it came to pass that Creon went on to say that he personally has no idea how to handle Isaiah 43:10, but that because all revelation comes ultimately from the same source, it must be interpreted in light of latter-day revelation, which emphatically declares the plurality of Gods.

I believe it was Orestes who at this point cited another passage meant to confound the silly Trinitarian – I affirmed shortly after this that I believe in Nicene orthodoxy – and that was John 17:21 (“That they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”), which again I helped locate precisely and read aloud because he was having some trouble going between modern Greek and English. He said that on other understandings of this verse, it sounds like the Father and the Son are some sort of giant blob – he expressed this with hand gestures more than with words – into which we're going to be subsumed as one giant thing. And it came to pass that I explained, in contrast, that from my perspective, there are a number of senses in which the Father and the Son are one. They are one in essence, in Being (although two in person, and I corrected Orestes' use of the term “manifestations” as being too modalistic), as well as one in absolute mutual love, total devotion, and common purpose. It is these last three senses that I find in John 17:21, which Latter-day Saints also find there. The difference, then, is that I do not believe that these senses exhaust the ways in which the Father and the Son are one.

And it came to pass that Admetus finally had a chance to jump in and try to save these guys on Isaiah 43:10 by appealing to context – which is always a plea that finds a receptive ear in me, so long as it really handles the issue, which this did not. He said that Isaiah here was engaged in a struggle with hardhearted Israelites who didn't believe in any god at all, and so Isaiah was proclaiming that there is one God with whom they really do have to contend. The verse, he implied, was never meant to dispute the plurality of Gods. Now, in fact, the Israelites in question were being tempted by pagan polytheism, and Isaiah 43:10 counters it, not just by affirming the supremacy of the God of Israel, but by denying that there are any other gods at all. The argument found there would lose all force if the LDS doctrine of a plurality of Gods were conceded. And it came to pass, however, that Creon provided a further possible explanation by saying that the Bible is simply confused and inconsistent, saying in some places that there's just one God and in others that there are many, and so the monotheistic passages must just be corruptions of the original text. (Needless to say, this is entirely unsupported by any manuscript evidence or by textual criticism, and is little more than waving the evidence aside.)

I believe it was around here – and here I really have to go on memory alone – that Admetus attempted to bridge the gap by suggesting that I, too, must believe in a plurality of Gods because I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass that I answered unto him, saying that the difference is that I believe these three persons to each be God, true, but in such a way as to be one God and not three. And it came to pass that he asked if I believed in the contents of the Nicene Creed, which I then affirmed, and he said he'd read it but couldn't really make heads or tails of it. I took this chance to mention that I've never really had any trouble understanding the Nicene Creed, which I find quite clear. But when he started to mention some of the things he was remembering from it, I realized and said that he was thinking of the 'Athanasian Creed' instead of the Nicene Creed. And it then came to pass that I explained that the Athanasian Creed does require a deeper level of understanding than the Nicene Creed, and that the Athanasian Creed wasn't actually promulgated by an ecumenical council but in fact dates from around the late 5th or 6th century AD.

And it came to pass that I was then asked about Athanasius, and I first explained the situation in Alexandria regarding the bishop Alexander and the church elder Arius; I went briefly over what Arius was teaching and why it's obviously wrong; and I said that Athanasius was present at the council as a deacon, but later became bishop of Alexandria and was exiled five times when the Roman Empire favored Arianism, giving rise to the saying “Athanasius contra mundum” (“Athanasius against the world”). Athanasius spent his life ensuring that no one in his day could honestly think that the Arians had a valid position. And it came to pass that Creon attempted for a while to say that the need for a council and all the disagreement about doctrine was classic evidence of a universal apostasy, while I gave the simple answer that it could equally just show that some people pervert doctrine, not that everyone did. And at that, it was time to move on.

My next question took as its point of departure the affirmation in Talmage's book that God the Father is a resurrected and exalted man, a human being, though perfect. I asked, then, whether he was always God during the whole duration of his existence, or whether there was a time when he was not God. Creon attempted to say that the question makes the faulty assumption that God is within time. And it came to pass that he explained that time is a duration on earth, but that the eternities where God dwells – and where we shall be also – are outside of time, and so there really isn't an answer to the question. Now, I should mention that one of my fields of interest is the philosophy of time, and in particular the intersection between philosophy of time and the nature of God's existence. So if I'd wanted to, I could've given them a much harder time than I actually did, which gave them enough of a headache as it was. I asked Creon to clarify what eternity is, and he said that it is without beginning or end. He said, however, that there is progression in eternity. Orestes jumped in and said that we should remember that God's eternal progression is not a progression in knowledge because he is already omnipotent (Orestes no doubt meant “omniscient” here) or in power because he's already almighty, but only in glory as we spread his word and grow in him. So at this point, I asked whether eternity was like an absolutely static state featuring no change whatsoever, or whether it involved some sort of change. Creon said he didn't really know. I said that if there is progression in eternity, then there must be some sort of stage before and a stage after, such that beings progress from the former to the latter, and Creon seemed to agree. Of course, he failed to see that this constitutes something fairly equivalent to a temporal sequence, in such a way as to render the question coherent. I also pointed out that God must be in time on the LDS view, and Creon looked confused. I explained that they believe that God has a body, and that the entire point of having a physical body is to engage in movement; otherwise, a body is useless. But movement is a feature of time, not timelessness; ergo, God is in time, at least on the LDS view. (I happen to agree myself with W. L. Craig's view that God is typically or ordinarily timeless sans creation, but entered into temporal relations in the creation of a temporal world.)

And it came to pass at this point that Creon was rather clearly overwhelmed, and they urged me to move to the next question, which I did. Well, the next part of the same family of questions, at least. I asked if God the Father ever had a pre-mortal existence or a mortal existence. Creon's answer was that it's something they don't know. Yea, and so I jumped all over this. I first reminded Creon that he had, in our previous meetings, described our existence as being like a three-act play, with the first act being pre-mortality, the second act being mortality, and the third act being post-mortality, hopefully involving our exaltation and eternal progression. However, if God the Father lacked a pre-mortal life or a mortal life, then his existence constitutes a one-act play with parallels to Act III in ours. But, I said, Orestes had already urged that we must be like God in every way. If our play has more acts than his, though, there will always be a fundamental disconnect between us, even if the end result is closer to the same, since we didn't arrive there in anywhere close to the way he did. So, on the LDS reasoning provided by them already, they should believe that God had a pre-mortality and a mortality. (I'm going to see about printing a copy of the King Follett Discourse before the next real meeting and bringing it with me.)

They were thoroughly at a loss when it came to how to react to this. And so it came to pass that, after a while, Creon said that one reason he stayed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was that no one else had answers to all the hard questions. (I find this thoroughly ironic, because virtually the entire meeting up until this point had been an exercise in how Latter-day Saints don't have answers to the questions I was asking!) He talked a bit about the value of continuing revelation and that their beliefs are mainly rooted in the Scriptures; I thought a bit about interrupting and asking which Scriptures, but decided against it. Admetus chimed in and said that Revelation mentions a war in heaven (“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” – Revelation 12:7), but he doesn't really know anything about it. His speech here was basically a claim to ignorance. As he said, he has no idea whether God the Father perhaps has a God above him. Orestes suggested that perhaps our ignorance is good because we'd experience far too much anxiety if we could fathom the extent to which God is above us, because then we'd know how insanely far we still have to go, and that's always a source of dismay on a long journey.

I decided to let these guys off the hook for now, and to move on to another question, since they seemed to be eager to do so. And it came to pass that I prefaced my next question with a brief sketch of our existence from being created by God in the spirit world to our exaltation in the future, and then asked whether there was any sort of existence for us before our birth as spirits. And it came to pass that Creon said that it had been revealed somewhere in the Doctrine and Covenants that spirits were made out of things called 'intelligences', but they don't really know what that means. All he could say was that intelligences have no sex, whereas spirits do. I didn't press this point farther.

And it came to pass that, moving on to a new set of questions after I had noted several times when Talmage had referred to the Father as “Elohim” and the Son as “Jehovah”, my question, then, was whether the Father is also Jehovah; that is, whether the name Jehovah is rightly applied to the Father as well as the Son. The answer was no, Jehovah is only Jesus the Christ. (I look forward to looking up passages in Scripture that refer to the Father as Jehovah, as well as some cases in early Latter-day Saint prayers where it's so used.) The second prong of the question was whether “Elohim” also applies to the Son; they said it at least typically applies to just the Father, though I think Creon was on the verge of affirming that elohim can mean either the Father alone or else the Gods viewed as a corporate body. The last prong of the question was whether the Holy Ghost shares in either name, and they said not as far as they knew.

The last main question of the night that I asked was one that they had a hard time understanding. I pointed out that many examples of 'latter-day revelation' are claimed by Latter-day Saints to have originally been written down during the Old Testament period, or else relate conversations that occurred during that period. Thus, we now have a large body of revealed literature from the same general time period, with the Old Testament on one side and, on the other, the Book of Mormon as well as the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. However, when it comes to predictive prophecy about things like the coming of the Messiah, I noted that the exclusively LDS revelation tends to be significantly more explicit and clear about what was to happen. I asked if there was an explanation of this. (Of course, the obvious explanation, at least to any non-LDS person, is that the 'latter-day revelation' is, in fact, totally post facto and hence derives its clearness from hindsight and the lack of a need to fit into a scheme of truly progressive revelation.)

And it came to pass that Admetus, since he was the only one who really understood what I was getting at, answered that Latter-day Saints believe that many “plain and precious truths” were removed from "the Book of the Lamb of God", i.e., the Bible. Thus, the Bible has many things missing. He went on for a while about the LDS view of the Bible as the Word of God 'insofar as it is translated correctly', and how many alterations were made to the text over the years. And it came to pass that I then asked whether he thought that the original manuscripts of the biblical documents were as explicit in these respects as the examples of latter-day revelation that I had mentioned, and he said that they certainly may have been, although they can't know for sure. And it came to pass that Orestes chimed in somewhere around here to give an analogy. When hiking on a mountainside next to a stream and desiring a drink of clean water, one's best shot is to climb as close to the spring as possible, to get to the source. The Bible, he said, is fairly far from the source, because it's gone through numerous translations and the corrupting pens of scribes; latter-day revelation, however, is as direct from the source as it's possible to get, and so is more reliable and more valuable. There were further comments about the significance of many New Testament manuscripts being in Aramaic.

And it came to pass that Creon introduced another analogy. The Bible, he said, is like a blueprint. Only one building ultimately fits a blueprint, although one can vary the building materials, etc. The Bible, he said, is a blueprint for a Church, and only one can fit it. He added a note to beware that the “philosophies of men” don't overtake the truths of the Scriptures for me. The progression of other churches, he said, was guided by the decisions of mere men rather than the guidance of direct revelation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has revelations that aren't the mere philosophies of men. For Latter-day Saints, he said, the Scriptures created the Church; for other churches, the church created the Scriptures. (He seemed to be referring to the alleged fabrication of an arbitrary canon by the fourth-century church, to which I have one question that I didn't ask: then why does the LDS Church use basically that same canon with respect to one, at least, of the four Standard Works?)

And it came to pass that Orestes added that latter-day revelation is another witness, a proof of the Bible, and that without the Book of Mormon, there would be little reason to believe in the Bible. (I disagree whole-heartedly; I like this thing called “evidence”...) He cited Doctrine and Covenants 10:62-63 (“Yea, and I will also bring to light my gospel which was ministered unto them, and, behold, they shall not deny that which you have received, but they shall build it up, and shall bring to light the true points of my doctrine, yea, and the only doctrine which is in me. And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them”) in support of the point. He then gave an example of 1 Peter 3:19 (“By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”) as a passage that other churches just can't explain because they go about it through mere human reasoning and interpretation, whereas their church can appeal to other revelation to perfectly understand that passage. As Creon added, without latter-day revelation, no one could know what the Bible means, because there would be only speculation without an authoritative interpretation of the biblical text.

(My question in my head: who said that we need an 'authoritative interpretation' in that sense? All texts are necessarily interpreted in the act of reading and attempting to understand. That's simply inevitable. I figure that since God spoke to us in a human language, we're meant to use those tools to attempt to interpret what he means. We may not be infallible, but we're hardly incapable of any modicum of understanding. There are these things called “arguments” that we use in favor of one interpretation or another. We may not reach consensus on all things, but perhaps that's because we're not perfectly rational. While additional explanatory messages from God might help, they too would have to be interpreted using the same faculties that we're currently applying to the biblical text. And we're hardly totally lost without latter-day revelation. Opinions can be more than speculation; they can be reasonable suggestions, which are a whole 'nother beast. And it isn't as though Latter-day Saints themselves don't have disagreements. Think of the controversies over Book of Mormon geography, or over whether we were literally procreated in the spirit world by two Heavenly Parents of opposite sex, or over whether God the Father was once a sinner in his mortal life, or over whether the past is infinitely extended with mortal beings dying, rising, and attaining godhood, or any number of things. There are plenty of theological and exegetical disagreements over radically important things within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, perhaps enough diversity to almost be a microcosmic reflection of that within evangelical thought.)

And it came to pass that Orestes disparaged other churches by saying that they limit God, because other churches claim that God is incapable of speaking to us today. Admetus raised a similar question along these lines later, to which I said that I know of no church that believes that God can't speak to us today; the question is only over whether he would and whether he does. The same applies to Admetus' question of whether I'd be open to the idea of a contemporary prophet. God is free to do as God pleases. I have no objection in principle to a prophet arising in this day and age, in the same capacity as Old Testament prophets. However, the real questions of importance here are whether he would do such a thing and whether he has or will do such a thing. (As I thought in my mind but didn't say with my mouth, the prologue of Hebrews inclines me to think that there are reasons that he wouldn't, that he hasn't, and that he won't.) Orestes also read from a famed passage in Alma 32:28ff., which evidently talks about the experience of gaining a testimony from God about the Book of Mormon. Evidently, one is supposed to pray (that's a given) but also to measure how one feels when one reads a book. As one continues to read, one will feel within oneself the truth of the text. Orestes also exhorted me to think with my heart moreso than with my head at first, just as he did, but I also recall Orestes saying that God speaks to each in different ways, tailored to the person's greatest receptivity. He recalled the story of a person he knew who was a communist who accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon from missionaries after telling them that he'd refuse to read it. The man then read a bit, prayed, and went to bed. As he slept, he had a dream about the Book of Mormon, and when he woke up in the morning, his copy of it fell off his shelf. Orestes assured me that God would speak to me in a way that would be right for me. (Although I didn't say this, this should mean that God would be likely to persuade me of the Book of Mormon by putting me in touch with reasoned arguments and solid evidences, no?)

Somewhere in here, I was asked my opinion of the Book of Mormon. I said that I am not convinced that it's a historical record, but as far as doctrine goes, most of it is unobjectionable. Orestes exhorted me to consider how I feel when I read the Book of Mormon, suggesting that it would be comparable to the experience of reading the Bible, and thus I would know that it's from God. Now, I didn't say any of this there, but when I read the Book of Mormon, I feel a less intense pull of the Truth than I do when I read the writings of most of the Church Fathers. Are they, then, to be taken as the Word of God? Or, rather, is this method at best a reaction to the appeal of the content and the style, rather than the authority or status of the document as a whole itself?

And around this time it came to pass that Creon talked about how he's quite convinced that I will receive a positive answer from God in my prayer. Creon mentioned that he considers me to be one of the most qualified people he's ever come across to evaluate the truth of the Book of Mormon, and he also believes that I've been following their instructions as to how to gain a testimony – which I have. He also said that he's never known a person yet – and doesn't expect to ever find one – who goes through those steps and doesn't get a “Yes” somehow. Creon asked me my opinion about why I haven't received an answer either way yet. I decided to tread lightly at this point. I said that we'd talked a great deal about what it might be like to receive a “Yes” from God, but not so much about what it might be like to receive a “No”. I said that the apparent lack of an answer can be interpreted in at least three ways: (1) it might itself be a “No”; (2) it might be a “Keep praying faithfully and you'll get your answer”; (3) or it might be a “Silly child, that's not how I work”. Of course, of these three options, only the second is an interpretation that Latter-day Saints could accept. Otherwise, they would have to either concede that the method itself is flawed (which would mean that Smith is wrong and that their entire evangelistic practice is totally wrong) or else that God is telling me that the Book of Mormon is not true, which means either that their answers were false positives (an unacceptable conclusion for them) or else that God gives inconsistent answers (an unacceptable conclusion for any of us). I didn't actually state all this, though I was thinking it. But I did say that I'm (technically) open to any of the interpretations and thus intend to continue praying about it for a while until I can settle on one. (This is true. I strive to be open-minded enough to entertain the possibility that I'm wrong, so I can readily concede the possibility that [2] is the case, even though I'm in fact fairly convinced at this point that [3] is the real deal.)

And it came to pass that Creon also said that he always gets nervous because, as a LDS missionary, he makes all sorts of promises to people about how God will speak to them if they pray along certain lines, and so every night he goes home, kneels down, and pleads with God to speak to people so as not to make a liar out of him. Admetus referred to it in jest as putting pressure on the Holy Ghost. But Creon and Admetus also suggested that one way in which God can communicate is by affecting our focus on an issue. For example, perhaps if God wanted to give a “No”, he would lead someone to forget about the issue and just drop it. Conversely, a “Yes” might consist in being continually brought back to the issue. Thus, they at least implied, perhaps my continued interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in the Book of Mormon over the years is a sign that this is how God is communicating to me that it's true. (I hadn't the heart to tell them that I really don't think about it all that much in my off-time, at least not in the way they mean; that I deal with Jehovah's Witnesses far more regularly and in-depth; and that first and foremost on my mind is usually the beauty of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and my love for the ancient creeds of the church. Those little facts would kinda throw a wrench in the whole scheme. Clever try, though.) There was also a claim somewhere in here that surely God will answer queries about the Book of Mormon because a person's salvation hinges upon it being true. (And here I always thought a person's salvation had to do with that Jesus fellow...)

Anyway, we had to end the meeting around there because Creon and Orestes had another one to get to, but I received two invitations (actually, three, but one was just a standard one to the fun on Saturday nights). The first was to attend an LDS baptism sometime possible in the next couple weeks of an Iranian convert who'd been wanting baptism for a while, but who hadn't been baptized yet because they needed to find the time to do it. They still don't know exactly when it will be, but they said that they can e-mail me, and we can meet at the church and go from there to the place where it's being held. The second invitation was to a fireside chat on Sunday night. My mind immediately went to memories of my good friend Nick and his roommate Ray recounting their experiences attending one of these. Evidently one of the European General Authorities, an Austrian elder, will be speaking there. I thoroughly look forward to this.

And it came to pass that, after Creon and Orestes left, I chatted for a while with Admetus and his wife Alcestis. They gave me a pomegranate because they've been trying to unload some, and Admetus is now letting me borrow another book from their little library: LeGrand Richards' A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, another Latter-day Saint classic. I want to see if I can finish it before the fireside chat, so that perhaps I can exchange it for another at that time. And at last it came to pass that Admetus, Alcestis, and I walked out together, chatting about the General Authority who'll be speaking on Sunday, and we parted ways outside the church's doors.

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