In the true spirit of General Conference, I am republishing this post, with additional material inserted here and there.
Like Unto = Evil
by Insert Name Here
I would say, if anyone asked, that the “origin of evil” is probably to be looked for in the description, “one like unto God.” What does it mean to measure a being, especially God, and to suggest that another is “like” Him in some way? It is one thing to say you have your mother’s nose, but even that is somewhat false, as your mother’s nose is not hers, but inherited from another, and there is no origin to that particular nose. It is unique and ever changing; though we might recognize it looks sometimes more like mom’s nose than dad’s nose did at sometime. But we must stop the changing, and invent a representation of that nose in our mind. That representation is not the same thing as the nose represented. And that is the origin of evil.
It denies the absolute abundance of diversity created by God and others, and seeks to understand them according to classes and measurements, by arranging likenesses.
This does not mean “likeness” itself is evil (what Peirce would call “iconicity”), but rather the uses to which likeness are put, these are to be considered very often the means of introducing evil into creation. What comes of measurements of likeness?
Who assesses how much, in what ways, one is like unto God? At Elder’s Quorum on Sunday I was told that we can be Saviors on Mount Zion, and when I asked whether they meant that literally, or were just speaking of church callings with fancy terminology, some men insisted that indeed we could be like Jesus. That is the origin of evil, I’d say. Why, I ask myself? Likeness measured thus requires two parties, and another outside these two who assesses the similitude of the pair. And that assessment typically measures very intangible things like “worthiness” and “spirituality,” and so must rely on external signs of such intangibles. Thus we see systems arising for measuring (e.g., stats), which represent the likeness of an externality (tithing) to an intangible (belief), in order to assess the likeness of one thing to another (me and God, let’s say).
Contrast this easily corruptible approach, that always borders on compulsion and counterfeiting, with the declaration of God that the spirits and intelligences and noble and great ones were all, in the beginning, “good.” They are not like a good being, more or less, generally, but were called good. In opposition to this declaration one arose “like unto God,” but who was not God, who offered a plan for sifting, for measuring, for distributing the creation of God to those who obeyed him. We will prove them, he proclaimed, to see if they are indeed Good. Not content with beings being beings, he apparently insisted that beings must be like some other being, and thus built a hierarchy with himself as the measure for how high one might rise, and by what means.
How can you get evil from beings declared good? That is an important question, I suppose, and I think it comes from our freedom to act. We can fabricate likenesses, and when we believe we are like God for creating likenesses of his creations, we have introduced Evil into his work, and are fallen.
The Origin of Evil, then, in my non-theological understanding, is to be found in measuring representations of living things, a claim perhaps underwriting the prohibition on idols and graven images; and why art critics and book reviewers are capable of such mischief.
Why are you offering those sacrifices, Adam? They are in similitude, and that is the sign of a fallen man: he cannot see the difference between the image of a thing, and the thing imaged. He imagines one can stand in for the other, and how far off is a market for sacrifices at the temple?
It is foolishness to suppose one man can suffer for the sins of another, and our law is just, and it forbids this, one Nephite said.
Contrast the one like unto God approach, with the advice, “Be Ye Perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.” If we look to the preceding verses, in both 3 Nephi and the New Testament, we see how our Father is perfect. It is not some declaration for us to seek for “perfection,” in the abstract, and thus, always unattainable, but really trying to be like Jesus, as we’ve imagined him up. It is in the sending of rain on the just and unjust, blessings rather than cursings.
What comes of God being thus perfect? For our lives, I mean, and how we reflect on them?
We have no reason to assume our blessings have come of our own righteousness. This means there is no compulsion nor bribery which leads to righteousness, and no measuring worth doing; for you’ll find that the wicked are often blessed equally, if not in profusion, should you compare how much rain one has received with that sent upon another. If there is no material reason for righteousness, nor fear of wickedness because God will smite you with a plague, the only reason to do good, it seems to me, is because one prefers that to doing evil. And so we really are free to act.
But if we act in a manner that weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of our malice, as one being once was said to do, and suppose that this makes us like Jesus, we are not only fallen, but have introduced evil. Evil is not created, then, but is introduced by our imaginations, and thus it is not eternal, and so I would like to take up a debate with Lehi, someday, regarding the opposition of all things.
Here we have the origin of evil, in making one thing like another (counterfeiting, really), and passing it off as the real thing to unsuspecting souls. And the preservation of freedom is founded in the mercy of God. It does not require sacrifice, nor involves any debt. His perfection may well be the origin of us as free souls, and why we are good, although we often confuse a similitude of it for the true thing. Should we set up, say, an association of persons for the reason of discerning the difference, and then distribute through various means our methods for discovering the difference, we have, yet again, introduced evil into creation. There is, you’ll note by reading Moroni’s Promise, a difference between the “truth of it” and whether “these things are true.” True is an assessment of accuracy of likeness or fidelity (hi-fi); truth is apparently very different, and something we must ponder after reading “these things.”
Now, let’s consider Likening things to ourselves.
You can insert your name here, __________, if you’d like. How do you Liken this to yourself?
You are saying, “It is addressed to me.” Now, some messages don’t have explicit addressees. Some do. If we find a letter addressed to, say, “The People of Nephi, ca.575 BCE,” why would we re-address that to ourselves?
What comes of this kind of Likening Unto Ourselves? The words are re-arranged. Types and Figures imagined. Patterns suddenly revealed. Folly. You have used the page to generate idols of your imagining, and are lost in wonder at your creation, and have become subject to them.
You cannot bring about specific events, happenings, visitations, and Zion itself by being a Type. Lucifer failed at this, being a type of God, rather than just good ol’ Lucifer. At the end of it all, he remains what he is. “I am that I am” is a perfect description of an honest soul. “I am like that person, character, deity…” is said by one who is alienated from itself. Has been exorcised from its own being, and stands outside itself comparing itself to something else no longer seen aright. We must have empathy, sympathy, and see the world from another’s perspective. But we should not, it seems, pretend to be other than what we are. What are we? What am I? What is _______?
If Zion is filled with Types of people, it is not filled with people but with images of them. Gentiles? Lamanites? Gentiles become Lamanites? Words for types of peoples, if you are thinking of races, nations, and so on. Why not have, then, Zion be a picture of people? Or a database? Or a Facebook group? What if you didn’t have the word, Zion? What would you call this future society? Would your description or guesses have the same weight, if you didn’t call it Zion?
It is clear, however, what ___________ must do, should ________ desire to become a child of our father in heaven. To be an heir to his creation, but not Him.
To continue your thought about “perfection.” Notice that when the Lord is describing perfect acts in 3 Nephi 12, it always has to do with reconciling the fact that we are all NOT “like unto” each other. We don’t need to change ourselves to become the person who is our “adversary,” but we are shown that “perfection” is agreeing with them while we are with them, or showing them that our dissimilarities don’t need to get in the way of loving each other.
Perhaps this is what is meant by at•one•ment. We aren’t “at one” because we conform to some standard of what good looks like (as measured out and dictated by some law), but because regardless of the diversity, we recognize that other beings are inherently “good.” If that is the case, then their differences would be “good” too.
It seems like you can’t be ‘at-one’ unless both remain distinct, and yet in some way bound by love, as you point out.
I recently had some difficulty explaining to my son that the symbols on the paper weren’t really the math, or the music, or the ideas. The writing was only the representation of those things. Why is that so difficult to explain?
Without understanding the concept, life is mere motion. The words are read, the music is played, the figures are worked out. But there is little comprehension of the things reproduced in spite of the precision in which counterfeits are now made. This precision leads to certainty, of course; and what is certainty if not another measure of things (not worth making)?
Knowing–the symbols and their motions (the only form we seem to practice today)–is a type of damnation. This certainty prevents one from filling-up and re-making things anew. The epistemic approach conceals the ontological approach: it prevents one from _being_, and I suppose such a one is destined to return to God empty.
Computers–automata–are good at knowing after this manner. They can perform the motions quite reliably these days. For instance, you should witness the fidelity with which my system can reproduce Bach or Picasso. I understand that now even General Conference talks are quite truly reproduced from the algorithms. That is a sign of damnation, if you like. What is the point of having a soul if one can be saved by a standard?
May the Lord save all of his little machines.
Anyway… heaven help your Elders Quorum instructors.
I have not read “A Cultural History, the dissertation, etc. So forgive me if I’m missing something that’s been previously discussed. You had me fully for the first 3 1/2 paragraphs. But then I hit a little disconnect. Perhaps a result of Not having all scriptures opened unto me, still reading many, trapped in the interpretations given to me since babehood. I loved Abraham Ch. 3 during my BYU college days and beyond, traditional interpretations and all, but in the last couple of years, I’ve really disliked it. The doctrine has become repulsive to me. I was starting to wonder if maybe that was because it just wasn’t authentic (translation problems, etc.). To be clear, the historical translation problems were not the reasons I did not like it; it was the content. But the historical problems gave me an explanation for disliking the content. Very interesting. I take it you’re reading v. 24 as he being Lucifer. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but makes sense, especially given the Son of Man reference in v. 27 as the one who is sent in v. 28. In which case vv. 25-26 represent “evil” concepts. Awesome. Yet, if “I am” is authentic, which I believe it is, then why would Lucifer, the inauthentic, refer to himself as “am I,” or is “am I” different than “I am.” I suppose it is: the former emphasizing the “I” rather than the “am.” So then I just have to ask, “If v. 26 represents “evil,” then why is the evil concept still validated in v. 28 by saying, “he kept not his first estate”? Not trying to get bogged down in specific interpretations and the “truth of these things,” but sometimes it’s hard to find Truth without some semblance of “truth of.” Some gems here. Thank you.
Lucifer was bound by his own law, and thus fell. It doesn’t validate evil, but instead that we are bound by our own rules. He being the one proposing the law, it applies to him, but not necessarily to anyone else; except, of course, to those who subscribe to his proposal, and live by it.
It seems that much of what goes on in the Church are Liken Unto’s, including ordinances (in the case of baptisms for the dead you have Liken Unto Liken Unto’s). Here’s an idea… What if we got rid of all the pomp and ceremony and just did whatever the LU represented. For example, being baptized in the name of Christ would mean being immersed in his approach to dealing with others (with mercy, patience, etc.) Hey, I think Jesus may have had something to say about that.
Bound by our own rules, with the unending invitation to open ourselves up to truth, love and mercy. Makes sense. Will think on it some more.
How does the phrase in verse 27 work: “And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.” “And the Lord said: I will send the first.” The chosen was “like unto the Son of Man.” Please help me understand more.
The first, “like unto the son of man,” answered “like unto” the Son of Man; not that he was “like unto”. His answer was like, not himself. This would be Adam-Michael.
What do you make of this post…I believe there might be a cryptic reference to you in here.
This guy does have some very valid points against Whitmer:
well, it is not short.
Guess you both have the same editor! Haha!
Any comment on the contents of his words?
Thanks for this republish. I’ve been thinking about systemic evil lately, which is what happens when something prevents wholeness or healing for some reason. A common reason that healing is prevented is that people think they already have the integral thing, when what they really have is only the image of it, or something that is like it (a counterfeit, as you say). If you get fooled by that, you stop looking for the real. Systemic evil is sneaky because most of its purveyors have good intentions and lack malice, and what they offer looks really good. In a recent talk I gave at church, I presented some of these ideas found in your articles and in the comments to them. It was pretty well-received. People don’t usually think of this stuff–that being (or having) “like unto” maybe isn’t what we are aiming for–and they listen up if it isn’t just a repeat of what they heard at conference or whatever. Some of them even wanted to discuss it afterward.
So interesting! I agree that “trying to be like” can be focused on the measurable traits, outward evidences, etc. and that God does delight in diversity.