Sunday, December 23, 2007


Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."
(Luke 2:14)

“I heard the bell on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

“I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.

“Then in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

In his immortal carol, "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day," Longfellow rightfully laments that there is no earthly peace despite the fact that for nearly two thousand years Christendom's unbroken song has been "peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Could it be that the establishment of peace is predicated upon goodwill towards humanity? If so, we might ask if Christendom--and indeed, any established religions both eastern and western--has fostered "goodwill to men."

Certainly each of world's religions has contributed to the progress of humankind to varying degrees. But each has also, to varying degrees, set limits on human progress. Each at some point in its histories has, however briefly, declared war on some aspect of human nature; each at some point in its history, however briefly, has resorted to some kind force in an effort to "redeem" human nature or "save" humanity from itself.

Can true and authentic "goodwill to men" be long established if human nature is viewed as something that must be "overcome" or "perfected?" And by "perfected," most traditional religions mean "changed."

How much goodwill can one have toward the human family if they are viewed as inherently sinful or fallen? If one's fellowmen and women are seen as tainted by Original Sin, if all human endeavors--regardless of how noble--are looked upon as futile BECAUSE they are HUMAN endeavors, then how long can goodwill be sustained.

If one believes that God has consigned every last human to eternal hell and misery for the sin of having been born human, unless they throw themselves on His mercy, or accept the bloody human sacrifice of one prefect man on their behalf, or meekly submit to God's law and will as recorded in some ancient document; if one believes that lasting joy and spiritual bliss can only be achieved through denying the appetites of the human body, or by overcoming human emotion and reason, or by breaking any connections with or desires toward the physical world and life on earth, or somehow obliterating (a.k.a., "overcoming" or "sacrificing") one's ego or sense of self--how can any of these beliefs truly nurture goodwill to men? Each of these, in a profound way, targets human nature as the enemy.

And yet Jesus, whose birth is celebrated with the proclamation of such goodwill, taught that in the end people would be judged by their treatment of one another. "Whatsoever ye have done to one of these, the least of my brethren, ye have done unto me," he told his disciples on his last night with them. Jesus broke down the walls that separated human beings from God; he eliminated the distance between human nature and the divine. Indeed, the religious establishment of Jesus' day accused him of blasphemy because "you, being a man, make yourself equal with God."

Orthodox Christianity is based on the doctrine that in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, God was incarnated in human form; that “God became one of us.” If that be the case, Jesus’ teaching regarding our treatment of one another has an even more profound meaning: what we do to one another, we do to God.

Mormonism took this concept a step further--and a big step it was, too--as blasphemous and heretical in light of the established religions of its time, as Jesus' teachings were in light of the religion of his day. The defining aspect of Mormonism's new revelation was this: "As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become."

The message of Reform Mormonism is that our human nature is our most profound connection to God; human nature is what we have in common with Deity.

The mind of man; human consciousness; the way in which human beings perceive the natural world around them; the manner in which the human imagination works; the way in which we connect to the natural world and to one another--even on the most visceral level; the unrestrained freedom that is inherent in human thought and emotion; the questioning nature of human intelligence, and its resistance to mindless obedience and willful ignorance--all of these things make us human. All of these constitute what it means to exist "in the image of God."

No other species or life form of which we now know possesses that attribute that we called human intelligence.

Has that intelligence brought forth suffering and evil? It certainly has. But that is no reason to decry human nature itself, for it is also the nature of human intelligence to judge and evaluate those things it has brought forth. It is the nature of human intelligence to repent of wrong done, and to seek after justice and mercy. Certainly credit human intelligence for the evils it has brought forth; but likewise do not forget to credit it for every single virtue and good that exists among us, for every single praiseworthy human achievement, for every single advancement among the human race.

The message of Reform Mormonism is that human nature and human intelligence are not to be attacked. They are not to changed or overcome. They are not to be obliterated or rendered merely temporal.

"The glory of God is intelligence," Mormonism proclaims. Human intelligence, human endeavors, human progress and above all, human life itself--these are God's values.

"This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immorality and eternal life of man." So declares the God of Mormonism.

"Ye are gods; all of you are children of the Most High." So proclaimed the Psalmist.

"Whatsoever you do to one of these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me." So taught Jesus of Nazareth.

"As God now is, man may become." So says Mormonism.

The human race is the glory of God. God looks upon us as we now are, and sees His own past. Deity regards human nature with no more animosity that does a mother or father when they consider their own childhood.

Could it be that this view of things--this view of God and of human nature--is a key toward nurturing goodwill to men, and as a consequence, peace on earth?

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to me.’

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”