Do Not be Fooled! Evil is REAL! Do you believe in Ghosts?

predator demon It started with a friendly conversation with an atheist who told me he lost his faith.  I felt so sorry for him.  Even before knowing his whole story I heard he was once a faithful Christian and could remember the last time he went to church as a believer.  He went on to explain one of the most convincing was the argument of the “Problem of Evil.”

Wikipedia describes it as thus… “the problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is omnipotent.”

Greek philosopher Epicurus, and this argument may be schematized as follows:

  1. If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.

To me this logical argument is weak.  It comes from the mind of someone who doesn’t have perspective or scope of God’s plan.  It assumes that God would run the world as a place where no pain, no problem, and only good exists.  Satan’s plan would be to force us to live a certain way and to have conditions such that we wouldn’t have control.

Here’s my argument

1. An all-powerful good God does exist

2. He is bound by a plan agreed before this world existed to allow mankind to have free will or free agency according to the commandments and man can choose good or evil.

3. Therefore, evil exists as rebellion against God.

4. All will be redeemed and receive their just reward, the good and the evil.

There were two plans put forward in the councils of heaven prior this world being created, the first was that man would be given free agency and mankind would be tested to see if they would keep His commandments.  A redeemer would be sent to satisfy the demands of justice then bring grace and mercy in the world.  God has given us free agency, the ability to choose good from evil.  The second said, send me and I won’t lose a single soul.  He also wanted the glory.  To some this robot world of no agency, no sin, no choice, and no pain, sounds wonderful.  It was not God’s plan.  It was Lucifer’s (who would be known as the devil) plan and as a result of it being rejected he rebelled and took 1/3 of the hosts of heaven with him known as his angels in revelations, but commonly referred to as the evil spirits and demons those who will never have bodies.

The War in Heaven

angels cast out of heaven

The Bible (KJV): Revelations 12:7-9

“7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more inheaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called theDevil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

Isaiah 14:12

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

This world is not a world of robots where we are forced to keep the commandments and we will not all be automatically be redeemed.  This world is one of pain, suffering and death.  This is part of the plan, and while it pains God to see his children suffer, he wants us to pray and be humbled and have faith.  God does not inflict pain.  Our separation from God came as a result of the fall of Adam.  It was a choice of mankind to bring pain and suffering into the world.  As a result we can have experience, and through that experience we feel sadness that we may know joy, pain and suffering that we may know peace.  For God to block this would be counter intuitive to the the plan.  It’s not fair to blame God for our suffering.  There will be suffering in this world, but it will end, and we will know peace.  We can receive comfort in knowing the next life will be even better for most of us and especially those who truly search for truth and seek to keep the commandments of God.

The Doctrine & Covenants 29:36-40 explains it even further

36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also athird part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;

37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and hisangels;

38 And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.

39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

40 Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.

 

Bad and horrible things do happen

in recent memory there’s the Boston Bombings of innocent, the New Town shootings, but this scripture explains why sometimes God allows things to happen that he might receive them unto himself and stand against them.  The suffering ends and the innocent will be rewarded and redeemed

Book of Mormon: Alma 14:8-15

8 And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might beburned and destroyed by fire.

9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place ofmartyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

12 Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.

13 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.

14 Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?

15 Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith.

Later on a very concise answer to…

blind child

Why Does God NOT stop the suffering, prevent pain, and heal everyone????

Alma 60:13

13 For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.

 

demon mask head

Interesting study from Barna on belief as it relates to Christians, Evil and Satan

Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.  A majority of Christians believe that a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces, such as demons or evil spirits. Two out of three Christians agreed that such influence is real (39% agreed strongly, 25% agreed somewhat), while just three out of ten rejected the influence of supernatural forces (18% disagreed strongly, 10% disagreed somewhat). The remaining 8% were undecided on this matter.

Personally I don’t think you have to believe in Satan as an individual being to believe that evil exists.  It could be a role.

Jinn – What we learn from Islam

  turkish evil eyes

Growing up in Idaho, I didn’t personally know any Muslims until my adult life.  I have to say some of my best friends across the world now are devout Muslims.  I have a great respect for Islam and ironically it was during a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam that I realized just how easily the tables could turn on my Muslim friends.  Religious persecution is something that concerns me a lot.  We need to do everything we can to support one’s ability to worship freely.  I have a special place in my heart for the Palestinians.  In my travels I’ve heard stories that have concerned me. Travel has made me appreciate how a people can be

It was on a trip to Jordan that I really connected with a couple of buddies who let me know they were Palestinians, at first I really had to figure out what if anything that meant to me and how I would react to my new friends.  We were on a long trip out to Petra and ultimately had more than 5 hours in the car as we drove across the desert.  On this ride we talked a lot about our faith, and it was really the first time I had to learn about the Quran and learn about the djinn or jinn known as “spiritual creatures mentioned in the Qur’ān and Islamic mythology who inhabit an unseen world in dimensions beyond the visible universe of humans. Together, the jinn, humans and angels make up the three sapient creations of God.”

I was fascinated to hear about these unseen beings, and it struck a chord.  What was really interesting is how one of them started to tell me personal experiences about these Djinn and my other friend was really getting concerned that he was inviting an evil spirit.  He was getting freaked out.  This reminds me of so many times in my life where I’d get together at scout camps or at night with friends and telling stories with college room mates.  While it sounds like ghost stories around a camp fire, the difference is telling true stories of real experiences.  The djinn are hidden, you can’t see them.  So there was really a lot of parallels in my personal experiences.

According to the Quran, jinn have free will, and Iblīs abused this freedom in front of Allah by refusing to bow to Adam when Allah ordered angels and jinn to do so. For disobeying Allah, he was expelled from Paradise and called “Shayṭān” (Satan)

The Noble Quran: 15 Surah Al-Hijr: 25-43

25. And verily, your Lord will gather them together. Truly, He is All-Wise, All-Knowing.

26. And indeed, We created man from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.

27. And the jinn, We created aforetime from the smokeless flame of fire.

28. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.

29. “So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him.”

30. So, the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together.

31. Except Iblis (Satan), – he refused to be among the prostrators.

32. (Allah) said: “O Iblis (Satan)! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?”

33. [Iblis (Satan)] said: “I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.”

34. (Allah) said: “Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajim (an outcast or a cursed one).” [Tafsir At-Tabari]

35. “And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection).”

36. [Iblis (Satan)] said: “O my Lord! Give me then respite till the Day they (the dead) will be resurrected.”

37. Allah said: “Then, verily, you are of those reprieved,

38. “Till the Day of the time appointed.”

39. [Iblis (Satan)] said: “O my Lord! Because you misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all.

40. “Except Your chosen, (guided) [servants] among them.”

41. (Allah) said: “This is the Way which will lead straight to Me.”

42. “Certainly, you shall have no authority over My [servants], except those who follow you of the Ghawin (Mushrikun and those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evil-doers, etc.).

43. “And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all.

While many Muslims may not like seeing this in English, feel free to read it in Arabic.  There are a lot of different english translations.  The point I want to make from above as it relates to the condition of evil being brought into the world.  You can see how Satan was cursed and selected the path of misleading mankind.  Evil is introduced into the world, not as something that simply happens naturally, but in something that happens as a result of circumstances around creation.  Temptation is necessary to separate the true disciples or servants of Allah and those who would chose evil or destruction or hell.

Hebron Tomb of the Patriarchs

Do Jews Believe in Ghosts?

The gemara certainly speaks about demons and spirits.
Well, a ghost is essentially a neshama, correct? At least that is what it always seems to be portrayed. So do neshamas ever get left or trapped here or come back here?

Demons, Dybbuks, Ghosts, & Golems by Jay Michaelson

evil eye doorway“The Talmud has a rich, though vague, demonology. Great rabbis are able to perceive demons sitting on the right and left hands of every person. They are able to harness the divine creative energies to create animals which can then be consumed for food. And, in the talmudic world, spirits are everywhere: They haunt dark places… For example, consider the omnipresence and omnimalevolence of demons described in theTalmud in Berakhot 6a”:

“It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, If the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the demons. Abaye says: They are more numerous than we are and they surround us like the ridge around a field. R. Huna says: Every one among us has a thousand on his left hand and ten thousand on his right hand. Raba says: The crushing of the crowd in the Kallah [yearly public] lectures comes from them. Fatigue in the knees comes from them. The wearing out of the clothes of the scholars is due to their rubbing against them. The bruising of the feet comes from them.”

Rarely does the talmudic literature go into detail about exactly how demons and magical creatures come into being, or whether they are really independent beings “out there,” or merely psychological realities. If the latter, of course, then we today can perhaps understand this foreign-sounding discourse–after all, who among us has not been plagued by “demons” in their work or sexual life? As in the source above,”demons” (mazikim, a word which might be better translated “harmful beings”) could be seen as anything that causes decay, pain, and the depletion of life-energy.

kabbalistic

Kabbalistic demonology is more detailed. Other demons are, as in the Christian myth, rebellious angels, or in the case of Lilith, primordial humans who disobeyed the divine plan. In all cases, they are instances of life-energy gone awry. In the proper functioning of the cosmos, energy flows like a cycle: down from heaven, then back up in the form of proper ritual action. But when the energy is misappropriated, as in masturbation or rebellion, its intense power falls into the realm of shadow.”

Do Hindus believe in Ghosts?

“Hindu beliefs teach that we are surrounded by a multitude of spirit entities, which exist within the “ether” that encompasses everything.  This ether, which could be equated to spirit, or energy is also called, akasha.  The Akashic Records are believed to contain every event in time, somehow recorded in the ether as an imprint of energy that may be possible to be re-played or visibly seen by those with psychic abilities.  Hinduism teaches that seeing into the akasha which contains the Akashic Records, in other words, seeing ghosts, is possible by those who know how to use the third eye.”

pork head offering

Similarly Buddhists believe in Ghosts and try to help them though offerings

Ghosts do suffer through attempting to fulfill earthly desires.  It is an exercise in futility, because ghosts find themselves without physical bodies to be able to act out such lusts.  The seventh month is believed by many followers of Buddhism to be a time when ghosts and spirits come out of the lower realm and interact with people. So a Ghost Festival of sorts is honored, paying homage to ancestors through various rituals designed to ease the suffering of ghosts and possibly aid in direction.  It is believed by Buddhists who celebrate the festival that their ancestors visit them, so it is a time to prepare elaborate meals, ceremonies and offerings to help them in their journey in the afterlife.

In Buddhism, hungry ghosts are simply suffering spirits who should be treated with compassion and not feared.  Some Buddhists believe ghosts should be led to the light through chanting and explanation of Buddhist teachings, until the golden light of Buddha is seen and can be advanced to by the ghost.

There’s an interesting site devoted to ghosts and religion showing a lot of parallels.

Personal Experience with Full Bodied Apparition

I’ve seen deceased persons appear to me at night both in dreams, and in a state between dreaming and awake.  I no longer get afraid by seeing relatives or spirits of the deceased.  I bring this up because I like to think I can tell the difference between the light that a good spirit such as a deceased person has and an evil spirit or demon.

Now let me tell you in my childhood growing up, there were real experiences where I saw beings that were not angels.  Were not good. I must have been 13-15 years old when one night I was laying in bed trying to get tired and fall asleep when I heard something and looked over at the door and saw a person standing in the doorway holding a book and waving it up and down in a methodical manner.  I was getting scared and yelled… “Philip, stop it!”  I thought it must be my brother and it was freaking me out.  After yelling that a couple of times. I jumped up and went to stop the book, and my hand went though!  It seemed like time slowed.  If I wasn’t already freaked out enough, I felt something… almost as if time had slowed.  I then as quickly as possible flicked on the lights and poof it was gone.  Call it a ghost, apparition, demon or jinn … I believe there are beings that exist beyond the veil.  I got the distinct impression that this evil being was performing some kind of curse or spell.

Some time later in my room laying in bed, I saw something even scarier.  Again, I couldn’t sleep.  I was lying in bed and watching the clock and something appeared next to the clock.  It was a lot darker than the rest of the room.  What I call a dark portal appeared.  It was a two dimensional square hovering in mid air.  At first I was very curious about this strange dark black square hovering over my bed next to my dresser.  As I was staring at it, I was simply trying to put some logic to it.  It was while I was analyzing it that I saw something that shook me to the core.  The color of the square changed slightly.  I started noticing what looked like thin persons with their arms above them going up through the dark portal and disappearing.  The color was almost like a light orange, but not bright, just showing up slightly as many of these beings flew up through the portal.  I was so scared, I pulled the covers over my head, and I started praying hard.  I never saw that again.

dragon demon

Don’t be deceived

The prophet Joseph Smith was given a way, which was revealed as a way to distinguish the good such as Angels, and Resurrected persons from the evil such as the devil and his angels or demons.

Doctrine and Covenants 129: 4-8

4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.

6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—

7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.

8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.

I don’t tell you all of this to scare you, but more to share my beliefs and what I’ve found to be true which is there are beings that roam this earth and while some of them are good.  There are evil ones that would tempt us.  Evil does exist.  Knowing evil exists, to me tells me there is a God.  This earth is one where we will choose to live life according to what our conscious dictates.

In this spirit test in the book of John, you can know a good spirit based on it’s confession of Jesus as the Christ as come in the flesh.  Interesting that in casting out evil spirits, the spirits did recognize Jesus, but they were evil ones.

61178_475531163782_4146519_n

1 John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

(2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

(4) Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

(5) They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

(6) We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

While many may read this article and get freaked out… what’s wrong with Joel?  Why the focus on evil, and on spirits?  I put this together to help those who don’t believe to understand they do have a place to start believing.  They may have been following an evil spirit, or denying what’s right because of an answer to a prayer or the lack thereof.  In my life, I am reminded that there is good and evil in this life and we have a choice.  I choose to follow the light, and to seek truth and return to live with God.

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The Power of Prayer

I can’t deny it.  Prayer has been a special thing throughout my life through my ups and downs.  Prayer is an amazing thing.  It connects the pitiful undeserving fallen being with his or her creator.  Man and Woman are in a prayermiserable state in this telestial world.  We struggle with life’s problems and work hard to provide for our families.  I personally feel very blessed with all that I’ve been given and aren’t reminded of our fallen state very often.  I find this world to be a fascinating and wonderful place to explore and get excited every day to face the world.  I pray to my supreme being, the Father, and my God, that I will be protected and that my family will be blessed.  I pray that my children will receive wisdom and do their best in school, and pray that they will live their life to the fullest extent and reach their potential.

In my own life there have been days and times where I called to the heavens to help me. 

First at a very young age, about 5 or 6.  I was walking home from school, in a little farming town in Declo, Idaho and had some of my first vocal prayers as I walked alone, but I wasn’t alone.  I had a strong spiritual witness that I was not alone.  That I was being watched over by my Father in Heaven.  The creator of my spirit and soul.

Next at 13 I was camping with the scouts in the Mountains.  I had wandered off and was hiking over a ridge on a trial that I was making up as I went along.  I decided to climb down the mountain, and again blazing my own trail got to a spot where down was a cliff, and up was a wall.  To make it worse, going from side to side wasn’t an option.  I had put myself in a pickle, a catch 22.  I tried to climb back up, but slipped back down, and as I looked over the cliff edge I felt like I’d die if I took a step.  This was the first time in my life where my prayer to God was to spare my life.  I needed help in a big way.  I could use one of God’s angels to float me down safely.  I once again opened my heart in a sincere way, and poured out the desires of my heart.  I needed to know what to do.  My fear erased and changed to earnest commitment.  If I was going to get down it was by going down the cliff.  I turned around as if to climb down a ladder.  As I slid I tried to find things to slow me down.  After sliding for 60-100 feet I slowed and ultimately stopped.  I survived with little damage.  I had been protected.  I praised God.  He had been there for me to give me the courage and in my young mind I knew it was a miracle.

On my mission, away from home at age 19 in woody suburbs of Richmond Virginia.  I was away from home.  I might as well have been on the other side of the world.  The mission I was on was a church mission, with rules to help guide one to become the most in tune.  The rules weren’t easy to live.  They were their own challenge of living a higher law to be more in tune.  I had left home to help others to teach them to understand the gospel.  At the time I was really depressed and down.  I felt very alone, sad, and insignificant.  I felt the pressure of the world and the pressure of my sins in my life.  Not heinous sins, but those of a decent young man.  I was empty and depressed.  In this dark hour I prayed for comfort.  My heart and mind was filled.  I went from one of the most depressing times to one filled with joy and happiness.  This joy has carried me for years and if ever I feel depressed, I turn to prayer to fill my heart.  No matter what happened, I knew I was ok as I felt pure love from my creator.  The spirit had filled my soul. 

As I missionary my abilities to serve and open my mouth and face difficulties was a life changer.  No fear.  It gave me courage that I lean on to this day, in the face of darkness.  My abilities to talk to total strangers and be rejected and persecuted, went to another level.  I was no longer afraid to talk to strangers, and I now strangely had this ability to take on the world.  Years later this ability to not be afraid of people has really benefited me In my travels.  This ability to have no fear has given me real confidence, and given me special abilities to take on situations that others would never do.  With my confidence the locals in the small villages, are less disrupted.  I can go into dangerous places and feel completely protected because my God is protecting me and I bring with me my constant companion.  It gives me confidence to visit Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and gives me protection to visit my friends across the middle east.  I can walking through the inner cities and the worst slums and not have fear. 

There is a thin veil between this life and the next.  Prayer reaches through that veil.  My brother in law had brain cancer (check out his blog on his fight and struggles with cancer.)  I say had, because I had a very powerful prayer where the veil became very thin, and I have faith in the miracle that is in the process of happening.  I opened up my heart to God and pleaded for his life.  It was one of the most powerful prayers in my life.  My faith is stronger because of it.  I believe that the surgeries that has has had and the treatments are miracles that will give him a second lease on life.

With the power of the priesthood I have given blessings where I have been guided in my prayers and been given words to say to comfort the family or to proclaim miracles.  Many aren’t ready to understand this priesthood power, the power to act in Gods name, but I find it true and very real. 

Science may call it collective conscious to explain why miracles can happen when many pray for something good to happen.  Skeptics dismiss it, but prayer is real.  Prayer is something that can bring you closer to God.  When combining prayer with the words of His prophets is the ultimate combination.

Me with my muslim entorage in Malaka, Malaysia

I think there’s really very little here that can’t be agreed on by the Christian population of the world, and not much of a stretch for our Muslim brothers and sisters.  Prayer in my mind is best understood by a devout Muslim.  Whenever I visit a Islamic country, whenever I am awakened by the call to prayer. I roll out of bed and pray.  While being compelled to prayer from religious leaders may not be the best way to connect with God. It is a great reminder we need to pray often.  Prayer is a very universal religious tenant.  There is something very pure about prayer.  It’s also something that even the most hardened soul can be compelled to pray… God hasn’t moved.  He’s still here, and that’s my testimony to you.  He will listen to you.  You are his child.

Happy Hour on the Beach

Life has a Purpose!

I recently had a conversation with a friend and we were discussing the purpose of life.  I am very passionate about people finding their purpose.  Everyone needs to find their purpose and meaning to life, no matter what their faith or beliefs.  I found one happy guy who spends half his time on the beaches of Costa Rica and the other half on the slopes.  Is that a lasting formula for happiness?  Kudos to Surf for Life who have found a way to combine service to others and surfing.

beach happy hour

I recently watched a video about a lady who nearly died of cancer who had a near death experience.  The passion for life and purpose and intent was so incredible.

I LOVE TED talks.  I find so much value in listening to TED talks because the purpose and intent is greater than the speaker.  There are even a few talks that ask… Are you there God?

As I write this I’m watching a little TV.  My wife follows a number of shows and tonight she’s watching “The Apprentice All Stars,” and you can see even Hollywood folks that they want to find real meaning and purpose in their lives and in helping others.  I use to enjoy the end of the Extreme Home Makeover, it was great to see the light in the eyes of the family being helped out, often it was a disabled child with a single parent with piles of bills and worse, but also in the people who were bringing the good news of a new or rebuilt home.

What is the meaning of life?

Since I was young I have read scriptures that have discussed why we are here, and offered up answers “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” [2 Ne. 2:25]

In Sunday school, I learned we came here to gain a body, to essentially have a physical experience.  We wanted more.  God had a plan, and part of that plan was for us to come here on this earth that was prepared for us.  We came to be tested and ultimately to return to him having gained experience.  He wants us to obey him and keep his commandments. Those commandments were given to us to help us return to live with him.  They aren’t designed just to be difficult, but to help give us guidelines and to show our love for Him.  In Christianity, Christ plays a MAJOR role in that plan of happiness in showing us the way to live, and in ultimately sacrificing his life to atone for our sins.  He acts as our mediator with our Heavenly Father in our quest to be with him. 

This understanding of knowing we can be saved through this act by accepting him as our Savior and by keeping his commandments is what brings peace in this life.  These are the simple truths I’ve found.  (John 10:15–18; 1 Cor. 15:51–57; Mosiah 15:6–9; Mosiah 16:7–8.)

More of this plan of happiness is laid out in an article with many references titled “The Purpose of Life.”  Something I like about the article is that it also addresses the flipside of the plan, and why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  How can you really be free from pain and sorry if we hold onto sins and pain of the past?  People who dwell on the past and find themselves victim have a hard time finding peace.

Amulek the great Nephite missionary orator laid out an amazingly well articulated view of the plan of salvation or redemption as he encouraged his people to not procrastinate the day of repentance.  I have personally found repentance is one of the keys to happiness. 

Alma 34:31-33

“31… for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity”

I’ve found that most of the world’s religions and even science will teach a person to try to be happy and enrich their life, but often it’s not enough.  It is important for a person to fill their life with things that help them continuously grow.  I reflect on the YouTube videos for kids who struggle with being different and struggle with life challenges.  “It gets better” is their message.  I’d echo that to anyone who is looking for meaning in life or struggling with life’s challenges.  I’d also encourage anyone that is having trouble finding meaning in life, that they are more likely to find meaning in life by loosing it in the service of others.  The times I’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen, or helped someone out, and in my travels looked for someone who needed my help… their is joy and peace in true charity and pure love.  I gathered a few quotes and thoughts from a decent collection of quotes and lines on the Wikipedia article on the “meaning of life” as I have recently done.  I’m finding that some of these references are looser than I’d prefer, and really you need to go a couple of layers deeper in analyzing the world’s religions in understanding them and this does over simplify the messages.

Ancient Greeks

“In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge” [and good]

Confucianism

“Because mankind is driven by both positive and negative influences, Confucianists see a goal in achieving virtue through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative.”

General Christianity

“Life’s purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God and intercession of Christ.”

Islam

In Islam, man’s ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah… Earthly life is merely a test, determining one’s afterlife

Baha’i

To Bahá’ís, the “purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity.”

Zoroastrianism

“By using free will, people must take an active role in the universal conflict, with good thoughts, good words and good deeds to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.”

Hinduism

Existence is conceived as the progression of the ātman (similar to the western concept of a soul) across numerous lifetimes, and its ultimate progression towards liberation from karma

Buddhism

The potential of human life to end suffering, for example through embracing (not suppressing or denying) cravings and conceptual attachments. “Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana.”

Sikh

Sikhs balance their moral and spiritual values with the quest for knowledge, and they aim to promote a life of peace and equality but also of positive action. “The Lord dwells in every heart, and every heart has its own way to reach Him.”

Science

“Science may or may not be able to tell us what is of essential value in life (and various materialist philosophies such as dialectical materialism challenge the very idea of an absolute value or meaning of life), but some studies definitely bear on aspects of the question: researchers in positive psychology (and, earlier and less rigorously, in humanistic psychology) study factors that lead to life satisfaction, full engagement in activities, making a fuller contribution by utilizing one’s personal strengths, and meaning based on investing in something larger than the self.”

A favorite irreverent comedy that my parents wouldn’t approve of:

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, there are several allusions to the meaning of life. At the end of the film, a character played by Michael Palin is handed an envelope containing “the meaning of life”…  “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

I hope that is something obvious here as you study this.  I don’t see anything in here about getting your own way and harming others who are trying to do good.  I hope we can respect others of all faiths, and live together in peace and help each other to always look on the bright side of life.

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Is There Life After Death?

After life

With recent events in the world from children being bombed to gunned down in schools.  Many question if there is a God, but before we get to that question… is there life after this life?

I didn’t have to look far for the answer to this one.  When I was 16 my brother died suddenly.  It was incredibly difficult to have my life long closest friend gone.  My brother and I talked about everything and shared deep thoughts with each other including thoughts on heaven and the life hereafter.  One day we were talking about how great the next life would be without pain and suffering.  We agreed that whoever went first would visit the other one.  In the old Jewish tradition they say the spirit stays near the body for 3 days.

My brother was taken from me due to an accidental gun shot.  The recent shootings remind me of my brother and his accident.  He was taken from me all at once.  I had questions.  Why!?? Why was he taken so young.  He was only 12.  The police investigation told us what we knew… he was happy and loved life.

I believe in visions and dreams.  A couple of verses, one from the book of Joel from the prophets in the Old Testament or Bible, and another from the New Testament or Acts of the Apostles.

Joel 2:28. “And it will come to pass afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions.

The Veil

Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

About 3 days after his death I had a very vivid dream where my brother came to me as if in the flesh.  Over the course of the next few weeks he would visit me three times.  He was really there.  This wasn’t like other dreams.  This was real.  At each visit he would talk with me, and in some of these, my brothers and sisters were around.  In each of these I had a full recollection that he was gone.  I asked him as came to me, how he was.  He said he missed me, but he was busy.  He was busy he even showed me a list whereon was our family name.  He already had a calling and work to do.  On this list as well were other names of other people he was visiting or watching over.

I read every book I could find on the topic of life after death.  Life after Life.  I read about out of body experiences – OOBs.  I have learned when the body dies the spirit lives on and goes back to the Creator.

Ancient Grave stones

There are some Christians that believe we wait until the resurrection neither Dead nor Alive.  Others believe we go to heaven or hell after judgment.

Others yet still believe without the proper sacraments we are in some sort of purgatory and the prayers of the faithful can help them get to heaven.

Without baptism are else damned?  We’ll save that for another post.

I have found in my life answers to many of these questions.  Those that died are nearby and close, in experience.  I can at times feel the presence of my brother.  I feel very blessed for these experience and more which whisper… there is more.

Job 19:26

Geneva Study Bible

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet {r} in my flesh shall I see God:

(r) In this Job declares plainly that he had a full hope, that both the soul and body would enjoy the presence of God in the last resurrection.

 

The Prophet Alma of the Book of Mormon offers a lot on the subject of Life after Death.

Alma 40: The Spirit World and the Resurrection

“Alma 40: 11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.”

So depending on the experiences in your life you can be taken to paradise or prison.  Heaven or hell.  This spirit paradise or heaven is simply an immediate judgment based on the light and knowledge we have received in this life.  I think other ways of explaining it…  do you follow those choices that you know are right or do you fight against them?

Alma continues on Resurrection as to how it will happen and the fact that all things will be restored.

21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and bebrought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

Even if your body was disfigured in life, it will be fully restored.  What a comforting and beautiful message.

 

When I was at 4-H camp, I met a kid who was on hard drugs.  We didn’t have much in common, but I was fascinated with his life experiences and he was very open about sharing his thoughts.  While on the bus home the two of us were talking about life and death.  I told him to visit me if he ever died, he was going through a really depressing time and thought he might die any time.

About a year later I had an incredible dream where this same young man was holding a hand gun and laughing.  I shared the strange dream with some friends at school the next morning.  I was in shock when later that day I ran into some kids from 4-H camp who shared the news… my friend from camp I had seen the night before was dead with a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head that he did right in front of his mom.  Incredibly sad.

In the scriptures and throughout the gospels we find dreams and visions, being the usual ways of conveying knowledge from God.  My experiences are my own, and I don’t necessarily share these as prophecies for others, but to share how I came to a knowledge of this life after life.

In my thirst for knowledge I read a series of books titled “Beyond the Veil” by Lee Nelson.  It’s a collection of real people’s experiences with near death experiences.  There are now 4 volumes, and each experience to me was that much more comforting and enlightening to hear how these people had a glimpse of life after going through tragic experiences and being sent back to earth.  Many recall a most wonderful place that they now know exists.

Can Science ever find Proof of Out of Body or Near Death Experiences?

A Time Magazine article on “Is there such a thing as life after death” interviews radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes.  His book Evidence of the Afterlife catalogs some 1600 experiences over the last decade.

He goes on to explain in the article, “I’m a physician who fights cancer. In spite of our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I’ve ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1955636,00.html#ixzz2FHSqVpek

AWARE.  A scientific approach to understanding Near Death Experiences

A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories, and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

“The remarkable point about these experiences,” according to Dr. Parnia, “is that while studies of the brain during cardiac arrest have consistently shown that there is no measurable brain activity, these subjects have reported detailed perceptions that indicate the contrary—namely, a high level of consciousness in the absence of detectable brain activity. If we can objectively verify these claims, the results would bear profound implications not only for the scientific community, but for the way in which we understand and relate to life and death as a society.”

During the AWARE study, physicians will use the latest technologies to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will also be testing the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to see and hear during cardiac arrest through the use of randomly generated hidden images that are not visible unless viewed from specific vantage points above.

AWARE updated their site with an April 2011 update where they said they have had 1000 people through the study, but need to gather and compile the data.  More coming with their 2012 update.

I don’t need science to tell me there is life beyond this life.

There is a lot of references to various world religious in relation to Moksha with great references to life after death on Wikipedia

Life after Death in Hinduism

Hindusim – According to Hinduism, there definitely is life after death, the only difference is that we consider life and death as a continuous cycle which complement each other

Reincarnation

“Because you trust me, Arjuna, I will tell you what wisdom is, the secret of life: Know it and be free of suffering forever.”—Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 1

Pictured above: The Ganges river.  I had an incredible opportunity to visit Varanasi also known as Banaras, one of the holiest cities of the Hindus.  Lots of death and sickness in this city which as the days have continuous burning on the banks of the river with the human remains tossed in the river.

Buddhism

“In Buddhism the concept of liberation is Nirvana. It is referred to as “the highest happiness” and is the goal of the Theravada-Buddhist path”

Jainism

“In Jainism, moksa and nirvana are one and the same. When a soul (atman) achieves moksa, it is released from the cycle of births and deaths, and achieves its pure self.”

Sikhism

“The Sikh mukti is positive concept in two important ways. First it stands for the realization of the ultimate Reality, a real enlightenment (jnana). The mukta is not just free from this or that, he is the master of sense and self, fearless (nirbhai) and devoid of rancor (nirvair), upright yet humble, treating all creatures as if they were he himself, wanting nothing, clinging to nothing.”

Islam

How do Muslims View Death?

Muslims as well believe in life after death. Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence.

Muslim boys

And he (i.e. man) presents for Us an example (i.e. attempting to establish the finality of death) and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. (Quran, 36:78-81)

It is a blessing to know that there is life after death.  Science and global acceptance with more knowledge may come for what so many religions have been saying. It’s an important step toward bringing science and religion together. The world’s top religions reinforce this knowledge.  Evidence is being gathered at a ferocious pace at Near Death Experience Research Foundation, but even with support for out of body experiences, science won’t be convinced there’s a paradise, heaven or nirvana or worse for quite some time.  I won’t be holding my breath.  There are some things better left to faith.

 

(The pictures are mine and can only be used with attribution.  In order, Temple in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Mosquito net in Zanzibar hotel, Khor Virap Armenia grave stone, Varanasi holy Ganges river in India, and Muslim school boys in Zanzibar.)