Saturday, December 16, 2017

I'm blogging from my phone again, for reasons that I'll tell you later, so I'll keep this brief. Today, I learned that it's important to spend quality time with family, especially if you're doing something fun together. It's a great bonding experience.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Promise or No Promise

Now that I'm not as tired and frustrated as I was last night, I've given premortal promises another thought, and I've concluded that, whether they're morally binding or not, we should probably keep them anyway.

God wants what's best for us. What He wants for us is what we should want for ourselves. If He has a work He wants us to do, it would probably work out pretty well for us to do it. This task was basically hand-made or hand-selected for us by the one who knows us best. It's probably either right up our alley or exactly what we need. Either way, I'm sure God will bless us if we do what He asks.

Whether we're under a moral obligation to do what God commands is irrelevant. Regardless of any obligation or lack thereof, we should do it, if only for the blessings we are bound to get out of it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Forgotten Promises

I watched Elder John C. Pingree Jr's talk "I Have a Work For Thee" recently, and it got me thinking about something that is almost completely unrelated: Is a person morally obligated to keep a promise they forgot they made? This question was inspired by the situation we are currently in, having made promises we can no longer remember in the premortal world, but we'll get to that later, after having tackled some easier instances of this problem first.

First, the case of a contract. I'm pretty sure that, if a person makes a contractual arrangement, they are legally obligated to hold up their end of the deal, even if the entire deal has slipped their mind. However, if there is a good reason for the forgetting, like an accident-induced bout of amnesia, a just might let that person off the hook. I imagine that God is at least as just and understanding. So, if we make a promise, and then get hit in the head so hard that we forget the promise, I don't think either God or man would consider us honor-bound to keep that promise.

Then, what of the promises we made before passing through the veil of forgetfulness? Are we obligated to keep those? I'm not 100% sure on this, but it looks like maybe not. I wonder, then, what the point of making those promises was. I doubt God would ask us to do something so pointless, so maybe those promises are binding after all. Still, is that fair? Can a person be required to do something they forgot they agreed to do?

In all this conversation, I intentionally exclude liars. Those who only say that they forgot they made a promise are still morally obligated to keep it, but what of those who have genuinely forgotten, especially those who were caused to forget by circumstances outside of their control? I would hope that God would not expect us to keep the promises that we couldn't help forgetting we had made. But then, why would God ask us to make those promises at all?

I'm sure there's a logical explanation, but right now, I'm too tired to figure it out. I'm going to go to bed now and work on this puzzle sometime later, unless, of course, I forget to come back to it.

Teaching About the Tragedy

Today, my favorite Youtubers posted a video about the Tragedy of the Commons. The Tragedy of the Commons is a dilemma when a resource is shared by a group of individuals. Collectively, this group has a mutual interest in using this resource wisely, but individually, each person has something to gain by taking as much of the shared resource for themselves. Inevitably, people get greedy. One person tries to get more than their share, or at least seems like they might do so in the future, and in response, everyone rushes to make sure they can get as much of the resource as they can before it's all snatched up by someone else. When people behave this way, the resource runs out quickly, which is bad for everyone, but if people could learn to be fair and patient, they could use the resource wisely, and perhaps even use it to gain more of that resource, which would be great for everyone. Everyone has a short-term incentive to take what they can get, but long-term, each person has an incentive to cooperate with the rest of the group.

So much of the trouble in life stems from people not behaving wisely. People make dumb decisions all the time, which hurt themselves and the rest of society. Fortunately, the gospel teaches us principles that can help us avoid these pitfalls. These include patience, wisdom, charity, humility, and developing a more eternal perspective. If we apply these principles, they can help us avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we'd be best served by taking as much as we can for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the true tragedy in the Tragedy of the Commons is that, in order to avoid a total collapse of the system, everyone needs to understand the Tragedy of the Commons and work together to prevent it. It's not enough for a few individuals to use the resource wisely; everyone needs to follow that plan. Otherwise, any individual could still take everything, and those who mutually agreed to not take more than their share would all be out of luck. We need to cooperate with each other to make the best use of our resources, so, as important as it is to be a wise individual, it's also important to teach wisdom as well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A New Rule for Blogging about Conference

I need to get back to blogging about General Conference talks. We're almost half-way through December and I haven't finished blogging about the talks I was supposed to blog about in November. The reason for that is mostly that I've been reluctant to blog about Elder Dalin H. Oak's talk The Plan and the Proclamation. As good as his talk is, and as glad as I am that he gave it, I don't really feel like reiterating it or adding to it.

In hindsight, I should have skipped it weeks ago rather than letting myself fall so far behind. But I can catch up, and, starting next year, I'm going to have a "buffer" month, since there will only be five total sessions per General Conference, which will still be 6 months apart. Falling behind in blogging about Conference talks isn't much of a problem, and it will soon be even less so. But even so, I should try not to let it happen. Blogging about General Conference talks is beneficial in too many ways for me to perpetually put it off.

Perhaps I ought to set a new rule for myself. Maybe, in addition to the goal of blogging about one session per month, I can set the goal of blogging about at least one General Conference talk a week. If a miss a week because I kept putting off the talk I was supposed to blog about, I'll skip that Conference talk and move on to the next week's talk. That way, I'd never fall too far behind, and I'd hopefully never go too long without blogging about General Conference.

Post-Deathbed Repentance

Some people wait until they're near death to repent. With our knowledge of Spirit Prison and Eternal Progression, we know that it's possible to repent even after one has died. Yet, in either case, it's definitely not the best option. There are rewards for living righteously while in mortality, and I don't think God will take too kindly to people who disregard His laws during their lives, planning to repent after they've had their fun. Post-deathbed repentance may be possible, but repenting swiftly is much better.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Limits to Omnipotence

I recently mentioned in a paper I wrote that my personal understanding of God does not require Him to be omnipotent. In fact, I'm not sure He can be. Consider the Euthyphro Problem. Euthyphro once asked another philosopher (Socrates, I think) whether moral acts were moral because God commands us to do them or whether God commands us to do those acts because they are moral. My answer to that question is the latter. I believe that there are universal moral laws whose existence predate the Godhood of God. I do not believe that God can change those laws or break them without consequences. This means that there is at least one thing that God cannot do. Hence, He is not truly omnipotent.

I also have problems with omnipotence in general. There are dozens of paradoxes that illustrate the problems that omnipotence can encounter. For example, could an omnipotent being create a rock so heavy that that being couldn't move it? One's first thought might be "no, because an omnipotent being could move a rock of any weight," but that would mean that there is at least one thing that that omnipotent being could not do: create an immovably heavy rock. Omnipotence seems to be impossible.

I acknowledge that God is very powerful. I might even be able to acknowledge that "He has all power in heaven and in earth," as we sometimes read in scripture, as long as that doesn't imply that He has the power to override the universal laws that go beyond this heaven and this earth. He certainly seems to be powerful enough to consider Him omnipotent for all reasonable intents and purposes. Yet, I don't think that God is truly omnipotent, and I'm not altogether certain that true omnipotence can even exist.