Dennis thought I ought to share this short story that I wrote. It represents one of my folk theologies…

“There once was a man who wished to learn physics because he wanted to be like God. As early as high school, he began studying and studying, but try as he might, he could not seem to pass the class. On into college he moved, hoping that his failure was due to the high school teachers. But after taking physics from each of the professors who offered physics at the university, he still had failed to master physics (though he did at last succeed at passing his final course with a C-). Throughout the rest of the young man’s life, he studied physics and hoped and prayed that he could somehow master it so that he could become like God. Late in life, he finally resigned himself to the fact that he would just not master physics before death would master him, so he decided that as soon as he died, he would ask God to teach him physics. Two years later, the man died. On the other side, the first person he met was God. He told God of his struggle (which, of course, God knew all about) and asked God to open his understanding so that the man could master physics and become like God. God laughed a hearty laugh and then suddenly looked at the man seriously. ‘Look around,’ God said to the man. The man did and noticed that he was surrounded by the multitudes of spirits who had left their mortal existence. ‘How many of these individuals do you think mastered physics during their lifetime?’ God asked the man. The man replied that he did not know, but guessed very few. God turned and looked around at the billions of spirits before responding, ‘There are enough here who have mastered physics and, when you need a physicist, we will get you a physicist.'”

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5 Responses

  1. Thanks, Joe.

    There have been several times (such as Sunday School lessons) when somebody says that an education is chemistry, physics, etc. is really important because in the Celestial Kingdom we’re going to be creating worlds.

    I’m OK with the idea that education in general (of whatever topic) is a critical and engaging process that gives us experience that is for our good. But the idea that God uses the principles of chemistry, physics, etc. to create worlds is laughable to me.

    Moreover, why aren’t we thinking more about how our educations can directly benefit people here and now?

    In your story you push the line even further, suggesting a communitarian approach to “perfection.” I think this is very compelling, and something that really goes against the grain of the Western-induced individualism that infiltrates LDS views of eternal progression.

  2. Joe,

    You are absolutely right! God isn’t the “ultimate physicist”…

    However, He IS the ultimate behavioral psychologist!

  3. I think I see what you’re getting at with this story, however I wouldn’t want to see it used as a justification for not trying to gain an education.
    I wonder also, are or were you and Dennis attending BYU? Is that a common discussion there? I ask because I’ve sometimes encountered the opposite mentality in some LDS, and other religious circles (ie. if you learn to much it will be harder to follow God’s commandments, the only books you really need to read are the scriptures, girls only need an “MRS” degree.) I wonder if what you are encountering is a counter-movement to what I’ve encountered. I guess that’s also why I’ve always liked this scripture:
    “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”
    -D&C 130:18-19

  4. Meisha, I think you’re right, however what I am getting at is a bit more complicated then that. I sometimes wonder if “principle of intelligence” means more than “bits of information stored in my brain.” I’ve often wondered if knowledge is primarily relational and only secondarily abstract. In which case, our relationships would always be more important than “what” we knew. That might mean that education would consist of improving our relationships, whether those be with other people, nature, or with culture. It might be that education has as much to do with making friends as it does with book learning. Gaining an education would be viewed in a much different light. It wouldn’t be about “getting a degree;” rather, it would be about improving our relationships with God’s creation and our fellow beings (and inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these…). I too like that scripture, but I read it differently: obedience to God brings me closer to him, improves our relationship with him. Therefore, I gain more “knowledge” in that sense and that “knowledge” (my relationship) rises with me in the next life. Perhaps that’s too brief, but I hope to deal with this issue in a future post.

  5. To add to what you’ve said Joe, I would imagine that the study of physics could be (and likely often is) taken on in such a relational way. Your story reveals the hubris we adopt when we glorify the principles and make them our God. Once we have mastered the principles of physics, chemistry, biology, . . .-ology would we need God any more. Should we worship the principles because they are the source of God’s power.

    I think that we need to be able to take on the idea of knowledge, learning, and intelligence as based in relationship and community.

    Besides, should we not take God seriously when he said that he created the world by the Word of his power, that he commanded the elements and they obeyed. Linguistic creation? Obedient elements? That’s a physics beyond any I know about (and ABSOLUTELY relational).

    I think that the point of your story is that we do need physicists in heaven. It is also that a knowledge of physics is not what will make us God (and then allow us to leave him behind).

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