Friday, May 1, 2009

How The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected

US News & World Report has an interesting short little interview with John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge who have worked together to write a book. The book, God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World, makes the case that on a global scale, secularism is on the wane and religion is making a strong comeback.

In the interview with US News & World Report, the authors make an interesting observation about America's approach in resolving the tension of modernity and religion and how it has an influence on the revival of religion around the world:
"You've had two sorts of versions of modernity competing with each other, both stepping from the Enlightenment, one stepping from the French Revolution, the other from the American Revolution. The European version is: The more modern a country becomes, the less religious it becomes. The American version is: So long as you separate church and state and create a free market of religion and don't have an official church, the two things can coincide. You get competition between various religious groups, and religion can therefore become a friend of democracy, a friend of technology, a friend of all the things you see in the modern world. What you're beginning to see is the American approach to things becomes quite universalized. It is the slow spread of an American model whereby religion is a choice, not just something that's just inherited, and different religious groups compete for souls."
This is an interesting observation in light of the recent finding that most religious groups in USA are on the decline. Counting the number of adherents in a religion can be a challenge but the drop in church membership is steep enough to prompt the Christian Science Monitor to publish an article about the future collapse of Evangelical faith in the United States.

So, how is it that America can be the principal driving force for reviving religion around the world IF church membership in the United States is on the decline?

The perfect explanation for this is that we're not really reviving religion around the world. We're not reviving anything really because religion has always been around for since time began. Religion can survive, even the most harshest of circumstances, such as in secular countries or oppressive regimes as evidenced throughout history.

What is going on is that we're exporting something new that hasn't been seen since the beginning time or religion. The truth is that we're exporting the democratization of religion around the world. In other words, we're exporting the ability to choose whatever faith you want to belong to.

Its the Internet that is making the ability to learn about other religions easier. Prior to the recent explosion in communications, learning about other religions was pretty limited. You could visit some local churches, visit a library or read some news articles. However, with the Internet, anyone regardless of where they are or what kind of governmental system they live under can read up on just about any religion they want.

What we're witnessing is the fulfillment of Joseph Smith's prophecy that the standard of truth:
"will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
Until I read this article, I used to think that the "standard of truth" was referring to the LDS Church. While we're seeing the rapid growth of the LDS Church around the world, I am inclined to believe that that "standard of truth" about something broader, deeper and more profound.

I believe that the "standard of truth" to represent agency, freedom, and choice. Isn't that the "truth" that we fought and defended in the Pre-existence? Isn't this the same battle we fight for on earth?

President Howard W. Hunter explained what the "War in Heaven" was all about:
"Our Father in Heaven wanted our growth to continue in mortality and to be enhanced by our freedom to choose and learn. He also wanted us to exercise our faith and our will, especially with a new physical body to master and control. But we know from both ancient and modern revelation that Satan wished to deny us our independence and agency in that now-forgotten moment long ago, even as he wishes to deny them this very hour. Indeed, Satan violently opposed the freedom of choice offered by the Father, so violently that John in the Revelation described “war in heaven” (Rev. 12:7) over the matter. Satan would have coerced us, and he would have robbed us of that most precious of gifts if he could: our freedom to choose a divine future and the exaltation we all hope to obtain."
President Gordon B. Hinckley explains that the War in Heaven continues here on earth:
"Brethren, the war goes on. It is as it was in the beginning. There may not be the intensity, and I am grateful for that. But the principles at issue are the same."
The principles are indeed the same and it is principle of agency and choice that is going forth boldly, nobly and independently. It is currently penetrating every continent, visiting every clime, sweeping every country, and sounding in every ear!

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