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Author Topic: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)  (Read 148 times)

Taalcon

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Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« on: May 19, 2020, 12:06:26 pm »
So I just read 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, and published by the Neal A Maxwell Institute as part of their new series.

through the course of the gooks, he suggests what is to me a fascinating suggestion of choice, agency, repentance, and judgment.

Judgement, he suggests, is generally The Natural Consequences To Our Actions. It's how the order of the universe plays out. It's not imposed, it is.

The idea is suggested that in mortality, we're rarely ever making a fully informed decision, in full understanding of Eternal Consequences.

Repentance, and accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to Givens, represents, in part, the opportunity to make a new decision based on new information. Christ takes on the burden of the the eternal consequences ("forgive them, they know not what they do"), and then to go forward in life with a knowledge that you essentially re-made that decision, and replaced it with the correct decision, and thus you can rest assured with a hope knowing you will be free from the eternal 'consequence'/'judgement' of that poor decision.

This reminded me of, well a major moment in Doctor Who. Spoiler for anyone interested in following the 2005 incarnation of the series who hasn't seen the 50th Anniversary Special, "The Day of the Doctor" from a few years back.

First, the fictional context behind the character for those who aren't familiar, the Doctor is a multi-millenia old being who, when his body dies, is part of a race of beings that allow themselves to be reformed with a new outward personality and physicality, but as the same essential being at his core. (Originally a necessity of production, but now a fascinating part of the mythology of the world!) The Doctor, specifically, chose this title/name as a promise of who they want to be:  "Never Cruel Nor Cowardly, Never Give Up, Never Give In".

So as the series restarted in 2005, we learn that in his last incarnation, there had been a MASSIVE Time War, in which the Doctor was responsible, essentially, for a double genocide in an attempt to stop an endless universe-destroying war.

And The Doctor goes through several seasons (and 2 more incarnations) dealing with severe PTSD, dealing with the pain of his decision, at times justifying it, at others crippled and devastated and trying to stop himself from getting to that point again. In fact, he hates himself so much for what he did, that he refuses to consider the incarnation that did it part of 'The Doctor'. He's the incarnation who broke his foundational promise. He wants that part of himself erased, all the while knowing that he can't.

Eventually, we finally get a flashback to the day when the Doctor made that decision. We see his despair. We see WHY he made it, and he sees how he's given up. He goes to use a weapon known as THE MOMENT, that will destroy everyone and end the suffering.

He goes to initialize the MOMENT.

But what he didn't realize is that the Weapon was built with a Conscience, (that serves as a sort of angelic guide) who not only discusses the ramifications of what will happen, also makes a way to see his future, by the means of bringing two of his Future Selves to visit him. He sees what he has become. He sees the sadness, and the regret. He knows this will haunt him forever.

The three of them together, seeing the past moment as inviolable, decide first to act in solidarity with their earlier self, and activate the MOMENT together ...


but then, the most recent Doctor decides, wait, no. I don't want to do this. I've had a long time to think about this, and I've changed my mind.


The others are off guard for a second. What? Can you do that?

The War Doctor realizes he's been shown the exact future he needs to see to fully understand the ramification of the consequences. He, too, has changed his mind. They all have.

And they realize there's an alternative that would have the same war-ending effect, but without the mass genocidal end. (If you have a moment, watch this scene where they decide, see the joy they experience. It's just so very good) They enjoin their entire past-selves to fulfill this plan, and it's successful! The effect even LOOKS like both sides were destroyed from all outsider appearances, but it's not what happened.

The only problem is, once the Future Selves return to their own time, only the latest one will remember their joint encounter, and what happened. He will only remember going in to activate THE MOMENT, and then see the aftermath of their decision from his perspective. He will go on in life believing he had killed everyone.

He initially made the decision and will suffer the consequences of knowing he made that decision for generations. But then, when given an opportunity later, he changes his mind. And from that day onward, he is freed from the generations of guilt, of fear, of sadness of sorrow. Knowing that because of that decision, he didn't do it. He didn't escape the past suffering. But on that later day, that MOMENT, he was made whole.

---

I think a lot about Justice, and how we often view it as the part of it that punishes wrong doing. You did something wrong, you deserve to be punished. But Justice means correcting a wrong. Punishing someone who murdered someone is not restoring the person to life. It's not essentially justice.

The Resurrection restores all physical wrongs that were done to us. The Atonement allows us to Repent of the actions we took, to stop the inevitable descent into 'the bitterness of hell' with having to live with our actions for eternity. It allows us, in the eternal perspective, to 're-choose' our actions with new light and knowledge.

When, as part of showing repentance, we participate in acts of restitution in this life towards someone we have harmed, we do so knowing that we personally cannot remove the pain and sorrow that we caused. We can't ever fully fix the problems we caused, and there are consequences that will have to be experienced in mortality. But we act in solidarity with a hope that the savior can, has, and will make those things right. That in choosing to accept the Atonement of Christ, we are essentially re-choosing our past action, and are promised the eternal consequences of our NEW choice. Which includes an eventual peace of conscience, and peace of mind, and knowledge that those harmed will also be restored, and healed.

I think of Alma's vision, where he's shown the 'bitterness of hell', or the eternal consequences of his actions, if he does not choose to replace them. Having seen that, he decides, "No more." He chooses a different future, and is freed from the fear of experiencing the eternal consequences of his actions.

Anyway, I've always LOVED that Doctor Who scene, always feel emotionally affected by it, and this observation and suggestion by Givens maybe added to why it resonates with me at some strong level.

There's still so much to learn about Atonement and Justice, but the message is God loves us, and his entire work is to help us to experience joy, and free ourselves from the consequences of making poor actions, but re-choosing to no longer make them, and to a degree that I don't fully understand, un-make some of the decisions we have made.
 
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Roper

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2020, 08:25:18 pm »
Thanks for the insights, Taalcon.

Quote
Repentance, and accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to Givens, represents, in part, the opportunity to make a new decision based on new information.

I'm trying to understand how this looks in application. An example: Let's say that I get fired from a job. I have a work laptop at home that I decide not to return, and nobody really knows that I have it. I know it's wrong to keep it. But I'm mad. The next day, I start to feel guilty. I decide to take it back. Now, I've made a new decision. But what was the "new information" which became the basis for the new decision? All the material facts are the same. Is the new information an emotional change? I'm not mad anymore?
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 

Jen

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2020, 09:26:09 pm »
I love that episode (I guess it was really a movie, but still...). So very much. And this gives me some good things to chew on. Thanks!
 

Enochscion

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2020, 10:40:36 pm »
I'm usually not a fan of real ideas that involve "changing the past" because that doesn't make any sense to me.

That being said, I realized that sometimes communication difficulties happen because we don't understand something, and sometimes they happen because we do understand something.

So I tried looking at how I do understand repentance and change, and how that might relate to what other people mean when they say things.

(I also completely agree about the natural consequences things. I sort of shifted into that mode years ago, and I have this energy-saving setting in my mind that once my understanding on something big evolves, I kind of forget to take into account that everyone else's understanding didn't necessarily evolve in the same way at the same time. So bringing that up reminds me that not everyone always views it that way.)

Can I un-make a decision in the past? I doubt it. I'm pretty sure the past happened, and nothing that happens right now can make it untrue that that event exists at that point in the 4D fabric of the universe.

Can I make a different decision now in a way that is deeper than speculatively wishing I hadn't made that past choice? Absolutely. That's fundamentally part of how I see repentance. It's being able to become a person who, if presented with the original scenario again--if I were transported back in time--wouldn't make the same decision. It's being able to own the original decision as the decision you did make, and (looking at the timeline of your reality) saying that you now decide that that isn't the decision you choose to be a part of you. (And only through the Savior can this be anything but a wish.)

So while you can't actually go back in time and un-make that decision, you in a fairly deep manner do need to make a different decision relative to that event in your past. If your decisions are only about the events of your future, the Atonement can't resolve the consequences of your past.

That's why I've always cringed when people say things like, "I don't regret my mistakes; they've made me who I am." If you are just talking about non-sinful mistakes, sure, some people function that way. But with regards to sins, regretting it and choosing to be another version of yourself is essential.
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2020, 11:14:45 pm »
Quote
Can I make a different decision now in a way that is deeper than speculatively wishing I hadn't made that past choice? Absolutely. That's fundamentally part of how I see repentance. It's being able to become a person who, if presented with the original scenario again--if I were transported back in time--wouldn't make the same decision. It's being able to own the original decision as the decision you did make, and (looking at the timeline of your reality) saying that you now decide that that isn't the decision you choose to be a part of you. (And only through the Savior can this be anything but a wish.)

So while you can't actually go back in time and un-make that decision, you in a fairly deep manner do need to make a different decision relative to that event in your past. If your decisions are only about the events of your future, the Atonement can't resolve the consequences of your past.

This. This is a big part of it.

It's possible (and at times necessary) to be able to disassociate good things that seem to have tangentially resulted from bad decisions.

I have more thoughts, but they'll have to come tomorrow!
 
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AndrewR

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2020, 03:13:52 am »
I believe that the major changes in the Handbook about how church discipline (including that name) has changed, are to re-enforce this idea - that we become changed, that we can remake ourselves, and now have the consequences of having made the right choice - not the current consequences we are dealing with because of the wrong choice. Of course, we are human, and we will still feel some consequences - but the Eternal ones have changed.

I don't think this concept is new, but it's understanding has changed in the 30 years I have been involved in the system. And there are still those who see punishment as the primary reason for a repentance process - rather than making someone whole again.

I have had the opportunity to serve in almost every capacity in what was a stake disciplinary council - clerk, high councillor and stake presidency counsellor. In each of these I have always tried to make the point that the purpose is to evaluate the person's repentance. Does it require a period of release from their covenants, or maybe just their callings and responsibilities? Or, are they whole again, in which case no more action is required.

We all repent differently (same process; different application, understanding and commitment), and I believe that the Atonement, in it's infinite capacity, can allow for that.
Don't ask me, I only live here.
Nauvoodle since March 2005 #1412
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2020, 08:23:40 am »
Here's part of the relevant quote from the book (2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction, by Terryl Givens) which helped launch these thoughts:

Quote
At its roots, Christ's suffering on the cross is usually connected with the notion of satisfying the demands of justice (2 Nephi 9:26; Alma 42:15, etc).  However, the Book of Mormon suggests that we have misunderstood what "justice" means.  For Book of Mormon prophets, justice is neither some unimpeachable cosmic universal nor the inflexible standard of a legalistic heavenly monarch.  It is, rather, another name for what, from a human perspective, is simply the honoring of human choice.  Genuine moral agency must entail genuine consequences.  Choice must be a choice of something.

In John Stuart Mills classic treatment, human liberty requires the freedom "of doing as we like, subject to the consequences as may follow." If choice is to be more than a mere pantomime of decision-making, there must be some guarantee that any given choice will eventuate in the natural consequences connected with that choice.

This appears to be the meaning of Lehi in his sermon on freedom when he says, "the law is given to men," and as a result, they are "free forever, . . . to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law" (2 Ne. 2:5, 26).  The relationship between choice and consequence is made clear through those laws or principles that Christ himself articulates: "Wherefore, the ends of the law [are those] the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is afflicted . . . to answer the ends of the atonement" (verse 10).  So consequences are established and a "punishment ... is affixed ... in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed" (verses 11, 10).   Simply circumventing those consequences - out of mercy or any other motive - would not only abrogate human agency but eliminate the very distinctions that make possible a universe of meaningful differences and, thus, meaningful existence.

What kind of freedom would there be if no real consequence attached to any deliberate choice?  What we experience as punishment is, from another perspective, the simple and natural consequence of choices that reconcile us to or alienate us from each other and from the light of Christ - "that which gives life to all things" (see D&C 88:13).  God does not inflict pain or punishment.  He forewarns us of the sorrows that follow in the wake of agency wrongly employed.  Judgment, in this conception, entails the recognition that we inherit the condition we have chosen, hence, "we shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment" (2 Nephi 9:14).

One crucial, essential caveat is the following:  we never make choices with a perfect fulness of understanding or with agency that is perfectly untainted by circumstance, ignorance, genetic impairments, bodily limitations, and so on.  Yet the consequences of such a compromised exercise of agency can ripple out through generations in ways we could never imagine nor ever be able to repair.  And since we generally do not choose with a fullness of understanding, a will that is uncontaminated, or an intention that is fully deliberate, these acts cannot be considered fully intentional.  How could we then be held fully accountable for the pain we cause or the alienation we suffer? For we do not, in the fullest sense of the word, choose these repercussions.

Because our agency is seldom perfect and undiluted, Christ can intercede on our behalf without violating our agency; he can take upon himself the consequences of our poor choices, because as Alma will explain, "repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment" (Alma 42:16).  But his assumption of those pains can only displace our own without violating our agency if we demonstrate through a change of heart - and of behavior - that we are determined to choose differently now and in the future.  In that case, and only in that case, as we "repent ... believe ... and endure ... the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon [us] (2 Nephi 9:24-25).  In this view of atonement, our ultimate choices are validated and honored.  "One [must be] raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil" (Alma 41:5)

There's more before and after that gives added context and resonance to these conclusions (seriously, get this book! It's small, short, but jam packed!), but this is a big part of what really stuck with me.
 
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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2020, 09:55:25 am »
I think we, as a people, need to also come to the understanding that God's justice does not replace civil justice. I have lived in a high-density-Mormon culture for almost three years now. The accounts of abuse are heartbreaking and overwhelming at times. Too often, the story plays out something like this: "Well, he already went through church discipline and has repented..." That's all well and good. That doesn't replace our laws and our criminal justice system.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Repentance as 'Re-Choosing' (2nd Nephi and Doctor Who)
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2020, 10:14:19 am »
That's very true. I know those experiences happen. I have tended to see more the other side, where people see civil justice as the model for what divine justice should look like. I know personally someone who went through the Church repentance process (for a non illegal action), and someone felt it wasn't NEARLY as harsh enough, and feels far more pain and external suffering should be inflicted by the Church.

Society requires imposed deterrents and consequences for unlawful actions. It is another discussion (one I'm not keen to get into in this thread) as to what sorts of civil punishments are actively helpful (or moral) in making a 'wrong' situation 'more right'.

But the unfortunate requirement to have imposed penalties in mortality with degreeing levels of harshness as accepted norms too often informs what Christians of all sorts believe Divine Justice should also look like.

The desire to inflict increasing levels of pain on someone who has hurt you is often retaliatory, and serves no actual restorative purpose. In fact, I believe it can cause damage to the soul of the one who rejoices in another's pain.

It's part of what makes the philosophy presented in 2 Nephi as so damaging:
Quote
And there shall also be many which shall say: aEat, drink, and be bmerry; nevertheless, fear God—he will cjustify in committing a little dsin; yea, elie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a fpit for thy neighbor; there is gno harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

The idea being assaulted isn't that eventually all might be saved, it's the idea that an imposed punishment has a value of justice. People can endure punishments, and accept punishments as 'worth the crime'. Being punished doesn't correct the wrong.

It's not about being punished for what you did, but becoming a person who completely rejects the kind of decision-making that would have led to those acts in the first place. It's about becoming someone new, who would not have made those choices, not because of just the consequences, but because the choice to harm or take advantage of others is so far from who they want to be.

I'm reminded of in Les Mis, the original book, where, in the midst of Valjean pondering over the Bishop's act of salvation/mercy, and how he was becoming a new creation, and having a very Alma-like sould-wracking experience, he absentmindedly and instinctually stole a coin from a child with a simple stomp of his foot.

When he broke out of his reverie and realized what he did institinctually, it had a devastating impact, because that act was now so repulsive to him. It's wasn't guilt at having done it, it was revulsion and imcomprehension as to the type of person who would do such things.

He was tranforming into someone who would never have made that decision, and could not even comprehend having done so consciously. His instincts remained, but he recognized it as a vestige, and vowed to actively root that out, becaus eit repulsed him.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2020, 10:17:24 am by Taalcon »
 
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