“I don’t know. No reason.”   You have just been asked why you wore that shirt today. You don’t recall.   Impulse maybe. It doesn’t matter and it’s not worth talking about.

But if your choice did matter, there should be a reason. When you knock at the gates of heaven (who has ears to hear, let him hear), when you are asked “why have you come?” you should have something better to say than “I don’t know. No reason.”

The one ineradicable gift we have is the gift of free will. That doesn’t mean the ability to do whatever we want. We have a pretty limited menu of choices some times. What free will is (and, for the most party, why free will is a feature of mortality but wasn’t before) is the ability to make meaningful choices. Meaningful choices are choices that are made for a meaningful reason. They are choices made for a purpose.

Our purposes for doing things are many and varied. Despite that, they can be one of two kinds. Our purpose may be a step along the way towards some other purpose. Or our purpose can be important in itself. The purpose of having a bigger house is to have more room for family or guests. Your purpose could even be to show off your status (not everything meaningful is good). But having the bigger house probably isn’t the meaningful thing itself. You can always ask what the purpose of having a bigger house is and get an answer.   On the other hand, some things are directly meaningful. Some things are themselves the purpose. “Why did you kiss your wife?” “Because I love her.” End of conversation, love is the full justification. There is no need to ask what the purpose of love is.

(In practice, most things we do will be a combination of meaningful in themselves and part of some other purpose. Exercise, for example, may brighten your mood and lengthen your lifespan, but it can also just be directly enjoyable to let the body do bodily things).

Creedal Christian philosophies speak of a First Cause. They say that everything that happens is caused by something, and that something is in turn caused by something else, and so on and so on, all the way back to the First Cause. Mormons either don’t believe in the First Cause, because we’re fine with the idea of the chain of causes going back forever and ever, or else we at least don’t care much.

But we Mormons, with our strong doctrine of free will and of meaningful choice, have to believe in Final Purpose. We can’t believe that our chain of reasons for doing things never ends in something that is itself meaningful. No matter how long the chain of purposes goes on, it has to end in a final purpose that makes sense.

*Why do you get up early every day?

To make it to school on time

*What is your purpose in getting to school on time?

To get good grades.

* Why do you want good grades?

To have better job prospects.

* Why do you want better job prospects?

To get a job that can best support a wife and children without financial stress.

* What would be the purpose for doing that?

To have a happy, functional family.

* Why would you want that?

Because duh.


Contrast that with the old lady who swallowed a horse ( and died of course).

old lady who swallowed a fly

She swallows the horse to catch the cow she swallowed. She swallowed the cow with the purpose of catching the goat she had swallowed.  The goat was to get the dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. But no one knows why she swallowed the fly, so the whole chain of purposes is meaningless and unsatisfactory.  And if instead of ending in a fly it just went on forever, with the fly chasing a flea and the flea a gnat and the gnat a mite all the way down to elementary particles chasing quarks and then on past that, on and on, endlessly, her motives still would not be satisfactory. An endless chain of gods reaching back forever without any beginning is conceivable. But an endless chain of purposes isn’t. No matter how far you go, you must get to some final purpose or the whole chain counts for nothing.

For the most part, these final purposes are other people. For men, generally, women are a final purpose. For women (and for men) children are also a final purpose. God is a final purpose for everybody. Scriptures like these can be easily read in that light:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him

Doctrine and Covenants 59:5.

Nephi says that the world is divided into people who act and people who are acted upon. But there is a third type-people who are acted for. That third type and the second type, the group of people who are acted upon, tend to overlap a lot. A helpless baby is acted upon, but the purpose of those actions it itself.

The Nativity strips God of his power and ability to act. It makes his status as our final purpose, as the one being who makes all our acts meaningful by their effect on him, most clear.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the nativity the sex that acts (men) is the most peripheral, while women and children are front and center.

Continue reading at the original source →