He used the occasion in part to reflect upon the death of a Church member named King Follett, who had died unexpectedly a month earlier. Human nature was at its core divine. The process would be ongoing and would require patience, faith, continuing repentance, obedience to the commandments of the gospel, and reliance on Christ.
That was the last time the Prophet spoke in a general conference. Three months later, a mob stormed Carthage Jail and martyred him and his brother Hyrum.
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Since that sermon, known as the King Follett discourse, the doctrine that humans can progress to exaltation and godliness has been taught within the Church. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly. Snow, a Church leader and poet, rejoiced over the doctrine that we are, in a full and absolute sense, children of God. Our highest aspiration is to be like them. For some observers, the doctrine that humans should strive for godliness may evoke images of ancient pantheons with competing deities.
Such images are incompatible with Latter-day Saint doctrine. Our progression will never change His identity as our Father and our God. Latter-day Saints also believe strongly in the fundamental unity of the divine. They believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost, though distinct beings, are unified in purpose and doctrine.
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Since human conceptions of reality are necessarily limited in mortality, religions struggle to adequately articulate their visions of eternal glory. For example, scriptural expressions of the deep peace and overwhelming joy of salvation are often reproduced in the well-known image of humans sitting on their own clouds and playing harps after death. A cloud and harp are hardly a satisfying image for eternal joy, although most Christians would agree that inspired music can be a tiny foretaste of the joy of eternal salvation.
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Likewise, while few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities. Latter-day Saints tend to imagine exaltation through the lens of the sacred in mortal experience. They see the seeds of godhood in the joy of bearing and nurturing children and the intense love they feel for those children, in the impulse to reach out in compassionate service to others, in the moments they are caught off guard by the beauty and order of the universe, in the grounding feeling of making and keeping divine covenants.
Church members imagine exaltation less through images of what they will get and more through the relationships they have now and how those relationships might be purified and elevated. The teaching that human beings have a divine nature and future shapes the way Latter-day Saints view fundamental doctrine. Perhaps most significantly, belief in divine nature helps us more deeply appreciate the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For example, even in societies where casual and premarital sex are considered acceptable, Latter-day Saints retain a deep reverence for the God-given procreative and bonding powers of human sexual intimacy and remain committed to a higher standard in the use of those sacred powers.
We have even corrupted the very word, vision, at times beyond recovery. Our visions end up in ideologies, repressive regimes, and lead up to deeper enslavement of the human spirit. We create nightmares out of our visions. Look at the fate of great ideas in religions as well as the secular life of the so-called advanced cultures.
We no longer believe in the native, in the inherent and in the inalienable capacity in each one of us to aspire to a vision, strictly personal and yet of extraordinary significance for our relations with others. We try with all the strength at our disposal to abolish from within our educational system every possibility of a visionary perspective. Our education rests on a systematic emptying of such subjective resources. We end up as slaves of an anonymous body of knowledge with which we do not have any personal relationship whatsoever.
Most of us experience total exhaustion and emptiness at the end of our academic career. There remains no possibility of our intellectual discipline and all the effort that goes with it leading to a deeply felt experience of the knowledge we have tried so hard to gather. We could have made our classroom a pathway to personal experience, our teaching an aid to expect a vision at the end of our intellectual journey. Once upon a time it was so easy, so natural. The teaching then was interwoven with a visionary preparation. We now, on the contrary, move from procedure to procedure, from methodology to methodology, from one school of thought to another.
We erect insurmountable barriers between our native spontaneity as seekers of visions and our consciously acquired knowledge. We have lost the unspeakable art of forming a unity of both, wherein a rigorous intellectual discipline brings the scholar to that threshold where a vision bursts upon him with both suddenness and peace, when he as a thinker is turned in to a seer.
There are still a few teachers amidst us whose words invoke in us not only great meanings but also great vision. There comes a moment in our lives when a word becomes a vision, and a vision becomes a word, a living word. A Family Man above all. He made his mark and we were about to get a glimpse of how deep and profound that mark was during course of the day.
Musa Askari was asked to speak a few words in memory of Tony along with other contributors who each spoke beautifully and powerfully on how he touched, moved and helped transform their lives positively. A day that will live long in the memory. Tony and I did not talk Basketball. We spoke about the world, the uplifting power of diversity, of spirituality and inter faith. On the challenge of overcoming the hypnosis of a narrow closed identity mindset.
It was clear he had a philosophy about life and I sensed too a wider philosophical spiritual appetite. He was a Thinker. Let me be clear…. For I believe Soul is the invisible, impartible, immaterial and immortal Companion to our lives, metaphysically speaking. It is a companion over and above our outer collective identities of nationality, ethnicity, culture, language and religion. Look at us here now, a principle transcending all our outer identities draws us to this moment to honour Tony. That principle I call Soul. A knowledge thereof as taught to me by my late father-teacher Prof.
Syed Hasan Askari. From those insights I am able to say with confidence that Tony is indeed a Beautiful Soul.
This is why I believe relating to people came natural to him, without hesitation, without judgement. It was as natural to him as a single raindrop cascading from leaf to leaf, intact and coming to rest on the forest floor, nourishing whomsoever it came in to contact with. One may call it Love for humanity itself. Who can doubt Tony had an abundance of love for people. You could hear it in his special voice and see it in his smile. One of my most cherished memories about Tony is when he received the Mayoral Award in February and he invited me to join him at the cere mony. So moved was I by the event that the following day I emailed a letter to the Mayor copying Tony.
I said….. I can see they truly value and feel uplifted when he offers praise on their play in basketball. For me the Act of Inspiring is second nature to Tony, it is his sixth sense. I see him in another way also. He beautifully lit many lamps by small acts of generosity, acts of kindness, a peaceful word. We need more role models and we desperately need more bridge builders between communities. The inner Lamp of the Soul always alight irrespective of worldly circumstance. He built bridges and left an example of how it is possible to transport ourselves across them in our lives.
Dear Tony, Soul Brother. The Lamp of your Friendship will burn always within my Heart. God bless you. I would like to begin with one of the happiest moments in my life, nearly a quarter century ago. It was in , in the city of Hyderabad, India. Syed Hasan Askari , my late father-teacher, delivered his speech on Spiritual Humanism , an alternative to secularism and religious fundamentalism, charting his life journey as a pioneer of inter-religious dialogue and the pursuit for the revival of the classical discourse on soul.
From that speech I share his words as follows:. Irrespective of age, race, gender, culture, language or religion. Just reflect on the word Life! As soon as you raise your hand, such an ordinary taken for granted image, you have given testimony to voluntary Life. This voluntary life is not the characteristic of any material principle.
It should come from a non-material source. In other words it should have a meta-physical origin. That is the first proof that all of us have a soul which is both one and many at the same time.
These three taught us how to greet one another. When you say Salam, when you say Peace, when you say Namaste one soul greets the other soul. You are paying tribute to your mutual recognition as the miracle of self- conscious organic thinking Life. The voluntary act of greeting another for me is an occasion of happiness.
When it has moved from its proximity to ourselves do we notice its absence. We abuse it, terrorise and torture it. We pay lip service to it and do not value it universally. It is all about us, it is all within us. Without this neighbour even our negligence of it is not possible. We raise countless tributes to it openly, only to betray it in secret. We honour it at one moment and in one place, at the same moment in a different place we dishonour. It has remained our constant companion even when we did not give it due recognition in ourselves and in our neighbour.
Our true next of kin. A kinship that bonds us to each and every human being. A wondrous kinship that breathes through all divisions, through all diversity. It is the unity that binds us to each other. It is the Life of Humanity. A gift. I have found it generates a state of well-being independent of physical wellbeing. And depending upon the degree to which one is grateful it can help us transcend and overcome the difficulties of life.
The experience of wellbeing, coming out of a sense of gratitude, despite moments in my outer life of great strain and heartache, has never abandoned me. It remains available irrespective of outer circumstances that are either favourable or otherwise. It is the cornerstone. It is the bridge. Without gratitude there is no strength in patience and no pleasure in remembering.
Gratitude is for both material and spiritual gifts, but there is another far higher gratitude, gratitude to the Supreme who is all possessing and yet, what is in reality His, He calls it ours. One of the most deeply moving examples of gratitude, trust and patience we find in the words of Imam Hussain , son of Imam Ali b Abi Talib from whom sufi traditions draw their spirituality.
Imam Hussain being the grandson of the Prophet of Islam.
Anyone who knows the story of Hussain and what transpired cannot help but be moved. Despite the intervening thirteen hundred years the power of the story of Hussain continues to resonate. You are my hope amid all violence. You are my trust and provision in everything that happens to me, no matter how much the heart may seem to weaken in it, trickery may seem to diminish my hope in it, and the enemy may seem to rejoice in it. It comes upon me through You and when I complain to You of it, it is because of my desire for You, You alone.
You have comforted me in everything and have revealed its significance to me. You are the Master of all Grace, the Possessor of all goodness and the Ultimate Resort of all desire. Here I would like to draw attention to the words of Plotinus mystic-philosopher who writes about the Soul of the Proficient:.
And so in all his pain he asks no pity: there is always the radiance in the inner soul of the man, untroubled like the light in a lantern when fierce gusts beat about it in a wild turmoil of wind and tempest. From the revelatory to the religious. From the mystical to the philosophical qualities of gratitude, trust and patience carry great significance. Thereby, providing multiple sources to help awaken within us such qualities. Is it not so occasions which are outwardly and innerly so painful are also important sources of comfort and inspiration throughout our lives?
As in world history so to in our personal history. Perhaps by the very fact of living through them, of surviving as it were, carries within it the remedy. Therefore, on a personal note I would like to take you back to another an occasion in my life for which I remain eternally grateful.
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An occasion that has become a high water mark in my spiritual life. It remains a constant source of thankfulness and support to me. The occasion was deeply sad. I was honoured to have been there at the end. It was in the early morning of 19th February , around 7am. I was holding the hand of my late father.