Let me begin my essay by saying that I am a Christian, and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at that. My religious views are obviously shaped by my religion, but perhaps what I have to say will be of value to other Christians and possibly even to people of other faiths. My core message is that there is a God, He does speak to us, and there are ways in which we can grow in our understanding.
God does not lay all his secrets out, for all to behold at whim and at will. But He does make available methods by which his secrets can be revealed and, more importantly, understood. These methods are available to all, but employing them requires no small amount of effort.
What I am proposing is not Gnosticism, that these secrets are necessary knowledge in order to gain a happier state after death. Rather, salvation is something that can happen independently of deeper understanding and that the deeper understanding is there for those who seek and desire it. Prefer a simpler life? Not a problem with God. But I do propose that even those who think they are living simply may, by virtue of the way in which they live, still receive revelation, understanding, and wisdom because the way in which they live allows them to decrypt messages from God.
The word “decrypt” leads me to my analogy. I hold the view that God speaks to man constantly, but that man does not always receive those messages. What is not received cannot be understood. Therefore, we must be in a state in which we are able to receive a message from God. That means, we take it in and process it, not just toss it out with the junk impressions we ignore constantly throughout the day. How do we attain such a state? It is different for each person, but generally requires a mind ready to be taught any lesson. Whatever else we do to help sensitize ourselves to promptings from the Divine – abstinence, study, repentance – can add to that preparation.
Perhaps the first few messages from God are simple ones – He is there, He loves us, He has something for us to learn that requires we be away from His presence. These can arrive to us in many ways, but when we are ready to hear these messages, we accept them and we seek verification. I believe that God can send that verification, and it is much in the same sort of way that, when we go to a secure website, we validate the certificate presented by that website. The browser receives the certificate and then checks with the certificate authority that issued it and verifies that the certificate is both valid and unexpired. Once those checks have been done, the browser shows the green lock, etc., and allows us in to the secure website. For the sake of the analogy, the cert is truly valid and the browser is not compromised and other “happy path” conditions are satisfied.
Should there be a problem with the cert, the browser displays a warning and either forbids us to go further or only allows us if we are truly determined and know where to click. So it is in our minds. We can hear messages that seem to have a divine origin, but they simply don’t ring true. There is no edification, no clarity, no resonance in them. The same can happen for actual divine messages when we are not prepared to receive them, but that has more to do with our inability to receive the full message. Without a full message, a partial certificate will fail in its validation check.
But, here, we have a message from God and it leads us to feel at peace. We see things, and they make sense. We feel as though something good is coming of this. I believe that the Holy Spirit will also provide a warm feeling, a sensation within the body that arouses it to an emotional response not unlike love. Your faith may have other words or ways to explain this, but nearly all faiths speak of enlightenments, ecstasies, and epiphanies. This is that such thing.
But this is also only the introductory message, one that can be given freely to all who are ready to receive it. What, then, of deeper understandings?
For more secure transactions, for more engaged communications, we need public-private key cryptography. In this, there is a private key that everyone, even God, has. This private key is used for our own encryption. If we say something that we want someone else to understand and perhaps no one else, we use our private key to encrypt the message.
The problem is that no one will be able to decrypt that message without our private key. This is where the public keys enter into the picture. If you give me your public key and I give you mine, we can use the other person’s public keys as we encrypt our messages in such a way that our own private keys are able to decrypt the messages we receive from the trusted person we have exchanged public keys with.
In computing, those public keys must be validated and communications have to be set up in order to have a trust established that allows the exchange of those keys. This is done with packets and such, and I will pass over the technical details. Readers are invited to read more about how public-private key encryption works, if they are curious about the matter.
In life, our exchange of public keys with God is made through covenants. A covenant is a two-way promise in which each party provides something and receives something. We enter into covenants solemnly and, in that solemn moment, God provides us with what we need to begin to understand Him. In my belief, the first covenant is baptism. In other beliefs, it may be a profession of faith or an act of worshipful devotion, but the promise to serve God is made and, in return, God promises to serve us. This is our key exchange.
At this point, we are able to not just get messages from God, but unscramble them. We are able to take what we receive and find deeper meaning in it. We are able to take the deeper meanings and derive wisdom from them. That wisdom, in turn, helps us to live lives of peace and love, even if there is pain and strife around us.
In proper cryptography, keys are renewed from time to time. So it is with God. We must be about the business of renewing our covenants if we wish to continue to receive wisdom from Him. Failing to renew our faith means the messages we do get are not able to uplift us any more because we cannot decrypt them. If we continue in not renewing our faith, we eventually no longer receive those messages as we once did and we may even think that all that communication was imaginary.
But if we do renew our faith, if we do renew our covenants with God, if we strive to keep ourselves clean, if we treat others with respect and care, if we give help to those in need of it, we renew those keys to understanding and we find treasures of yet deeper wisdom.
I would say that a similar thing happens with close friends and people that we love. Our covenants with them lead us to deeper, more meaningful bonds that can serve as an example of the relationship we should have with God. The same love that I have for my wife and the whole of my family teaches me the way in which I must also love my God, for God is love. It is through love that we prepare ourselves to receive Him and His messages and it is through love that we renew our covenants, that we might continue to receive Him and His messages.
Without love, there is no understanding. Without love, we may as well study random letters instead of scriptures. Without love, we may as well listen to static instead of a message of peace. With love, things become much more clear. Though the lives we live may be trimmed in sadness and hardship, love is able to allow us to see that mortality is only a part of our eternal existence, and that with love we are capable of so much more with that eternal existence. Love, renewed love, is the true key to understanding God. Share the keys of love with others, that they might also come to understand God.