Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Problem with Perfection, or, How I Made My Granddaughter Cry


Photo from BBCGoodGood.com.
For breakfast this morning, my wife made some wonderful blueberry pancakes from scratch--the kind that use real, plump blueberries. Wow, so delicious. But our 4-year-old granddaughter turned her nose up at the first few we offered her, apparently noting some defect in coloration. "I'll wait for a perfect one," she said. I gently challenged that sentiment with a smile and a little joke: "Well, don't you know that nothing in life is really perfect. Except grandfathers, grandmothers, and Mommy and Daddy." She promptly burst into tears. I was so surprised and asked her what was wrong. "It was something from you," she said, sobbing. What? Then she blurted out the offense: "Nobody is perfect except Heavenly Father and Jesus!" Ouch.

That would be the first of two major theological blunders that got me in hot water this morning. The other came when it was time for the blessing on the food, and I errantly suggested that we have a "blueberry prayer" since we were blessing blueberry pancakes. That, of course, signaled a potentially apostate approach to prayer that she would later discuss with Mom. But she still loves her grandpa, in spite of his occasional departures from orthodoxy.

My tender granddaughter's crying over a perceived error on the topic of perfection was endearing, unlike the related whining about "perfection" that I have faced from some critics. One critic, a minister, recently chided me for the alleged Mormon belief that we can progress and one day become perfect, acting as if that were prima facie evidence for our non-Christian status. The whining is based on misunderstanding similar to that of my granddaughter.

Yes, only God the Father and Jesus Christ are truly perfect, sinless, complete, and independent. They are perfect in every sense of the word. But the word "perfect" in the scriptures can have a range of meanings and perhaps most commonly refers to being complete and whole in some sense, but not necessarily absolutely perfect in all ways like God is. Job was said to be a "perfect" man in Job 1:1 (KJV). Ditto for Noah (Gen. 6:9). Both had obvious shortcomings. Paul said that "we speak wisdom among them that are perfect" (1 Cor. 2:6)--referring not to God but to a mortal audience of imperfect Christians. Paul also urged us to "go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6:1). That language echoes God's words to Abraham: "walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17:1).

Christ also had a few words on this topic. In fact, as God had commanded Abraham, so He directly commanded us to "be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Further, when Christ told the rich young man that he still lacked something in spite of having kept the basic Ten Commandments, His plea for that man to sell all that he had and to come follow Jesus was prefaced with the conditional phrase: "if thou wilt be perfect" (Matthew 19:21). Had the young man accepted the loving request of Jesus, we need not suppose that he would have become instantly infallible, but certainly more complete in his faith and closer to God. This was not the last of Jesus's utterances setting perfection as our goal. In the great Intercessory Prayer in John 17, He prayed that Christians would have the same kind of unity that He and the Father shared, and then stated: "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:21-23).

In addition to our belittled concept of "perfection," the LDS idea of progression to grow in faith, virtue, and godliness is often painted by our critics as a heretical, non-Christian invention of Joseph Smith. That appalling concept of progression is also often condemned at the same time with our demonic belief that we must endure to the end to have our salvation made sure, rather than being automatically and irrevocably saved once we accept Christ. Once again, these scandalous Mormon heresies are not actually innovations of Joseph Smith, but teachings of Christ and his apostles. Consider the words of Peter, the leading apostle of the original Twelve, in 2 Peter 1:
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall....
Peter is speaking of steady progression toward the goal of receiving the rich promises that God offers us through the grace of Christ--promises that can help us put on "the divine nature" and share in all things pertaining to life and godliness. This begins with faith in Christ, but we are asked to grow in that faith unto the end, being fruitful, so that our calling and election will be made sure. Otherwise there is indeed a risk that we as Christians can fall. It's a great summary of LDS teachings in this area--but not so much an innovation as a restoration, in my opinion.

The need to grow and progress in our faith is why we need a Church of Jesus Christ. We need the fellowship and support that the Church provides and the inspired leadership of apostles, prophets, and others for "the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12, see also 4:11-14). This work of perfecting is only possible through the Atonement of Christ, whereby He will take us fallen mortals and turn us into glorious sons and daughters who will be "like Him" as the scriptures boldly declare (1 John 3:2) and who will then be joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8).

C.S. Lewis offered a healthy perspective on God's command for us to be perfect. This passage comes from Mere Christianity:
The command "Be ye perfect" [Matt. 5:48] is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" and He is going to make good his words. If we let Him--for we can prevent Him, if we choose --He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.
So yes, "perfection" can have different meanings in the scriptures, but ultimately, God's goal is to bring about the eternal life and exaltation of man (Moses 1:39), cleansing us of all sin and corruption through the power of His Son's Atonement, giving us glorious and perfected bodies fully in His glorious image, and helping us to partake of all things that pertain to godliness as we put on His divine nature. This is the ancient Christian concept of theosis, in my view, for which we are also widely condemned as being non-Christian heretics. Disagree if you will, but recognize that it is at least possible for sincere modern Christians to find a reasonable, biblical, and early Christian basis for such views. It's nothing to whine about.

49 comments:

Papa D said...

Mormonism's teaching of the Biblical concept of perfection and becoming God/Christ-like is my absolute favorite aspect of the religion. It's perhaps THE central theme of the Bible - Old and New Testaments.

I just have to shake my head and sigh knowing it also is THE central "heresy" in the eyes of other Christians that gets us labeled non-Christian.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of a choice Born in the Church Mormons have growing up to make up their own minds if they want to be Mormon or want to believe in the JS story. I hear it touted by LDS that everyone makes up their own minds, but it seems kinda difficult to do that when you are indoctrinated at such an early age.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Yeah, believing in God and Jesus Christ at the age of 4, and caring about prayer. Such a shame that parents should teach this stuff to kids.

Is your view that issues of faith, morality, right and wrong, etc., should not be part of raising a child in order let them make up their own minds when they are, say, 18? Because failing to teach faith in a world of sin and selfishness is surrendering to the enemies of faith. The question is not whether we should influence our children, but who we will let have the most influence on our children. They aren't going to grow up without lots of influence. Will it be yours or someone else's?

Jettboy said...

I want you to know that I have enjoyed reading your blog and have included it in My personal list of Faithful blogs. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, believing in God and Jesus Christ at the age of 4, and caring about prayer. Such a shame that parents should teach this stuff to kids.
As another frequent commenter said: " I wouldn't expect God to use sarcasm or other forms of mockery, as those appear to be evil forms of communication intended to belittle others.
Guess you didn't get the memo about sarcasm Jeff.
Anyway, on to your points that did not address anything I said, but if it makes you feel good to respond to points that were not mentioned, so be it.
Believing in God? I said nothing of God.
Believing in Jesus? I said nothing of Jesus.
Caring about prayer. I said nothing about caring about prayer.


"Is your view that issues of faith, morality, right and wrong, etc., should not be part of raising a child in order let them make up their own minds when they are, say, 18?"
No, and If you like I can go through each of those points and show how I did not say anything about them, Straw man much Jeff?

"The question is not whether we should influence our children, but who we will let have the most influence on our children."
Great, and my question was, "...how much of a choice Born in the Church Mormons have growing up to make up their own minds if they want to be Mormon or want to believe in the JS story."
Which you did not answer, in fact, it appears to me you went out of your way to not answer it and instead brought up a bunch of points no one said anything about. Telling.

"They aren't going to grow up without lots of influence. Will it be yours or someone else's?"
I don't know, perhaps waiting till they are of an age to decide for themselves if they believe a boy with a rock translated a gold book that an angel showed to him buried in a hill might be more fair. As opposed to telling them the story over and over again when they are at such a young age and highly impressionable.
Can someone tell me the definition of brainwashing? Cause that is exactly what it sounds like to me.
Oh, wait, you mean it is only OK if you are doing the brainwashing? So, if some other 'religious organization' does it, you might have an issue with it? I Bet my bottom dollar you would.

Jeff, how about actually staying on topic if you decide to actually respond to what I asked. It would really help.

K. Ray Johnson said...

Anon., yours is the less-believable half of an old contradictory set:

1) Mormons are all brainwashed; they have no choice but to numbly go to church, stay sober, etc.

2) Mormons are all hypocrites; Utah County has the worst rate for you-name-it] in spite of their doctrine against it.

If you have not met any Born-in-the church Mormons who dropped out, you will soon. They tend to be a vocal group. If you have not met any good sincere Mormons, I hope you get that chance.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Anon, I'm off topic? Actually, one of the benefits off having a blog is that I get to choose the topics. The topic of today's post was perfection and theosis, not brainwashing of children.

All you knew for sure about my granddaughter from the post is that she cared about prayer and that she believed in God and Jesus as the only perfect beings. Your off-topic question suggested there was something wrong with that. The idea merits a touch of sarcasm. It was only a touch.

Your original comment led me to infer an unfriendly agenda which you've now made much more transparent. Brainwashing? That's a loaded and irresponsible term that conveys far more than a parent teaching a young child. Parents of all faiths should teach and reinforce the values and beliefs that they feel are essential for a good life. Don't confuse that with the abuse and degradation of brainwashing. We do not believe in compelling people to believe.

But no, I'm not interested in your charges on that topic. It's still off topic and anonymous jabs aren't meaningful contributions. At least give us some made-up name to keep track of who is saying what.

Papa D said...

If there's no way to address a valid point, the standard approach if to bring up something else - generally something inflammatory - in order to not have to discuss the actual principle addressed originally.

Jeff wrote a very good post and asked a very valid question. Apparently, "Anonymous" had no answer to your question and didn't want to admit it - so s/he simply changed the subject by making a silly, inflammatory and (decidedly) ridiculous and hypocritical charge, then got offended when Jeff called him/her on it.

As I said in my original comment, the idea that humans can become "perfect" and like the Father and the Son is perhaps THE central teaching of the Bible. Until someone gives a rational, coherent argument why that isn't so, I have no desire to engage them - especially if all they can do is throw straw man arguments out there in order to derail a legitimate conversation.

Mateo said...

Loling at the Annon rant there. :)

Enjoyed the story, Jeff. I remember my nephew watching some disney movie at the theater and during a preview for "Ice Age" 3 there is a scene where to squirrels are fighting over a nut and one steals it from the other. My nephew started bawling in a very distraught way and (luckily) stopped when he saw the thief squirrel give the nut back. Kids are adorably perceptive about certain things and have very intense reactions at times.

Mateo said...

That should read "two" and not "to" :P

Anonymous said...

Actually Jeff, I had no charges on the topic. It was a question. I wondered how much of a choice Children had in making up their own minds about being Mormon and believing in JS. Which was pretty much on topic as the child you were discussing was so upset that you were unorthodox in your method of prayer and challenged her belief in perfection. She sounds like a good Mormon at the age of 4.

That you decided to pretend I was saying anything about morality or God or prayer etc shows that you either did not read what I asked or just inferred and assumed some agenda I had. I am guessing the latter as I see you do this quite a bit on your blog. Or it might be that you would prefer not to discuss how LDS teach their children to 'believe'.

I think teaching a child something week after week on Sunday and reinforcing it again daily at home is a very persuasive method of 'teaching'. What does not allow you to be objective about your methods is your belief in what is being taught. Walk into a home where they teach the children that they are saved by Grace alone and you might have an issue of what they are teaching and what coercive methods they are using.

Mateo said...

@ annon,
While I totally agree with what you're saying here, I'm not sure how one can avoid such indoctrination of some sort or method. I took that as why Jeff pointed out that teaching children any sort of morality eventually comes to the same issue. You're teaching your kids what YOU think is right and wrong.

It's great for parents to strive to be as open minded as possible and not try and make their kids believe things just because their parents said so. While it's great to try and avoid this as much as possible it's irrational to think that a parent can truly avoid such 'brainwashing' of some sort or another.

Your comments (whether it was intended or not) had a rather hostile and accusatory tone from the beginning. Jeff simply answered your question with a question. It's an acceptable tactic with things of this nature because YOU are as guilty as anyone on the planet when it comes to indoctrinating your children. It's merely a question of what stuff you will indoctrinate them with.

It IS possible that LDS doctrine could turn out to be true. In which case Jeff has been indoctrinating and brainwashing a child to believe something that is true and (I'd imagine in such a context) important.

Quantumleap42 said...

I think part of the problem is that we commonly use the Platonic definition of perfection, which assumes that all we observe only reflects, and does not embody, perfection or the perfect form. This is to say that, by definition, we cannot experience perfection, which would inherently defeat our quest to achieve perfection. These Hellenistic ideas are not idle speculation but have had a tremendous impact on the rest of Christianity. Thus most Christian worship the Platonic concept of God.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Thanks, Mateo, for a helpful and thoughtful response. And QuantumLeap, thanks also for that helpful point on the issue of perfection. Nice to get back to the topic.

Mateo said...

@ Quantumleap42,
Excellent point. :) I'd never thought of this before. I think the easy religious way out of this though is to say that Plato and Platonic thought was influenced by god and reality. Since for most LDS people it's not that they WANT to think that god is perfect and they are not, but that to them this is a certainty. That Plato came to similar conclusion based on observing the world around him simply means that religion is correct in it's assumptions. :P

I think your theory does an excellent job at explaining things if one could know for certain that god does not exist and would of course not be able to influence religion. I such a context answers are needed as to why religions behave in certain ways and this definitely gives that sort of possible explanation.

This is one of the most aggravating aspects of religion is that it's a slippery devil and with enough mental gymnastics ANY accusation about religion can be evaded. Once again religion is a claim that doesn't even require evidence anyways. It's faith based right? Frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I think that teaching your child and indoctrinating them are quite different.

When Children are told Church stories at such an early age, and it is explained to them that these 'stories' are true, I don't see much chance of them rationally evaluating them when they are older, as they were already 'told' how true and important they were by people of great influence in their lives. That gets pretty well embedded in them. Not to mention the entire social system that they grow up around that reinforces those teachings.

That a 4 year old would become so upset that someone she looked up to would go against what she was 'taught' must have been traumatic for her. Enough to make her cry at least. Which of course brings me back to my original question, which had neither a hostile nor accusatory tone, "how much of a choice Born in the Church Mormons have growing up to make up their own minds if they want to be Mormon or want to believe in the JS story."

From the jumping up and down from the OP, I can see that the question really hit a nerve. My apologies, I did not think I would get a tizzy fit by the OP and other commenters for posing that question.
Thanks Mateo, for your thoughtful response.

Pops said...

All who reach the age and condition of accountability begin to choose their beliefs - whether to continue in the tradition of their parents or to branch out and find something different. Those raised in faithful LDS homes have the benefit of having learned of the LDS Church and its teachings from a reliable source, as opposed to those who choose to learn of it from sources that intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent its teachings.

Bear in mind that an important facet of the teachings of the Church is that each person must come to know for themselves what is true, that it is foolish to live on what is termed "borrowed light".

Back on topic - perhaps a key to understanding the quest for perfection is the knowledge that God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - desire to nurture and tutor us to that end. God, being perfect and understanding what is required to achieve perfection, has the desire and the power to get us there as long as we cooperate and do not abandon the course. Humility and submissiveness are required on our part because we cannot conceive of the destination (what we must become), hence our own idea of where we are going and what we must do to get there will deviate us from the correct course, the straight and narrow path, the only way to happiness, and the only way to God.

SilverRain said...

Anonymous—You are operating from the assumption that children never grow up.

If you were to teach things repetitively AND cut off from other opinions, that is brainwashing. You have to have both elements to constitute brainwashing. While it is possible that some LDS parents do this, it is certainly not the norm.

Kevin Jackson said...

Anon: It's impossible to answer your question directly, since no one gets two chances at growing up. But we can look at two groups of people and get partial answers. We can look at those who grew up in the church but chose to leave it (either temporarily or permanently), and we can look at those who did not grow up in the church who chose to join it.

From the first group we learn there is a significant number who exercise their choice as adults despite being indoctrinated (to use your term). And from the second group we learn there is a significant number who chose to join the church despite a lack of LDS teachings growing up.

Mateo said...

@ annon,
"When Children are told Church stories at such an early age, and it is explained to them that these 'stories' are true, I don't see much chance of them rationally evaluating them when they are older"

I think that perhaps this is where the frustration over this issue is coming from.

When I was a child I was taught that Brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. Brontosaurus happened to be my FAVORITE dinosaur. (T-Rex was a very close runner up. :) I learned much later in life that there is not much evidence that Brontosaurus actually existed his skeletons were actually bones from the brachiosaurus that had been improperly assembled. One could say that I was "indoctrinated" at an early age to believe such things. My parents didn't force me to believe it but I was surrounded by media that portrayed this dino as though he definitely existed.

In a likewise manner I was raised in the church. I was a rather devout member of it for all my formitive years and did not leave it (and religion as well) until after serving a mission and was at the age of 27. While leaving such a culture IS difficult to do, and DOES have a certain effect on a person, I don't begrudge my parents for having brought me up that way. This is the crux. My parents completely believe that the way they brought me up is the correct way and that it is based on truth. There are any number of things that I will teach my own kids that will probably turn out to be false in the long run. Our vision is short sighted, and we are prone to be deceived or confused about things. That's life. While I certainly think it's imortant to examine things cautionsly, and would CERTAINLY be damaging to purposely influence your child to believe things which you know to be false, I don't see my parents as falling into this category.

Mateo said...

Long story short, Teaching a child to faithfully believe in something that is not true can be damaging of course. I think if children were taught the gospel in a much more liberal way (well some people believe this, and your mother and I believe this, but your uncle believes that) then perhaps some portion of them would not choose to follow it. I don't think anyone is arguing that raising their kids in the church doesn't vastly change the chances that they will someday continue to follow it. Saying that we DON'T influence our children's choices greatly would be very naive.

Influence is not the same as force though and even the most controlling of parents will still lose that influence one day. THe children leave the home and if it was a stifling onesided atmosphere (which I think is a shame) they are presented with a cornicopia of new ideas. If the LDS church doesn't sit right with them they will eventually leave. I've seen a rather small number of the kids I grew up with in the church still staying in it, so while indoctrination certainly happens it isn't taking away anyone's choices by force.

Finally (sorry this is so long) I don't think it's a sign of trauma the way Jeff's Grand-daughter acted. My nephew bawled his eyes out when I first showed him the movie "Mater's tall tales" and said it was "too scary!" I have no idea why he did that because the next day he wanted to watch nothing but that movie (and he's a 'Cars' fanatic so it was doubly confusing that he reacted that way). It's hard to tell what happens in little minds like theirs. :)

Mateo said...

(final note. :P)
If Jeff's grand daughter reacted that way as a teenager I would be a bit concerned. As a four year old... not so much.

Mateo said...

@ silver rain,
While I think the word "brainwashing" is pretty extreme and not entirely accurate, Annon has made some valid points. There is no doubt that the way we present things to children will have a PROFOUND effect on them for much of their life if not all of it. Some LDS parents may be trying very hard to force their views. I had a companion on my mission whose parents practically disowned him because he returned early (due to some rather severe psychological issue and crippling anxiety attacks.) With a person like him I think his parents were doing their best to force him to follow and trying to eliminate any opposing view points.

Parents that strongly believe something are not likely to encourage their children to question it. It's typically the parents that are questioning it themselves that encourage their children to explore.

There is no perfect method for parenting and I don't think parents are worse then other parents if they choose to teach their children religion (after all the parents fully believe it to be true. I will teach my own kids things that I believe to be true as well.) Yet we all need to be honest with ourselves and understand what we are doing.

Perhaps in taking this issue in mind we can all become better parents and be mindful of whether we are allowing our children to explore what we believe to be a good avenue to take, or whether we are shoving them down said alleys.

Pops said...

Teaching a child to faithfully believe in something that is not true can be damaging...

I call BS. I was taught to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay,...

CF said...

Anon:

In debating terms, what you've done is a "Bait and Switch". You lure others into biting a much more defensible argument that only slightly relates to the topic at hand. By doing this you are creating an illusion that you've won the argument, when you've only dodged it by setting up the straw-man, "brain-washing children is bad".

Why don't you try providing a counter-argument against Jeff's actual topic about good works along with God's grace as a requirement for salvation?

Thomas Parkin said...

I've actually skipped a number of comments, and so hope I'm not repeating something.

" I wondered how much of a choice Children had in making up their own minds about being Mormon and believing in JS."

Eventually, everyone has total choice in the matter. The number of former or currently inactive Mormons I know right now, based on my fb friends list, anyway, considerably outnumbers those who are active. All were raised to "believe the stories." Some no longer do - and yet participate in the church. Some still do and yet are not active. It is quite possible - in fact, common - to leave the church and still believe. When I left the church, I routinely told people who got in the vicinity of the subject that I was a believing but not practicing Mormon. When after many years I returned to the church, it surprised many folks ... although I'd told them for years I was a believing Mormon. I now consider myself quite orthodox, although some might not see it that way. I don't strictly believe a solid 30-40% of what I hear in church, at least without a lot of qualification. I believe almost entirely in the core teachings about God and the meaning of life that Joseph taught. My two grown children have little to do with the church, although if pressed I think they'd tell you they still believe some of it. I've never stopped saying that I know some things, and am coming to know more, and that this route is available, if difficult, for any of them. But I allow them all their freedom - which means not trying to emotionally manipulate them into doing what I'd most like to see, and loving, appreciating and finding genuine joy in who they are.

What this ramble is meant to indicate is that there are many ways this plays out. Parents teach their children. Some kinds of indoctrination tend to produce robots or rebels, and I don't think either of those alternatives is especially helpful. But, if a parent tells their child they know something, if such a statement can be made in good faith, then, from the parents perspective it is simply a statement of fact. "Without hypocrisy and without guile." Children, will, naturally, unless truly, deeply abused, come to their own perspectives in time - much to our chagrin.

Excuse the ramble.

Thomas Parkin said...

I've actually skipped a number of comments, and so hope I'm not repeating something.

" I wondered how much of a choice Children had in making up their own minds about being Mormon and believing in JS."

Eventually, everyone has total choice in the matter. The number of former or currently inactive Mormons I know right now, based on my fb friends list, anyway, considerably outnumbers those who are active. All were raised to "believe the stories." Some no longer do - and yet participate in the church. Some still do and yet are not active. It is quite possible - in fact, common - to leave the church and still believe. When I left the church, I routinely told people who got in the vicinity of the subject that I was a believing but not practicing Mormon. When after many years I returned to the church, it surprised many folks ... although I'd told them for years I was a believing Mormon. I now consider myself quite orthodox, although some might not see it that way. I don't strictly believe a solid 30-40% of what I hear in church, at least without a lot of qualification. I believe almost entirely in the core teachings about God and the meaning of life that Joseph taught. My two grown children have little to do with the church, although if pressed I think they'd tell you they still believe some of it. I've never stopped saying that I know some things, and am coming to know more, and that this route is available, if difficult, for any of them. But I allow them all their freedom - which means not trying to emotionally manipulate them into doing what I'd most like to see, and loving, appreciating and finding genuine joy in who they are.

Mateo said...

@ pops,
I'm not sure whether you're just playing around or using that as a real example.

While teaching kids to believe things that are false CAN be damaging it isn't damaging in all cases. To me personally I wouldn't teach my kids that santa is certainly real. It'd be more along the lines of, "well santa is something that we play pretend with." and let them engage in it if they choose. Most kids will. I've seen plenty of puppet shows and explaining to children that the puppet is not really alive doesn't seem to hamper their enjoyment of it. It's cute because on one hand they will say, "the puppet isn't real! (and be very proud of themselves for knowing this) yet at the same time their mannerisms in interacting with the puppet totally betray this. They will talk to it and try and comfort it if it acts scared and get startled if it makes a sudden lunge towards them. I just don't see a need to tell kids it's a real thing with Santa and the Easter Bunny.

@ Thomas Parkin,
Thanks for your thoughts on this stuff! I enjoyed your take on the situation and that sounds very sensible to me. These sorts of accusations (you're brainwashing your kids) are being thrown at a very wide range of parenting styles so mileage will vary, I think. :) I'm grateful that I was brought up in a family that didn't militantly push it's ideals and in most cases my parents encouraged working things out for ourselves.

openminded1 said...

Sometimes, I just want people like anonymous to leave. Throwing out words like "brainwashing" seems like glittering generalities.

Though someone did bring up how brainwashing might entail parents limiting the opinions their children are exposed to, and in my experience, some very devout family members have done this to their kids. Quite successfully too; anything that's a dissenting opinion to Mormonism can be labeled "anti", and then it's done. Association principle. Just like hypnotics use to deter people away from unhealthy food.

Now back to the real topic,
I've seen the Eastern Orthodox church use the same verses to validate their own (somewhat unique?) claims to theosis. In fact, a blog I read (that's not at all a Mormon affiliate) has made the claim that "the foundational source of the doctrine of theosis lies within the pages New Testament.[i] Although some interesting parallels exist in the writings of the some of the ancient Greek philosophers[ii] and Mystery Cults[iii] (and that some intimations of the doctrine can be read into the Old Testament and inter-Testament writings[iv]), there is no question that the early Church Fathers believed (and rightfully so) that the doctrine was clearly taught by Jesus Christ and His apostles, and as such, is to be found the New Testament writings."

Now I lost faith in the bible being anything more than spiritually-guided speculations of the authors who wrote each book a long time ago; but since doing so, I'm able to see how right the Mormon stance of theosis being a biblical concept is.

Something tells me the concept was just too threatening to admit to as a good 'ol evvie ;) of course, now, being agnostic, biblical parallels are less persuasive. But if I were an inerrantist, I'd be backing off a fairly common argument against Mormonism.

Btw, Jeff. I'm having issues commenting under my new profile. I think it's because I didn't change my username at all, I only changed my email so as to remain anonymous while still making my Blogger profile public. Any chance your administrative powers can help?

openminded said...

(this is openminded--I can't seem to post under anything else). Throwing out words like "brainwashing" seems like glittering generalities.

Though someone did bring up how brainwashing might entail parents limiting the opinions their children are exposed to, and in my experience, some very devout family members have done this to their kids. Quite successfully too; anything that's a dissenting opinion to Mormonism can be labeled "anti", and then it's done. Association principle. Just like hypnotics use to deter people away from unhealthy food.

Now back to the real topic,
I've seen the Eastern Orthodox church use the same verses to validate their own (somewhat unique?) claims to theosis. In fact, a blog I read (that's not at all a Mormon affiliate) has made the claim that "the foundational source of the doctrine of theosis lies within the pages New Testament.[i] Although some interesting parallels exist in the writings of the some of the ancient Greek philosophers[ii] and Mystery Cults[iii] (and that some intimations of the doctrine can be read into the Old Testament and inter-Testament writings[iv]), there is no question that the early Church Fathers believed (and rightfully so) that the doctrine was clearly taught by Jesus Christ and His apostles, and as such, is to be found the New Testament writings."

Now I lost faith in the bible being anything more than spiritually-guided speculations of the authors who wrote each book a long time ago; but since doing so, I'm able to see how right the Mormon stance of theosis being a biblical concept is.

Something tells me the concept was just too threatening to admit to as a good 'ol evvie ;) of course, now, being agnostic, biblical parallels are less persuasive. But if I were an inerrantist, I'd be backing off a fairly common argument against Mormonism.

jackg said...

I believe that we can be perfect, that we do not have to sin. I'd like to clarify the Matthew 5 scripture Jeff uses: we are called to be perfect in love. What does that mean? When one is perfect in love, he or she will not break the Law. The 10 Commandments are rooted in love for God and love for our fellow men. Jesus further teaches us about loving God and each other when He breaks down the 10commandments into two: love God with everything we've got and with everything about us, and love each other as we love ourselves. When we love with that kind of love, we will not sin.

We are called to be Christ-like. This does not mean, however, that we will become gods. This is where Mormonism becomes heretical.

I would also like to add that Jeff's tone would lead one to believe that Christians don't believe in becoming Christ-like, that we think it's okay to sin. That is simply not true. The difference is highlighted perfectly by Jeff when he says that Mormons are not assured of their eternal status until after all their works have been judged and measured. He says that because he does not understand the word of God concerning works. Good works are the response of a saved soul, and are works God has already ordained for us to do to glorify Him--NOT to earn us salvation. The Bible is clear that the only thing our works could ever merit us is eternal death. Now, I don't know why Mormons respond so strongly when I say that the Work of Christ on the cross is what saves us, and all we have to do is believe. Naturally, we will show forth good works as evidence of our faith in Christ.

I find it humorous that Jeff refers to C.S. Lewis. A reading of "Mere Christianity" does not support any Mormon teachings. Anyway, the key to this quote is this: "He is going to make us creatures that can obey that command." Man becoming perfect is the work of the Holy Spirit. As C.S. Lewis also said, we can't do this work on our own steam. It is a process, and I know you all agree with that. But, we don't have to be perfect to be saved; in fact, Christ saves us while we are still sinners and enemies to Him. First, we are saved; then, we are made perfect. This is what Christians call sanctification.

You see, we are not born children of God. John makes this clear. Our relationship changes from creature to child when we come to faith on Jesus Christ. Since we are justified by our faith, our profession of faith is what triggers the new relationship with God and begins the process of sanctification.

I'm saved in God's Kingdom, today. It's not based on my works, but on my faith in Jesus Christ. That's blessed assurance.
That's what I pray all of you will come to understand and to experience. Your salvation (which means living eternally in the presence of God) is NOT dependent on what you do. What you do will be your love response for what God has done in your lives--NOT a prerequisite to salvation.

It's my prayer that you will all be freed by the true message of Good News that Jesus brought to us. You don't have to believe in anything Joseph Smith taught to be saved. Jesus completed the work of salvation. Why do you want to find fault with such a simple message?

Blessings...

jackg said...

I believe that we can be perfect, that we do not have to sin. I'd like to clarify the Matthew 5 scripture Jeff uses: we are called to be perfect in love. What does that mean? When one is perfect in love, he or she will not break the Law. The 10 Commandments are rooted in love for God and love for our fellow men. Jesus further teaches us about loving God and each other when He breaks down the 10commandments into two: love God with everything we've got and with everything about us, and love each other as we love ourselves. When we love with that kind of love, we will not sin.

We are called to be Christ-like. This does not mean, however, that we will become gods. This is where Mormonism becomes heretical.

I would also like to add that Jeff's tone would lead one to believe that Christians don't believe in becoming Christ-like, that we think it's okay to sin. That is simply not true. The difference is highlighted perfectly by Jeff when he says that Mormons are not assured of their eternal status until after all their works have been judged and measured. He says that because he does not understand the word of God concerning works. Good works are the response of a saved soul, and are works God has already ordained for us to do to glorify Him--NOT to earn us salvation. The Bible is clear that the only thing our works could ever merit us is eternal death. Now, I don't know why Mormons respond so strongly when I say that the Work of Christ on the cross is what saves us, and all we have to do is believe. Naturally, we will show forth good works as evidence of our faith in Christ.

I find it humorous that Jeff refers to C.S. Lewis. A reading of "Mere Christianity" does not support any Mormon teachings. Anyway, the key to this quote is this: "He is going to make us creatures that can obey that command." Man becoming perfect is the work of the Holy Spirit. As C.S. Lewis also said, we can't do this work on our own steam. It is a process, and I know you all agree with that. But, we don't have to be perfect to be saved; in fact, Christ saves us while we are still sinners and enemies to Him. First, we are saved; then, we are made perfect. This is what Christians call sanctification.

You see, we are not born children of God. John makes this clear. Our relationship changes from creature to child when we come to faith on Jesus Christ. Since we are justified by our faith, our profession of faith is what triggers the new relationship with God and begins the process of sanctification.

I'm saved in God's Kingdom, today. It's not based on my works, but on my faith in Jesus Christ. That's blessed assurance.
That's what I pray all of you will come to understand and to experience. Your salvation (which means living eternally in the presence of God) is NOT dependent on what you do. What you do will be your love response for what God has done in your lives--NOT a prerequisite to salvation.

It's my prayer that you will all be freed by the true message of Good News that Jesus brought to us. You don't have to believe in anything Joseph Smith taught to be saved. Jesus completed the work of salvation. Why do you want to find fault with such a simple message?

Blessings...

Papa D said...

"First, we are saved; then, we are made perfect. This is what Christians call sanctification."

and it's what Mormonism teaches. Sure, we often say it differently, but what you just said is what we teach.

I'm sorry, but I get really tired of being condemned for believing the same things that other Christians believe. A little consistency would be really nice.

I really do appreciate your prayers for us (and I mean that seriously), but it might be better to pray for people who actually disagree with the main points of your arguments. Just sayin'.

Quantumleap42 said...

As Papa D pointed out, some of the things that are taught by other Christian churches is the exact same doctrine that we teach, we just use different words. That is part of what is so frustrating in any dialogue between Mormons and Evangelicals (or Protestants in general). We use very similar words but they mean very different things. This is what contributes to so much misunderstanding.

For example, what jackg refers to as sanctification, Mormons would more commonly refer to as salvation, and what jack calls "being saved", Mormons would say something like "receiving a witness of the Holy Ghost" or "having a testimony" or "feeling the Spirit's witness". It is not on these points where we differ doctrinally, but it is generally on this point where most of the misunderstanding comes from. We can disagree on whether or not it is right to use the terms "saved" and "salvation" in those ways, but it does not actually reflect a difference in doctrine.

The doctrinal difference comes when we consider "the good" and "good works". As jack said, "Good works are the response of a saved soul". This sentence expresses the thought that man can do not good thing until they have been "saved" (or have received a witness from the Holy Spirit as Mormons would say). Thus after a man has been saved they can then exercise good works, through the grace of God. This comes from the strong influence of Luther's teaching on Protestantism of the depravity of man. But many Christians (not just Mormons) would argue that Good works can be done by those who have not yet been saved. That is Good works can be done by all people no matter their religion or belief (see C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle").

So while many Christians, especially in the US, hold to the idea that no Good works can be done before being saved (i.e. receiving the Holy Spirit), there are many Christians, Mormons included, the believe that Good works can be done by anyone at any time, even if they have not been "saved". While many people (including some Mormons) assume that our sanctification (or salvation) is brought about by good works, as our friend jack reminds us, it is only through the grace of God that we are saved. The difference in theology comes where Mormons believe that being saved means a preservation of our Good works. That is, we believe that our Good works will continue for all eternity because of the grace of God. We do not believe that our Good works will buy us the grace of God, but rather that the grace of God will preserve our Good works, and allow us to perform more good works. I think that concept is little understood, even by Mormons, and thus contributes to much confusion over what our Good works do for us, and how they play a part in our salvation.

Quantumleap42 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mateo said...

@ jack g,
Quantumleap42 hit on this and I'm just wondering if you can clarify. When you say that "good works are the product of a saved soul" are you stating that those who have been saved simply have a higher disposition to follow christ's teachings, or are you saying that this saving is a prerequisite to doing 'good works'? I had assumed the first one, but it seems Quantum is arguing the latter. Just wondering which it is.

If it is the first then there are some amusing similarities between the way that some LDS members view evangelical christianity and the way some christians view atheism/agnosticism/deism. For LDS members it is sometimes an issue of "well why would you be a good person if you already have a free ride into heaven?" Likewise the question is asked of those that don't believe in the judeo/christian concept of god, "if you don't think anyone is there that cares what you do, then why would you be a decent person?" (Whether this is a question that a 'good' christian should ask doesn't hide the fact that lots and lots of
them do see it this way. I've had tons of people ask me this before.) The answer is that only doing something because of fear of eternal punishment is not really why we do (nor why we SHOULD do) most things in life. I think that at it's core most LDS members try to lead good lives not because they believe it earns them a spot in heaven but because their understanding of christ and their faith encourages them to try and emulate his teachings and recorded behavior. This would be the same for other faithful christians (I would assume.)

jackg said...

We have people doing good works, such as philanthropists, who don't even believe in God. Before I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I guess I could say I was an okay person. I struggled with certain weaknesses and issues, but I didn't murder anyone or do anything to be thrown into prison. I guess one could say that before I came to Christ that I did do some good things. I think that Mormonism emphasizes the works of human beings over the work of Christ on the cross. I can only enter God's kingdom because of what Christ did in spite of what sins I committed.

PapaD claims to believe the way I believe, but Mormonism actually teaches that it's your good works that brings you into God's kingdom, so I don't know why he is so adamant to say we believe the same way. We don't, and I think it's clear that we don't. Now, if PapaD wants to believe the way I believe, he would have to denounce Mormonism, which is a works-based religion.

I know that you believe Christ saves us all because we will all resurrect, and that we then earn where we go...telestial, terrestial, or celestial kingdom, with the celestial kingdom being where God dwells. Yes, because of Christ's resurrection, we will all resurrect, but His work on the cross also gets us into God's kingdom. All we have to do is believe, which is what Christians mean when we say we are justified by our faith.

The biggest fallacy with Mormonism is the belief that your works will earn you godhood. You think you will become gods and create worlds and have saviors and that your spirit children will worship you. Christian perfection is something we agree on, but it's where Christian perfection takes us that we severely differ. So, PapaD, in reference to your first post on this thread, it's not the idea of becoming Christ-like that is perceived by Christians as the central heresy of Mormonism; rather, it's the heresy of humans becoming gods. So, please don't get such things confused.

Quantum,

Christian sanctification and Mormon salvation are not the same thing. You do speak correctly, however, when you say that our language isn't the same--and that's a heavy knock on Mormonism's misrepresentation of herself as a Christian religion.

Praying...

Mateo said...

@ jackg,
I think you're getting it pretty close but not exactly correct with what the LDS church teaches (and if I'm getting this wrong then someone please correct me.)

LDS members DO believe that without christ they cannot be saved or return to god. It doesn't matter if you're the greatest humanitarian on the planet and follow all the rules of LDS theology you are still an imperfect and sinful person that is unable to be reunited with a perfect heavenly father. In this sense LDS members are every bit as christian as you or any other and the doctrine is the same. What LDS members believe that differs however is that christ left a church that is the path to him and that following that church and receiving the ordinances therein are prerequisites for salvation. The prerequisites don't give salvation, it's just that not having them bars you from salvation. If that makes sense. Again. I might be egregiously misinformed on this but it's the way I had understood it. On top of that there seems to be (according to some LDS doctrines) a lot of possible leeway that is given to people after death. In other words most LDS members do NOT believe that evangelicals are going to be barred from the kingdom if they don't accept Mormonism during their lives. If LDS members were trying to downplay the importance of Christ and say that it was through the ordinances and guidance of Joseph Smith that they are saved then your points would be legitimate. That is not, however, the feeling I get from the vast majority of LDS members I have ever known.

I'm curious though, in your opinion, what is the meaning/purpose of the ten commandments, the sacrament, passover, or baptism? Are these just symbolic gestures that help bring people closer to Christ (but have no eternal significance) or are they physical tokens and rules that are necessary for salvation? It's a part I've never understood about religion in general. Mainly I just can't wrap my head around why god would require a dunking in water in order to enter his kingdom. It would make sense a symbolic gesture but to actually require it for entry to his kingdom (which LDS members seem to believe if baptisms for the dead are really needed)seems extremely absurd.

Papa D said...

jack, for what it's worth, I've studied comparative religion, Christian theology and other topics like that at a major, well-respected Divinity School - so please drop the "don't talk about what you don't understand" approach. I'm not "getting it wrong" with regard to these topics - and you still haven't said one word that negates what I said.

1) The Bible says humans can become perfect - in multiple places; in fact, it's a commandment of Jesus, himself. The Bible tells us to become (fill in the blank) explicitly because God is (fill in the blank). It really is one of the central themes of the entire Bible, from beginning to last. The only debate among respected Christian scholars is **what it means**.

3) The fact that it is an active DEBATE means that there is NO settled and obvious answer. Thus, it isn't "heretical" to believe what we believe, based solely on the Bible itself. It's only heretical to YOU and those who don't admit that there is no consensus.

4 You said, "I think that Mormonism emphasizes the works of human beings over the work of Christ on the cross." That's simply ludicrous - and I choose that word carefully and thoughtfully. The highest, holiest, most efficacious work ever done in the history of the world, according to Mormonism, was done by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha. There is NO debate in Mormonism about that. None. It simply is wrong to assert otherwise.

5) This is why I get tired of discussions like this. I am trying to have a Bible-based conversation about a topic that has been debated by theologians and lay members for centuries, and the only response I am getting is, "I'm right. You're wrong. I pray that you someday can see it the same way I do. Oh, and your wrong not because I can prove it Biblically, but because you follow Joseph Smith over Jesus."

6) That last assertion isn't ludicrous; it's much worse than ludicrous. There really is NO response to it that is worth making, since it simply is an unassailable and totally ignorant charicature.

So, having said all of that, please, I repeat one more time, show me Biblically why humans can't become like God. Take the many, many times the Bible says we can and actually commands it and explain them away. Take other verses and/or passages and show why they say it's impossible. If you can't do that, then at least admit that it's a viable reading of the text and part of an unsettled debate.

Please.

Quantumleap42 said...

Jack, I liked how you said, "First, we are saved; then, we are made perfect. This is what Christians call sanctification." I think that is a very good way of putting it. Believe me when I say that that is (or should be) the goal of every Christian, Mormons included. The reason why I said that your concept of sanctification (being made perfect) is equivalent to what Mormons refer to as salvation is because if you were to talk to just about any Mormon they would most likely include becoming perfect as a part of salvation. So for some things we do not believe differently, we just use the words differently. If both the connotative and denotative definitions of the words we use are different then that does not automatically create a heresy, nor does that automatically disqualify us from being Christians. Our (Mormon) only request of other Christians is that we ask that you judge our Christian status, not on whether or not we use the same words as you, but on our personal belief in Christ and our Christian acts.

Mateo said...

@ papa D,
That was really well put. Thanks! I definitely struggle to understand what people mean when they say Mormons don't follow Christ, or that they aren't "true" Christians. I've never once heard an LDS person say or insinuate that they can be saved by their works alone or without Christ.

Anonymous said...

I've never once heard an LDS person say or insinuate that they can be saved by their works alone or without Christ.

Yes, what jackg says is a strawman.

All we have to do is believe, which is what Christians mean when we say we are justified by our faith.

Faith without works is dead.

Rich said...

Mateo,
I'm not who you asked about baptism but I would also like to comment on it. Baptism IS symbolic. I was taught, and I also taught others, that baptism is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Christ. It's an act to show our commitment to follow Christ. It is also a new beginning as a person forgiven of sin. It must be an important part of the gospel as Christ himself was baptized. It may seem absurd but if Christ himself did it, doesn't that in and of itself make it important?

Rich said...

Jack g
Could you please explain to me the difference between God/Christ-like and Being a God?
As far as works. Eccl 12:14(For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.) Matt 16:27(For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.) Psalms 62:12(Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.)
For what purpose are our works being judged? What reward? None of it is the same work that Christ did, that could ONLY be done by Christ. But that doesn't keep us from having things to do(work) that earn us a reward from our judgement. Biblical as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

Well actually this isn't such a big deal. It's Mormonism and if you're a Mormon it's no big mystery regarding perfection. Mormonism is a religion that teaches and believes that men will become gods just like all of the other gods in the cosmos. These gods all started out as sinful men and through a process of clean living and practicing certain rites of the religion, and for those fundamentalists, secure numerous wives......the end result is personal deification. This is the essence of Mormonism and will lead someone to work like crazy to become a god.
Now in Christianity, we believe there is one God. There are sects of Christianity, the holiness churches for example, that really get into the idea of working towards the goal of, well, holiness. These groups tend to be very legalistic i.e. lots of rules and regulations. None-the-less they are Christian in the basic fundamental doctrines of the faith.
So anyway, the motivation for these folks and their legalistic system is to please God.
The Mormon goal is to become a god.
I don't know of any Christian that believes that they can, once having received Christ as Lord and Savior, have a free ticket to sin with impunity. I think Mormons like to repeat that Christians do believe this because it fits in well with the Mormon narrative.
Here's the deal, as a believer in Christ and having accepted His sacrifice on the cross as total payment for my sins, my life is a thank you to Him for what He did for me. Something I couldn't have done for myself; that is achieved a level of holiness to make myself acceptable to God.
But here's the deal, if a Mormon wants to strive to achieve sinless perfection I say go for it. The problem is, it won't make you into a god and it certainly wouldn't get you saved in the manner revealed in the Bible.
So I don't argue with Mormons about Mormonism in the sense that what they say has validity within their own religion, but it has none where it really counts and that is in the Court where God lives.

Mateo said...

@ the last Annon (serioulsy people why the heck can't you take a couple of minutes to crate a non annonymous profile. This is ridiculously confusing)

"These gods all started out as sinful men and through a process of clean living and practicing certain rites of the religion, and for those fundamentalists, secure numerous wives......the end result is personal deification."

Lol. Wut?

Again, that's not what the LDS church teaches. Not the way that you're stating it there. It's like when atheists mock christians for thinking that snakes can talk. You're over simplifiying their beliefs in order to make a mockery of them. Again there is not ANY LDS person that believes they will be saved by their own actions. They believe that it is by the power or christ's atonement that they can be washed clean. While LDS members DO put a strong focus on certain actions they don't believe that those actions can counteract their sins. At least not any of the LDS people I've met so far.

There is a lot of weirdness with the idea that a person must be baptized or receive other ordinances in order to be forgiven of their sins, but that's not just a Mormon thing. Plenty of the religions that you say ARE christian follow similar ideas. Most of them see baptism as necessary for Christ's atonement to work on the person. The LDS doctrine just adds a lot more ordinances that are involved.

Lamdaddy said...

I fully agree with Papa D's very first comment. This topic is the most logical doctrine of the church and answers life's simplest and most important questions. It also coincides with all of the teachings of Jesus better than anything else I have ever heard.
Questions to those critical: what better answers do you have to offer? For example, why did God create us? Why are we here? If we aren't supposed to learn and grow and move forward after this life, what will we be doing? If God embodies happiness and love and power, why wouldn't He want us to be like Him?

Patrick said...

I’m LDS. No big surprise there. If you’ve read my post in the past then you should already know that. Where I live the public schools aren’t cutting it so we send my 13 year old son to a private school. The school is run by the Dutch Reformed Christian Church. As part of his curriculum he attends Chapel and studies their variation of Trinitarian Christianity. Occasionally the school has assemblies that bring in outside groups. Last year one of these groups was a rock band that had set up a large wooden cross. During the show they invited kids in the audience to come up and sign their name on the cross to signify their acceptance of Christ as their Savior. In traditional Christianity the signing of the cross is not the saving act, but the mental acceptance of Christ, a physical act just the same.

Now it’s 2011 and the rock band is back at my son’s school. Last year he didn’t go up to sign the cross, a choice he made on his own. Remembering the sideward glances of his schoolmates last year, my son was feeling a bit of peer pressure to go up and sign the cross. To some of those kids the fact that you haven’t signed the cross and made a public declaration of faith means you haven’t accepted Christ yet. I asked my son if he had accepted Christ as his Savior and how he did it. His response, “Yes, and I showed it through baptism.” I explained to my son that baptism was a public demonstration of our acceptance of Christ. I asked my son if he felt the need to publicly demonstrate again his acceptance of Christ by signing the cross. His response, “No.”

I’m aware of only one Christ sanctioned method for demonstrating our initial acceptance of Him. Only one method for declaring outwardly our internal mental choice. From the lips of Christ:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Luke 16:16

Are we called on to demonstrate daily our acceptance of Christ? Yes, not by signing a wooden cross, but by taking up our cross daily by living a Christ-like life. Again from the lips of Christ, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27. Living a Christ-like life requires effort, a bearing of the cross, an overcoming of this being that is so easily distracted by the physical world of things. Your obedience may be a “love response” to Christ, but that doesn’t negate the fact that money still attracts, that dark chocolate still tastes good, and alcohol still gives you a warm buzz. Discipleship is hard work. A sincere disciple becomes godlike because of a concerted self-effort encouraged by and sometimes enhanced by the Divine. Our agency to choose is never violated by God. If we become godlike it is not due to some passive conversion affected by God, but because we made a conscious decision followed by conscious effort to go down that path.

Patrick said...

Continued....

Do LDS believe that it is the baptism and the hard work of discipleship that saves us, that gets us into God’s presence? The answer is no. Jacob teaches us in the Book of Mormon “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.” 2 Nephi 10:24-25. What is this reconciling to God that Jacob teaches? It’s reorienting ourselves onto the straight and narrow path, and taking up our cross. It’s our acceptance of Him and our effort to live the life of a disciple. The result of this effort is a mortal being acquiring Divine Character. Ultimately at the end of all this mortal effort we won’t be perfect, but due to the power of the atonement and due to the Grace of God we will be acceptable to Him. And, we will be allowed to live in His presence and continue to acquire Divine Character.

So why work so hard to acquire Divine Character during this mortal life? Jacob also teaches us, “Therefore, cheer up you hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves-to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” 2 Nephi 10:23. This freedom to choose what path we take does not end at death, and when we stand before God as resurrected being we still have this freedom to choose. A man who found satisfaction in a self-centered life will not suddenly be jumping at the opportunity to give himself up. An outward centered life is learned through living self-denying behaviors. As God revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19. We attain unto Divine Character and Divine Behavior now because ultimately that’s the nature of those who live with God. At no point will we be forced to live such a life. Only those who are reconciling themselves to God, are orienting their behaviors to becoming like God, will find happiness and comfort living in the presence of God. If you choose otherwise there are other pleasant places awaiting your arrival.

I am thankful for this doctrine for I am a self-centered man. I’m grateful for the knowledge that through my conscious decisions to accept Christ followed by my daily effort to turn my sight outward, that I am acceptable to Christ. I may live every day of my mortal existence plagued by my shortsighted, self-centered behaviors, but Christ will continue to encourage me, to teach me, to love me, until that perfect day when I will see that I am as He is. I thank thee Father for your grace and patience.