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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remembering the Words of Jesus

"Mormons don't rely on Christ but think they can be righteous and worthy by keeping commandments." This was one of the themes recently hurled in my face several times by a minister who was teaching a woman and others that her sweet LDS parents weren't Christian and were going to hell. He was especially offended by the idea of Mormons getting a temple recommend card to signify that they were "worthy" (he hated that word) to go the LDS temple.

A healthy counterbalance to such rhetoric can be found in the words of Jesus, which might not be considered as often as they should be in some circles. In recent posts I've pointed out how Christ responded that we should "keep the commandments" if we wanted eternal life--a request of His that clearly was not sarcastic, as this minister argued.

Matthew 5 is one example of many. The words of Christ in this sermon are focused not on one-time belief or salvation by faith alone, but on a lifelong journey of obeying God and eliminating bad behavior. He teaches us how to live and behave in order to more fully follow Him. It is a call for us to pursue righteousness, though we know it is only through His Atonement that we can overcome death and sin, or have any hope of truly choosing righteousness. No amount of obedience on our own can do anything to change our fallen nation or remove our sins, but His grace is offered to us in a covenant relationship to cleanse us and bless us. But that covenant involves our participation. We accept His grace by accepting Him and seeking to follow Him and yes, even obey Him, imperfect as we are. Keeping commandments in this covenant relationship does not create the tree of life, but gives us access to it, as Jesus Himself spoke to John in Rev. 22:14: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life."

Matthew 7 makes similar points, urging us to pursue the journey found on the straight and narrow way and warning us that the fruits of our choices and actions show whom we serve, and that those who profess belief and claim to have been great men of God yet have done works of iniquity will be cast out. It is doing his will, not just professing with our lips or claiming to be believers, that matters: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)

He is not denying His own grace in saying this. He is not casting Himself out from true Christianity. He is teaching what He taught in his premortal role as Jehovah and what He teaches now as our resurrected Lord and Savior who sits on the right hand of the Father, doing all things to rescue us, if only we will let Him by exercising faith, repenting, and seeking to follow Him. The message of repentance, by the way, is not a Mormon heresy, but reflects some of the first words of Christ as He began teaching the world: "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17)

The word "worthy," by the way, reflects a goal of following Christ and does not imply self-sufficiency, perfection, or not needing grace. See how it is used in the scriptures. Also, if Paul could warn against partaking of the bread and wine "unworthily," is it not possible that other rituals or ordinances might require some degree of "worthiness"?

152 comments:

Carey said...

So, why did God even bother giving commandments if there is no real obligation to keep them?

Its hard to imagine keeping the commandments your whole life only to die and stand before God where he says "How dare you believe that you actually had to keep my commandments! Off to hell with you!"

And in anguish we'll say, "Why oh Why did I actually try following Jesus by keeping the commandments, when all I had to do was say a one-time non-biblical pre-written prayer accepting Jesus into my heart!"

The whole "Mormons believe in a different Jesus" thing is pretty stupid. However, if "mainstream" Christians believe in a God/Jesus that sends people to hell for believing they have to keep his commandments, perhaps we do believe in a different Jesus after all.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, that minister really got to you didn't he?
I mean, several posts about the same topic of Mormons not fitting in the Christian category, and all in the past week.
I am not sure all this Biblical 'proof' and commenter's posts dripping with sarcasm is going to do much to change minds.

Papa D said...

Changing minds is one thing, but sometimes you just have to vent. *grin*

Alan said...

I used to have a slight problem with this "worthy" thing for many years. Then when I decided it was time to get worthy, my Bishop used the word "ready" instead of worthy. Then it finally made sense to me. Everything you have to do, is just preparing you so that you are ready/worthy for the temple. To me it would be kind of like sending someone off to college without them ever going to school.
Looking back on it now, if I didn't do everything it takes to be "worthy". I don't think I would have had as a wonderful experience as I did. Being "worthy" prepared me for the temple.

thatgoodpart said...

This is a good post, and the idea of "works" working with "grace" makes so much sense to me.

often, when I think of how Christ's grace saves us, I realize that there is a condition - it is based on our willingness to receive his grace. This willingness is shown as we put our wills on His altar - and bear good fruit. (which, by the way is another thing Christ spends a lot of time talking about - the branches that don't bear good fruit are cast away...He doesn't say branches that bear bad fruit are burned, but those that don't bear good fruit - even the infertile branches - are cast out and burned).

If we follow Christ by being obedient, keeping the commandments, and bearing good fruit, then we can be found worthy to receive His Grace.

Anyway...Good food for thought, and good post.

Robert Boylan said...

Don't forget Ps 106:30-31, where Phinehas is said to have been "credited with righteousness" due to his good works (cf. Numbers 25). This is said of only two people in the Bible, the other being Abraham in Gen 15:6.

Modern scholarship chows at the "Sola Fides"/imputed righteousness/legal fiction of most brands of Protestantism; the book by Vanlandingham, Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul, and the works of the likes of Wright, Dunn, Fitzmyer and others just bolster the evidence against this minister's theology.

FWIW,

Robert B.

Serendipity said...

John 14:15 says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Would not our devotion to keeping the commandments be the "fruits" and "acts" the Lord most desires of us? I would think that keeping the commandments would be preferable to ignoring them and commiting more sin for which He must suffer.

catholic defender said...

Hi All,

This seems to go back to an earlier post Jeff had about "faith alone" v "works alone" thinking. My thought is there is this disconnect going on. What I have been taught from very early on, is that Christ came to bring a new covenant. That new covenant really amounts to a different way to interpret keeping the commandments. Christ really only taught two commandments, Love God with your whole heart and soul; and, Love your neighbour as you love yourself. If you look at those two commandments in light of how they relate to the law of Moses and the 10 commandments, the two commandments Christ gave, really encompass the original commandments given to Moses.

It is still necessary to follow God's commandments, but really only the two Christ gave are important. I say that because if you are loving God with your whole heart, then you are likely not out there stealing from others, or committing adultery. If your are loving your neighbour as yourself, then you probably are not coveting his things or his wife because doing so contradicts that commandment. From my vantage point this seems almost a silly debate since Christ tells us exactly what we need to do. The hard part is doing it.

As for the debate about Mormons believing in a different God and Christ, I would point out that there is some validity to that debate. Remember that most mainstream Christians are Trinitarian in their belief. That means that they, myself included, believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one in being. For Trinitarians, God is God, he's Jehovah or Yahweh, or the God of Abraham, or the God "I am." Jesus is still that same God, just God made man.

Mormons believe in three distinct and separate beings. You call God "Elohim" and Jesus "Jehovah." The Holy Spirit is called the Holy Ghost, but LDS still view him as a seperate entity from Christ and God. Mormons are not Trinitarians in thier approach to God and Jesus. From that perspective, you do not worship the same God and Jesus that mainstream Christians worship. That makes you different, it doesn't necessarily make you non-Christian.

In terms of the temple, I must admit the idea of some Bishop interviewing me and telling me I'm worthy to enter the temple because I've paid my tithing, and kept the WOW, and have kept other covenants, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That just feels wrong to me, and it feels absolutely contradictory to Christ's message that all are welcome. I will admit though, that I do not see the need for the temple at all, since from my perspective, God's temple is housed in our hearts. The idea of a physical building being needed by God, just doesn't make sense. The other thing that has always troubled me about the temple, is that it is closed to those who need to be in God's presence the most. Remember Christ primarily gave his message to those who were deemed unworthy by the society at the time. Christ's message was not primarily to the Saducees and Pharisees, but was to the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the downtrodden... the sinners. These were the folks Christ took his message to. They were the ones who needed the message of hope Christ brought, and they were the ones who needed to know the grace of God. In my mind, they still are, and are the ones most in need of being in God's presence. Having the temple closed to them, seems to be a huge contradiction of Christ's main message. That troubles me greatly about LDS doctrine. But, I don't say this to condemn, I'm just pointing out an issue that many mainstream christians have. Take care all.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

CF said...

Catholic Defender:

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

I don't believe in a Jesus that can take a man out of the sewer, but that he can take the sewer out of a man. In other words, we must seek His help to get out of sin and the "natural man", "For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man."

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

Jesus gave men the authority to act, through the Spirit, as judges for the members of His Church. The purpose: "for the perfecting of the saints" and to make us "unto a perfect man". As we strive for perfection, through His grace, we qualify to enter the strait and narrow gate.

The doctrine of Christ may make some uncomfortable, but so is the rough stone within the hands of the Crafter. Perfection is not reached without passing through the Refiner's fire.

mkprr said...

Catholic defender,

I agree that our idea of God is contradictory to parts of the mainstream understanding of the trinity. It is however consistent with Biblical scripture.

that is not to say that your understanding of the trinity is contradictory to the bible, I think there is enough evidence taking the bible alone to support either view. Both LDS and Catholics however don't take the bible to be the only authority. It is the other authorities we both look to that contradict one another on this, and many other subjects.

Ray said...

"is it not possible that other rituals or ordinances might require some degree of 'worthiness'?"

As an example of that, how about Mathew 5:24? "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

CF said...

"your understanding of the trinity is contradictory to the bible"

The great irony here is that the word "Trinity" doesn't even exist in the Bible.

Openminded said...

I think the great irony is that there isn't much of a pronouncement about what God really is in the Bible.

I'm fairly certain a lot of true believers went to Hell before the Council of Nicea, under fundamentalist standards.

Mostly boils down to why people accept one authority over another, which I'm willing to bet has a fairly human component behind it, considering how many spiritually-vindicated beliefs are out there. Especially ones that entirely contradict each other.

Pops said...

Well, we could start with man being created in the image of God. That tells us something valuable.

Openminded said...

Sure it does. But what does it mean?

Everyone here who's ever defended their view against other views of the bible realizes one important thing: a verse can say whatever the person interpreting it believes it says. Man was created in the image of God? So does he have a body? Are we just a projection? Do we just have some of His qualities? One or all of those possibilities, and why or why not?

The Mormons have their answer because of Smith, the fundamentalists because of Nicea, and loads of different views probably exist among all the followers, each probably as justifiable as the next.

Pops said...

The sentence itself is rather simple in structure and obvious in meaning. The many extant interpretations are indicative of the human capacity for self-deception, desire for justification, and disdain for truth.

Openminded said...

"The many extant interpretations are indicative of the human capacity for self-deception, desire for justification, and disdain for truth."

This just says it all. Though I'm sure your interpretations of every scripture are above this.

Papa D said...

"As far as it is translated correctly" really should keep Mormons from getting dogmatic about the Bible - but it doesn't always stop me. LOL

Anonymous said...

@Pops, oh you smarty, you are so right, Humans just disdain truth. Why didn't anyone ever think of that before? It is all so simple now, If anyone does not come to the same conclusion you or your Church have, then they just disdain truth. How arrogant.
J

Pops said...

Sorry if I ruffled your feathers - it was just an observation on how even the simplest things get turned into "it doesn't mean what it says".

Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" and it gets turned into some kind of evil doctrine to teach that keeping the commandments is a good thing. Go figure.

Pops said...

This is off topic, but I think it's worth saying.

Christ taught that the knowledge of truth will make us free. There are two important ways to not know the truth. One is ignorance, and the other is self-deception.

We are all terribly ignorant. It's part of being human. In my experience, God cares about those of us who suffer from ignorance, and he leaves personalized bread crumbs on the trail for us.

On the other front, perhaps the chief cause of self-deception is self-betrayal. The human mind does a terrible thing when we commit an act of self-betrayal. It attempts to justify the act, to the point that we can lose a reality (a truth) we once knew. In that regard, the commandments and teachings of Christ are geared to warn us of behaviors and thought patterns that either constitute self-betrayal, or lead us to acts of self-betrayal. When we commit acts of self-betrayal and are caught up in self-deception, we cannot escape without the assistance of God and others. [For more on the relationship between self-betrayal and self-deception, check out the Arbinger Institute.]

God cares about those of us caught up in self-deception. (I think I'm seeing a trend here.) In my experience, he will, figuratively speaking, smack us on the side of the head with a 2x4 in an attempt to bring us back to our senses. One of our greatest fears should be that God will give up on us and stop sending wake-up calls. If and when that happens to anyone, it will be over for them. This is the meaning of "damned", meaning no further progress is possible.

Pride is a huge obstacle to knowing the truth and becoming free. Pride tells us we aren't ignorant and aren't in self-deception. It's a shield that prevents us from seeing bread crumbs on the trail, and also protects us from the wake-up calls that would correct our course.

My comment about self-deception and aversion to truth was merely an observation of the human condition. It wasn't an attempt to say, "My version of truth is better than your version of truth, neener neener."

Sometimes defenders of faiths (and non-faiths) get caught up in pride and arrogance, myself included. We should keep in mind that the point of blogs like this one is not so much to convince others that its perspective on truth is the Only True Perspective so much as it is to counter assertions that its perspective couldn't possibly be a correct perspective. Nobody is going to be convinced against their will of anything, we all understand that. What we should be doing here is putting the cards on the table so we can all make informed choices and learn from each other.

Pops said...

Catholic Defender said:

In terms of the temple, I must admit the idea of some Bishop interviewing me and telling me I'm worthy to enter the temple because I've paid my tithing, and kept the WOW, and have kept other covenants, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That just feels wrong to me, and it feels absolutely contradictory to Christ's message that all are welcome.

That's not what happens. The interview is an opportunity for the interviewee to be reminded (by the questions) of what constitutes worthiness in the eyes of the Church, and then to make a declaration of worthiness. The last question, in fact, is something along the lines of "Do you consider yourself worthy..." The Bishop has the option of disagreeing with the interviewee, though I'm not sure that ever happens.

Worthiness to enter the temple is important because it is, or represents, a higher realm. You're aware that the unworthy will be restricted from entering heaven ("...no unclean thing"), right?

And, of course, all are invited to join with us in our Sunday worship service.

Openminded said...

My comment about self-deception and aversion to truth was merely an observation of the human condition. It wasn't an attempt to say, "My version of truth is better than your version of truth..."

My comment was more along the lines of, why is your belief one that should be considered? And I don't mean just your interpretation of biblical verses. I mean with all this self-deception that can make people justify anything, why are your beliefs trustworthy in the first place?

Pops said...

...why are your beliefs trustworthy in the first place...

Why should anyone's beliefs be trustworthy? Therein lies your answer.

Openminded said...

Well yes, but mine doesn't allow much room for religious faith. What is your answer?

NathanS said...

Openminded:

Your comment:
"...mine doesn't allow much room for religious faith..."

My comment:
"Doesn't allow" doesn't sound as openminded as your name implies. Perhaps your name here is also your aspiration. I wish you success.

P.S. The whole nation of Isreal was found unworthy to enter the Promised Land for 40 years - until all had died off who were aged 20 and above at the time of their departure from Egypt, except for Joshua and Caleb.

And none were worthy to go on the mount and be close to God when the Ten Commandments were given except for Moses.

Because LDS recognize Jesus, 1, as that Spiritual Rock that led the Children of Israel across the Red Sea and 2, as the God that gave the Ten Commandments, and as temples are in leu of the mountain climb to receive a spiritual encounter with God, our requirement of worthiness for entrance into the temple has strong biblical precedence and reasoning.

Fortunately for us, strong precedence and our reasoning are not our only strengths on this point. Our real strength comes from instruction from that God that does not change, that God that always has required worthiness for some (not all) of His blessings and always will.

These doctrines will continue to be true, valuable, and of Christ, whether you become Openminded about them or not.

Pops said...

Well yes, but mine doesn't allow much room for religious faith.

That's well and good. I would never presume to deny you the right to believe as you wish. But since you won't explain what constitutes trustworthiness of beliefs, you are apparently left without an answer.

Openminded said...

"doesn't allow" was followed up by "much room", Nathan. And for the record, I was a fundamentalist Evangelical until I realized that my own faith was false for a lot of the reasons I found Mormonism to be false. Being open minded, in my opinion, means accepting new beliefs to be true if the evidence points strongly enough in a certain direction, regardless of how threatening the new belief is. And if I see enough reason for religious faith, I'll gladly take it back. Giving up Christianity wasn't a cake walk, and I'm not very open about it with my friends and family.

Pops,
I give credibility to beliefs much like I give any factual claim credibility. There are a lot of factors, like the trustworthiness of a source, lack of anachronisms, physical evidence (if possible), lack of (condemning) plagiarism, etc. There isn't much room for miracles either, though my only problem with miracles, really, is the issue of who reports them and whether or not a natural cause could've been behind a miracle (which is why Young Earth Creationism is nothing more than wishful thinking).

For instance, we have the words of Jesus for when he was in the desert. Alone. Speaking with Satan at times, but otherwise completely isolated for a long span of time. I see no reason to accept the words attributed to Jesus as the actual words of Jesus. This reasoning can then applied to accounts of miracles, a lot of the book of Acts, and the majority of the historical accounts of the Bible in general.

So when Nathan makes proclamations that reasoning is on his side and points out how doctrines made in the Bible remain to be true whether people are Openminded or not, he forgets that there's little reason to accept the Bible beyond opinion; and so really, he just has strong opinion on his side.

Strong opinion which, by using the means he used to justify the Bible as factual, could easily justify other religious texts that disagree with his belief in Jesus. We might as well say that parts of the Odyssey were factual (or at least scriptural) with all the junk made possible by the story of Moses.

NathanS said...

Nice reply, Openminded. Good points on my writing. I didn't afford the time to work out a more careful wording. As for opinion being the primary support for the bible, I'll agree to disagree for now. May your quest be fruitful.

BTW Jeff, nice post.

jackg said...

Carey,

Good luck to you when you stand before God and try to justify your entrance into heaven on the merits of your works. You see, the only thing you or I could ever merit for ourselves is death. Yes, death. We are all sinners who have fallen short of the mark. If you don't agree with me, just go ahead and read 1 John.

It seems that you would have nothing to do with grace. Just the mere mention of the word 'grace' puts Mormons on the defensive.

Let me use your reasoning: (God speaking): "How dare you believe that you were justified by your faith, saved by grace, so that no man may boast. How dare you believe that salvation was a gift from me to you. You got it all wrong, Theophilus, the only thing the death of Jesus did was make it possible to earn your way into my presence through your works. Off to hell with you!"

We will always be on different sides, Carey. You will be on the side where JS is authoritative; I will be on the side where God's Word, the biblical text, is authoritative.

God's grace is amazing, but it's not experienced in the Mormon Church--and that is very sad, indeed.

Blessings...

Anonymous said...

I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for 44 years. My understanding of the scriptures is that Jesus Christ freely gave me immortality. I believe that is His grace that I fully accept. I certainly need all of His help in the resurrection of my body! I rely completely upon Him for this gift! I also understand from the scriptures that as I try to follow Him,obey His commandments, learn to love as He loves, that I can be assured He will also help me with these things. As I am not very good at them, (He is the only perfect person) through His atonement and crucifiction He again provides me with grace to receive salvation. I like knowing that even after all I may try to do in this life, to be a good person, Jesus Christ will ultimately save me and provide me with salvation and eternal life. And this He can do because He can extend His grace to all those who believe in Him. I have faith in Jesus Christ, and the only way I know to show Him that I believe in Him is through my thoughts, actions and words -- in the doing of life.

Pops said...

@Openminded:

Excellent response. Recognize that what you've done is describe a few of the rules by which you separate reality from fantasy. It's something all sane people do.

One way to think of it is that we each construct a box in which we live, a box that defines our reality. In other words, the purpose of the box is to separate reality from fantasy (preferably with reality on the inside of the box). One of the important rules of rationality is that the contents of the box - those concepts and ideas we allow in, our subjective model of objective reality - must be consistent. (You said "anachronisms" where I believe you meant "contradictions"...)

Open-minded people recognize that a great deal of reality must exist outside their box, along with an infinite amount of fantasy. They're constantly probing and experimenting to see what changes might be made to their box in order to admit more reality, all the while keeping fantasy at bay. They spend time looking outside their box to see if there are patterns and rules they might have missed in the construction of their box, and are eager to make careful and thoughtful modifications when warranted by the evidence.

Closed-minded people think their boxes are pretty much perfect the way they are - there is no reality outside the box, they reason, only fantasy, and thus there is no need to fiddle with the box or consider anything outside the box.

Irrational people have a hard time detecting internal inconsistencies of the stuff they've allowed into their box.

Insane people just knock the walls down and let it all in.

Some of the walls of our boxes are constructed unconsciously, and so we aren't aware of them. That's how self-deception happens. For example, take the case of a person with a large contradiction between their behavior and their beliefs. Contradictions are uncomfortable, so we try to eliminate them. If that person doesn't recognize the contradiction and alter their behavior to eliminate it, their subconscious will often move the wall of their box in so as to eliminate the contradiction. To be more concrete, a compulsive shoplifter may have been taught that stealing is wrong, but because they have difficulty altering their behavior to eliminate the contradiction, their subconscious will tend to pull in the wall of their box to eliminate the belief that stealing is wrong.

A lot of what happens in the comments of this blog consists of one person telling another that their model of reality is wrong and stupid. It would serve us better if we respected the belief frameworks of others and made more effort to explain why we maintain a different framework - some of us are better at this than others.

Pops said...

Good luck to you when you stand before God and try to justify your entrance into heaven on the merits of your works.

Yeah, especially the part where he says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"

A rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. ["Inherit" suggests "qualify", as opposed to "earn".] Jesus's first response, that he must keep the commandments, would qualify him for the Terrestrial Kingdom. Upon learning that the young man was pretty much already qualified for that degree of glory, Jesus raised the bar by telling the young man what he must do to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. But his heart, being set on his riches, prevented him from qualifying for the Celestial Kingdom on that day. I hope he had a change of heart later in life.

Rich said...

Jackg,

Could you explain what constitutes "works" to you? Since you seem to see that keeping the commandments is important, but have a different reasoning behind why. Mormons have all kinds of room for grace, if you don't think so then you've missed a good part of LDS theology. We don't believe that we get into heaven based on the merits of our works, we believe that keeping the commandments and performing certain ordinances are what show to God our willingness to follow him. There are things that we teach are necessary to enter heaven. Baptism is one, and if Christ himself was baptized there must be something to it. I just think it would be helpful to know what you think constitutes works to you so I could understand your points a little better.
Thank you

Rich said...

Jackg,

Could you explain what constitutes "works" to you? Since you seem to see that keeping the commandments is important, but have a different reasoning behind why. Mormons have all kinds of room for grace, if you don't think so then you've missed a good part of LDS theology. We don't believe that we get into heaven based on the merits of our works, we believe that keeping the commandments and performing certain ordinances are what show to God our willingness to follow him. There are things that we teach are necessary to enter heaven. Baptism is one, and if Christ himself was baptized there must be something to it. I just think it would be helpful to know what you think constitutes works to you so I could understand your points a little better.
Thank you

Rich said...

oops, sorry bout the double post

Openminded said...

Nathan,
Thank you. Disagreeing is a good idea right now, it's a fairly broad topic to get into. I'm sure both our lives will be just fine either way, though.

Papa D,
Thank you too. And great description with the box. I did some research into social psychology in my psyc class, and a lot of the research backs up what you mentioned (especially looking at cognitive dissonance theory and why people change beliefs or attitudes).

I feel like frameworks are the root of what we're getting at. Jackg doesn't seem to understand the Mormon concept of grace so Rich is trying to reconcile his beliefs with jack's, but we all know where that conversation is going.

It reminds me of a quote I read in an article about Stephen Hawking's new book this one time:
"A few years ago, the city council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved bowls. This law was meant to protect the poor fish from a distorted nature of reality, since bent light might show them an odd portrayal of their surroundings.

Hawking and Mlodinow bring up the incident to make the point that it is impossible to know the true nature of reality. We think we have an accurate picture of what's going on, but how would we know if we were metaphorically living in a giant fishbowl of our own, since we would never be able to see outside our own point of view to compare?"

Openminded said...

Meant to add:
And so we argue inside our own frame of reality, some of which we all share. But after a year of discussing Mormonism, the frame we all come from has become more familiar to me.

So even back when I was a strong believer in the Bible, I would shy away from arguing interpretation. More so on why the Spirit was credible when nearly every religion had some "manifestation" of the Spirit. Some reconcile that with "well, they have bits of truth here and there, but not all of it" but their belief had a basis in...whatever the spirit justified for them. Circular logic, you know.

Shameful how well it works.

Rich said...

While I can see where you would get that impression, openminded, I'm not trying to reconcile my beliefs with Jackg. I'm trying to understand his viewpoints better. When he says works what does he mean specifically.

catholic defender said...

Hi Pops,

I've actually been invited to sit in on my wife's temple recommend interviews on a couple occasions, so I am somewhat familiar with the questions asked. It actually isn't the questions that are asked that trouble me, its the whole idea that someone would ask those questions in the first place. My worthiness is a question between God and I, no one else. Its a huge breach of that intimate relationship with one's creator to have another person interview you, and then give you a card that says you're worthy to enter what is purported to be God's house. Its the idea that by carrying that card, you now have something that can give you the impression that you're more worthy than the next guy to be there. I realize having that impression probably makes you unworthy to go to the temple, but think about human nature. Can we as imperfect human beings, in our American culture, really not feel we are better than the next guy when we have something as powerful as a card that allows us to enter God's house and they don't. Try they might, and I think most LDS members do try not to have that feeling, that entitlement still comes across.

The truth is that none of us are worthy to enter God's presence. Jesus did say that no unclean thing can be in the house of the Lord. But think about who we are and how imperfect we are as humans. Not one of us is worthy to be in the house of the Lord. We are all unclean. It really is only by God's grace that we get to return to him, because on our own, we just are not going to measure up.

I would never do this, but having sat through the Temple Recommend questions, I pretty much know what would be asked, and I pretty much could answer them in a way that I would be found worthy to enter the temple. Does that really make me worthy to do so? No, the reason is neither I nor anyone else is really worthy to go there. We are all equal in that regard, yet God sent his son to us to give us hope. That message of hope went out to those who were the most hopeless and needed to hear it the most. That message still needs to be going to those that are the most hopeless. But, from my vantage point, in terms of the temple, it doesn't. Just my thoughts.


Sincerely

Catholic Defender

mkprr said...

To Catholic Defender


You pose some interesting concerns. Perhaps some Temple recommend holders have felt that way. I don’t think it is as big of a problem as you may think though. Do you feel better than non Catholics when you partake of the Eucharist? Do you feel better than an atheist because you can speak with God through prayer when they can’t? My guess would be that you don’t, these experiences are humbling in nature, they don’t boost a self righteous pride if properly understood. I can only speak for myself, but being able to visit the temple has been a very humbling experience.
Also, what are you feelings about the requirement of celebacy for catholic priests, nuns and monks? How do you feel about confessing sins to a Catholic priest?

mkprr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mkprr said...

Catholic Defender

On another note. Do you know who Tim Staples is? I served my mission in Finland so I never encountered Catholicism and always thought their position was weak until I started listening to this guy. He is a really good catholic apologist. LDS and Catholics share many doctrinal points in common so in a way he is a really good LDS apologist as well :) If you email me I’ll send you a link to a debate between him and Steve Gregg who is a protestant apologist who I also respect. (I don’t know if it is proper etiquette to put links on blogs like this but you can get my email address by clicking on my name.) They cover a lot of ground and are respectful to each other. Tim Staples without question wins the debate although good points are presented on both sides.

catholic defender said...

HI MKPRR,

In response, I think what I would say is that partaking of the Eucharist is different, than giving someone a temple recommend. Do I feel better than non-catholics in partaking, no, not really. I learned along time ago that people are just people, we all generally have the same needs and wants, just not all of us go about achieving those things the same way. But as I said, the Eucharist is different. When we partake of communion, it is both a symbolic joining with Christ, and a literal union with him. Its called communion because we are literally joining Christ in his sacrifice. Eucharist is much more similar to what you'd call sacrament, though the meanings of the two are not the same.

When you recieve a temple recommend, you are literally recieving a card that says you have been found worthy to be in the presence of God. Of course this assumes that one believes the temple to be God's house, but from your vantage point as a Mormon, that is what you believe as far as I understand it. Think about how empowering it is to give someone a card that literally deems them worthy to be in God's presence. I've listened to many of your members talk about going to the temple, and thier experiences. I've been told many times how I need to get myself worthy to go. Generally, I think LDS members try very hard to be humble about the temple, but it really is near impossible for them because they literally have a document in their possession that says they are worthy. With Eucharist, or with respect to other Christian faiths, there really is nothing like that to compare a temple recommend to.

I've actually not heard of Tim Staples. I am a bit more familiar with the folks that come out of Stuebenville, OH, which would be the equivalent of Mecca for Catholics in the US.

As for celebate priests, what I can tell you is that I think it is a good idea, and is consistent with St. Paul's teachings. Here's why. When I think about a priest, I think about a person who has literally devoted themselves to serving God. They have literally given their life to God to direct, and to do God's work. Such a person can not devote everything to God, and still be available to a wife and children without short changing one or the other.

If you're really keeping with your Catholic faith, and devoting yourself to God in the vocation that you are called to, then you have to give yourself over completely to God in that vocation. Catholics believe that being a priest is a vocation. We believe that being a husband or wife, or a parent all are vocations that God calls us to. To serve in those vocations, we have to available to God to guide us. A true priest of God, doing what God is calling him to do, is available to his congregation at all times, and all days.

The priests I've encountered in my lifetime that were the most spiritual understood this, and just could not in all fairness seek to be married. They were comfortable with their celebacy. Unfortunately you will never hear about those priests in the news. You only hear about the ones who had significant distortions in thier sexuality and used the priesthood as a means to engage in serious misconduct.

I think the same devotion holds true to nuns and monks. I have more experience with nuns than I do monks having gone to Catholic School.

This one is long, so I'll do a second post to explain my feeling on confession.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

catholic defender said...

As promised here's the rest of what I have to say.

With regard to confession, LDS and Catholics have very similar positions on this. Catholics and Mormons each go to a spiritual leader to confess their sins. The key difference is in the vows that the catholic priest takes, and what happens in the confessional. Confession is actually only part of a bigger sacrament. The proper term in Catholic speak is reconcilliation; that's the name of the sacrament. In the sacrament of reconsilliation, its a three part process: confessing one's sins, doing penance, recieving absolution. Confession is only the first step toward absolution; absolution is granted when one makes a full act of contrition and penance. These are very similar in theory to Mormon understandings of confession, just may not be the same in practise.

Part of the purpose of confessing one's sins to a priest is to make one take ownership of the sins they have committed. Saying it out loud makes one face their wrong doings. Telling it to the priest allows one the safety of confessing, without being judged to be a bad person. The priests role is to listen, comfort, provide hope, sometimes confront, and counsel. Very similar to the bishops role in the LDS faith, but the priest does one more thing. He grants absolution for ones sins. I'm not aware of the bishop doing this, but I could be wrong.

Personally, I feel very comfortable confessing to a priest. I would not feel the same with an LDS bishop. Part of that is a trust issue. With a priest, I know that what I say in the confessional will stay in the confessional; I don't share that same trust with an LDS Bishop. That's largely because I know the vow a priest takes.

I hope I've answered your question. Jeff I apologize for going off topic a bit; just wanted to give a thorough response to a fair question. Take care

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Papa D said...

CF:

"When you recieve a temple recommend, you are literally recieving a card that says you have been found worthy to be in the presence of God."

Actually, that's not the case. The recommend simply says you state your willingness to accept certain things that signal your belief in basic tenets of your religion - basic standards, if you will, to take the next step and participate in "more learning / enlightenment" that SYMBOLICALLY allow you to enter the presence of God.

That might seem like a trivial distinction to many, but it should make perfect sense to a believing Catholic. In my own experience, those who join the LDS Church from a Catholic background generally understand the temple FAR more easily than those who were Protestant.

I would respond to the issue of celibacy, but that would be a real threadjack. Suffice it to say that I disagree strongly with Paul on this one - that marriage is preferrable over celibacy in my opinion, and it's not even open to "debate" for me. If Jeff wants to post on that topic, I will respond more fully there.

jackg said...

Rich,

Mormons look at baptism as a work that needs to happen to be saved. Mormons look at abstaining from something like coffee as a work that needs to happen to go to the temple, which is the same as entering God's presence. These are just a couple of examples of what I mean when I say works within the context of Mormonism. Whenever the salvation equation is the Work of Jesus Christ PLUS anything else, then that equation is a works-based equation, and not the biblical equation of salvation, which is faith in Jesus Christ.

I hope this answers the question.

Pops,

Good to hear from you. I pray for you often. I pray that one day you will see the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially where grace is concerned. Good works are subsequent to salvation, not the prerequisite. The prerequisite is to believe in Jesus Christ, that He is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is not a temple recommend that can be the ticket into God's presence--Jesus is the ticket. That's it. I know you like to think it's your works, but it's not. Am I against good works? Absolutely not--but I know their place in my life, and it's not to earn me salvation, but to please God because I am free to please Him. I don't know why this message is so unpalatable to you. I truly believe that you seek the Living God, but the junk JS peddled has got you and all other of his followers ensnared in synchretism. Also, keeping the commandments (obedience) is not an evil doctrine. It's our response to God. Some people may say they believe in God and then keep on acting in a way that is rebellious to Him, and that's sin. Their actions don't back up their words. I'm all for that teaching. But, like I said, works are evidence of our faith; they're just not what gets us into heaven--faith in Jesus does.

Jeff,
After NOT dealing with Mormon Coffee for such a long time, I just want to thank you for keeping this format so user friendly.

Peace and blessings to all...

mkprr said...

To Catholic Defender.
Thank you for your incite. The more I learn about the Catholic perspective the more it makes sense. I agree fully with your first post that Christ took his message to everyone. As his disciples we in the LDS church follow this example by doing missionary work. Sacraments of course are received only by those who respond to the teaching and follow Jesus. My wife joined the Catholic church when she was 13 and she wasn’t allowed to take Eucharist until she had gone through various RCIA stages for over a year. I am not saying this is wrong, it seems like a reasonable practice to me but perhaps you see the irony in being bothered by the temple requirements unless you are also equally appalled by your own churches restrictions on who can partake of the sacraments.

For a man to go to the temple he must hold the priesthood. Although the requirements are different for the priesthood in our churches, the principles are the same. Before we enter into the priesthood we must give head to the requirements God has proclaimed.

The recommend card is simply used for its convenience. Does the Catholic church let anyone who claims to be a priest hear confessions or do they have a method of verification? If there is a method of verification for Catholics, I would not find this to be a contradiction of Christ’s teachings. Likewise I don’t find that temple recommend cards contradict Jesus.

Also, aren’t cathedrals built to resemble the ancient temple? I had this explained to me by a Greek Orthodox priest so maybe the catholic tradition is different. If cathedrals are meant to be a type of the temple, do you see irony in being bothered by the fact that we too build temples and worship God there?

I am not trying to attack your beliefs and I hope this hasn’t come across that way. I just see you stumbling over LDS practices that actually seem in principle to be very similar to catholic practices. Of all the non-LDS Christian perspectives out there, the Catholic perspective is the one that makes most sense to me probably because we share so many principles in common.

Pops said...

I know you like to think it's your works, but it's not.

I really wish you would stop beating this horse. It's dead. That's not what I believe. That's not what the LDS Church teaches.

...works are evidence of our faith; they're just not what gets us into heaven--faith in Jesus does.

Almost right. It's the grace of Jesus that gets us into heaven. Our faith qualifies us to receive this great blessing, it doesn't earn it.

As the Bible explains, and as you echo here, faith and works are two sides of the same coin. You're caught in a semantic trap.

What did Jesus tell the rich young ruler in response to his question, "What must I do to inherit Eternal life?" He didn't say, "Have more faith in me." Instead, he gave a more pragmatic answer: he prescribed works for the young man to perform, works that would increase his faith, which increase in faith would qualify him for Eternal life. (Note the difference between "qualify him for" and "earn".)

jackg said...

Pops,

I'm glad to see you have issues with Mormon doctrine, but denying the Church teaches a works-righteousness doctrine does not make it so. Let's see, in order to enter into God's presence, Mormonism teaches that you need to have a temple recommend so you can go through the ceremonial washings, get a new name, and learn the secret handshakes one needs to be able to perform in order to pass through the veil. Before one gets a temple recommend, one must refrain from certain behaviors (smoking, drinking, etc.) and do certain things in order to be deemed "worthy," things like pay tithing faithfully and do your hometeaching. You see, no matter how much you might want to believe the horse is dead and that you don't believe in a works-righteousness program, the evidence of Mormonism proves that you are merely saying the words that would have one believe you truly believe in grace.

I think the reason you are so irritated when I bring this up is that you really do believe as you say, but such a belief is not congruent with the Mormon program. If you really believe as you say, then you would have to reconsider the truth of the Mormon Church and, ultimately, leave it. But, that is something you can't do, and so you would rather defend the Church despite the evidence to the contrary.

Pops, you don't need JS and any of the junk he has peddled. A temple recommend won't get you into God's presence because you could never make yourself worthy by what you do. Only Jesus Christ can get you where you want to go. He IS the Way. I pray that you will respond to the Holy Spirit working in your life to bring you to the truth of the gospel.

As always, praying for you...

Pops said...

From lds.org (emphasis mine):

But what do we mean when we say He is the Savior of the world? The Redeemer? Each of these titles point to the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can return to live with our Heavenly Father. Jesus suffered and was crucified for the sins of the world, giving each of God’s children the gift of repentance and forgiveness. Only by His mercy and grace can anyone be saved. His subsequent resurrection prepared the way for every person to overcome physical death as well. These events are called the Atonement. In short, Jesus Christ saves us from sin and death. For that, he is very literally our Savior and Redeemer. In the future Jesus Christ will return to reign on earth in peace for a thousand years. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and He will be our Lord forever.

catholic defender said...

HI MKPRR,

I don't take offense easy, so don't sweat it. Also, I've probably managed to offend someone here without intending to, I tend to have a knack for that. I've never heard that Catholic Cathedrals are built to resemble the temple. It wouldn't surprise me if that was the reasoning, but I've never heard it.

As for Cathedrals versus Temples, what I would say is that yes our Cathedrals meant to be a type of temple, but there is a key difference between a Catholic "temple" and a Mormon Temple. Everyone is welcome to enter the Catholic "temple", no card required. Just walk right in and find the peace of being in God's presence; catholics and non-catholics alike can come in, and no one will be turned away as unworthy to enter. This is the perspective that I come from and that is why the whole LDS concept of a temple recommend is contradictory to me. Incidentally, Greek Orthodox are Catholic, but they follow slightly different, and more conservative traditions than your typical Roman Catholic.

Anyway, what you have to understand, is that to me, the temple is not a physical building. Most catholics would share this perspective because its in keeping with what we are taught. The temple, God's house so to speak, is something that we all carry inside us. Its what's in our hearts as we go about our lives. Its how we live our lives, and interact with others. Its our works, and its our faith. We don't see God as a being with a phsyical body. He's so much more than that...he's omnipotent, and omnipresent, which means he is always with you, and is part of you. No card could ever give you that gift, because its a gift that God freely gave us when he sent his son. The great cathedrals, are merely places of worship where we all gather to pray, but the true temple resides with us at all times.

As for learning about the sacraments, or about one's faith, I actually don't see any real conflict between Mormons and Catholics here. RCIA for Catholics, is very much like Seminary for Mormons. The point of both is to inform a person as to what it really means to be Catholic, or what it means to be LDS respective, so that a person can really make an informed choice. This teaching is actually a place where I think Catholics could learn from Mormons.

What I mean by that is that LDS are pretty much formally taught thier faith from age three on up and continuing into adulthood. With the exception of those fortunate few who can afford Catholic School, the teaching of one's faith tends to end around the 8th grade for kids, and at the conclusion of the RCIA class for adults. As a result, there are a great many people who don't know what their faith really is about.

Regarding verification of priesthood, Catholics keep records of all the sacraments one has gone through. Just like Mormons. Regarding the priesthood, that's considered the sacrament of Holy Orders, someone who has been ordained has a record kept somewhere of that ordination, my guess is in Rome. Besides, its pretty hard to miss a Catholic priest...the black shirt and white collar are dead give aways :-)

Tying back to the topic of Jesus' words, what I would say is that we can debate the virtues of each others respective faiths, and that's probably fun, but in the end what really matters is not the words of Jesus, but us living those words by living our respective faiths. God will do the rest if we at least do that much. Take care

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

jackg said...

Pops,

I see you really didn't address what I posted, but merely copied something that rings hollow when one truly uncovers the Mormon Program, which I put forth in my previous post.

Blessings...

Cindy said...

Just having stumbled into this post my response is to the thread as a whole and not any specific statement. I have struggled with the issue of works and faith as well, and here are my questions:

Is it alright in God’s eyes to do any kind of work before truly and fully believing that our final place in eternity with Him is settled? If I don’t believe this, it seems as though my works could be self-serving because they would be done in the hopes of improving my relationship with God.

But if I fully believe that Christ died for my sins, offered me full forgiveness and actually took my place and received my punishment so that I could be with God in heaven for eternity, wouldn't any work I do in response would be purified through that belief? I think 1 John 3 says something to that effect.

If I don’t believe that-if I believe that Christ only began the process of exaltation for me-then aren’t my works like the filthy rags of Isaiah? It seems as though that is what Hebrews 11:6 is also saying.

I respect the fact that all of us love Christ deeply and are dedicated to doing His will. I look forward to your responses.

hawk said...

Both Bruce Hafen ( in The Broken Heart ) and Brad Wilcox ( in The Continuous Atonement ) expound on the idea of being saved by the grace of Christ.
Keeping the commandments will not save you, but qualify you to be saved through Christ, or more importantly to be redeemed. Keeping the commandments ( doing )seems more in keeping with the law of justification, where as becoming Christ like ( becoming ) has more to do with the law of santification.
Within the Lds church keeping the commandments qualify you to enter the temple, there you may learn how to return to the presence of the Father through Christ.
It is understandable why some may question our belief in Christ. Listen to a testimony meeting and see how many times Christ is at the center of the testimony, and if they testify of Him.
If we testify that the Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith is a prophet of the latter days, but fail to testify of Christ, did we miss the point?

Rich said...

Thank you JackG for your answer.
"Whenever the salvation equation is the Work of Jesus Christ PLUS anything else, then that equation is a works-based equation, and not the biblical equation of salvation, which is faith in Jesus Christ."

So enlighten me to understand what Christ meant when he told Nicodemus this, "I tell you the truth, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Not to mention that Repent and be baptized is mentioned in that order numerous times in the Bible. So I have to say I can't see how Christ plus something isn't biblical. But I'm sure you have an answer for me and I would be very interested to hear it.

jackg said...

Rich,

The passage with Jesus and Nicodemus is not about baptism, but is about being born of the Spirit. That's the point of the entire passage. Being born of water is referring to our natural birth.

In Acts 2, Peter tells the crowd to repent and be baptized in response to their question of what they should do. The verb tense for "be baptized" is in the aorist passive imperative, which means is not in the command form as the verb "repent." Peter tells the crowd in chapter 3 of Acts to repent without adding "and be baptized." So, to be baptized is NOT part of the salvation equation. Jesus saves you, Rich, not any outward actions on your part. Our obedience to Jesus is evidence that we are indeed followers--NOT the ticket to heaven. I'm not against baptism; in fact, I have been baptized. Baptism didn't save me, though. Jesus saved me, and it's important to understand that there is NOTHING we could ever do to enhance upon what Jesus did for us. It is by grace we are saved, and not by works.

Blessings...

jackg said...

"Within the Lds church keeping the commandments qualify you to enter the temple, there you may learn how to return to the presence of the Father through Christ."

John 14 tells us the Way to the presence of our Father in Heaven--and that is Jesus Christ. Nobody needs to go the LDS temple to learn how to return to the presence of God. There won't be any secret handshakes or wives hoping their husbands remember their new names. Such an amendment to the teachings of the biblical text ought to be a blinding red flag.

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

You ask the right questions, and I also think you have an understanding of where our works fit into it all, which is as our response to grace of God in our lives. When we get down to it, the only thing our works could ever merit for ourselves is death. We are all sinners and all fall short of the mark. It only takes one sin and any sin to separate us from God.


What Mormonism does with the works-righteousness program is actually put God into the position of Debtor. Because I have done this, this, and this, You, God, must do this, this, and this for me. It's a "quid pro quo" proposition that undermines the Sovereignty of God.

Blessings...

Rich said...

Jack,
First of all a big round of applause for one of the best hoops I seen someone jump through to validate their beliefs with the bible.
It makes absolutely zero sense for someone to ask what they need to do and be told something to that isn't needed. Baptism is an act that shows you follow Christ. Repenting is an act that shows you follow Christ. Keeping the commandments, also an act that shows you are a follower. If you don't follow rules and do things you are asked to do, how can you show you are a follower. You can say it anyway you wish but there are certain facts that can't be ignored. 1-Christ is who saves us and no one else, in this we are in agreement totally. I can't do the saving work he did for myself. The only thing left in question is if I need to do certain things to show I accept Christ and follow him. Professing with our mouths is not enough, period.
For your position to be correct, someone could literally do anything they wanted their entire life, including really bad things, and profess belief in Christ as their savior and be saved, because nothing we can do will punch our ticket to heaven. If grace was all that was necessary for salvation and zero works, then why preach any works at all? Why didn't Christ just tell the rich man that he only needed to believe and his grace was sufficient to save him? Why didn't Peter just say the same? Why isn't the gospel message a brochure that says that instead of a huge book full of examples of faith and works and prophets asking us to repent, be baptized, keep commandment, leave everything behind and follow me? We are simply asked to do things to show we follow, period. You can't get around it, sorry.

Papa D said...

jackg, we know your position - but you are attacking a straw man. I find it illuminating that every single Mormon who responds to you says, in essence, "That's not what I believe, and it's not what is taught." It's a twist - a distortion - based on a hard-core Calvinist idea that even most Protestants (and even most evangelicals) don't actually believe in the extreme.

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means."

In a nutshell, here is the Mormon take on works:

"Faith without works is dead, being alone."

"Not everyone who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

"By their fruits ye shall know them."

If you are going to address this issue, address those quotes FROM THE BIBLE - along with all the others that say we are judged according to our works. Those works are the fruits that show our true faith - our attempt to do what he asks us to do.

You can say you accept a physician, but unless you take the medicine he prescribes or the therapy he suggests, you aren't really accepting him. "I confess you are a doctor" means NOTHING if you ignore his healing counsel.

Anonymous said...

May I ask a very real question concerning faith and works in today’s world? It seems to me that even for many Christians most commandments have become old fashioned and unnecessary for salvation. One of the more obvious ones is chastity. This is a subject that is almost never touched on today even in churches, one that the world in general has almost totally left behind. Go into youtube and google sermons on faith and see what you find, then google sermons on chastity and you will see what I mean. Show me a Christian church that even concerns itself with chastity before performing a wedding and making such holy vows in the house of God today. This is just one example of the many commandments given to us that many Christians no longer concern themselves with. They treat them much the same as the Pharisees treated many of commandments back in their day.

Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day because they had gotten so busy with following all their little rules, and at the same time neglecting to live and teach according to the true commandments he had given them. Are we falling into that same trap today? Are we busy trying to determine exactly what was meant by a particular verse of scripture concerning salvation, while at the same time living lives that are not at all in harmony with the most obvious of commandments? Or are there commandments that are just too old fashioned to teach anymore?

Pops said...

From an official publication of the LDS Church:

"To be able to receive the blessings of eternal life, we need to be 'spiritually minded' and conquer our unrighteous desires. More accurately, we need to be changed, or converted, through the power of the Savior's Atonement and through the power of the Holy Ghost. This process is called conversion. ... Conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior."

The power that changes us is the power of the Atonement, coupled with the power of the Holy Ghost. Our "righteous efforts" allow us to tap into that power. The power does not come from us, nor can it.

Cindy said...

anonymous, you ask an important question of us all...it seems as though we can go back and forth comparing, contrasting and arguing over specific verses and even seemingly contradictory commandments, and lose the bigger picture.

Personally, the whole idea of works vs faith has been a difficult subject for me, and a point of contention between me and a dear LDS friend. I have had the “obedience” scriptures (John 14, James 2) pointed out to me by my friend, and to be honest, I have not been open to hearing them because they didn’t match with my Ephesians 2:8 world view. I have found myself trying to read meanings into them that make sense from my starting point of grace, rather than considering that they might be meant exactly as they are stated.

I have been afraid to accept, at face value, Christ’s command for me to demonstrate my love for Him through obedience because it seemed like then I might not be accepting His grace.

But recently I prayed to be open to God’s truth beyond my perspective…what if Christ WAS really saying, “Hey, if you love me, then prove it?” Although I couldn’t imagine Him saying that, what if He was? What would be the result? I believe the result would be a tangible expression of whatever I really DO believe about Him. If I believe that He died for me to have eternal life and the opportunity to gain my own exaltation, then my works will take the form of things that I can achieve. But if I believe that He literally took my sins upon Himself and exchanged His righteousness for mine so that I can live forever in the presence of He and my Heavenly Father, then my works will take the form of things that the Holy Spirit can achieve through me. And because I won’t need to do any work for my own salvation, I will be freely available to do His will at any time. My works then can truly glorify Him! I thank God for this new understanding of His glorious ways!

Pops said...

James comments that we increase our faith in Christ by our works (emphasis mine):

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

Cindy said...

Pops, I believe the verse you quoted from James is so true! "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?"

We DO perfect our faith by our works...I mean, don't we perpetuate our faith by doing works based on our beliefs? I perpetuate my faith in the ability of a chair to hold me up by repeatedly sitting down on it. It keeps holding me up, so I have more and more faith in it.

The question is, what is the nature of our faith? If we believe that Christ offers us eternal life but exaltation is earned by our works, then we will perfect that faith by continuing to complete the ordinances necessary for exaltation. And if we believe that Christ offers us salvation and eternal life with our Father, then we will perfect that faith by continuing to do whatever works we are called to do without fear of having to do any to secure our position in heaven.

It seems to me it is just an issue of how much of our faith is in Christ, and how much is in ourselves...

Pops said...

Cindy,

The kicker is in this part of what you said:

...exaltation is earned by our works...

So many people have repeated this canard to many times that it's almost difficult to avoid saying it. There's a big difference, however, between qualifying for some reward and earning something. If the first case, someone else paid for it. In the second case, you, well, earn it.

When the rich young lawyer/ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded with "Keep the commandments." Hearing that he already qualified in this regard, Jesus raised the bar and said, "Sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me." Why would he say that?

The LDS belief is that our faith in Jesus grows stronger as we do good works - that is, he blesses us, we grow in understanding of his nature, we become more like him, our desire to be like him increases, we experience more joy. We recognize and acknowledge that the change comes from him by virtue of his great atoning sacrifice.

Another perspective is that Jesus, having bought us with his blood, could ask of us anything he wishes. He's the gatekeeper. He could say, "Nothing, just say you believe and I'll let you in." He instead commands us, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as my Father which is in heaven is perfect." We can't become perfect by simply deciding to become perfect. We have to tap into the power of the Atonement by doing those specific things that Jesus requires of us, like keeping the commandments and caring for the poor. When we tap into that power, the power of the Atonement, it creates change in us. God changes us, which produces greater faith in God - he really can and will change us if we do what he asks us to do. Sometimes the changes are a bit painful, but the result is always worth it - this increases our faith in God.

catholic defender said...

Hi All,

Looks like we're back to the faith vs works debate again. I think I'll approach this from a different angle. Let's consider Mary, Jesus' mom. What is it about her that makes her important and an especially powerful example of what God is calling on us to do?
I've heard LDS describe her as important because of her obedience to God. Other denominations don't put much emphasis on her at all. What I would suggest to you is that Mary's example is exactly what Jesus is talking about in terms of returning to him.

As I pointed out on another post, both sides of this debate are partially correct, but both are also partially incorrect. Look at Mary. What she does when God calls upon her to be the mother of Jesus, is she does what he asks without question. An act of obedience, yes, but much much more. Mary saying yes is an act of faith, coupled with action. Consider the time we're talking about. Women in Jesus' time were merely chattels to be used as men saw fit. A single, woman showing up pregnant was a death sentence. But Mary says yes. That singular act is an example of the type of faith we are all called upon to have.

By saying yes, Mary is saying to God "I trust you so much, that I am willing to put my very life in your hands." It isn't the obedience that's the important message, its the example of faith coupled with action that is important.

Think about this for a moment. Every Sunday we each go to our respective churches, and pray as we do, and commit our lives to live as Christ lived. But come Monday morning, how many of us have already forgotten what we committed to do 24 hours ago. The point is, you can do works and not get back to Christ, or you can have faith, and not get back to Christ, or you can do both and not get back to Christ. What's missing in all three of those possibilities is the action of living one's faith. Mary is an example of what it means to live your faith. And it is only by living one's faith that we can return, but even that isn't enough on its own. The last element is supplied by God himself, that's grace. Without God's grace, none of us go back to Christ. We only recieve his grace, after we done all that we can by living our faith.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Jeff Lindsay: said...

CD said, "When you receive a temple recommend, you are literally receiving a card that says you have been found worthy to be in the presence of God."

The recommend means that you are (possibly) ready to take on some significant covenants and (minimally) ready to enter into a sacred place, but it's not heaven and not the physical presence of God, which no mortal is ready for. The standards are minimal standards based on a few topics that don't guarantee anything. People can lie or even if they are completely honest, one can still be a rather unpleasant and not especially nice person and still make it in. Some of the kindest, most Christlike people around aren't yet recommend holders. It's wrong for members or anyone to read too much into having a recommend or not. But going there should be a goal for everyone, yes, because it is a valuable and precious experience.

catholic defender said...

HI Jeff,

Perhaps I'm not communicating well regarding the temple recommend card. I understand that the recommend doesn't get you into heaven and is just supposed to mean that you're ready to enter a sacred place and take on some special covenants. And I get that its supposed to be a valuable and precious experience. If that wasn't the case, then I doubt that the LDS church would promote that goal as much as it does. But I still think handing out a physical card that says you are worthy to enter the temple is problematic.

Its really a perception issue. When you have that tangible item in your hands, even though it isn't intended to be such, that tangible item says you are worthy to enter the Lord's house. I don't think its intended to do that, but still the recommend does allow someone to enter a place, someone else can not enter. Its very easy as human beings for us to take that simple card, and extrapolate meaning into it, even if we have no intention of doing so. The reason is that simple little temple recommend card stands for the proposition that one is worthy. This is the problem I've been trying to articulate, but not doing such a great job of doing.

For Mormons, the goal is to get to the temple. Its probably a commendable goal to have. But, it seems to me the real goal, for all of us as Christians is to get back to God. Whether we believe in the temple or not, this is certainly a much higher goal, and something we need to strive for. Temple attendence, to me, might help, but it won't qualify you one way or the other in the eternal scheme of things. The bigger picture is getting to heaven.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Anonymous said...

CD,

Maybe you have it backwards. Maybe the purpose of the temple recommend is to protect the temple from desecration.

Cindy said...

Pops, I don't understand the difference between qualifying and earning if the goal is still a reward for yourself. It still seems as though you are relying on your efforts to become worthy...the very lesson Christ was trying to teach the rich, young ruler.

Do you believe that Christ actually accepted the idea that the rich young lawyer had kept every commandment since birth? After preaching that even the thought of hatred in your heart was the same as murder, how could anyone be sinless? Couldn't it be that Christ saw the prideful nature of this young man and asked him to give up the one thing he knew he was keeping for himself and not trusting to Christ?

I agree that our faith in Christ is strengthened by our works, but our works also illuminate just how much faith we have in Christ. If that young ruler truly had faith in Christ for his eternal position with God in heaven, he would easily have given up everything to follow Him. Isn't that what Christ calls us to do as well? Not hang on to anything we can do to protect or promote ourselves but release our lives completely to Christ. What a statement of faith in Christ that young ruler would have made by "doing the works of" admitting that he was a sinner and giving up his rich lifestyle and his family to follow Christ!

I bet that young man would consider admitting sin and giving up his wealth to be an incredibly difficult type of works, not easy, even though it began with his belief in Christ rather than his works.

And his belief in Christ could then result in his perfection...his righteousness through belief as Paul describes in Galatians 3, "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.""

Papa D said...

"For Mormons, the goal is to get to the temple."

No, it's not. Period. Full stop.

"It seems to me the real goal, for all of us as Christians is to get back to God."

BINGO - and the goal of the temple is to focus us more intently on getting back to God. Thus, the temple is NOT an end destination; rather, it's a step along the process - a symbolic representation of our ultimate goal. Not one Mormon I know would bat an eye if I stated that from the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting.

Just as there is a real power in performing a physical ordinance like baptism that is experienced by the submersion of BOTH body and spirit (the whole soul) under water (which is symbolic of the life we desire to live after baptism in order to help us return to God), there is real power in what occurs in the temple for the exact same reason. No ordinance is an ultimate goal in and of itself; every ordinance simply is the manifestation of our desire to achieve our ultimate goal - which is exactly what you say it is.

Pops said...

Cindy,

In the end, I think we're both saying essentially the same thing.

Regarding the "qualifying" vs. "earning" bit: we use the words as synonyms, but the distinction I was trying to make might be illustrated with the difference between someone "earning" a scholarship and someone earning their tuition money. The former case is really qualifying for a scholarship - perhaps by running a 4.4 forty, or maybe by scoring 32 on the ACT. The latter consists of working at a job and saving money until there is enough to pay the tuition.

When it comes to salvation, we can't earn it - that's impossible. And that's the beef I have with people who claim the LDS Church teaches that we can earn salvation by our works. We can't. Nobody that I know of teaches that. It's a straw man.

If we do what Christ asks us to do, he will give salvation to us. It's a gift. We qualify for the gift by doing what he asks of us.

Cindy said...

Pops, I think our definition of gifts is different...do you give gifts based on the qualifications of the receiver? Does your wife get a better Valentines gift if she is a better cook? (I would never even get a Valentines gift from my husband if it were reliant on my cooking...yikes!)

If we have to qualify for a gift, then it isn't a gift...we get a gift by completing the requirements necessary to receive it.

I think the problem people have with that idea in relation to Christ and salvation is the fact that it gives the glory to the receiver rather than the giver (or at least causes them to share in the glory). If I gain salvation because I qualified for it then the glory is on me, but if I am given salvation through the work of Christ on the cross, then the glory is on Him.

In your case your works (for qualification) result in your faith that Christ will give you salvation, and in my case, my faith in the work of Christ for me will result in my works for others.

catholic defender said...

HI Cindy,

Just briefly. You talked about getting gifts. Gifts to me are freely given because the person doing the giving, chooses to do so. There are no conditions placed on gifts. There is no qualifying requirement that we must meet to recieve a gift. A gift is just that, something given to another freely, when you don't have to do it. God didn't have to send his son to us, he chose to. Jesus didn't have to die for us, he chose to. The gifts of the spirit Paul talks about aren't things we get because we qualify to recieve them. God gives them to us freely because he chooses to. We're free to honour the gifts God gives us by doing everything he asks us to. But we are free to not honour those gifts too. There are consequences to either choice. But in either case, the gifts are freely given.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Cindy said...

Hi CD,

I think you are saying that we can honor the giver of gifts by doing what they ask of us...right? I agree and believe that is the role of works...that our response to the gifts given to us is demonstrated by what we do with them. Works perfect our faith in the giver...

I just struggle with the idea of working to get the gifts in the first place..that seems to me to honor the receiver rather than the giver...does that make sense?

Gavin said...

I think all to often when we talk about works, with it comes the feeling that we are, or can earn our way to heaven, but 'doing' qualitfies us, not because of the work itself, but because our hearts have the opportunity to change through Christ. Thus why we do something is an important part of what we do.
Maybe the goal should be to become a Christ like person thus qualifying ourself for Heaven. As in the Third Article of Faith, "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel". The focus is the Atonement.... obedience becomes the tool to help us have faith and a submissive/broken heart whereby we can then be changed in Christ.
With regards to a temple recommend, there is merit in the concern that people could look to the tangilbe item. But the error doesn't lie in the object but the individuals focus.

Cindy said...

I think our goals are the same-to become perfected for heaven-but I believe that the honest admission of my sins will lead to the broken and contrite heart that will lead me need faith in Christ, while you believe that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel".

Pops said...

Cindy,

I understand your statement that "If we have to qualify for a gift, then it isn't a gift." When applied to the Atonement it contradicts another fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the doctrine of Heaven and Hell. Here are a couple of the workarounds that will leave the "gift" idea intact (I'm not sure you'll like them):

1. There really is no such place as Hell, and no Judgment Day.

2. Predestination - there is no free will, and there is nothing we can do to alter our eternal fate. It has already been decided who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell.

Do you see another way around the problem?

Pops said...

That wasn't as clearly stated as it could have been. The question is this: if the gift is free and requires no qualifying, then what is the basis of judgment? Why is there a Heaven and a Hell?

Cindy said...

Thanks for clarifying your question...I didn't understand the first time.

I understand now that you are saying that the fact that we will be judged after death means that we must qualify for the gift of the atonement...right? I can see how that idea might lead you to believe that works are required before we receive salvation. But I believe (and the Bible supports the idea) that there are two judgments...one for believers in Christ for their complete salvation, and one for those who continue to work for their own eternal position. At the judgment for believers, we must give an account of how we responded to the gift of complete salvation, and we will be rewarded, not punished, (or have our salvation be jeopardized in any way) as a result. The judgment for unbelievers, will be lots worse. The best explanation, with Biblical support, can be found at:

http://www.gotquestions.org/judgment.html

Papa D said...

Cindy, in this case, I prefer to try to simplify.

There are two options:

1) What I do is important and has an impact on my life and my future, and I have some degree of choice in deciding what I do.

2) What I do really isn't important and has no impact on my life and my future, since I really don't have much choice in deciding what I do.

I accept the first option, and I really don't care all that much about exactly how different people make sense out of it - how they choose to explain it in a way that makes sense to them.

As an extension of that conclusion, there are two options:

If what I do is important, I can focus my "doing" on:

1) "becoming" or

2) "getting"

The Mormon approach is to focus on "becoming". I like that MUCH more than focusing on "getting". Sure, it can be a fine line, since receiving eternal life can be worded as a "reward" we "get" - but if eternal life is defined as a "condition" (a state of being we reach), then it really isn't something we "get". Instead, it really is something we "become".

That is perhaps the central theme of the entire Bible, but it gets lost in the endless debate over confessing or working. I see that whole debate as a bit of a smokescreen - obscuring the "true" objective laid out in the Bible itself.

Cindy said...

Papa D, I do see your perspective and understand your desire to become rather than to get, but I think my understanding of the whole theme of the Bible is different and that is perhaps why we may have to agree to disagree.

For me, the whole message of the Bible is that we are sinners in need of a Savior-one who paid the price for my sins and who exchanged His perfection for my sinfulness-so that I could return to the presence of my Holy Father.

I recognize that you may see the message of the Bible as a progressive journey in which we need some help to become more holy in order to return to God's presence. If I held that belief I guess I would want to do all I could for my qualification as well.

My response, as a known and confessed sinner in need of a Savior, is to believe fully in Christ's gift and to live in a way that demonstrates that belief. That means loving God first above all others, even my dearest family and friends, and loving others as Christ loves me...fully and courageously and cognizant of what Christ's response, not man's, would be to my actions.

Pops said...

Yet another perspective is this: Christ bought us with our blood, and so he is the gatekeeper of heaven. If we want to get in, we pretty much need to do anything and everything he tells us to do.

And there is hardly anything he said that isn't a call to action of one kind or another.

"Man shall live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

"Follow me."

"Let your light so shine before men..."

"..whosoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

"...except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heave."

"Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother..."

"Agree with thine adversary quickly..."

"... if any man will sue the at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."

"...whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

"Give to him that asketh thee..."

"Love your enemies..."

"Be ye therefore perfect..."

Sounds like a lot of doing to me, and I hardly got started!

Pops said...

Wow. I meant "with his blood". Sorry about that.

catholic defender said...

Hi Pops,

I would tend to disagree, Christ is not the gate keeper to heaven. He is the gate into heaven. It is only through him that we enter. Christ gave himself to us freely. We all have recieved the gift of his atonement for our sins, though the different Christian sects will disagree what that means. But the gift was still freely given. The purpose of judgement, is not to qualify us for the gift. We all qualify for the gift because Christ gave it to us freely.

Judgement is about how we used the gift. Did we accept the gift and follow Christ's path, or did we reject Christ's gift and follow our own path? Or are we somewhere in between, trying our best, but failing because we are human and prone to falling off the path? It is by accepting Christ's gift, and following in his footsteps that we enter the gate...Christ is that gate. We must become, as you suggest, as Christlike as we possibly can to return to God. God will take care of the rest through his grace.

Those who utterly reject the gift though, will find themselves in Hell. Why? Because by rejecting the freely given gift, we are cutting ourselves off from God. We do have the free will to choose, but the choice is to accept what God has given, or don't. If we accept the gift, then we accept as part of that a plan that includes following Christ's plan. The reward at the end, is a return to God. Christ is our guide, and our hope. That's what he brings to the table. Just my thoughts.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Papa D said...

It's interesting how the words we use sometimes cause the appearance of disagreement when there actually is no disagreement.

Honestly, I'm having a really hard time understanding how and where Cindy, CD, Pops and I disagree. It seems we are saying, at the most fundamental level, EXACTLY the same thing. There is just some emotional reaction to certain words going on - words that mean one thing to someone and another thing to someone else. When you synthesize the apparent meaning as intended by the individuals and change the words to reflect that meaning . . . we all are saying the EXACT same thing.

Iow, we're painting the same picture, but it simply looks a bit different because the thickness and precise hues of the paint we are using aren't exactly alike. It really is the same picture; it just needs to be viewed from a little further away for the differences to fade away.

Cindy said...

Papa D,

I think you are right in that we all agree that we love God and we want to be reunited with Him again after we die. The differences, as I see them, is how we see ourselves and how we view Christ as a part of the process.

I see myself as a sinner, a creation of God, meant for community with Him, but separated from His Holy presence by my sinfulness.

I get the sense from you (and from my reading of the LDS quad) that you see yourself as a divine child of God, purposely separated from God as a part of your progression to become like Him.

I see Christ as my Savior-fully God and fully man-the only one who can offer the required price for my sins and who can exchange His perfection for my sinfulness so that I could return to the presence of my Holy Father.

It seems to me (again from my readings of the LDS church) that you view Christ as a partner in the process of your progression to godhood. That Christ makes possible the opportunity to prove yourself worthy of the next level of progression.

Those two fundamental principles seem to alter everything...so even if we sound similar on the back side, we are speaking different languages from the beginning.

jackg said...

Rich,

The truth is not always accepted by Mormons. Mormons don't have a clue what it means to exegete the Bible, and you put yourself into that category with what you think is a brilliant rejoinder. You know, you're just not as smart as you might think you appear to be. Baptism won't save you, Rich, no matter how hard you try to make works the crux of salvation.

Praying for you... really, I am...

jackg said...

PapaD,

I can't help it if Mormons are trying to misrepresent the beliefs of the Mormon Church to sound like Christianity.

Praying for you...

jackg said...

Pops,

I see you are still misusing the Matthew 5 passage, just as your beloved prophet, Spencer Kimball, did. Do you not know what it means to incorporate context into your attempt to explain Bible passages? It is very tiring to see Mormons use a writing that IS NOT authoritative for them in trying to teach Christians. Pops, as long as you believe in a temple system for your entry into God's presence, you CANNOT also say that you believe in Jesus Christ to save you in God's presence. That is where Mormonism goes wrong, and it goes wrong because it is the product of a false prophet. You would do well to read the writings of John Wesley regarding Christian Perfection.

Always praying for you...

jackg said...

Rich,

Sorry, but I just took the time to read what you wrote, thoroughly.

You say all the things that sound like you truly beleive in Jesus Christ to save you. But, just as I pointed out to Pops, it is incongruent to profess such a faith and then put your trust in the LDS temple system to earn your place in God's Kingdom.

It sounds like you are saying that works are our response to God's grace. If that is what you're saying, then we agree. But, when you try to say that my position precludes obedience, then I must conclude that you do not really know what Christianity is all about.

I have never said that one does not have to obey God. Obedience is our response to God's grace in our lives. I remember one of the LDS writers on this blog site sort of making fun of the explanation that a person who says they accepted Christ then continued to live as an enemy to Him DID NOT have a genuine life-changing experience with God. Just so you know, I am NOT a proponent of what is known as "The Sinner's Prayer." I work with men who are in recovery, and they often report that they have accepted Christ as their Savior. I respond that their works will bear that out. So, perhaps we agree with this point?? The difference is that Mormonism teaches that a person must do certain things, and I'm talking about the temple ritual, in order to learn specific things, like hand shakes and names of signs, in order to enter God's presence. I have been to the temple, so I know that this is the purpose of it, and before one can go to the temple, one must prove themselves worthy through things like not smoking, paying tithing, etc. So, I see it as disenguous on the part of Mormons to claim that Christ is all they need to be saved, then practice the temple ritual.

I know that "you" will jump through hoops to prove your practice of putting your faith in a system more than you put your faith in Jesus Christ. I also know that what I write falls on deaf ears. It's up to you to hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Praying for you...

Pops said...

Cindy,

I think you summed things up nicely. Now if we could just get people to stop saying that Mormons think they can earn their way into heaven.

Oh, there are some details that may provide a bit more enlightenment. One is that the resurrection is a free gift that requires no qualification whatsoever. Why? Because death came into the world because of Adam (and Eve), not because of you or me. So, there's one piece of salvation that's as free as it could possibly be.

Our fate beyond the resurrection depends on how we respond to Christ's injunction, "Be ye therefore perfect." There are three degrees of glory for three distinct classes of people. One class is for those who felt no need in this life to look out for anyone but self. The next is for those who developed the self-discipline to get along and not hurt others or themselves. The third is for those who allow Christ - and the Holy Ghost - to change their nature to be as God is. In the words of the great prophet Mormon:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.

jackg said...

Hawk said: "Keeping the commandments will not save you, but qualify you to be saved through Christ, or more importantly to be redeemed."

Okay, so now we see that keeping the commandments isn't good enough to be saved, but merely puts one in the position of being "qualified" to be saved through Christ. Do you really want to hold onto such an explanation of God's message of "Good News"?

Praying for all Mormons...

Anonymous said...

PapaD said: "You can say you accept a physician, but unless you take the medicine he prescribes or the therapy he suggests, you aren't really accepting him. "I confess you are a doctor" means NOTHING if you ignore his healing counsel."

And, what do you say is the medicine? I say the medicine is grace, and that you reject it when it's offered to you. Please tell me what you think the "medicine" is?

Praying for you...

jackg said...

PapaD,

The "anonymous" comment was me. My fingers hit a wrong key.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Pops,

You said: "Our "righteous efforts" allow us to tap into that power"

You are still under the belief that your works could ever merit you something. This is all works-righteousness theology. The problem is that you want to claim to be a believer in God's grace just as a Christian does, but then you show your true colors with these kinds of statements.

Praying for you...

Pops said...

jackg,

No, we don't have faith in "the temple system" to get us into heaven. The first principle of the gospel is faith in Jesus Christ. That's what we believe, and that's what we teach. Part of having faith in Christ is doing the things he commands us to do - it demonstrates a rather remarkable lack of faith not to so act. Your real beef is that you don't believe we receive revelation from God to guide us. That's fine. Please stop saying we do the things we do because we don't believe in Christ as our Savior, or because we think our works can get us into heaven. It's simply not true. We do the things we do because Christ commanded us to do them.

Those who don't believe in revelation often fall into the same trap as the scribes in Jesus' day:

The Torah declares concerning itself, "It is not up in heaven"; that is to say, once the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, we pay no heed to heavenly voices but, as the Torah ordains further, we follow the opinion of the majority.

That didn't turn out so well for the Jews.

jackg said...

PapaD said: "BINGO - and the goal of the temple is to focus us more intently on getting back to God. Thus, the temple is NOT an end destination; rather, it's a step along the process - a symbolic representation of our ultimate goal."

Jesus is THE WAY. It pains me that you think you are authoritative in your spewing of false teachings. Have you not read John 14??? Did Jesus say anything about a future temple ritual as part of the way? Sorry, but He didn't. Why is it so hard to receive Jesus as THE WAY. The Mormon temple is NOT biblical...but, alas, the Bible is NOT authoritative for Mormons. If it were, you would question the teachings of JS.

Praying for your soul...

jackg said...

Pops said: "When it comes to salvation, we can't earn it - that's impossible. And that's the beef I have with people who claim the LDS Church teaches that we can earn salvation by our works. We can't. Nobody that I know of teaches that. It's a straw man."

It's not a straw man; it's what the temple ritual is all about. Tell me you don't have to give the proper hand shakes at the veil and name the signs of each. The hand shakes and the naming of signs is what gets one past the veil and into God's presence. Do you not see the misrepresentation of your responses to Cindy?

Never ceasing to pray for you...

jackg said...

Gavin said: "As in the Third Article of Faith, "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (I put the comma in the parenthesis for you.)

Here you have the salvation equation according to JS: Faith in Christ plus something else. So, to all those Mormons who want to make the argument for a grace-based program, you are arguing against your own belief system, which is disingenuous.

Praying for all of you...

jackg said...

Pops said: "That wasn't as clearly stated as it could have been. The question is this: if the gift is free and requires no qualifying, then what is the basis of judgment? Why is there a Heaven and a Hell?"

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph.2:8-9).

Pops, you still want to work works into the salvation equation. Yes, there is a heaven and a hell. We are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ. When we stand before God, Jesus will be our Judge. In the book of Judges, a judge was sent to free the people from their political bondage. Jesus, our Great Judge, has freed us from our spiritual bondage. When God asks me how I could be justified to enter His Presence, Jesus Christ, my Advocate, will stand up for me and pronounce me worthy based on HIS work on the cross, based on what he did--His merits, not mine. Herein lies the difference between the biblical message and the Mormon message. Mormonism puts a yolk on her people, while Jesus Christ frees His.

I'm curious as to how you might want to defend your position against the word's of Paul.

Praying for you...

jackg said...

Cindy,

YOU ROCK!!

Grace and peace...

jackg said...

Pops,

You can keep on saying "No, we don't have faith in "the temple system" to get us into heaven," until you're blue in the face, but the truth is that you DO put your faith in the temple system. Throw away your temple recommend and tell your Bishop you don't need to go to the temple, and see what he tells you.

Always praying for you...

Papa D said...

jackg, there is no response to most of what you have said that hasn't been said already multiple times. I'm not going to engage, especially when you couch everything in insults and end by saying, "Praying for you."

It just isn't going to go anywhere constructive, so I am limiting my response to this explanation of why I'm not going to try to engage you further. Call it whatever you want, but I'm calling it turning the other cheek.

Papa D said...

Everyone else,

If anyone is interested, I explain in more detail why I'm not going to engage jackg further at the following:

"Topical Trolls"

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/01/topical-trolls.html

Ironically, it posted just last week and was not focused on jackg at all. The timing simply is coincidental.

Pops said...

Speaking of baptism, Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Does being baptized constitute placing faith in baptism rather than in Christ, or is it rather a matter of simple obedience?

Cindy said...

Pops, you said, "Now if we could just get people to stop saying that Mormons think they can earn their way into heaven."

And then followed that statement with this:

"Our fate beyond the resurrection depends on how we respond to Christ's injunction, "Be ye therefore perfect."

It is because of this last statement that you will find it hard to stop people from saying that Mormons have to earn their way to heaven. I think the problem lies in a difference between definitions of heaven.

I think for most mainline Christians, our view of heaven is equal to your celestial kingdom. Either of the other "heavenly" options you describe equate to hell for me. If I am not in the presence of God, I won't be in heaven.

I understand your recognition that we must be perfected in order to be with our Holy God, but I believe that, since we are sinful by nature, there is no way for us to become perfect through our efforts, even the effort of praying for God to fill us with His love. What He asks us to do is to believe on the righteousness of His Son as the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sins. As Paul says, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,"

In response to our faith in Christ John affirms that if we, "continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."

It is our hope in Christ's righteousness, not ours, that makes us children of God, filled with the Spirit and made like Him.

Pops said...

Why does God give commandments?

Cindy said...

Dear Pops,

Christ gave two commandments, to love God and love others, that when obeyed, fulfill all of the laws given by God before.

The only thing is, because of our sinful nature, we can't obey them unless we are filled by the Spirit.

We receive the Spirit if we believe in Him as our Savior (and as the one whose righteousness gets us to heaven with God).

So if we are obeying His commandments, we are doing it through the fruit of His Spirit.

Our actions will appear different than the kind of works we can do on our own, so they will glorify Him and lead others to seek Him as well!

Oh, what a glorious God!

Pops said...

Christ gave two commandments, to love God and love others, that when obeyed, fulfill all of the laws given by God before.

I would have stated this a bit differently, that all the law and the prophets can be summarized under those two headings. In other words, our motivation for obeying God's commandments is (or should be) that we love him, and our motivation for striving to bless the lives of others is (or should be) that we love them.

Our love of God, however, does not provide us with any specific instructions we might need, nor does it absolve us of the obligation to obey any specific instructions we might receive from God.

God commanded Noah to build an ark. Noah obeyed because he loved God. His love of God served as his motivation, but his love alone could not have saved him and his family from the flood.

God commanded Abraham to take the life of his only son, Isaac. Abraham obeyed because he loved God. Never in his wildest dreams would he have supposed God desired this of him. Sometimes God gives commandments to find out whether we truly love him. We get into trouble when we begin to second-guess God's intentions.

Through Elisha, God commanded Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan 7 times. Naaman obeyed and was healed. No amount of love could have prompted Naaman to do what he did. He required specific instruction from God. He wasn't even motivated by love of God, but he obeyed and received the desired blessing.

God commanded Zacharias to name his as-yet-unconceived son John. The love of God could not have been sufficiently specific for Zacharias to have known that he was to name his son John. Zacharias didn't even believe it was possible for Elisabeth to bear a son.

Joseph was commanded to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. A non-specific love of God could not have provided the specific instruction he required to preserve their lives.

Christ commanded us to repent and be baptized. We obey out of love for God. We don't need to know why he commands us to be baptized.

Mormons believe God commands them to do a number of specific things, including making covenants in the temple and performing vicarious ordinances for the deceased. Love of God and our fellow beings prompts us to obey.

We don't need to know why God commands us as he does. We only need the assurance that the commandments are indeed from God and not from man.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Cindy, it is through the Spirit that we are able to truly serve God, love Him, and obey Him. He gives us power to do these things, if we are willing. The glory is always His--but some effort and choice on our part is needed. We are not robots or programs run by Him, but have the gift of agency wherein we can choose to love and follow Him, or ignore and reject Him. That freedom isn't lost once we turn toward Him. There is the risk that if we don't press forward and endure in faith to the end, that we can depart from the Living God and fall. Obedience and faith are still needed even for the devout Christian.

Rich said...

Hi Cindy,
I see Christ as my Savior-fully God and fully man-the only one who can offer the required price for my sins and who can exchange His perfection for my sinfulness so that I could return to the presence of my Holy Father.

I recognize that you may see the message of the Bible as a progressive journey in which we need some help to become more holy in order to return to God's presence.

I'm having a hard time seeing that these statements are in opposition to each other. In either we need Christ, and without him in either there is no entry to heaven. Neither puts you as the person who gets the glory for anything but receives the gift of returning to live with God.

I think CD summed it all up best with this statement about our free gifts from God, God gives them to us freely because he chooses to. We're free to honour the gifts God gives us by doing everything he asks us to. But we are free to not honour those gifts too. There are consequences to either choice. But in either case, the gifts are freely given. You said you agree but are worried about the focus of the doer, us. That is true no matter what you believe. That's 3 different people in 3 different religions who believe the same thing and are not in opposition but brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the end mormons believe there are things we should do because we believe in the gift of salvation and we try to live our lives in such a manner. Being baptized is part of that demonstration, living the commandments another, serving others, loving others, it's all there. None of us are in heaven so we haven't received that gift yet and we could all still loose it by not honoring, doing what we're asked to, Christs' freely given sacrifice for us. We are not earning anything but trying to follow Christ so that in the end we are returning to live with him as "joint heirs." If he is our partner then we need him to get there and can't do it by ourselves. The only thing we can possibly do is live our lives in such a way that shows our desire to return to God. That is the goal of any follower of Christ in my opinion.

Rich said...

Hi Jackg,

Sorry, but I just took the time to read what you wrote, thoroughly.

You should try that more often before you stick your foot in your mouth like you did in your initial response to me. I'm not sitting here think I'm Mr. clever, smarter then you. I gave you a thoughtful response to your concerns for my state of salvation. You have specific hangups with the LDS church and that's fine with me. You seem to jump through hoops for your beliefs also. I may not be as smart as you or understand, in your opinion, how to exegete the bible, but is that only because we are at odds with certain beliefs? I don't understand the bible like you so I'm wrong no matter what I say or do. The temple is another part of the manner of living to follow what we are commanded to do to show that we accept the gift Christ has waiting for us. In the end it's going to be about what we did to show our acceptance of Christ's sacrifice for us. I'll wait til there's a temple post to go into the temple but no one I know who is truly seeking Christ in the LDS church thinks they are getting to heaven on their own merits, or earning their salvation, that is a perspective that comes from outside the LDS church.

Praying for you:)

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Rich, you put that very well. Thank you!

Cindy said...

Pops, Jeff and Rich, I would like nothing more than to consider us all brothers and sisters in Christ, but as I said before, I think the foundational beliefs upon which our faiths rest are significantly different. I am a sinner, you are divine. God is my creator, He is your dad. Christ is my Savior, He is your brother. Salvation is eternal life with God for me, it is resurrection for you. Works are what I do when filled by the Spirit as a result of my belief in Christ for my salvation, works are what you do in partnership with Christ to attain the Celestial Kingdom. At least that is what I have read from LDS sources...am I wrong?

Rich said...

Actually Cindy you are close. We are sinners too. God is our creator AND our Father in heaven, the father of our spirits. Christ is our Savior AND our brother. And for the seemingly biggest hangup, we also do works because of our belief in Christ and his gift of salvation for us. Salvation for you appears to be more closely related to the celestial kingdom. Ressurrection is our spirit and bady being reunited to live forever. Everyone gets this gift, but not everyone gets celestial kingdom, or living for eternity with God.

Rich said...

I don't know where bady came from, should be body

Cindy said...

Rich, thanks for your candid response.

"Salvation for you appears to be more closely related to the celestial kingdom. Ressurrection is our spirit and body being reunited to live forever. Everyone gets this gift, but not everyone gets celestial kingdom, or living for eternity with God."

I think you are right, our interpretation of the scope of the gift given to us by Christ's work is the biggest hangup between us. To me it seems that if Christ's sacrifice doesn't assure us of both our resurrection and our position with God, then at least some of our works will be self-serving as we try to earn a better spot with God on our own.

I believe that I am both justified (to eternal life) AND sanctified (to the presence with God) by faith in Christ.

I was justified completely in one moment by my understanding and acceptance that His sacrifice assures me of eternal life with God (1 Peter 2:24 "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.")

I am also being continually sanctified by Him as I submit to the refining of my faith in Him through the Spirit. (Philippians 2:13 "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.")

My "work" is to believe in Christ for my complete salvation AND submit to God's will by allowing the Spirit to sanctify me.

Once I believe in Christ as the only way to eternal life AND life in the presence of God, nothing I can do will affect my position either way.

Yes, I will be judged by my response to Christ's call to perfection...but God sees me as perfected through my faith in the gift of his Son. (Hebrews 10:14 "
because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.")

Yes, I will be judged for my sins, but they have been forgiven by Christ (if I accept Him as my Savior). Hebrews 7:27 " Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself."

And yes, I will be rewarded (with crowns) for my acts of faith in Christ, which, when in His presence, I will throw at His feet. Rev 4:11 "They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.""

And yes, my works will bear out my true faith in Him. God will command me to do things in my life that are impossible without complete faith in Him.

For example, I have a son with extreme special needs. Until I truly believed in Christ's work for me, I was continually trying to perfectly and solely care for him. I felt guilt, weariness and resentment all the time. But as I have come to accept Christ as my Savior, as the one who assures my eternal position with God, I have been able to courageously admit my weaknesses and have been able to assemble a team of loving caregivers for my son.

And even more importantly, I have been able to witness to all the people around us who have witnessed the change in me, that it has been because of my belief in Jesus Christ, through whom I have been released! I thank God for my Savior every day!

jackg said...

Jeff,

I have to say that I totally agree with what you told Cindy on 2/5. Nicely put.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Rich,

You said, "Everyone gets this gift, but not everyone gets celestial kingdom, or living for eternity with God."

Please tell how one comes to live for eternity with God.

As for you post that Jeff championed, I don't think I put my put my foot in my mouth. Here's a question: do you not think it's important to exegete the biblical text?

Praying for you...

jackg said...

PapaD,

You're rather noble.

Praying for you...

jackg said...

There's a reason I came on this site with the intent to stir the pot, and it's that you guys don't generally respond unless the pot is being stirred. The one thing I have promised to do is to counter the false teachings that come on this site. I don't know if you have heard of the word "synchretism," but it is the mixing of that which is holy with that which is unholy. Basically, that is how I perceive Mormonism to be. The false teachings of JS are shrouded in Christian terms to the point that Mormons truly believe they are following the biblical Jesus and His teachings.

Mormonism strays far from Orthodox Christianity. Mormonism teaches about a god who was once a man and, when you take Lorenzo Snow's couplet to its logical conclusion, was in need of a savior. Naturally, bringing to light such false teachings is not going to be palatable to the Mormon. That is why you guys basically gang up on me, slap each other on the back and give high-fives when you think you have scored a point against me. The problem is that we are not in any type of sporting event; rather, we are talking about your souls. I know that such a direct comment stirs you to anger and resentment, but I can't help that.

When I say I'm praying for you, I truly am. This does not mean that walking on eggshells is a necessary tactic when addressing the false teachings of your religion. I understand that such an engagement will not cause the light bulb to go off in your heads--you are all too programmed for that to happen. But, perchance someone who is investigating Mormonism comes onto the scene, then maybe exposing Mormonism for what it is (a false religion) might help them.

jackg said...

Since I was once one of you guys, I know how difficult it is when someone attacks your beliefs. I know the vain arguments that will follow and, believe me, they have not changed since I used them myself.

Here's the real deal: Mormonism is double-speak. You guys talk about God's grace, but the reality of God's grace is not experienced in the Mormon Church. You see, as soon as you say you believe in God's grace, you go right ahead and give your argument for works.

The truth of the matter is that Mormonism has exchanged the truth for a lie. I have to be honest about this, and it doesn't matter to me whether or not you like me. If I wanted to be liked, I would tell you that there are many ways to God, and that you are all good people and surely destined to be in God's presence. However, I cannot say that because you think you can merit something by your behaviors.

Cindy is doing a great job engaging with you. I guess my humanity is showing in that I have lost patience with the whole lot of you. Perhaps it isn't noble, but it's honest. The arguments you put forth are not grounded in the biblical text but in the wisdom of men.

Jeff, I pray for you to come to the truth because you have such a huge influence on people, and you're influencing them in the wrong direction, because that direction leads to the teachings of JS, who is a false prophet.

Ultimately, this engagement is not about you and me, but about the Truth. The Truth is Jesus Christ: He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. A temple ritual and handshakes and knowing names of signs won't get you into God's presence. You know, it's kind of funny when you try to tell me that it's Jesus getting you into God's presence and faith in Him, then go on with your temple ritual. Cindy has caught you guys in your double speak and pointed it out. That's what the whole world is doing.

Anyway, I am praying for all of you to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ--not the version JS has peddled.

Jeff, thank you for allowing me to post on your site. You're a patient and fantastic host. We don't agree, but I have no doubt that you are a beautiful person who loves God. I say that about all of you. Even though I don't know any of you, I know you. You're good people who love God and your fellowmen. Yes, I have been rough on you this time out, but I wanted you to engage with what I had to say; unfortunately, I had to go this route for that to happen. I pray there are no hard feelings. I certainly don't hold any hard feelings against you for expressing your beliefs and becoming animated and pointed at times, as well.

Praying for you all...

Rich said...

Actually Jack, I'm pretty sure Jeff was talking about the post just above yours, but that could just be me. And Thanks Jeff, I appreciate you comment.
The only reason Mormonism is double speak to you is because you can't get past some misunderstandings about LDS doctrine. Not to say you don't know the beliefs, but that you sometimes you intentionally use inflammatory language so you will be engaged. Whatever your experience with that I can assure you I have no problem engaging in meaningful dialogue, which I think I demonstrate with Cindy.
I don't see your intention as coming here to talk about beliefs. Especially since you specifically say you're here to just tell us how wrong and programmed for heresy we are. You now see the light and just want to pulpit-pound it into us poor misguided Mormons. That's what makes people not want to engage you by the way, in my opinion.

Papa D said...

Amen, Rich.

Cindy, again, I think the words we use get in the way of the meaning we intend and read. I don't disagree with anything you said in your last comment about how you believe. I would be 100% honest and accurate to describe my own beliefs the same way - and I am considered a faithful Mormon by just about everyone who knows me.

Cindy said...

Dear Papa D,

I am certainly not here to tell you what you believe.

Actually I am here because my dearest friend of 15 years, (LDS) gave my a Gospel Principles book for Christmas two years ago and challenged me to accept the greater truth of Mormonism.

I read it, as well as the quad, and was shocked and saddened by the differences in what we believe, especially when many of our conversations were about keeping Christ as the center of our lives!

Like her, I hear you saying that we believe the same things, but the writings of the church do not bear that out.

In order to demonstrate what I mean, here are a few comments from my last post compared with the teachings of the church.

Me-I believe that I am both justified (to eternal life) AND sanctified (to the presence with God) by faith in Christ.

LDS-The Savior’s Atonement makes it possible for us to overcome spiritual death. Although all people will be resurrected, only those who accept the Atonement will be saved from spiritual death. Christ’s Atonement makes it possible to be saved from sin if we do our part. (GP chap 12).

Me-I was justified completely in one moment by my understanding and acceptance that His sacrifice assures me of eternal life with God (1 Peter 2:24 "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.")

LDS-President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In order to obtain the exaltation we must accept the gospel and all its covenants; and take upon us the obligations which the Lord has offered; and walk in the light and the understanding of the truth; and ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:43).

To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in Him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey His commandments.

He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:

1.We must be baptized.
2.We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3.Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
4.We must receive the temple endowment.
5.We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to:

1.Love God and our neighbors.
2.Keep the commandments.
3.Repent of our wrongdoings.
4.Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.
5.Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
6.Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.
7.Have family and individual prayers every day.
8.Teach the gospel to others by word and example.
9.Study the scriptures.
10.Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.

Cindy said...

Papa D,

Here are a few more:

Me-I am also being continually sanctified by Him as I submit to the refining of my faith in Him through the Spirit. (Philippians 2:13 "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.")

LDS-The Lord has said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God”. Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (GP chap 47)

Me-Once I believe in Christ as the only way to eternal life AND life in the presence of God, nothing I can do will affect my position either way.

LDS-It is better to obey the commandments because we fear punishment than not to obey them at all. But we will be much happier if we obey God because we love Him and want to obey Him. When we obey Him freely, He can bless us freely. He said, “I, the Lord, … delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (D&C 76:5). Obedience also helps us progress and become more like our Heavenly Father. But those who do nothing until they are commanded and then keep the commandments unwillingly lose their reward (see D&C 58:26–29). (GP chap 35)

Yes, I will be judged for my sins, but they have been forgiven by Christ (if I accept Him as my Savior). Hebrews 7:27 " Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself."

LDS-Repentance is the way provided for us to become free from our sins and receive forgiveness for them. Sins slow our spiritual progression and can even stop it. Repentance makes it possible for us to grow and develop spiritually again. (GP chap 19)

As I have come to understand more of what my friend believes, I have also come to see how some of her situations are caused by her desire to earn her blessings and position with God. I weep for her and long for her to accept the fullness of God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life through the sacrifice of Christ.

Papa D said...

"Once I believe in Christ as the only way to eternal life AND life in the presence of God, nothing I can do will affect my position either way."

Cindy, I agree with just about everything else you said, but this is where we disagree completely. You believe this; I see it as one of the greatest abominations in modern Christianity and a construct of a horrible mis-interpretation on the part of John Calvin and those who followed him. Predestination eliminates free will at the extreme, and it turns God into a puppet-master who roasts and tortures some people at his own will and pleasure based on nothing they've done, earned or deserved. That's the flip side of the grace such a position espouses, and I just can't accept that - especially since I don't believe it accurately reflects the Biblical teachings.

In a nutshell, destroying repentance, imo, is denying the grace and atonement of Jesus Christ.

I know we disagree on that, so I really don't want to argue about it. It is what it is, and I have no problem with you believing what you believe. I just think it's very, very wrong. *grin*

Neither one of us is going to change the other's mind, I'm sure.

No hard feelings?

Rich said...

Hi Cindy,
I have to look at you last couple of comments and I am like PapaD. lets take some comments one at a time to see if I can understand you a little better.

Me-I believe that I am both justified (to eternal life) AND sanctified (to the presence with God) by faith in Christ.

So it isn't Christs atonement that makes this possible?

LDS-The Savior’s Atonement makes it possible for us to overcome spiritual death. Although all people will be resurrected, only those who accept the Atonement will be saved from spiritual death. Christ’s Atonement makes it possible to be saved from sin if we do our part.

And for our part, although there is a difference, is the our part in you case this, Me-I was justified completely in one moment by my understanding and acceptance that His sacrifice assures me of eternal life with God ? Wasn't the sacrifice that assures you eternal life with God the atonment?

Cindy said...

Papa D,

I don't want to beat a dead horse either, but I do want to be sure we understand each other before we drop our sticks *grin to you too*

I don't believe that God is an evil "puppet master" or that nothing we do makes a difference.

I believe in repentance. It is the first "choice" I must make in my journey of faith. I have to admit that I am a sinner without any hope of being with my Father in Heaven without someone to save me. And I must repent, or turn away, from my sin and turn instead toward Christ as the "way" to get there.

Because of the difference between who we believe ourselves, God and Jesus to be, we think differently about what that means. I believe that I am a sinful, created being, eternally separated from the presence of God and without a way to return to Him through anything I can do. I do not think that I am a divine child of God sent to earth to make righteous choices as a part of my eternal progression to godhood.

I need a Savior to get me into the family of God so I can be in heaven with Him, and all the rest of His family after I die. If I go through my life without admitting my position as a sinner and without choosing to accept Christ as my Savior I will receive the wages of sin, which is eternal death with no hope of being in heaven.

For me, Christ's suffering and death on the cross offered me forgiveness for my sins (all of them, even the ones I haven't committed yet), paid the price of justice required for my sins, bought me back from the bondage of slavery to sin, and allowed me to become a daughter of God through adoption.

So once I repent of my sins and turn to Christ as the only way to eternal life with God, I change my belief from that of helping myself to earn my position with God to one that fully accepts Christ's work for me as the only "work" that can assure my eternal place in heaven-the equivalent of your celestial kingdom. So my eternal position with God is established through "grace through faith, without works, so no man can boast" because it is completely Christ's work that determines my afterlife. And once I believe that, it would be a slap in the face of my Savior to "un-believe" it.

But just because my eternal position with God is secure through Christ, that doesn't mean that I am not asked to do works. I am asked to dedicate the rest of my life sharing the wonderful news of grace with others. I am asked to submit my life to the scrutiny of God's refining fire so that He can purify areas in which I still try to take control for myself. And for these works, I will be awarded crowns of glory, which I will gladly throw at the feet of my Savior on that day I meet Him in heaven in exchange for the phrase I long to hear, "well done, my good and faithful servant" and the gift of the full knowledge and glory of God.

Papa D said...

Cindy, thanks for that clarification. It is important, and I really appreciate it.

I guess the ONLY disagreement I have now with what you said you believe (the ONLY thing you said that I don't believe myself) is the part about being damned for going through life without confessing and accepting Christ. If I am reading you correctly, and I admit I've not done a good job of that so far, you seem to be saying that those who live and die never hearing about Jesus are damned for it - and that's the terrible puppet master image all over again. That implies God chose some to save and some to damn and there's nothing the damned ones who God made be born at the wrong time and wrong place can do about it. They are damned because God predestined them to damnation.

If that's not what you mean, we are in complete agreement - which brings me full circle back to my point about semantics and the words we use for most things.

Again, if you don't really mean hardcore predestination for the chosen damned, then the only difference I see is that I believe we are children who can become like our Father, while you don't beleive that. Maybe that is the only place where we really differ - in what we believe to be the very purpose of our existence. How we perceive ourselves in relation to Jesus appears to be identical (to me); it's how we perceive Heavenly Father and our relationship to Him that appears to be the great divide.

I only can submit that I believe the idea that we are created to become like our creator is THE central and core concept of the entire Bible, the most important aspect of the Good News Jesus himself taught, and the very heart of the message Paul also taught. It is taught over and over and over again throughout the Bible, culminating in the admonitions and prayers of Jesus himself.

If we simply differ in hat regard, so be it. At least understand, please, that I still think the differences you perceive about how we view Jesus are semantic in nature and not substantive.

Cindy said...

Wow...your response has me questioning my ability to express myself in writing! I don't know how you got the idea that I believe that those who don't hear the gospel are damned from what I wrote...wow...

I believe that God wrote His law on all our hearts and His greatest wish is for us to admit our need for Him and receive His grace-in whatever form it may take. Just because someone doesn't hear of Christ in their lifetime doesn't predestine someone to eternity in hell.

I actually think just the opposite. It is only those who DO hear the truth of the gospel, (that Christ is the way, the truth and the life,) and reject His work by trying to earn their own position in eternity who will lose the chance for eternity in heaven.

Cindy said...

Papa D,

Thanks for describing what you perceive to be the difference in our beliefs. You may think it is semantics, and maybe it is, so perhaps a few definitions would help.
Could we start with you telling me your definition of the gospel?

Papa D said...

Again, thanks for the clarification. It was the following sentence that threw me:

"If I go through my life without admitting my position as a sinner and without choosing to accept Christ as my Savior I will receive the wages of sin, which is eternal death with no hope of being in heaven."

I didn't apply it only to you as someone who has heard of and understood about Christ. I thought it might be an application you make to everyone, since that is a common application, unfortunately, imo.

Papa D said...

How do I define the Gospel?

I wish I could do so in one short sentence without simply using the standard "Good News" definition, but I think you want me to elaborate on what I perceive the "good news" to be. So, here goes:

Good News

a) God's love and grace extend to ALL, not just to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ALL can be partakers of that love and grace and be "saved" as a result. Paul said it best, perhaps, in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (That's from memory, so it might be off in a word or two.) Thus, the "good news" is that the atonement of the Christ is universal and applied freely - in that all are resurrected and end up better off as a result of mortality than they were before mortality. (with the exception of those who decide consciously to follow and serve Satan - the "Sons of Perdition" - those who look God in the eye, acknowledge he is God, and then spit at him and serve the devil)

b) In practical terms, I really like the construct of the Gospel as 1) faith; 2) repentance; 3) baptism [or any outward, symbolic manifestation of an internal commitment]; 4) following the Holy Ghost / receiving the Spirit of God / being spirit-breathed / any other such verbiage that denotes an attempt to ascertain the will of God and hearken to it; 5) enduring to the end.

I like the order - a reliance on Jesus first and foremost, followed by a sincere attempt to allow change to occur within us, followed by a communal declaration of our commitment that includes a physical act that gives us a tangible expression of that commitment, followed by an effort to tap into God's will on an on-going basis, extended to the very end. In a way, it's nothing more than saying, "Have faith in Jesus Christ; exhibit that faith in your own life through trying to follow him; exhibit that faith symbolically; strive to continue in faith; never stop living by faith."

c) The part of the "good news" where I think we differ is the idea taught in multiple places in the New Testament (and not in the Book of Mormon, btw) that there is an unbelievable POWER in the grace / atonement that can make the unthinkable a reality - that can take a fallen, natural, carnal, irredeemable woman or man and literally "save" (keep from being discarded),"redeem" (purchase) and "liberate" (free from external constraint) that otherwise irredeemable person.

I believe this unfathomable power is the heart of the Good News of the Gospel - that when Jesus commands to be perfect (complete, whole, fully developed) even as his father is perfect - or when Jesus prays that we may be one even as he and his father are one - or when Paul writes that we will be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ - or when John says that we will see him as he is because we will be like him - and SO many more . . . that these statements truly mean something in a real, meaningful way and aren't just nice platitudes.

To me, the Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus and Paul and John and others really meant exactly what they said, even though exactly HOW he performs that unimaginable transformation is so totally beyond our comprehension that we just can't understand it - and it seems ridiculous and even arrogant to the eye and heart that can't believe. Since it is so irrational and illogical, it has to stay in the realm of faith - the substance of things "hoped for" and the evidence of things "not seen".

I hope that makes sense to you.

How do you define the Gospel?

Cindy said...

Papa D,

Thanks so much...I appreciate your time so much here, and I will be honest by saying that in a way, I am using you to help me to understand the beliefs of my dear friend so that we can communicate better. I think sometimes she perceives me to be adversarial because I am always asking for definitions.

Knowing that, could you help me by clearly defining what you mean by a few more things? I completely understand if you say no...I do honor your time...

What do each of the elements of the gospel you describe mean to you?

1)faith;
2)repentance;
3)baptism;
4)following the Holy Ghost / receiving the Spirit of God / being spirit-breathed / any other such verbiage that denotes an attempt to ascertain the will of God and hearken to it;
5)enduring to the end

Papa D said...

"I think sometimes she perceives me to be adversarial because I am always asking for definitions."

Yeah, unfortunately past experiences get in the way sometimes of open communication, but questions are critical to understanding - if they are asked in the spirit of real understanding and not judgment, which I believe you do.

Also, I really do believe some simply are given the "gift" of being able to believe - that the classic definition of "faith" Paul uses is easier for them than for others, and it often is hard for them to understand those whom they perceive to be lacking in that faith because they are natural questioners. To put it differently, without any condescension or scorn toward either type, the settlers and the explorers always have an uneasy relationship - simply because they think differently and have a hard understanding and valuing the other perspective as just as good and valid as theirs.

Anyway, ironically, I am putting the final touches on a talk for tomorrow in church that is about accepting Jesus as the Redeemer and receiving His image in our countenance. I am going to be very busy today and tomorrow, since I am speaking in two different congregations, so it might take me a while to get to your questions. I apologize in advance for that, but I promise I will get to them - probably in separate comments for each question, if that's ok with you.

Cindy said...

Papa D,

Thanks so much. No hurry. I am appreciative of your time and perspective. Good luck with your talk.

Papa D said...

Cindy, I finished my talk outline prep and checked back in here, but I don't have time to answer your question yet. I just want you to know I am not brushing it off, even though I did comment on a couple of other threads here.

Cindy said...

Papa, I appreciate your time whenever you're able to offer it...I'm talking in church today too...want to share talks? I'd love to see what you say!

Papa D said...

I like Paul's definition of faith in Hebrews: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I also like that he talks in that chapter about it being the motivating force behind action - that he describes its EFFECT on people and what they DO. He gives a list of people who had faith and to whom that faith was imputed for righteousness - and he does so by listing what they DID as a result of their faith. Iow, "faith" can be described as a noun ("substance" and "evidence"), but, in full context, to be "effective" or "efficacious", it also must be described as being "exercised" or "planted and nurtured" or in combination with some other action verb.

In the LDS Church, the most commonly quoted verse on faith probably is in James 2, where it says, "Faith without works is dead, being alone." I like that, but it's just a concise way to say what Paul said in Hebrews.

Interestingly, Luther and some other early Protestant reformers didn't like The Epistle of James and thought it should not have been included in the Bible - specifically because it was so obviously opposed to their view of faith and works. The irony is that they didn't object to Paul and Hebrews, even though the message is exactly the same. Paul just wasn't as blunt as James.

In "the Gospel", faith is in Jesus - as in, "We believe the first principle of the Gospel is faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ;" Frankly, I think faith gets devalued often by too many Mormons - almost taken for granted in a real way in their quest for knowledge. After all, the Doctrine & Covenants says that some people are given the gift to know that Jesus is the Christ, while some people are given the gift to believe those who know.

I also don't like some of the common examples of faith that are used to teach children about it. Believing a light will go on when you flip the light switch is NOT faith, and it shouldn't be taught as such - even to very small children who can't understand the full concept yet.

So, to me, our "faith" is that for which we hope in Christ and the evidence we see for that hope - a belief, yes, but such a strong belief that it actually compels us to act on our hope. It is Christ-centered, and the examples we use ought to be Christ-centered, as well - like those Paul used in Hebrews.

Papa D said...

Cindy, one word of caution, if you will:

There is a chance your friend won't see all these things exactly like I do. Unlike what is believed by some of our harshest critics, Mormons are not programmed cultists who all think alike. There is a WIDE spectrum of beliefs regarding many things. You probably realize that, but it needs to be said often - just in case.

I personally am an orthoprax member in most of the ways I "live" my religion, but my beliefs range from solidly orthodox to radically heterodox when compared to other members - depending on the topic. I have no idea where on the spectrum your friend is, but there's a decent chance she won't answer the exact same way I do.

Again, you probably recognize that, but there might be a limit to how you can use my answers to understand her.

Papa D said...

Sorry, one more thing I meant to say but didn't:

I'd love to share talks. Send an e-mail to the address at the bottom of my personal blog with a copy of yours. I'll send you my outline, since I very rarely write out my talks.

Cindy said...

Thanks so much Papa D, and I apologize for my delayed response. Besides having to look up the word orthoprax, I feel as though I truly understand your post. I appreciate the thoughtful way you laid out the elements of your belief and how you pulled it altogether at the end for me.

I think we share similar beliefs in terms of our definition of faith:

"our "faith" is that for which we hope in Christ and the evidence we see for that hope - a belief, yes, but such a strong belief that it actually compels us to act on our hope."

A hope in Christ that is manifested in the way we live our lives...right?

So then is the difference coming from what that hope is in Christ? What is your hope? (Can you even believe that after all of your work, I still have questions? **smile**)

Papa D said...

"So then is the difference coming from what that hope is in Christ?"

I think so, based on our conversation so far.

"What is your hope?"

This is from a previous comment of mine. I don't mean to be flippant by copying it here, but I think it addresses your question. I added a few things now [in brackets]. If not (if you want more detail), I'll try to elaborate more:

****The part of the "good news" where I think we differ is the idea taught in multiple places in the New Testament (and not in the Book of Mormon, btw) that there is an unbelievable POWER in the grace / atonement that can make the unthinkable a reality - that can take a fallen, natural, carnal, irredeemable woman or man and literally "save" (keep from being discarded),"redeem" (purchase) and "liberate" (free from external constraint) that otherwise irredeemable person. [New addition: a power that can bridge the otherwise unbridgeable chasm that the Fall created - I have NO problem with the idea that there WAS an unbridgeable chasm / gulf between God and man as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve; I believe the "Good News" is that the chasm / gulf was bridged by Jesus - as taught in the NEW Testament.]

I believe this unfathomable power is the heart of the Good News of the Gospel - that when Jesus commands to be perfect (complete, whole, fully developed) even as his father is perfect - or when Jesus prays that we may be one even as he and his father are one - or when Paul writes that we will be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ - or when John says that we will see him as he is because we will be like him - and SO many more . . . that these statements truly mean something in a real, meaningful way and aren't just nice platitudes.

To me, the [hope of the] Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus and Paul and John and others really meant exactly what they said, even though exactly HOW Jesus performs that unimaginable transformation [how he bridges that otherwise unbridgeable gap] is so totally beyond our comprehension that we just can't understand it - and it seems ridiculous and even arrogant to the eye and heart that can't believe. Since it is so irrational and illogical, it has to stay in the realm of faith - the substance of things "hoped for" and the evidence of things "not seen".****

So, to answer your question, directly, that's my hope in Christ - that He really, truly, actually meant what is attributed to Him in the Gospels - and that the same can be said of what was said later by the apostles in their epistles.

Cindy said...

Thanks Papa, Sorry for my delayed response...I really want to consider what you are saying before I respond.

So your hope in Christ is that He wants you to be perfect as He is?

Papa D said...

Not only that he wants it to be thus, but that he can and will do it for all who strive to "come follow me".

I know that what he wants and what he gets are synonymous for many, but I can't make it that simple given how many times the Bible states clearly that things didn't go as he wanted them to go - how many times he is said to have wept - the reference to trying to gather Israel as a hen gathers her chicks "but you would not" - etc.

Also, I wish it were a given throughout Christianity that God really does want to bless ALL his children. Unfortunately, there is a strong predestination creed in many denominations and congregations that essentially denies that concept - but that's a discussion for a different post. *grin*

Cindy said...

And does He want our perfection because there is no other way for us to live with Him in eternity (because of His holy nature and our lack of holiness) or because we would be denying our divine potential to become as Him, or a combination of both?

How is the blessing of all children at odds with our hope for perfection? Are we all predestined to godliness and simply asked to accept the path of obedience to invoke it?

So many questions...so sorry...thank you for your infinite patience!

Papa D said...

Great questions, and, in all honesty, I'm not sure I know the answers. I can hypothesize, but these are questions for which the answers might not be as clearly revealved as some other things, imo. I'll give it a shot, but please understand I'm wandering into my own "see through a glass, darkly" territory now.

"Does He want our perfection because there is no other way for us to live with Him in eternity (because of His holy nature and our lack of holiness) or because we would be denying our divine potential to become as Him, or a combination of both?"

I think he wants our perfection because he loves us - and I don't think it's more complicated than that. I think, somehow, unfathomably, he created us to partake in his glory and perfection as more than just cheerleaders - that there was an element of selfless love and condescension (in the purest, Biblical meaning) to the creation of our spirits and this sphere that bridges the unbridgable gap, so to speak.

I don't know how to frame it other than as an act of indescribable, undeserved, gracious love - so I don't have an intellectual answer to your question.

"How is the blessing of all children at odds with our hope for perfection?"

I don't think it is at odds; I think our hope for perfection is a sub-set of our belief that he blesses all of his children to whatever extent possible. The principle that he blesses all - and that we can't tell fully who will be blessed to what degree when it comes right down to it - is meant, I believe, to help us be charitable and loving as he is, but, unfortunately, that doesn't happen in too many cases (including my own, fully).

"Are we all predestined to godliness and simply asked to accept the path of obedience to invoke it?"

I don't know. Truly, I don't know. There is a debate among Mormon scholars about whether or not there are "multiple mortal probations" - which is one way such an ending would be possible. Our scriptures lean away from that idea, and it certainly isn't taught actively in the LDS Church (and simply can't be, imo, from a purely practical standpoint) - but there are enough passages that hint at the possibility, when combined with our belief in eternal progression toward completion, wholeness and full development made up of multiple "stages of existence", that it is possible to believe this life is not the only chance we have to accept and become.

(That's a monster sentence. I hope you don't have to read it lots of times to understand what I tried to say. *grin*)

We don't believe everyone is predestined to Heaven or Hell in the classic Calvinist sense of the term, but I can't answer your actual question with any degree of certainly. I just don't know - but, personally, I'd like to believe so.

Anonymous said...

Mormons teach that Jesus and Satan were "spirit brothers". St. Paul never taught such filth!

But St. Paul did tell us how to detect servants of satan:

4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached
13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.
14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2Cor 11

Mormons (and all other cults including JW's, Catholics, SDA's etc.) are simply servants of satan, faking that they are servants of righteousness!

I wonder how they n\enjoy their status as servants of Lucifer?