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

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Savior of the World, the Entire World: Grace Effective to Save All Men

Some critics have argued that the Latter-day Saint concept of moral agency (a.k.a. free agency) would make God no longer sovereign if we were really free to choose and follow Him. While we cannot save ourselves or remove our own sins--this is only possible through the Atonement of His Son--God is so powerful that He has given us "all things pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3-4), including the power to choose Him, repent of our sins, and enter into sacred covenants wherein we learn to obey and more fully accept Him. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the great plan of salvation, we are made free. Our freedom to choose persists throughout life. Once we have chosen Him, we can later reject him and fall from grace. This continued freedom does not make Him less, but is part of His plan to make us more (see Romans 8:14-18; 1 John 3:2; Matt. 5: 48).

This freedom to choose God and repent of our sins through the power of the Atonement is not given to only a few whom God elects to save while all others are thrown into hell with never a whisper of hope. The true and living God is so sovereign, and the Atonement of His Son is so efficacious and powerful, that it can break down all barriers, breaking down the very gates of hell (Hades) to offer redemption to all those who will gladly accept it, to all those who will have faith in the Savior of the world. Those who limit God's love and desire to save to only a select few who lived after the time of Christ are missing the true sovereign power of God and fail to understood how great His mercy is. As the scriptures teach, He wants all to be saved. He gave His Son as a ransom for ALL, across all cultures, continents, and eras of time (1 Timothy 2):
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
That passage of scriptures is consistent, of course, with 2 Peter 3:9 where we read that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." That doctrine is better understood in light of the mission of Christ into the spirit world (1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6) to preach the Gospel to those who had died. This concept, restored through revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith and later to Joseph F. Smith (Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants), along with the attendant blessings of the Temple, baptism for the dead, and other sacred concepts pertaining to the amazing grace and mercy of our most sovereign God, was largely lost from mainstream Christianity for centuries.

I encourage you to understand the early Christian roots of these restored LDS doctrines and practices. It is a testimony-building experience to contemplate the evidences for the Restoration and the wondrous, true mercy of God in providing means that all who will accept grace may receive it in the covenants and blessings He offers.

A great summary of information about early Christian concepts in this area can be found in two recent publications from the Maxwell Institute. Please see "The Harrowing of Hell: Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity" by Kendel J. Christensen, Roger D. Cook, and David L. Paulsen and "Baptism for the Dead in Early Christianity" by Brock M. Mason, and David L. Paulsen. These are intelligent, interesting, scholarly articles that will help you better appreciate some of the reasons why we Mormons are so excited about the broad, broad scope of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the tools God has given us to participate in bringing the Gospel to His sons and daughters across the expanses of geography and time. Free agency and infinite mercy made available to all who will choose it--now that's a sovereign God.

108 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why the gates of hell/Hades do not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ: because the ministry of Christ has power to reach souls who are there and liberate them.

Carla said...

This is why Calvinism always bothered me. How could any person truly love God if God decided it for them? Love is not love if it's not a free choice. God making the decision to give us that choice is in fact evidence of his omnipotence, not against it. A parent could choose to manipulate and control their children, but they could also choose not to. That doesn't mean they don't have the power to do it; it means they choose not to exercise that power for the good of the child.

Anonymous said...

The problem with a savior is that you have to believe in sin in the first place to accept that you need a savior from it. Sin is a made up concept by religion. Just because there are things that are wrong or bad to do does not mean you need to ask forgiveness from some heavenly being after doing them.
Sorry, I don't need saving and don't need a savior.
Flame away. :)

Papa D said...

Why would we "flame away"? If you are convinced of that, nothing we can say here will change your mind. What good is arguing about it in a forum like this?

I've always been struck, Jeff, by how much more "powerful" the Mormon concept of God's grace and Jesus' atonement is than that preached by nearly all of Protestantism. This post is a great explanation of how that is so.

Patrick said...

Why can no unclean thing dwell in the presence of God?

Why or how does justice prevent God from bringing his disobedient children back into his presence without their being an atonement?

Who or what is the sacrifice of a god (the atonement) appeasing that allows that god to then set the requirements for return to God the Father? How does the sacrifice set all aright?

Question I've always had concerning the atonement. I've given it much thought and I have my ideas.

I'm not alone in not understanding the why and how behind the atonement. I've heard speakers in the latest General Conferences express they too have a lack of understanding.

Cindy said...

Is the definition of grace the "freedom to choose God and repent of our sins?"

If so, it sure does seems as though we can fall from it unless we do the work of repenting, covenanting, temple work etc.

But if grace is defined as "the freely given, unmerited favor and love of god"

then doesn't it seem as though we can fall from grace by rejecting the favor and love of God through those very same actions?

Pops said...

Cindy,

Here's a different take on it: if God tells me to go to the temple and make sacred covenants there, what should be my response? Should I ask why, or speculate about some hidden meaning or nuance in motivation? Or should I just obey?

Anything but obedience seems rather risky to me...

Anonymous said...

Pops: "Anything but obedience seems rather risky to me..."
You could always use your free agency and decide for yourself what is best for you.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

Please remove the comment left by the "Stake President Paternoster" his profile links to a blog that is mocking and smug.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, if Jeff deleted every comment from every commenter that contained something that someone viewed as smug or mocking, there probably wouldn't be any comments left.

I disagree with some of the things said on that blog, but it's no more smug or mocking than MANY of the comments left here - and I'm sure some commenters feel that way about some of my comments.

Just saying.

Pops said...

You could always use your free agency and decide for yourself what is best for you.

And that's pretty much what I did. Being somewhat familiar with the scriptures, I know how God feels about disobedience. I don't really want to go there.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Boy, I was worried that the smug and mocking link was to something I had written. I can tolerate a bit of smugness and mocking, but what I don't like is when critics pretend to be members of the Church, or even leaders in the Church. That irked me enough to take his link off. Meanwhile, the rest of you can continue with whatever attitude problems you have. Just don't lie about who you are.

Papa D said...

"what I don't like is when critics pretend to be members of the Church, or even leaders in the Church. That irked me enough to take his link off."

Amen, Jeff.

NathanS said...

Very nice post, Jeff.

Reasons the atonement is necessary? Couldn't God have just saved without requiring an atonement? The answer to the first question is that the answer to the second question is "No!"

We read that God had to overpower the demands of justice (by satisfying them) rather than rob justice, if He were to show great mercy, because were He to try to rob justice, He would cease to be God.

In other words, there are other intelligent beings and their/our intelligence is sufficient to recognize justice as an imparative virtue, a premise for their willing submission to God's rule.

Remember, the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness. Try to subvert one of those principles and One cannot any longer control the powers of heaven. Perhaps hell but not heaven.

Of course that doesn't explain all of the atonement, how it "heals." My understanding of how it heals is limited to my understanding of the healing that can occur in meditating on that proof of God's love until we are constantly feeling loved by God.

Anonymous said...

The modern concept of Free Will/Volition is that it is an allusion. More and more one sees research articles validating this, ie. brian scans indicating that a person makes a decision before before the person realizes it. Animal behavior (humans) are complex mathematical equations, believe or not in volition is part of that equation.

Carla - If by their fruits you shall know them, and Calvinistic societies with their emphasis on works such as the Mormons are now proven to be economically better off (think southern/eastern europe compared to northern/western europe) and have more discretionary money to spend on charity, isn't Calvinism then a good thing.

Pops - "if God tells me" - Who decideds what god says. The Lafferty brothers say god tells them to kill people, the state of Utah says they are lying. The minute the conversation turns to "god tells" the conversation becomes pointless.

Nathan S. - Same goes for justice. Who decides what justice is. Every conversation I have had with an evangelical and the word justice appears, the evangelical immediate responds that justice is a human concept, not a godly one. Your concept of justice appears to require everyone that looked at you crossed eye to ask for forgiveness before going to the highest degree of heaven, seems a little unrealistic

NathanS said...

Anon...:
"Your concept of justice appears to require everyone that looked at you crossed eye to ask for forgiveness before going to the highest degree of heaven, seems a little unrealistic"

If that was meant as a joke, I missed the punch line. If serious,that's the punch line of a joke on how far from a Christian belief one can imagine a Christian belief to be!

My concept of justice is so far removed from such a thing that after getting over the puzzlement of how you could come up with an idea like that, I do find it laughable.

I'll explain: Jesus was human, too. And he did nothing that required an atonement for any of his errors because his were not of that class. But looking at someone cross-eyed? He was far more offensive than that! And ALL IN INNOCENCE.

No, my belief in justice does not require that a man not be manly.

Godly justice is required by intelligent beings, not wimps who find an excuse to be insulted - not by self-defeating, short-sighted souls who demand a punishment for every inconvenience. Nope. You got my Christian belief perfectly backwards.

If you were just being silly, I guess I'm just being silly to reply.

Anonymous said...

I am always fascinated by the conecpt of sin and how people define it. Mormons certainly do not define sin in the same way other Christian Churches do, so the sins that Mormons need forgiveness from is different than what other Christians need forgiveness from. Follow?
Which brings in to question, who is really committing sin and whose sin is a valid sin that needs a redeemer?
I would suggest that if People can not even agree on what sin is, than there is no need to have a redeemer.
The whole world would be much better off if there was not this made up idea of Jesus Saving man from his sin.
Seriously, would you run out and cheat and steal cause you did not believe in Jesus or any other God? I doubt Jeff would, and I bet he would have a lot more time to do something useful with his free time.
Stats show that there are more Christians in Prison than Jesus Atheists. SO more Christians break the law than people who do not believe in Christian God.
hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

I get it Nathan S. Justice is whatever you have decide it be, which just happens to be in sync with God and true Christianity. Anyone who does not agree with you has not reached your level of intelligence and is a unmanly wimp (unlike yourself) who has wrongfully decided to be insulted.

Anonymous said...

"Remember, the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness. Try to subvert one of those principles and One cannot any longer control the powers of heaven. Perhaps hell but not heaven. "
Can someone please post proof of this statement? I would like to see on what that is based? It reminds me a lot of some Anime I read once.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, civil discourse is nice; insults and mocking aren't.

Just one thing:

"Stats show that there are more Christians in Prison than Jesus Atheists."

Totally irrelevant stats bother me, fwiw. This is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Papalapa, I guess if the stats showed that there were more Jesus Atheists in prison, the stats would not bother you so much.
We are getting to a day and age where people who believe in fantasy are needing all the help they can get to continue to make the magic world they believe in seem real.
Seems you don't like it when someone's statement is challenged. I would suggest that people post things that can be proven and not things that are from a made up world. That would certainly move the discourse along and you would feel less threatened by what you perceive to be insults and mocking.
What you consider an insult is actually just challenging someone to back up what they say and post some type of proof for outlandish statements.
There was no insult or mocking, sorry you feel that was my intention. It was not.

Openminded said...

I agree with anonymous that Nathan's statement about justice and Heaven and everything else seem completely made up/speculative.

"Couldn't God have just saved without requiring an atonement?"
Is followed by a good reflection of Nathan's understanding of things, but it really lacks substance.

That he used what's written about God (by man) just seems to further the point that sin is a man-made concept.

Anonymous said...

Thanks OM, I am amazed that statements like that go unchallenged. They seem to be just made up to fit the narrative or belief system the writer espouses.
I seriously would love to know where that statement came from, as it seems that if you put it on another blog about fantasy worlds, it would fit perfectly.
Since so many Christians talk about how their religion helps them to be 'good' etc, I do not think that a stat showing that more Christians commit crimes than Atheists is at all irrelevant. In fact, I think it is becoming more and more relevant as the number of Atheists grows in numbers. There is much to be said for people who do not need an invisible Man in the Sky to keep them from stealing, cheating and killing each other.

Pops said...

Who decideds what god says. The Lafferty brothers say god tells them to kill people, the state of Utah says they are lying. The minute the conversation turns to "god tells" the conversation becomes pointless.

No, that's when the conversation becomes both interesting and valuable. You hint at the right questions, but then you bail out. Does God speak? How? How can we know it's God's voice and not the voice of man?

Anonymous said...

I get it Pops. YOU decide what God says, not the Lafferty brothers, not the state of Utah, not me, but only YOU and those YOU appoint.

Openminded said...

I'm going to take a different route than anonymous.

How bout this:
We can only have faith that God is talking to us through the ways we say He is. No way of knowing.

Papa D said...

Turning the other cheek is a good practice.

Openminded, I agree with that, as we discussed in the thread about inspiration. I believe that all we can "know" is what we believe we can "know" based on our own experiences. Yes, that leads logically to some pretty scary conclusions (consider the World Trade Center bombers), but I'm ok with that.

Ironically, the main point of Jeff's post supports the idea that God's grace / the Atonement is sufficient to cover the sincere attempts of ALL to follow the dictates of their own consciences - and, in the end, that's my position. Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Shinto, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, whatever - God's grace is sufficient to save all.

As long as they are sincere, I am fine with that - specifically because I believe the main point of this post.

Cindy said...

Is justice required to prove grace? That without the need for perfect payment for every injustice we could never understand the opposite concept of perfect mercy-perfect forgiveness of every injustice? Is that what is meant by the statement "the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness?"

If so, and if we believe in God, then it seems like we must admit that God is holy enough to demand complete purity of anyone or anything that wants to reside with Him and that it is very loving of Him to offer us the choice to accept whatever purification process He offers us.

To me the question seems to be what our role, or essentially our response to the atonement of Christ is in the purification process. Whatever we believe, we had better do it perfectly or we are out of luck! If we accept the atonement of Christ for our resurrection to eternal life and then submit to obedience to sacred covenants we had better keep them perfectly. But if we accept the sacrifice of Christ as the perfect payment for sins, we had better maintain that acceptance perfectly. Either way, our works, our response, must be perfect in order to be acceptable to a holy God.

Or do we have another choice in being obedient? Paul says in Hebrews, "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Isn't it possible that as soon as I recognize that I have to rely completely on God for my eternal exaltation, He sees me as perfect because I am accepting the offer of Christ’s perfection as the only perfect “way” to enter my Father’s house?

By accepting Christ's perfection as my own don't I free myself of trying to do anything of my own to enhance my post-mortal position with God? By relying on Christ's perfection completely, I should also be able to put my trust in Him for my continued sanctification. Then it can be Christ who does the work to continually sanctify me. He can continually illuminate the places in my life where my actions-my works-don’t represent a complete trust in Him. For example, He might illuminate a situation in which I am acting fearfully by being more concerned with the response of a person rather than God. He can continually refine my faith, by asking me to turn to Him as my source of trust, and away from the sin of self rule until I become more and more trusting of Him for everything.

Pops said...

I get it Pops. YOU decide what God says, not the Lafferty brothers, not the state of Utah, not me, but only YOU and those YOU appoint.

That would certainly be a huge mistake - ask my wife!

NathanS said...

"I agree with anonymous that Nathan's statement about justice and Heaven and everything else seem completely made up/speculative."

Atheists by faith predetermine that all religion is "completely made up/speculative."

"Anyone who does not agree with you has not reached your level of intelligence and is a unmanly wimp (unlike yourself) who has wrongfully decided to be insulted."

A leap in logic like the following: because I don't see God, anyone who believes He exists [you fill in the blank].

It seems to me that the "nay" sayers do not use data, experience, or logic, to defend an alternative view - only to attack a view, and of those three, use only experience for their attacks at that. The other tools used to counter religion are primarily ridicule and stating that which is obvious but not related.

Papa D, thank you for noting what the thread was originally about.

Pops said...

Is justice required to prove grace? That without the need for perfect payment for every injustice we could never understand the opposite concept of perfect mercy-perfect forgiveness of every injustice?

LDS theology suggests that perfect justice predates perfect mercy; that is, perfect mercy is the response to perfect justice. The "law of opposites" also comes into play, in that there cannot be happiness unless there is also pain, there cannot be reward unless there is also punishment, etc.

Is that what is meant by the statement "the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness?"

I'm not sure what the connection is. That quote addresses the ability of priesthood holders to invoke the powers of heaven. It wasn't Peter's power, for example, that healed the lame beggar. It was heaven's power. Peter would not have been able to invoke that power had he not been righteous.

To me the question seems to be what our role, or essentially our response to the atonement of Christ is in the purification process. Whatever we believe, we had better do it perfectly or we are out of luck! If we accept the atonement of Christ for our resurrection to eternal life and then submit to obedience to sacred covenants we had better keep them perfectly. But if we accept the sacrifice of Christ as the perfect payment for sins, we had better maintain that acceptance perfectly. Either way, our works, our response, must be perfect in order to be acceptable to a holy God.

That's basically correct, although there is one really important piece of the puzzle that needs to be added. Recognizing that we are human and will usually fall short at about the time we awake each day, Jesus instituted the sacrament - a weekly time of reflection, repentance, and recommitment. He asks that we do our best and keep trying to improve. The power that does the changing comes from God, our efforts are our way of inviting God to exercise that power in us.

Then it can be Christ who does the work to continually sanctify me. He can continually illuminate the places in my life where my actions-my works-don’t represent a complete trust in Him. For example, He might illuminate a situation in which I am acting fearfully by being more concerned with the response of a person rather than God. He can continually refine my faith, by asking me to turn to Him as my source of trust, and away from the sin of self rule until I become more and more trusting of Him for everything.

Very well stated. If someone is telling you that Mormons believe differently, perhaps you would call them on it for me.

NathanS said...

Cindy, I went to your blog and I like it very much. You not only sound very sincere but very much willing to grow and learn and pray to God for answers.

My experience with answers is that I am not always aware of everything at once, or at least not always aware of how others' terminology could be used in agreement with mine.

In your comment here you seem to present various ideas as alternate views, and although perhaps the way you present them they do look very much like alternate views, as Papa D's response seems to suggest, there is something hinted at in each view that comes together in harmony.

If you will notice, there is a "more or less" agreement with one combined portion and a whole-hearted agreement with another. You may not have thought of partial acceptance of portions of all three.

Although I don't, perhaps one could liken the LDS belief to an asterisk as oppposed to a single line. The basis of all is that Jesus saves. What's more is that we need to do what we can to cooperate with him. (I find that in line with Jesus doing the saving but if you see it as an intersecting idea, that also works.)

We are not likely to cooperate perfectly. While we don't know how to cooperate perfectly, cooperating perfectly is not required of us. The covenants, properly understood and simplified, can be thought of as an agreement between ourselves and God that if we will do all that we can to cooperate with His efforts to perfect us, He will perfect us, even make us in the image that He already sees for us (or as you put it in so many words, he already sees us as he will make us). That's God's part of the covenant. Our part is to faithfully persist in our efforts to cooperate.

Anonymous said...

"A leap in logic like the following: because I don't see God, anyone who believes He exists [you fill in the blank]."
I think the argument is there is no proof of God, not that they do not see him. Nice straw man you just built there though. :)
What is ironic is you use words like data and logic in the same breath as you misinterpret what the other side's position is. I don't see much honesty in your words there.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, "Remember, the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness. Try to subvert one of those principles and One cannot any longer control the powers of heaven. Perhaps hell but not heaven. "
Evidence of this please? And please use logic and data to back up this assertion. Since you tout it as being necessary when presenting or defending a position.

Papa D said...

Cindy, very well said. I really like the way you phrase a lot of these things.

Thank you for helping to keep the thread focused on the theme of the post.

Openminded said...

"Atheists by faith predetermine that all religion is "completely made up/speculative." "

No. By reason we determine that. Or at least I do. I once had faith, and I reasoned myself out of it.

But I don't want to carry on this conversation with you. You don't want to believe it. I don't care, I don't need you to. It's off topic anyways.

Anon,
He'll probably mention spiritual "data" if he bothers to reply. He doesn't understand how spiritual data justifies any religion that experiences it, but it does for him, so whatever.

Just don't bother. You might as well talk to a YEC about evolution.

Not kidding.

NathanS said...

"By accepting Christ's perfection as my own don't I free myself of trying to do anything of my own to enhance my post-mortal position with God?"

Part of the real kicker is in words like “do.” Without works, faith is dead. Without faith, works is dead. If in trying to do homework for school, you kept restarting an essay and had nothing to show for it in the end, a parent or teacher may observe, “You didn’t ‘do’ anything” when in fact you did quite a bit of restarting!

With that type of experience with the word “do”, a requirement by God to “do” anything seems scary and contrary to love but if LDS talk about a requirement to “do” something, the majority of us (those of us who share your insight) recognize that God recognizes faithful, failed efforts as “doing.”

“Is that what is meant by the statement "the powers of heaven can only be controlled by the principles of righteousness?"

And Papa D’s “I'm not sure what the connection is. That quote addresses the ability of priesthood holders to invoke the powers of heaven. It wasn't Peter's power, for example, that healed the lame beggar. It was heaven's power. Peter would not have been able to invoke that power had he not been righteous.”

Papa D's take on that is the full extent of what mine once was but we also believe the scripture that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and other scriptures found at http://lds.org/scriptures?lang=eng (found under the word search “cease to be God”) that suggest that it is not only mortals who cannot control the powers of heaven except “by the principles of righteousness.”

Anonymous said...

OM, "spiritual "data", LOL. I guess All those Muslims, Buddhists or Catholic have more data than to back up their position if they are going to go to spiritual "data route. I suspect he will just stick his fingers in his ears and start saying "NANANANANANANANA----I will not let logic and reason dissuade me from my belief system."
No need to continue on with that line of questioning, the point was both made by me and by the resounding silence of his answer.

Papa "Thank you for helping to keep the thread focused on the theme of the post." I am guessing you are a very good Mormon! :)

Anonymous said...

And anonymous troll from 1:12am feels all better after trolling. But still actually has nothing to show for it.

Cindy said...

Pops,

You write, "Very well stated. If someone is telling you that Mormons believe differently, perhaps you would call them on it for me."

I want so much to believe that we are unified in our understandings of the requirements for eternal life, especially since my dearest friend has challenged me to accept the Mormon world view.

And then I read the words of Spencer Kimball and feel the chasm widening...

"Immortality has been accomplished by the Savior’s sacrifice. Eternal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men.

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal."

It makes me so sad to think we are so far apart...

Pops said...

It makes me so sad to think we are so far apart...

I don't think what you're sensing is a theological distance.

One theory I've been toying with to explain what Cindy and others perceive is that LDS theology goes quite a bit more deeply into the "why" questions. But when all is said and done, it isn't necessary to understand why, it's only necessary to obey. We consider it a blessing that God has given us deeper understanding, but that curiously ends up being a stumbling block for others.

For example, all of the "perfection" comments in the President Kimball quotation are intended to help us understand that God's commandments are designed to put us in a position to be perfected by Him. But if we don't know that, if we never heard the explanation, but still obey God's commandments, the result is the same.

Is not God capable of perfecting us? Are not the commandments and the example of Christ given for that purpose? (I'm pretty sure that an avocation of breaking commandments won't put us in a position to be perfected by him...)

Cindy said...

I have been pondering and praying about the responses to my posts here. I apologize for the delay in responding, but I truly want to understand what is being said here by those of you who hold a perspective that is different from my own. I find that I do not listen (or read) with a very open mind and that fact keeps me from understanding what is being said. Often it takes me a great deal of prayer and study (and some long "God walks") in order to even get a small sense of what is being conveyed.

So for now, I would just like to describe what I believe you to be saying and get your feedback…if you are so inclined (and I thank you in advance if you are!)

Based on a belief that we can grow in our perfection, it seems like you are saying that our perfection begins with obedience and is maintained through our continued agreement to be partners in the process. (If I am still wrong I am sorry...coming from a completely different perspective this is difficult for me to wrap my head around)

I get this sense from statements such as the following:

"our efforts are our way of inviting God to exercise that power in us"

“God recognizes faithful, failed efforts as “doing.”

"The covenants, properly understood and simplified, can be thought of as an agreement between ourselves and God that if we will do all that we can to cooperate with His efforts to perfect us, He will perfect us"

So, the more we believe that God can perfect us, the more He will. And our righteous acts of obedience toward perfection actually “invoke the powers of heaven” so that the process becomes one of:

Obedient righteousness “put us in a position to be perfected by Him” then God perfects us

Does this accurately represent what you believe?

Papa D said...

"our perfection begins with obedience"

I would say our perfection begins with being redeemed and saved by the grace of God / atonement of Jesus. That is bedrock Mormon doctrine, but it gets overlooked a lot - since it's basically considered an obvious given.

Cindy said...

"I would say our perfection begins with being redeemed and saved by the grace of God / atonement of Jesus." So being redeemed means given the opportunity to begin the obedience-perfection cycle?

Pops said...

So being redeemed means given the opportunity to begin the obedience-perfection cycle?

In this context, I would say it means being engaged in the process. Everyone has the opportunity, but not all recognize it or choose to participate. The opportunity is a gift from Christ. The growth, learning, and change that occur along the way, if we engage, are a gift from God. The end result, returning to the presence of God if we endure to the end and don't give up along the way, is a gift from God. None of it would be possible if not for the Atonement of Christ.

Cindy said...

So the gift from God is that we can continue to grow into a perfection that is similar to Christ? That God sent Christ as a motivational model for us to follow and we are called to continually, if imperfectly, follow?

Papa D said...

Cindy, I think that's a pretty good summary - as long as it doesn't overlook or ignore the divinity and "godhood" of Jesus by emphasizing his role as the great "motivational model". He's not "just" the example we all should strive to emulate; he's a member of the Godhead, perfect AND sinless, Savior and Redeemer and Lord and Master ad infinitum.

I'm sure you didn't mean to diminish that divinity in your summary, but it could be read that way by others - and I don't want it left unsaid and assumed or misunderstood.

Joshua said...

I sincerely appreciate the abundance of references to the New Testament. Keep it up!

With that said, the question must be asked of modern Mormon believers discussing salvation:

Does a person need - no, "must have" - the consent / passport of Joseph Smith in order to enter "heaven", as Brigham Young taught, that infamous "prophet" of the treasure trove of embarrassing doctrines? (reference: Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 289)

Do I need that? Or was Brigham Young incorrect? What if I never accept the claims of Joseph Smith and Mormonism? What do your scriptures maintain will happen to me and the many others like me?

(Papa D. or Jeff or any other TBM is welcome to answer.)

Thanks!

Joshua

Pops said...

If Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and gave commandments through him, it might be wise to pay attention to what he had to say. If he was not a prophet, then it doesn't matter what he had to say and you shouldn't worry about it.

Your phrasing, "infamous prophet of that treasure trove of embarrassing doctrines" suggests you do not like the the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. We are not instructed to judge a prophet on the basis of whether his teachings appeal to us. Christ himself was abandoned by "many of his disciples" when he taught difficult doctrine. Jesus taught, "by their fruits ye shall know them. ... A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."

What are the fruits of Mormonism?

Cindy said...

Pops, I truly didn't mean to diminish the divinity of Christ...(thanks for the benefit of the doubt!)

I am trying to clarify our nature more than questioning the divinity of Christ.

It seems as though you have an underlying belief that we posses the same divine potential as Christ does so asking us to embark on a similar journey to Christ's would be a natural request to make...is that accurate?

Papa D said...

Joshua, our theology is crystal clear that non-Mormons can be exalted and have everything faithful Mormons can have. It's that simple; there's no need for a complex answer to your question.

Fwiw, Brigham Young said a lot of bombastic and hyperbolic things - as did Paul, the apostle, and pretty much all of the Old Testament prophets (and many of the founding Protestant leaders and many Protestant ministers today).

Take what inspires you and ignore the rest; live according to the dictates of your own conscience; Mormonism teaches that you will be rewarded for that effort abundantly and much more graciously than you deserve - just as I will for doing the same.

Seriously, it really is that simple.

Papa D said...

Cindy, I think you meant to address that comment to me. It's kind of confusing having two such similar names in one thread. lol

"It seems as though you have an underlying belief that we posses the same divine potential as Christ does so asking us to embark on a similar journey to Christ's would be a natural request to make...is that accurate?"

Yes, that is what I see as the central concept of the entire Bible and the heart of the "Good News" of the Gospel.

As an aside, it's interesting to me that the Book of Mormon says its main purpose is to bring souls to Christ - but it also says that it was written primarily so that its readers would believe the Bible. It doesn't say that the purpose is to believe IN the Bible; rather it says the purpose is actually to beleive the Bible - what it actually teaches.

With that in mind, the Book of Mormon DOESN'T teach what we are discussing here very deeply. There are multiple references to the idea, but they aren't nearly as expansive and numerous as the Biblical references. That's the main reason I see the Book of Mormon as a supplement / companion / 2nd witness to the Bible (since that's the relationsihp described in the book itself) - NOT the other way around. The Book of Mormon is unique to Mormonism, so it gets nearly all the attention (from others AND from many members and leaders), but the Bible is our foundation text, imo.

Papa D said...

Cindy, I should have included the reference for my statement about the Book of Mormon. It is Mormon 7:8-9, which says:

"Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.

For behold, **this is written for the intent that ye may believe that;** and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them."

Pops said...

Joshua, our theology is crystal clear that non-Mormons can be exalted and have everything faithful Mormons can have.

Would you mind clarifying? Is it necessary to be baptized by one with authority, for example? Or will any baptism suffice?

Pops said...

I am trying to clarify our nature...

That goes right to the heart of the matter. What is our nature? Why are we here on this planet? Why does God give us commandments? What will happen to us after this life?

I think of it - the quest to understand life - as being like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle pieces are the bits of evidence that exist in the scriptures and in our experiences in life. Our challenge is to put enough of the pieces together to figure out what the picture is. Sometimes having a preconcieved notion of what the picture might be causes us to ignore important pieces of the puzzle. How do you see the pieces fitting together? What are we to God in your opinion?

Papa D said...

"Would you mind clarifying? Is it necessary to be baptized by one with authority, for example? Or will any baptism suffice?"

Temple ordinances are the great disclaimer, if you will. The rationale, with which I agree, is, in summary:

"God will make the decision in the end, and we simply can't judge, so we'll do for EVERYONE what we believe needs to be done for us."

Personally, I think God can exalt in just about any way he chooses. Baptism is necessary now for believing Christians, imo, because it was commanded by Jesus and became the outward, public manifestation of our willingness to "enter the kingdom / body / community of Christ". Baptism is a wonderfully symbolic practice, but it replaced circumcision as the sign of faith in our Judeo-Christian heritage. If the sign of faith can change that radically and still be ok, I have no problem with pretty much any sincere, symbolic action through which people express their faith. They will express their faith in whatever way makes sense to them, and we will perform a baptism for them as a sign of our own faith, and God will work it all out in the end, imo.

I believe in baptism and in temple ordinances for their power as symbols and for what they can represent in our own hearts and lives - but I'm not about to say God HAS to be limited to exalting his children through that particular symbol, and I think our "theology" supports that. Our current culture and doctrine might not, but the theology does.

Pops said...

...I'm not about to say God HAS to be limited...

I don't think there's much utility in speaking of us limiting God, or God being limited on this subject - it's about us doing whatever God asks us to do. We're not in a position to dictate anything, nor to rely on our private interpretation of anything. (I'm not suggesting you disagree...)

Joshua said...

Papa D. wrote:

"Take what inspires you and ignore the rest; live according to the dictates of your own conscience; Mormonism teaches that you will be rewarded for that effort abundantly and much more graciously than you deserve - just as I will for doing the same."

@Papa D.

Thanks for the response.

Is it the "official" Mormon position to "take what inspires you and ignore the rest"?

If not, where can I find the "official" Mormon teaching on which parts of the Mormon prophets' writings to believe and which to ignore?

Where can I find "Mormonism teaches that you will be rewarded for liv[ing] according to the dictates of your own conscience"?

Regardless, Brigham Young, who Mormons claim was a prophet, either told the truth or he lied. In the same section of the Journal of Discourses (Volume 7) he said it was "true". Nowhere does it indicate that it was his opinion.

Papa D. wrote:

"Fwiw, Brigham Young said a lot of bombastic and hyperbolic things - as did Paul, the apostle, and pretty much all of the Old Testament prophets (and many of the founding Protestant leaders and many Protestant ministers today)."

@Papa D.

Can you show us one "bombastic and hyperbolic thing" that any of the apostles or Old Testament prophets said that would be the equivalent of saying that a person needed the "passport of Joseph Smith" to "enter heaven"?

Joshua

Papa D said...

Joshua, the official stance of the LDS Church is that those who live to the best of their understanding and according to the dictates of their consciences will be blessed for it. I said for YOU to take what you can accept and ignore the rest. Don't twist my words, or I'll just stop responding. It's not worth it.

As far as Old Testament prophets, I think believing God commanded them to slaughter entire cities, including men, women and children, ranks ahead of anything Brigham Young said. Also, if you can't find comparable things in the Bible, I don't think you're reading very critically. There are dozens, and, again, it's way too easy to find them to bother - especially when you still are taking lines out of context anyway.

You see what you see; I see what I see - and, as gently as I can say this, I think my view is much more grace-centered and Biblically-consistent than yours. You disagree; I'm fine with that; as I've said multiple times now, I think we will greet each other in Heaven, smile, shake hands and accept each other as sincere Christians. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong; if you're wrong, I'll celebrate with you in Heaven.

Papa D said...

Btw, Joshua, I'm interested in what you think of Jeff's actual post - because you haven't addressed it in one of your comments.

I understand that's not your method of operation - to engage the actual point being made in posts and threads but rather to start attacking Mormonism in general in every thread you can, but I'd appreciate it if you would address the actual post and the comments that deal with it directly. Otherwise, I'll finally admit you are nothing but a troll here and simply quit responding.

Sorry, everyone else, for letting myself get sidetracked. I've tried to respond honestly and carefully, but it's obvious that it's probably pointless.

Pops said...

Some "attacks" are little more than a misdirected attempt at justification, as if some clever use or cherry-picking of words or of scripture could absolve one of the failure to live up to what they once cherished as true, or to avoid the pain that would otherwise be felt if they were to let their hearts break and their spirits become contrite. Let your heart break and come unto Christ and be healed - his love and grace are sufficient.

Joshua said...

Hi, Papa D.

If it makes you feel any better, man, there are likely "Christians" who would not call me a "Christian" (I don't believe in the trinity and I teach that the Scriptures show the salvation of all is God's plan).

As for your claim that I haven't responded to any points in the post, please reread what I wrote.

I clearly mentioned the overall theme of the post - salvation, in general - and, that being the context, introduce a quote by someone whom Mormons would consider a prophet. And I'm so suprised that you wouldn't see the connection between a "prophet's" claim that salvation -- entrance into "heaven" -- hinged on a "passport" from Joseph Smith and the said theme of the post.

Don't you see it?

And that is why I asked me questions in the last post.

And Jeff can talk nicely about the power of the atonement (Where was that atonement accomplished, by the way?), but, if what Brigham Young taught was "true", as he himself claimed it was, then the flowery language and politeness that is such a large part of modern-day Mormonism is meaningless.

And why did Jeff not use one reference to the Book of Mormon or the Pearl of Great Price to support his claims?

And just so you know, I read 1 & 2 Peter today multiple times in three languages (English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese). I would challenge Jeff to investigate the usage of the word "spirit" in the New Testament and give us any other example of when it means "dead humans in the spirit world".

Of course, I don't expect him to respond. Jeff isn't interested in responding to me. I'm a nobody in his eyes. And I'm not a Mormon. And I'm not sympathetic to his misapplication of New Testament passages to support Mormon teachings. That's 3 strikes against me. Add to that anything I say will be labeled "anti-Mormon" by some and then it won't have to be dealt with anyway.

Side note: You don't engage Mormons as a non-Mormon, do you?

Whenever I engage a Mormon and quote something, the first thing I'm smacked with is "well, that's not an 'official teaching / doctrine'". So, how do I know when something is official?

When you say, "the official stance of the LDS Church is that those who live to the best of their understanding and according to the dictates of their consciences will be blessed for it", where can I find that reference as an "official teaching / doctrine" so that I can use it in my future engagements?

If you'd show me, I'd appreciate that.

I've tried to be more civil toward you in this round. I'm not going to beg you to return the favor. We're all learning here in this life. Exercise some grace with me.

Joshua

Joshua said...

Hi, Papa D.

If it makes you feel any better, man, there are likely "Christians" who would not call me a "Christian" (I don't believe in the trinity and I teach that the Scriptures show the salvation of all is God's plan).

As for your claim that I haven't responded to any points in the post, please reread what I wrote.

I clearly mentioned the overall theme of the post - salvation, in general - and, that being the context, introduce a quote by someone whom Mormons would consider a prophet. And I'm so suprised that you wouldn't see the connection between a "prophet's" claim that salvation -- entrance into "heaven" -- hinged on a "passport" from Joseph Smith and the said theme of the post.

Don't you see it?

And that is why I asked me questions in the last post.

And Jeff can talk nicely about the power of the atonement (Where was that atonement accomplished, by the way?), but, if what Brigham Young taught was "true", as he himself claimed it was, then the flowery language and politeness that is such a large part of modern-day Mormonism is meaningless.

And why did Jeff not use one reference to the Book of Mormon or the Pearl of Great Price to support his claims?

And just so you know, I read 1 & 2 Peter today multiple times in three languages (English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese). I would challenge Jeff to investigate the usage of the word "spirit" in the New Testament and give us any other example of when it means "dead humans in the spirit world".

Of course, I don't expect him to respond. Jeff isn't interested in responding to me. I'm a nobody in his eyes. And I'm not a Mormon. And I'm not sympathetic to his misapplication of New Testament passages to support Mormon teachings. That's 3 strikes against me. Add to that anything I say will be labeled "anti-Mormon" by some and then it won't have to be dealt with anyway.

Side note: You don't engage Mormons as a non-Mormon, do you?

Whenever I engage a Mormon and quote something, the first thing I'm smacked with is "well, that's not an 'official teaching / doctrine'". So, how do I know when something is official?

When you say, "the official stance of the LDS Church is that those who live to the best of their understanding and according to the dictates of their consciences will be blessed for it", where can I find that reference as an "official teaching / doctrine" so that I can use it in my future engagements?

If you'd show me, I'd appreciate that.

I've tried to be more civil toward you in this round. I'm not going to beg you to return the favor. We're all learning here in this life. Exercise some grace with me.

Joshua

Cindy said...

Pops and Papa D,

Thanks for your thoughts. I think I am gaining a clearer picture of your beliefs and it helps me to see more clearly the similarities and differences we may have. I think the first, (and maybe the one upon which all the others hinge) is "What are we to God?" as Pops asked.

I believe that we are created by God; made in His image, but of a sinful nature, not divine as a result of the fall in Eden. I believe our natural tendency is to rule ourselves and not submit to the need for, or the presence of a Savior in our lives.

I think we all WANT to be good and do what is right, but down deep we all long to be self-sufficient and we push against the true submission of, or alignment of our wills to God's rule.

It seems that that basic belief leads me to a different understanding of what is required to live eternally in God's presence than your fundamental belief in the eternal and divine spirit of man. Does that sounds like a fair representation?

Papa D said...

"I believe that we are created by God; made in His image, but of a sinful nature, not divine as a result of the fall in Eden. I believe our natural tendency is to rule ourselves and not submit to the need for, or the presence of a Savior in our lives.

I think we all WANT to be good and do what is right, but down deep we all long to be self-sufficient and we push against the true submission of, or alignment of our wills to God's rule."

Fwiw, Cindy, that idea is bedrock Mormon doctrine. Perhaps the only difference is that we believe we were created as spirit children prior to the Fall and being separated from God - that we originally were not sinful, but that we "became" sinful as a direct result of the Fall (of being separated from God). Iow, our spirits themselves aren't sinful; it was being born into a sinful world and being subject to temptation and the "natural man" that caused a spiritual separation that is what we are striving to overcome. We are trying to become again what we once were spiritually - but the problem is we now have to do it in a world separated from God and with the carnal nature of our "new" souls (the *combination* of our spirit and mortal body) causing the unbridgeable gap that requires a Savior and Redeemer.

As the Book of Mormon says in Mosiah 3:19:

"19For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

Maybe the only real difference is our belief in a pre-existence and what it says about our ultimate nature and purpose - that we were created individually before we were born into this world, that we actually did "fall from grace" when we were born and that the purpose of this life is to "return" to God and, eventually, become like him.

Cindy said...

Papa D,

"our spirits themselves aren't sinful; it was being born into a sinful world and being subject to temptation and the "natural man" that caused a spiritual separation that is what we are striving to overcome"

It isn't so much how our sinfulness came to be that I feel determines the differences in our respective understandings of what is required to live eternally in God's presence. It is the difference in the beliefs of our natures themselves.

It seems as though we agree that upon this earth we are sinful. But I believe that we are created by God, not eternally co-existent as a spirit and physically born of God to this earth. I believe that I am a creature, made in His image, not the same as His image...like a paper doll cutout is "like" the child who creates it.

I see a great difference between the nature of God and the nature of man, and for that reason I believe that it is not I who can "strive to overcome", but only God who has the power and the means to exchange my sinful, paper doll nature for that of an adopted child who He draws into eternal His eternal family.

And I believe that it is our admission of this difference and the admission of our need for a Savior that God desires and rewards with eternal life.

Papa D said...

Cindy, I really think you're working from a misconception about Mormon beliefs relative to our nature - either from an "outside" view or from an "inside" view that doesn't match what I call "pure Mormonism". I mean that sincerely.

For example:

"I believe that we are created by God, not eternally co-existent as a spirit and physically born of God to this earth."

First, I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "physically born of God to this earth". I've never heard that phrasing in all my life, and I honestly don't understand what you mean by it.

Second, I also believe that we are created by God and not eternally co-existent as a spirit. Mormonism teaches that God somehow took what we term "intelligences" (whatever that means, since it really isn't defined at all - anywhere) and literally "created" spirits. Iow, God created us somehow out of something - but the details are outside our understanding. Iow, we weren't always "spirits" or "spiritual" as we think of it now. Iow, "we" were not "eternally co-existent with God" in any way that is meaningful.

Next, you said:

"It is not I who can "strive to overcome", but only God who has the power and the means to exchange my sinful, paper doll nature for that of an adopted child who He draws into eternal His eternal family."

I also believe only God has the power and the means to do that, but I accept that he has commanded us to "strive to overcome" as a token of our acceptance of his offer / gift / grace / atonement / etc. - that he formed a partnership, if you will, where we can become "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" through his infinite allocation and our meager, token contribution - and I think, based on what you've said in other comments, that you agree with that.

Have I read your last comment incorrectly? I've certainly done that in the past. lol

Cindy said...

Papa D,

I'm sorry if I am misrepresenting your beliefs, I am readings only from church materials as I try to understand the beliefs of my friend. Here is one example of the basis for my statement about eternal beings with God,

"...the soul, the mind, the immortal spirit. All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation...The mind of man is as immortal as God himself...their spirits existed co- equal with God...I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning...God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself: intelligence exist upon a self existent principle, it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it...The first principles of man are self existent with God..." (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, pp. 615)

In terms of forming a partnership with us in which we can demonstrate a "as a token of our acceptance of his offer",

I am only an heir to God's Kingdom, a member of His family through my belief in Christ...john 1:12 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"

And that anything I try to do in response to His free gift of grace cheapens my full acceptance of it...that in fact, the thing God does ask for is our complete trust in Him as the source of our salvation, Rom 4:5 "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."

I watch my dear friend struggle through her life constantly trying to "choose the right" and worrying always that she hasn't done enough, and it breaks my heart. I know that if she would just fully accept Christ's death on the cross as the required blood sacrifice for her sins that she would be freed from all worry and guilt and that then all of her actions would be the works for which she was created.

Papa D said...

I understand the frustration, Cindy, since Mormon theology evolved throughout Joseph Smith's life and has been expressed in literally contradicting ways by differing leaders - and even by Joseph himself, in some cases, at different points of his life. The quote you reference is a great example of that, frankly - and it's deeply frustrating to many people. I get that; I really do.

I've heard it said that defining Mormon doctrine is like nailing Jello to a wall, and I actually agree with that in many cases. I happen to like that, personally, since it allows for each of us to figure it out on our own, if you will - but I also share you pain and frustration with regard to the following:

"I watch my dear friend struggle through her life constantly trying to "choose the right" and worrying always that she hasn't done enough, and it breaks my heart. I know that if she would just fully accept Christ's death on the cross as the required blood sacrifice for her sins that she would be freed from all worry and guilt and that then all of her actions would be the works for which she was created."

(I would add, "and in the Garden of Gethsemane" - since I think that event gets short-changed incredibly throughout Christianity, but that's not vital to my response hear.)

I believe in the principle and concept of "choose the right when a choice is placed before you" - and I believe in the principle and concept of personal agency / free will - and I believe in the principle and the concept of "becoming" - BUT . . .

There is a human tendency to take something (anything, really) and complicate and twist it and begin to "look beyond the mark". That happens with everyone, to some degree, I believe - and the most common application of it within Mormonism, perhaps, is the tendency toward Pharisaical obsession with checklist perfectionism. I hate that tendency, particularly for the effect you describe with your friend, but it's a human tendency, imo - NOT a necessary component of Mormonism itself.

I don't think I've linked to this post previously, but if you are interested, the following is something I wrote on my personal blog - and one paragraph deals explicitly with situations like that of your friend:

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/11/embracing-grace.html

I don't like "calling dropping", but if it will help your friend accept it, please share it with her as something you got from a High Councilor with whom you've been talking online. I wish that didn't make any difference to anyone, but, unfortunately, it might in her case. If you like my blog, go ahead and share the url with her, as well. I've written extensively over the past few years about topics like the one I linked above.

Papa D said...

Oh, and I forgot to add that it's interesting in the quote you used to realize that many of the central words are used interchangeably in it (intelligence, mind, spirit, soul, etc.), while they are used to mean different things in many other quotes. That's a good example of the Jello analogy, since there was a kind of free-flowing expressiveness and lack of consistent verbiage in much of the writing from that time.

Until someone realizes the evolutionary nature of Mormon doctrine, especially then but even now to a lesser degree, it's really easy to get stuck on an individual quote (or two or ten) and not realize how fluid and elastic it really was - and, to a lesser degree, still is.

Again, I like that - but I understand why it drives some people bonkers.

Joshua said...

*If you're a person and you're deleting these comments, please don't. No Mormon will answer the first question clearly. I'd like an answer.

Very, very good points, Cindy.

If I might add even when Jesus was asked, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus responded by saying, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:28, 29 [NIV])

And since this blog is maintained by a Mormon and the post is related to the topic of salvation, their 3rd Article of Faith is very worthwhile to mention at this point:

"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,106-1-2-1,FF.html

So, Papa D., Jeff, any Mormons, here are two polite, sincere questions related to this post:

1) What are those "laws and ordinances"? (Is there an "official list"?)

2) Where did the atonement take place?


Joshua

Anonymous said...

Very, very good points, Cindy.

If I might add even when Jesus was asked, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus responded by saying, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:28, 29 [NIV])

And since this blog is maintained by a Mormon and the post is related to the topic of salvation, their 3rd Article of Faith is very worthwhile to mention at this point:

"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,106-1-2-1,FF.html

So, Papa D., Jeff, any Mormons, here are two polite, sincere questions related to this post:

1) What are those "laws and ordinances"? (Is there an "official list"?)

2) Where did the atonement take place?


Joshua

NathanS said...

Cindy,

It would seem that two groups place the greatest emphasis on being created in God's image: New Agers and LDS. Of the two, it seems that New Age people believe we have God's nature while LDS believe in the NT doctrine that Christ has yet to make his disciples like himself.

1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

Moroni 7:48 "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. Amen."

Our nature is clearly as different from God's nature as is the nature of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Yet, as the NT suggests, we believe our potential for being conformed to the nature Christ, is as great as a caterpillar's potential to be conformed to a butterfly's nature.

As you mentioned in one of your own posts (I hope it's not too big of a no-no to bring it up here) God wants us to receive His love and reflect it. You seem not to have chosen to call that a work but aparently some LDS leaders consider that very thing a great work, or perhaps a series of works.

Matthew 7:21 "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."

Many would say that to reflect God's love would be to do God's will and would call that works. If you want to understand LDS ideas of works, you may do well to plug into our use of "works" your own understanding of what God wants from us.

In other words, LDS ideas of works is less contradiction from your own ideas of God's will than a different way of expressing God's will.

We believe we need to receive and reflect the love God has for us and that the proof of that love is in the atonement (the sacrifice). Receiving that love, (internalizing the evidence of that love - the atonement) heals us.

I know your friend's struggle. I once had it to a very mighty degree myself but not due to my Church experience. When I was very young, a family member thought to literally scare me away from sin in ways that reduced my ability to accept God's love. For a while, I mistakenly believed this family member understood the gospel better than those who taught at Church, including the prophets.

I had to work my way back to accepting the doctrine of LDS scripture on grace, and I mean "work" as in pray, study, ponder, write on the topics, and discuss my ideas with others. My journey back into orthodox mormonism's belief in grace was hard work that I could have a measure of success only in and through the grace of Jesus Christ. And I believe this type of work is substantially what LDS prophets have referred to as being required.

I have read an LDS prophet's words regard prayer as work and I know that for me to pray and rehabilitate my trust in God's grace through prayer has been God's will for me.

May the grace of our Lord remain with you,

Nathan

Pops said...

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Some comments were automatically deleted by Blogger after being somehow mistaken for spam. Including links can do this, I think. Have undeleted several--just noticed this was happening. Sorry about that.

Cindy said...

Papa, I'm sorry to have been away so long from this topic. It is not for lack of interest, but because of a short vacation as well as a bit of "overwhelmedness" after having read your blog. The idea of predestination you present has never occurred to me and it presents just one more level of LDS doctrine about which I have to learn.

Mostly at this time I just want to respond to your last post here in which you said,

"There is a human tendency to take something (anything, really) and complicate and twist it and begin to "look beyond the mark". That happens with everyone, to some degree, I believe - and the most common application of it within Mormonism, perhaps, is the tendency toward Pharisaical obsession with checklist perfectionism. I hate that tendency, particularly for the effect you describe with your friend, but it's a human tendency, imo - NOT a necessary component of Mormonism itself."

While I agree that we all have a tendency toward checklists because of their tangible representation of our efforts, it seems that Mormon doctrine does play a role in perpetuating that tendency. The idea that sanctification (perfection) is required before salvation (exaltation), (or even concurrently) seems to make us partners with Christ. That sounds fine and dandy at first, but because of the lack of assurance of exaltation, leaves one always having to do more for him or herself, doesn't it?

I have to say that all of this study and prayer has truly strengthened my belief in myself as a sinner and my need for a Savior. So much so that I created a short power point. If you're interested it's at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH7C_4htsfo

Papa D said...

I understand, Cindy. As to your question:

"The idea that sanctification (perfection) is required before salvation (exaltation), (or even concurrently) seems to make us partners with Christ."

That's correct - and it's what the Bible teaches, imo. (both the Old Testament AND the New Testament)

"That sounds fine and dandy at first, but because of the lack of assurance of exaltation, leaves one always having to do more for him or herself, doesn't it?"

Yes, it does - and that is what the Bible teaches, imo. (both the Old Testament AND the New Testament)

However, it doesn't have to be a binding, oppressive checklist; it can be a liberating ("the truth shall make you free"), evolving process. Of course, there always will be a bit of a checklist aspect (since even Jesus, himself, offered "details" [although I prefer the term "examples"] within the overall law of love) - but those "details / examples" don't have to become a checklist.

I like the concept of "checkpoints" - of a way to frame the concept of "by their fruits shall ye know them", if you will.

Papa D said...

Oh, and I never said Mormon culture and doctrine don't increase the likelihood that Mormons develop a Pharisaical checklist mentality. I said quite clearly that it can and does for many members. I just said that it's a human tendency, not a Mormon one - and I've seen it in even people who are among the most extreme "confess and be saved" Protestants I've met. It's more subtle for most of them, but it's there, nonetheless.

Cindy said...

Papa, Are you saying that God's Holiness (which requires us to be perfect and sinless in order to live with Him in the celestial kingdom) PLUS Christ's work PLUS our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the LDS church equals the restored gospel?

That is what my LDS friend wants me to accept as the good news?

Cindy said...

Maybe because my friend is much nicer than I am (that's probably true, she is very nice!) that she only needs a partner to achieve perfection and complete forgiveness of sins, but I am in need of a Savior!

There is no way I could ever make up for all the sins I've ever committed, as well as stop sinning (especially if thoughts count, as Christ said!)

I give! I submit my life to Him and ask for Him to be my Savior, my righteousness, as Paul says in Philippians 3:

"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith"

Papa D said...

Cindy, what you just said about your belief could be preached from any Mormon pulpit in the world, and no member I know would bat an eye. I mean that; it's bedrock Mormon doctrine. I really don't know why you still think we teach we don't need a Savior; that simply isn't part of our theology.

If I can say this in a way that will make sense to you, I would flop your phrasing:

Others might teach that we JUST need a Savior/Redeemer/Lord/Master, but Mormonism teaches that we need a Savior/Redemer/Lord/Master who ALSO is a partner - a joint-heir - a friend - an example - a "guide" - etc. Some people emphasize his divinity ("fully God") so much that they devalue his humanity ("fully human") - while Mormonism values BOTH his divinity AND his humanity as equally important and powerful. I just can't get past the almost numberless verses in the Bible that say Jesus is not "JUST" our Savior but ALSO all of the other things I mentioned and more.

It's fascinating to me that you appear to believe Mormons shortchange Jesus by seeing him as more than others see him. (and I say that with the familiar caveat that I might have misread your comment through my own darkened glass - *grin*)

Cindy said...

Papa, I'm sorry if I'm not representing myself well. I agree that Christ is fully God and fully man. But if we (humans) are literal siblings to Christ aren't we the same? Other than the fact that He was born first, what is the difference between us? Especially since we all go to heaven and we can progress to exaltation based on our works after death, why should I care what He did while He was here? And if my obedience and repentance guarantees the forgiveness of my sins (The Lord promised, "He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven" (D&C 1:32)) of what value is Christ’s death on the cross?
But if Jesus, being fully God, chose to come to earth in the form of a man to serve as the perfect sacrifice for all my sins, past, present and future, then He truly is my Savior. He may also choose to be my friend and my guide, but without a clear distinction between our two natures I can do too much to secure my own exaltation to need Him as a Savior.

Papa D said...

Cindy, I'm going to ask what might sound like a simplistic and irrelevant question, but I need to know before I can answer:

What is your view of the "Trinity" - what we Mormons refer to as the "Godhead"? Do you believe that the Father and the Son are one Being ("of one substance") or two distinct, separate Beings?

Cindy said...

Papa,

I understand that the nature of God and Christ (and the Holy Spirit, for that matter) may be the reason for many, if not all of our lack of agreement.

This is a quote form another source, but it describes well my belief, (and I think mainline Evangelical Christianity's as well) about the Trinity and Christ specifically:

"The Trinity is defined as one God who exists as three simultaneous and eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. "Person" is defined by the characteristics of self awareness, speech, having a will, emotions, etc. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father, as each of them have a will and speak to each other and to people. They are not three separate gods and are not three separate beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. They are in absolute perfect harmony, consisting of one substance. They are co-eternal, coequal, and co-powerful.

Wasn't Joseph Smith was saying the same when he wrote (among other scriptures):

"...And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. (2 Nephi 31:21)

"The Trinity makes possible the idea that the Word of God became flesh and we call Him Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is God in human flesh. He is not half God and half man. He is fully divine and fully man. That is, Jesus has two distinct natures: divine and human. As the Scripture says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... 14 and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us..." (John 1:1,14)."

Again, isn't Joseph Smith saying the same:

"And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, (Mosiah 15:3-5)"

Through my reading of LDS material (through my darkened glasses of course-*grin*), I recognize that you may clarify the BOM quotes by saying that they apply only to the God of THIS earth, but because Christ's position was gained merely through obedient progression and not because of His inherent deity, my questions still apply...

How are Christ and I different enough that I need Him as my a savior? Why can't I just wait until telestial heaven to begin my progression to my own godhood?

Papa D said...

Thanks for the additional info, Cindy. I think it's fascinating, as I've said before, that people can say the exact same things and yet take such different meanings from those things.

I guess, in a nutshell, we differ in how we define some key words we both use. I think our differences come down to those core definition differences. For example:


I think the Bible defines godhood as a condition that can be attained (through God's grace and the atonement of Jesus), while you appear to think it's defined as a specifier for one entity. I think the Bible defines "divinity" as a shared characteristic of all humanity as children of God in a very real way (to some degree, at least), while you appear to think it's defined as exclusive to God.

To try to answer your question, even though I think we believe in and worship the "same Jesus", I think we see Jesus in different ways. That doesn't make us more or less Christian than the other; it just makes us differntly Christian in the details of our believes - which is the same that can be said in many important aspects about Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. This means the following:

I do believe a Savior was and is necessary to return to live with and be like God, the Father - as does every Mormon who is a believing member. ro

Why was Jesus our Savior? Was it something radically different in our nature, or was it a chance result of the order of our creation? I'm not sure, really - and I'm just not sure it matters, when it comes right down to it.

I just believe that he whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth was and is our Savior - and I believe the statements that are attributed to him and his immediate disciples that we are meant to become like him and Heavenly Father and one with them as they are one with each other. I also believe that this is accomplished somehow through the grace of God and the atonemnet of Jesus Christ - even as I'm not sure how much has to be literal and how much can be powerfully symbolic. (This is NOT a uniquely Mormon idea - at least not historically. Theosis has a long, rich tradition within Christianity - and it cetainly is consistent with a logical reading of the Bible.) I think we do share the same "spiritual" nature as God, the Father, and God, the Son - and the specific philosophical constructs used to describe that nature don't concern me nearly as much as the root concept itself.

At the most fundamental level, I understand but can't agree with any reading of the Bible (especially the Gospels) that teaches we are eternally different than God in a meaningful way that will keep us from becoming like the Father and the Son. I just don't believe that is taught in the Bible itself - that it relies on future religious leaders who just couldn't accept what the Bible itself actually teaches.

My own answers are my own attempt to accept what I believe the Bible teaches - even as I recognize how much my own views are influenced by Mormon thoelogy. I just believe that theology is consistent with the most fundamental Biblical teachings.

Papa D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papa D said...

I need to reword my last comment, so I deleted it. Here goes:

"Why can't I just wait until telestial heaven to begin my progression to my own godhood?"

For me and you, the answer is because progression isn't something we can turn off and on whenever we want. We need to do what we can to follow Jesus and "progress" to the extent we are able if we believe what he actually taught.

However, for someone who has not heard or been taught about or accepted the idea of progression, they might wait until after death (in practical terms) to begin a "Christ-focused progression". The assumption, however, is that they did the best they could to live all they knew / believed while in this life - that they didn't just skate around being lazy or intentionally rebellious in this life with the mistaken notion that they would be rewarded in the next life no matter what they did in this one.

That just isn't consistent at all with what is attributed to Jesus in the Bible. He's merciful and gracious and loving, but he never taught "easy grace". (Confess only and be rewarded, no matter what you do.) He taught VERY clearly the need to "progress" to whatever extent possible in this life - to "become" throughout this life. The Sermon on the Mount makes NO sense at all otherwise.

Cindy said...

Thank you for your honesty in responding. I appreciate the fact that you will describe the differences you perceive between our beliefs so that we can examine them.

Just to be clear, it seems those differences are:

You believe we are all divine
I believe that only God is divine, but that we can enter the divine family of God through faith in Christ's sacrifice as payment for our sins. (as John says, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God")

You believe godhood can be attained
I believe godhood is unattainable by humankind, but we are transformed into His likeness through faith in Christ's sacrifice as payment for our sins. (as Paul says in Acts, "so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'")

You believe that Christ is our savior but aren't exactly sure how that works
I believe that I need a Savior because I am, by nature, not divine, but sinful and separated from God by that nature. (Mark 7:21, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,")

I believe that God's Holy nature requires justice to be served for every sinful thought and action ever committed. ("God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice,")

I believe that Christ, in order to provide the only perfect sacrifice possible to appease that justice, willingly took on human form, lived a completely sinless life (because He is fully perfect as one of the three eternal persons of God,) and died. (John 3:16, ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.")

That upon His death, all sins, past, present and future, are justified.(Romans 1:15, "But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!")

You believe that our response is to be one of "doing the best we can" in order to activate the atonement.

I believe that we are to confess our sinfulness and need for a Savior, and believe that He truly is the way of forgiveness of our sins, as well as the way of our transformation/sanctification by the gift of His spirit within us.

I want to respond to the implications of that as well...be back soon...

Cindy said...

Hi again Papa,

I think you described well the differences between our perspectives as they relate to the meaning and method of our lives as well.

Again, for clarity:

You believe that our response to Christ should be that "We need to do what we can to follow Jesus and progress to the extent we are able" to become more and more godlike and to receive the blessings of exaltation.

What are the implications of these beliefs?

We are fearful about our weaknesses because a lack of blessings indicates less obedience and progression.
We are prideful about our love for others, because it is initiated by our obedience.
Our faith is dependent upon the reception of blessings or trials because we trust in our own actions as a part of the process.
We can never be satisfied with our current state because we wouldn't be progressing.

In short, our focus in initiating, receiving and responding to life is on us.

The glorification is of us.

I believe that our response to Christ should be to have faith in Christ's sacrifice alone as payment for our sins (justification of our sins through His righteousness), faith in His power alone for the transformation of our souls (through the Holy Spirit which Christ offers in response to faith in Him), and faith in His mediation alone for the assurance of eternal life (exaltation) with God (through adoption into God's family through His redemption).

What are the implications of these beliefs?

The implications of this belief set is that we rely on Christ alone for judgment of our progress.
We are open and honest about our weaknesses without fear of rejection by others because Christ is our only judge.
We are openly free with our love for others, whether or not it is "socially acceptable" without fear of being rebuffed because Christ is the source of true love in our lives.
Our faith is not dependent upon the reception of blessings or trials because Christ is the source of all of our needs, wants and desires.
We trust that "God uses all things for good, and allows the rain to fall on the just and unjust," and we have learned to live with much or little" because we trust in Christ alone.

In short, our focus in initiating, receiving and responding to life is on Christ.

The glorification is of Christ!

Papa D said...

Cindy, I actually agree with much of what you say - and I really think we are talking semantics in some cases. Not in ALL cases, obviously, but in some.

I think the following is the heart of what I see to be our disagreement:

I believe pretty much everything you said you believe, IF we remove the pre-mortal existence aspect of Mormon theology. IF we are talking about Jesus as compared to "fallen humanity", I believe pretty much everything you wrote about your beliefs in the last two comments. I really do. (From the Book of Mormon, "The natural man is an enemy to God . . .") Without that foundation, I probably would reach the same conclusion that you do. I really mean that.

Where we differ, I think, is in the addition of the pre-mortal existence within Mormon theology (and the implication of that aspect to our post-mortal existence) - and, again, I believe that pre-mortal existence is taught in the Bible. It's not taught at all in the Book of Mormon, fwiw. I also believe that pre-existence concept is the Biblical foundation of the concept that we can become like God, which, again, is taught extensively in the Bible and not taught at all in the Book of Mormon (except in the Lord's repeating of the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi).

So, for example, when I say we are divine in nature, I'm talking about our pre-mortal, spiritual nature. When I say we are NOT divine in nature, I mean our mortal, physical nature. I can say BOTH without ANY inconsistency, since I believe we really are a combination of immortal spirit and mortal body - of divine birthright and non-divine birthright - of good and bad - of any other way that dichotomy might be phrased. I believe that God's grace / Jesus' atonement is what makes it possible for the Biblical teaching of theosis to be believable - and I think that the natural unbelievability of theosis is what prmopts people to create alternate explanations. I think we can't see it naturally, so we tend to not believe it.

Again, when I look at the totality of what I believe to be the central theme of the Bible, it is that we can become like God - that we can become "perfect, even as (our) father in heaven is perfect" - that we "will see him as he is, for we will be like him" - that we will be "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" - that we will be "one, even as (the Father and the Son) are one". I just don't see any way around that conclusion, IF I accept what I believe the Bible says - so I construct my explanation around that central teaching.

I think that is our primary disagreement (and, perhaps, when it really comes down to it, our ONLY disagreement, since everything else seems to be an off-shoot of that disagreement) - what we believe to be the central teaching of the Bible about our past and future. I think that difference makes our discussions about our present turn into semantic debates where we actually say much the same thing about our actions in this life.

Papa D said...

One more thing only:

"The glorification is of Christ."

I would say the glorification is of the Father, since I believe that is what Jesus said.

If you meant the glorification is THROUGH Christ, I agree completely - and I really don't know why you would think I don't.

Cindy said...

Papa,

I guess you are right that where we differ is in the central teaching of the Bible. (you-man becoming a god through theosis, me-man becoming returned to live with God through the righteousness of Christ).

It seems as though you would minimize the difference, but the glorification of man to god status is the thing that is most abhorrent to Christians. I think that's why you get some pretty bad responses on this blog.

Most mainline Christians see initial difference between God as the Creator and man as the created as crucial. It makes God bigger, Christ more necessary and grace more precious. It also still allows for man to be made righteous enough to live with God, but asks man to trust in Christ's sacrifice in order for that to happen ("And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith")

It also explains God's statements about Himself as the only God, a jealous God, and all of the other descriptions of Himself as singular and unique.

In order for your doctrine to work, it seems you have to not only assume pre-existence, but also change the fall of Adam to a "fall" in the right direction...toward godhood.

Most Christians see that as the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. Here is a description of that difference,

"God planted two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was created innocent; he had no knowledge of good and evil. If Adam should take of the tree of life, he would partake of the life of God and thus become a `son' of God, in the sense of having in him a life that derived from God. There you would have God's life in union with man: a race of men having the life of God in them and living in constant dependence upon God for that life. If on the other hand Adam should turn the other way and take the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he would develop his own manhood along natural lines apart from God. Reaching a peak of attainment as a self-sufficient being, he would have the power in himself to form independent judgment, but he would have no life from God."

We see that desire to be independent and self sufficient of God as original sin.

As evidenced by verses like this:

"O Lucifer, son of the morning ! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. "

I would pray that at some time you could read the Bible without trying to match it to Mormon theology, (Your statement of before, "My own answers are my own attempt to accept what I believe the Bible teaches - even as I recognize how much my own views are influenced by Mormon theology.")

Papa D said...

"I would pray that at some time you could read the Bible without trying to match it to Mormon theology."

Cindy, I hope you understand the irony of that statement - since all of us do that exact same thing to some degree with the theologies we believe. One of my pet peeves about the way many Christians (including many Mormons) approach scriptural interpretation is the idea that everyone would see it the same way they do IF ONLY they would really study objectively. I just don't believe that it's that simple - and I think history is on my side in this case.

Fwiw, I have done exactly what you say you pray I do - or, at least, I've tried to do so. I took some classes at the Harvard Divinity School and, as part of one in particular ("Fundamentals of Christian Theology"), I considered the Bible in as much of a straightforward parsing manner as I am capable of doing. (and I am a natural parser, which is why, quite frankly, my personal views of MANY Mormon doctrines are quite different than many other Mormons)

I don't think anyone can be truly, totally objective - mostly because I don't believe anyone is truly, totally aware of ALL of their biases. (We all have blind spots; it's just that we are blind to them.) However, I have tried to be as objective and precise and parsing as it is possible to be, and I just can't ignore all of the MANY individual references and the apparent thread of references in the Bible that teach that we can become like God.

***It is precisely BECAUSE I've done exactly what you pray I do that I have reached the conclusion I've reached.***

I'm fine with you and I disagreeing about this. We all see through our glass, darkly; I understand that and am OK with those glasses producing differnet views. Again, I just hope you recognize that I am no less doing what you pray I do than you are - and that you are no more doing it than I am. We each are doing exactly what you pray I will do; we're just reaching different conclusions.

That's fine. I understand why theosis is so abhorrent to most Christians. If you are interested, I wrote the following a while ago about that specific issue - how we view God's glory differently than many other Christians do.

"Praise, Honor and Glory Be to God"

http://mormonmatters.org/2008/07/07/praise-honor-glory-be-to-god/

Cindy said...

Dear Papa,

I am sorry if I offended you with my statement about reading the Bible objectively. I would never have even made that statement if it hadn't been for your comment (My own answers are my own attempt to accept what I believe the Bible teaches - even as I recognize how much my own views are influenced by Mormon theology.)

Actually I have to say that I truly value your desire to look objectively at your beliefs. It is really a gift to me...your honest and open responses are very difference from what I have experienced from Mormons before when I have asked about their beliefs. I understand that there has been much persecution of Latter day saints, but it is sad to me that conversations end, sometimes never even begin, for that reason. But you have remained open and thoughtful about what you believe and you take the time to explain it as well. I really do value that...thank you.

And I understand that we have both read the Bible and come to different conclusion, but I can't believe that is the end of things. I truly believe Christ's call to "be of one mind" if we love Him and I wonder if spending the time in conversations like this isn't what He was asking. I mean, we could make the case that it is very loving to allow others to just believe what they want even if we aren't unified, but then aren't we loving each other (or at least loving unity) more than Christ? I want to live in eternal life with all those I love (and that list has now come to include you!) and I truly believe Christ tells us how. But if we end up with two versions of how and they are diametrically opposed, then some of us aren't going. And I guess I'm not okay with that...either way! Either we (those of us outside Mormonism) not going because I'm not joining the correct church and performing the required ordinances, or you (those of you who are LDS)are not going because you are relying on your works for salvation instead of Christs. So, if we are both truly trying to discern the truth and we get such different answers, what do we do? It does seem that we both feel that the bottom line, the true reason is the glorification of God (as you accurately corrected me from my previous post), right? If we can't agree by returning to our theology, can we look at consider the fruit of that theology instead?

Cindy said...

I read your post about glory and you identify the clear distinction between our theologies in these statements, "We don’t praise and honor His glory; we praise and honor him by realizing that we are His glory" and "What I really care about is what my children become – that they maximize their glory (“beauty, magnificence, splendor, [spiritual] prosperity, absolute happiness, gratification, contentment”). If that happens, I truly will be glorified myself;"

I see the humble beauty of that philosophy, and I understand what you are saying. I see that you are defining God as having a generous nature and being willing to share His glory through others. And I can also see how you might view the traditional Christian view of God's desire for all the glory going to Himself as selfish and arrogant.

I appreciate also the way you personalize this philosophy to your own children by encouraging them to develop to their own potential and not focus on glorifying you. But by using our personal experiences as parents as the litmus test for this belief, aren't you already making the theological assumption that we are the same as God?

What if we really are His creations rather than His children (at least until we are adopted as sons through our belief in Christ)? What if He requires the glory all for Himself not because He is an arrogant self-absorbed God, but because if we glorify anything else that is what we will follow?

What glorifies God more, a child who loves God so much that he does all he can to show Him, or one who trusts his entire life to Him? You might propose that one begets the other and I would agree...but if I begin with the idea that my goal is to become like God (as a means of glorifying Him) then I will work toward that end. But my witness to others then is my work, my desire, even my love for God, not God Himself. Others will be drawn to me.

If, on the other hand, my goal is to be redeemed by God because I recognize that I am NOT like Him, then I will work at opening my heart to Go, admitting my sins, and trusting Him with all areas of my life. My witness then is my need for God, and others will be drawn to Him.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Papa D said...

"Either we (those of us outside Mormonism) not going because I'm not joining the correct church and performing the required ordinances, or you (those of you who are LDS) are not going because you are relying on your works for salvation instead of Christs."

First, neither of those statements is what the LDS Church actually teaches. It's what your faith teaches, but it's not what mine does - in either case. Again, that's interesting to me.

I'm not sure how to say this best, Cindy, but my answer to your dilemma is that I believe God is powerful and loving enough to transcend that kind of either/or thinking and save ALL who sincerely try to understand and follow Him - whatever differences in their theology might exist (even including those who simply have no knowledge of Jesus and sincerely live the very best they know). I think we are judged by our hearts, not our minds - that the judgment is much more about what we become than about the exact details of what we think - that being united can occur even when intellectual differences exist, as long as spiritual and emotional unity is forged - that Zion is NOT everyone playing the exact same melody on the exact same instrument but rather everyone playing perfectly meshed harmonies on widely varying instruments - that it's not a huge group solo, if you will, but rather a perfect (complete, whole, fully developed symphony). Once we stop seeing through our glass, darkly, we will see everything eye-to-eye; until then, we can be united in every way that matters despite still-existing differences. That's just "un-natural", so it's supremely difficult.

Iow, ironically, Mormonism teaches that God can and will save (and exalt) FAR more people than most Protestant religions teach. I truly do find that fascinating - that I have no problem whatsoever believing both of will talk of our faith together after we die, while you see it as one or the other. My mind understands why that is so, but my heart hurts a little nonetheless.

(I haven't read your second comment yet, so, if it clarifies something and makes it necessary to modify anything in this comment . . .)

Papa D said...

Honestly, Cindy, I think you are creating a clash that simply doesn't exist for MANY Mormons, even though I understand totally that it does exist for others. I don't know a single Mormon (fully active, partially active or totally inactive but "Christ-focused") who, if I was able to present the idea you express in a way that they would understand (using words and phrasing that they would not misunderstand), would not agree with your concern. I truly do believe that MUCH of what you see as theological conflict really isn't - that it is MUCH more of a case of conflicting terminology (the same words meaning different things to different people) than actual, non-reconcilable differences. Again, if I were speaking to a group of Mormons and then a separate group of (whatever denomination you are representing), I could say the exact same thing using different words and have both groups nodding and agreeing with me - as long as they didn't know my own denominational affiliation first.

I know there are real and important differences in some of the things we believe, and I'm not trying to downplay them, but I also am convinced that the critical differences aren't what it assumed by most people. It's those assumptions that I try to address - like some of the things you still mis-construct when you try to describe Mormon beliefs.

However, I do need to make one clarification of how you interpreted the post I linked:

I believe TOTALLY that the glory is God's. The statement you quoted was meant to make that distinction - that we aren't praising and honoring God's GLORY but rather praising and honoring GOD. That's a fine line, but, as you've identified, it's an important line.

Let me try to say it a different way:

There are three caricatures of God that can be drawn from the classic extremes. The first is a narcissistic God who burns or saves people simply based on his own whims (the puppet-master who keeps or discards his puppets with no regard for them as having inherent "worth" in and of themselves) and who petulantly demands that his creations tell him what a wonderful Being he is - even those who try to love and serve him but will end up on an eternal spit being roasted forever because he rejects them despite their praise for him. The second is a mushy, touchy-feely God who says, in essence, "Do whatever you want, because, in the end, I love you and will save you regardless of what you do - 'cause, you know, I'm a nice guy and your friend." The third is a God who says, "Here's a list of things you need to do. Do them all and you're saved; miss even one of them and you're damned."

I reject all three of those simplistic extremes, again, largely because of what I believe is taught in the Bible. None of those extremes fits what I see as the God who is described in that text. The God I see is somewhere in the middle of those extremes (think the center of a triangle) - a God who exercises judgment and makes requirements of us, but also a God who exercises mercy and validates our honest efforts to fulfill those requirements (knowing we never will be able to do so "perfectly"). What I call "pure Mormonism" (the core when you strip away the cultural baggage that inevitably accumulates within ALL religions) is a triangulation of the extremes - a "centered" theology that takes what I believe to be the "truth" from all of those perspectives and bursts the bounds of the improper constraints imposed by each of them - that makes theology much more three- or four-dimensional than the strictly linear construct of any of the extremes.

Papa D said...

Frankly, I think you also reject those extremes and are advocating something of a more balanced approach to theology, as well. Your comments don't describe an extreme, imo; rather, they describe the same type of attempt to strike the proper balance as I am trying to strike.

That's a very important distinction to me - and it's the main reason I continue to engage in this conversation with you. I believe you are sincere, and I believe you are not an extremist, and I believe you are not a judgmental jerk (like too many others who comment here and in other places).

Of course, that effort to strike a "growth-producing balance" has pitfalls and risks and, all too often, less than ideal or even temporarily harmful consequences. However, so do ALL of the extremes I described above. Your concerns about the effects of Mormon theology are valid - but they are NO more valid than those same concerns applied to ANY other theology that exists and is followed by Christians who are trying to figure out how to accept and follow God. I can say that because I have seen those effects in EVERY other denomination with friends and acquaintances and others whom I have encountered and heard. I should add, as well, that there are POSITIVE effects in those denominations - which, I believe, bolsters the core Mormon teaching that there is good and right in nearly all religions and that sincere adherents of nearly all faiths who do their absolute best to accept, love and obey God will be rewarded somehow, sometime by God for their efforts. (I add "nearly" simply because I believe there are some totally destructive, truly evil "religions" that have no "saving" truth.)

Where does that leave us with this conversation? I think we might be at a natural end of this one, because, ironically, I think we both are on a similar path - finding what makes sense for each of us in the middle of the triangle. I just hope you realize that Mormonism really isn't one of the extremes I described - the statements of some leaders and members to the contrary notwithstanding. (If I lumped all Protestants together, for example, there are some absolute DOOZIES that I could quote from former and current leaders that are just as odd, weird, non-sensical, dangerous and puzzling as anything that has been said by Mormon leaders.)

I don't know where we go from here, but I think that largely is up to you.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Cindy, I struggle with the thesis that serving God with our actions draws people to us, not to Him. The disciples of Christ in the New Testament were commanded to be active and do many works - not to be substitute Messiahs, but that men might see their good works and glorify God, that people might respect and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cindy said...

Papa, I love the way you describe the LDS church as a welcoming and non discriminatory religion, but then I read this in the Gospel Principles manual that my friend asked me to read:

"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."

In contrast, the Bible says this about what we have to do to be saved:

"John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

And, in Luke 13:22 when asked if only a few will be saved (and by saved, Protestants mean being reunited with God), Jesus does not answer directly, answering not so much with ‘how many’ but ‘who’ will be saved.

"In response to the question, Jesus lays down a “personal ethical challenge” to his hearers to strive to enter through the narrow door, which means to respond to his message, and to acknowledge him as Lord and King. The warning continues with the need to respond urgently to this message, lest the ‘owner of the house’ denies knowing them when they finally knock on the door. This imagery suggests that the answer to our question is indeed ‘yes’, with Jesus being pessimistic in front of his hearers. However, Jesus tempers this with the comment in Luke 13:29 that people will come from “east and west, from north and south” to “eat in the kingdom of God”, therein suggesting a huge number eventually will come."

I think most people get to a point in their lives when they admit to God that they are not able to control their lives on their own, and they submit to His help. If we then "acknowledge Christ as our Lord and King" we are saved. That feels very hopeful to me...

Cindy said...

Papa,

I appreciate your continued efforts to find a centeredness upon which we can both focus, but at the core, I think it is fair to say that the gospel of Mormonism is that man can be as God once was, while the gospel of Biblical Christianity says that God can save man from his sinfulness... and those two core doctrines are in opposition. It makes me sad too...

I don't disagree that within all religious denominations there is the potential for a misplaced zealousness for God that results in a focus on man before Christ. That is why, although I belong to a church congregation, I don't count my salvation reliant upon my membership or attendance. And for any church to make the claim as the one or only, with the only ordinances or powers seems to me to call for trust in the organization rather than the King.
Isn't that what Christ railed against when He challenged the Pharisees?

I actually like your statement that: "the core Mormon teaching that there is good and right in nearly all religions and that sincere adherents of nearly all faiths who do their absolute best to accept, love and obey God will be rewarded somehow, sometime by God for their efforts" but it doesn't seem to match with what I read as the basic principles of the church today (again from Gospel Principles,) "His Church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 115:4). Christ is the head of His Church today, just as He was in ancient times. The Lord has said that it is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (D&C 1:30)."


Doesn't it seem that if we all worked at developing a relationship with Christ where we trusted Him fully as the Lord of our lives...not just in name, but to be the source of the love in our lives and the lives of those we love...that we would be truly connected as His church?

Cindy said...

Jeff, Sorry if I didn't express that thought very well. I agree that our works can glorify God, but only if they are the fruit of our relationship with Him...as Paul says,

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

It seems to me that the types of works can be determined by the law under which they are done. One requires obedience to the law of sin or the law of works, while the other requires obedience to the law of love, the law of Christ, or the law of liberty. I agree that they both require obedience. It's just that it seems that the law of works fails to offer lasting forgiveness and therefore makes salvation impossible for all who have sinned, whereas the law of Christ makes salvation available by offering real and lasting forgiveness of sin.

Doesn't it seem that works done to fulfill the law of sin seem to glorify the worker, while works done to fulfill the law of Christ seem to glorify the ruler?

Papa D said...

Cindy, I am very serious in what I am about to say - and, fwiw, I gave up believing you are talking with me only to understand your friend better a LONG, LONG time ago. You can drop that angle any time, and I won't mind at all. Please.

1) Do you really believe that the Bible teaches that all we have to do is believe in order to be "saved" - with no actual list of commandments that can be compiled to show the specific things that Jesus commanded we do? I think it is crystal clear in the Bible that there are specific commandments that we are told we simply must accept and follow in order to be saved - even if they all hang on love, as multiple speakers said in their General Conference talks today. I agree completely that simply doing a checklist of things won't save us, in and of itself (as one speaker said bluntly today), and I have no problem with people who disagree about the specifics of any particular list (since that has been the heart of the creation of new churches and denominations since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation), but I think it is the height of selective reading to deny that there is a list of things that have been commanded and could be compiled. I really can't see how any reasonable reading of the Bible can argue otherwise - how "believe" can be taken to mean something that does not include obedient action.

2) "I think most people get to a point in their lives when they admit to God that they are not able to control their lives on their own, and they submit to His help."

That is bedrock Mormon doctrine and would not cause any angst or questioning from any Mormon pulpit. Seriously, submitting to the will of God, even when it is not what one wants naturally, was a theme of more than one talk in General Conference this weekend. Why do you think it isn't a Mormon doctrine?

3) "I think it is fair to say that the gospel of Mormonism is that man can be as God once was, while the gospel of Biblical Christianity says that God can save man from his sinfulness... and those two core doctrines are in opposition."

I think you simply mis-typed, but the idea that man can be as God IS (not once was) and that God can save man from his sinfulness are NOT in opposition. They aren't. The former flows from the latter, with the latter being absolutely necessary for the former to occur. Again, if we are talking about "human nature" / "the natural man", I would not get ANY negative reaction from ANY Mormon pulpit if I said that God saves us from our sinfulness. Every single member would nod her head and agree with me. It also is bedrock Mormon doctrine and is taught in General Conference regularly.

Papa D said...

4) I think you are drawing a . . . ludicrous . . . distinction between why you do what you do and why Mormons do what we do (and I hope you will pardon my choice of that word, but I really do think it's absurd). Do you seriously believe that Mormons don't do what we do out of a sense of love for God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son? Sure, there is an element of reward or desire to be blessed or given a gift inherent in the motivation that accompanies that love, but that is true of ALL disciples of Christ - and to deny that is beyond comprehension. ("Blessed are the . . .") Do you not hope for and expect a "reward" or "gift" of some kind for your dedication and faith and love of Jesus, the Christ, Savior and Redeemer? Does actually believing Jesus when he promises to bless us make us selfish and our motivation inferior?

Seriously, Cindy, these conversations eventually leave me baffled every time in a way, although I have had them so many times that I am not surprised any longer. We just don't believe the way that you keep presenting our beliefs, speaking generally while understanding there are many exceptions. I don't know if you grew up in the LDS Church in a home where lock step obedience was taught in a spirit of fear and Law of Moses paradigm (as some of my friends did), or if you simply are steeped in a classic outsider's perspective of the LDS Church, but what you keep saying we don't believe could be preached from any pulpit anywhere in the Church without causing any stir whatsoever.

That, again, never ceases to fascinate me.

Cindy said...

Papa, I'm sorry that you feel as if I am representing myself as something I'm not. After reading some of the posts on this kind of blog I can understand why, but I really am who I say I am.

Until 15 years ago when a Mormon family moved into my neighborhood, all I knew of Mormonism was the choir and Donny and Marie. My new friend did give me a BOM which I read, but there was enough of the Bible contained within it for me to overlook the doctrinal issues in favor of unity. Instead, we focused on our New Testament unity of faith and agreed on much as we attempted to make Christ the center of our lives. I came to love her family and her many friends from the church.

Then a few years ago, my friend really did present me with a copy of Gospel Principles and I found that our unity was almost completely false (with different definitions of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, grace, heaven and salvation). Suddenly I came to understand her hamster-like urgency to serve, her willingness to accept dysfunctional relationships based on hierarchy, and her repeatedly self-loathing patterns of behavior. I feel her fundamental drive to "be good" and to "get better", by "doing all she can"

I was horrified to read of the principles of repentance that require the complete forsaking of sins, unquestioning submission to the priesthood/church and the need to to "do all we can do" in order to qualify for the grace that offers forgiveness of sins. Our conversations came to a standstill as I fumblingly asked her for answers, but my poor manner of asking contributed to a complete breakdown of discussions about her faith. So I am reading all I can, including blogs like this, to try to identify any central ideas upon which we can rebuild and recenter our friendship.

My hopes have not been met however, as even with you, (and you truly have been the most open source of information I have come across) I find fundamental differences on topics such as:

Laws-you have a comprehensive list, I have love God and others.

Authority-You have the quad and the prophets, I have the word of God in the form of Christ and the Bible

Forgiveness-yours earned through obedience and repentance, mine through the grace of Christ

Eternal Blessings-yours (exaltation) are contingent upon your obedience to the laws, mine (crowns-which I will gladly throw at the feet of my Savior when I meet Him) are contingent upon my reliance upon Christ

Salvation-yours is a progression to your own godhood, mine is to be saved so I can return to live in the presence of God as my King

You may have found ways to connect these so that they make sense within your theology, but the bottom line difference for me is that God is my Creator and Ruler, separate from me because of my inherently sinful nature and I can only be reconciled with Him through adoption into His family through a reliance on Christ, not through continued efforts to progress. I can and will be obedient to the law of liberty offered by Christ, but my salvation is not reliant on my success or failure.

I love my friend dearly and feel the way Paul felt about the Jews of his time:

"For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."

I'm sorry if I have offended you throughout these conversations...that truly was not my intent...

Papa D said...

Cindy, again, thanks for the clarification. Please don't take my comments as being offended. That never has been the case. I am really, really hard to offend. The issue is that all we have are words on a screen, and it's brutally hard to get a good read on everyone with whom we communicate in a forum like this.

Just to clarify, I didn't mean that I believe you don't have a friend who is Mormon whom you've tried to understand. I meant that I didn't believe you were engaging here strictly in order to understand her - and I think your last comment bears out that conclusion. I think you believe you understand her and her theology very well - and you might, in her case and in the case of many other Mormons. I have never disputed that too many members take the kind of view you desribe; I've just said I don't believe it's "pure Mormonism", as I call it.

Christianity is not some monolithic entity where everyone thinks alike, even with regard to the most central, fundamental things - and you obviously recognize that from what you've said about your own church participation. My concern, frankly, is that you keep making sweeping statements about what Mormons believe - in a way that makes it appear that you don't believe that Mormonism also isn't a monolithic entity where everyone believes the exact same things. It simply is a fact that much of what you say you believe and Mormons don't believe could be preached verbatim from a Mormon pulpit and not one person would disagree or argue in any way.

Papa D said...

I understand there are important distinctions and fundamental differences, and I never will say otherwise. I don't want to portray myself as like most Protestants in my belief structure, largely because I feel as strongly about MANY of their creeds as you do about many Mormon beliefs. I really do believe that many "mainstream" Protestant beliefs are abominable and contrary to the Bible, so I do not want to confuse our real differences.

However, there also are MANY similarities between Mormonism and the rest of Christianity - and much of my effort is focused on trying to help people see those very real similiarities. It's those similarities that are portrayed as differences that I have tried to address in many of these comments.

I really do think this conversation is over in all practical ways - and I truly have enjoyed it, my occasional bemusement notwithstanding.

Cindy said...

Papa, I do truly thank you for your time and thoughtfulness.