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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Light and Joyous, But Still a Yoke to Pull and a Burden to Bear

In the comments for my recent post recommending low standards (or expectations of others) for better happiness in the Church, Papa D offered an interesting insight. I'll quote part of it:
To the point of lower (or, for me, more realistic) standards being the key to happiness, I think it's interesting that those who argue a "confess-only-and-be-saved" position basically are employing the lowest PRACTICAL standard for themselves possible to define salvation. Of course, everyone who argues it will say that relying totally on Christ and de-valuing our own actions is the highest form of worship and trust in Him - but, from a purely practical standpoint, it really is the lowest possible standard for their own actions.

On the flip side, those who argue a "personal-works-only-earn-salvation" position do the exact same thing - but with an opposite focus. They use the lowest possible standard for Jesus' actions and the highest standard for their own. **Both are extremist positions.**

Both bring a form of happiness (complacency), imo - since they are simple and give no real reason for what I believe to be "true" repentance. I see repentance as the result of a perceptual balance, that makes it harder to simplify into one fairly brainless formula, that leads to a degree of angst and concern and contemplation, that leads to self-reflection and effort to change - which is the definition of repentance.
I like his perspective. Believing that salvation comes from keeping a list of rules, with a focus on outward behavior, has a similar flaw to believing that God's rules don't require zealous effort on our part. Both reflect low expectations, as Papa D said.

I believe a correct reading of the scriptures recognizes that our relationship with God really matters, and that relationship must be a covenant relationship, one that accepts His grace and the power of the free gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a very serious covenant that includes conditions for our access to that gift. Keeping mere outward ordinances and rules is not the key to a healthy relationship with God, nor is merely believing in our heart. God wants us to be servants and friends, followers of Him who give this covenant relationship all that we can, serving Him with our strength as well as with our heart and mind. What we do matters, what we think and feel matters, who we are and who we seek to become matters.

There is a yoke to pull and a burden to bear. There is work to be done and tasks to be completed in our mortal journey with God. Christ invites us to hitch ourselves to His team and pull with all our might, but assures us that His burden is light and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). And it is. Keeping His commandments is so much less painful than sinning, and having the joy and support that the Spirit of God brings to our lives makes the path back toward Him much more bearable even in the midst of mortal pains than the path down toward sorrow.

God is not interested in just handing us a harp and saying "you're saved." He wants us to progress and "become perfect, even as [our] Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). We are His sons and daughters and He calls us follow the path of "godliness" and to "put on the divine nature" and become more like Him (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is a journey that we must continue to the end (Matthew 24:13), not a single step in one moment of yearning.

In working with us on this journey, Christ may tailor His demands upon us to help us overcome our own personal barriers between us and Him, just as He did for the young rich man who had been keeping the commandments, but was letting his love of wealth stand between him and God. In Matthew 19, when Christ told him that "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," things looked great for that young man for he had been doing so. But in spite of good outward observation of the rules of God, the relationship with God was flawed because of what was in his heart. There was one thing he lacked, and to overcome that barrier, the precise prescription for him (not necessarily all of us) was to sell what he had and follow Christ.

Building a relationship with God requires that we come to know Him. It also means that we know ourselves through regular introspection and examining our status before God, repenting constantly to remove what is flawed and seeking daily to better emulate the Savior. With this process in mind, we can understand why Paul, the great teacher of grace, would exhort his audiences to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14), to view our journey toward salvation as a race that we must run with patience and complete to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:23-25; Heb. 12:1), to examine ourselves lest we partake of the sacrament (communion) unworthily (Acts 11:27-30), and to be concerned about the dangers of falling from grace (1 Cor. 10:12; Heb. 2:1). This is why Paul would say that "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14) and why Paul would say that God offers eternal life to those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" (Romans 2:7).

Eternal life, the fruit of the heavenly tree of life, is all about the grace of Jesus Christ, but as we are reminded in the closing words of the Bible, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life" (Rev. 22:14)--in other words, following Christ and keeping His commandments is a necessary condition in our covenant relationship with Him for us to gain access to the fruits of grace.

Reaching the tree of life is a journey of many steps, not just one. Consider again the context of Peter's statement on putting on the divine nature, and observe how he describes this journey and its relationship to the goal of having our calling and election made sure:
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall....
We must be diligent on this journey as we pull Christ's yoke and bear His burden, but He blesses us and gives us joy and support as we seek to serve Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. He does the miraculous work of freeing us from sin and death, but since His goal is shaping us in a two-way covenant relationship to become true saints and God's sons and daughters in His kingdom, He asks us to do something that requires merely all we have and all we are, namely, to follow Him.

Related Resources
  • 125 comments:

    marciemo said...

    That is really beautiful. Thank you for sharing. It really helped to lift my spirit and shift my focus.

    Matthew said...

    Thank you - I needed that reminder today.

    Anonymous said...

    The LDS perspective on grace and works makes so much sense. It does justice to the covenantal framework of the Bible and is the clearest way to harmonize the full body of scripture.

    jackg said...

    Jeff,

    The only real thing that is offensive to what Christians believe is your reference to harps. That is not a valid representation.

    Okay, besides that, I will have to say that you did well with this article. I have just read a book called "Not A Fan." The author differentiates between a "fan" of Jesus and a "follower." Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily, which means that the life for a follower will be fraught with what you say to "a yoke to pull and a burden to bear."

    I think you're right on with regard to a covenant relationship. I still hope that one day you will understand what true grace is all about. We are saved by grace and not by works, so that no one can boast. That's what Paul said, anyway. Living a life that reflects a follower as opposed to a fan is not the same as obedience to earn salvation. Salvation is a gift to those who believe, which is what the New Testament repeats throughout.

    Peace...

    GB said...

    Excellent post!!!

    If jackg actually read it, he certainly did NOT understand it.

    He is still stuck on the old works vs grace anti-Mormon mime.

    Tis sad to behold.

    jackg said...

    GB,

    In the past, I would have responded to your comment with a bit of an attitude. Alas, such comments aren't bothering me as much. It's okay that you have your opinion. I'm completely okay with where I stand in my beliefs, just as you are.


    To all,

    Even though I do not believe the LDS Church to be the only true church on the earth that one needs to join in order to be saved (and, I used to believe this), I no longer hold to the stringent position that Mormons are going to hell because of what others perceive to be heretical teachings. I still think the LDS Church teaches things about Jesus that aren't right, but I know lots of LDS whose hearts are pure and clean, and who are striving to follow the same Christ as I follow. I have nothing against obedience, which is part of the covenant relationship Jeff talks about. Even though I believe we are justified by faith, I also believe that works will follow--but not because I fear hell, but because I want to obey God. So, maybe we are talking about the same thing after all. I just wanted to let you all know where I currently stand. I hope our debates are healthy and respectful, which is how I want to be from my end.

    Peace...

    Anonymous said...

    Hi jackg,

    Thanks for clarifying your statement. I think you nicely summed up what the Church teaches that grace and obedience go hand in hand.

    Cheers,
    Steve

    jackg said...

    Anonymous,

    Unfortunately, too many people who call themselves Christians think obedience is a bad word. Sometimes, people will say, "We all fall short of the glory of God" as if missing the mark is something we shouldn't be concerned with. Obedience is a beautiful thing with awesome results. Right off the bat in Genesis, God said: "Let there be light" or whatever it was He was creating. Please bear with me as I make my point of obedience from the perspective of "ex nihilo." It is not my purpose to argue this point. What I want to say is that nothingness became matter at the creative power of God's spoken words and immediately obeyed. (I know I differ in this than LDS teachings.) The point is that light became light and God saw that "it was good." Whenever we obey God, we will live the life He intended for us, and it will be good. Obedience is a beautiful thing.

    Anyway, that's about it for now.

    Peace...

    GB said...

    "ex nihilo" (or not) is irrelevant to your point being valid.

    Or put another way.

    Your point is valid independent of "ex hihilo".

    Patrick said...

    This post just won the "My Favorite Post" award. Finally, the LDS balancing of works and grace has been penned in a way that I agree with 100%.

    This post exemplifies why this big discussion we are having on the Net is so important. From Jack to Papa D we refine eachother's understanding of truth. Thanks to all.

    Rich said...

    Hi Jackg,
    A little golf clap from me for your last couple of posts. I think you nailed a couple of things. I especially like the part about pure hearts. I would only add that there are many people of all differents faiths that fall in the same catagory. Luckily for all of us that's what God seems to be concerned with the most, our heart in the right place. I think no matter where you stand on doctrine, we'll all have our share of aha moments on the other side. Stuff like ex-nihilio or not aren't as important as obedience. God knows our hearts and how to sort everything out in the end. :)

    but not because I fear hell, but because I want to obey God
    I would only add, for me personally, I don't do things to seek my own glory or to try and add to the work Christ did, but because I want to obey God. I think we do have many similar beliefs, different terminology. I have tried to point this out to many people before but it falls on blind eyes, I was going to say deaf ears but I think internet blogging kind of changes the saying a bit. Another interesting thought came to mind, after reading something you said about baptism on another article. For us baptism is part of our covenant relationship with God. It is preached about in the bible and many were baptized. I don't believe Christ did things in his short life that were of no importance to us. Following in his footsteps we belive we need to be baptized as a step to the remission of our sins as well as entering into a covenant that will will do our best to not sin anymore.
    What I want to say is that nothingness became matter at the creative power of God's spoken words and immediately obeyed.
    That also could be said, unorganized matter immediatly obeyed and became what it was commanded by the creator to become. We are finding, through our science endevours, that the building blocks for life are scattered throughout the cosmos. It makes much more sense to me, in light of this new discovery, that someone, God, could take of already exsisting materials and put them together in their proper form to bring about life. The more we learn about the universe, the more we see how well organized it is to support life. There is a reason for that, as it was created for that very purpose.

    Anonymous said...

    The best explanation I have ever read that can explain how faith without works is dead and yet it is the grace that saves us not our works is written in a book called “Believing Christ”. The author’s last name I think is Christenson, I think not sure. It has been some time since I read the book.

    He gave an example of when his little girl wanted a bike really bad, but as a young family finances were tight, so he told her. “If you save all your money then one day you will have saved enough to buy a bike”. So after several weeks of diligently doing chores and saving her money she brought her jar of coins to him and asked if they could go to the store and look at the bikes. Once there she quickly found the beautiful pink bike with the streamers on the ends of the handle bars that she so wanted. But once she saw the price tag on the end of the string she realized that she was no where close to having saved enough money to pay for the bike. tears started to boil up in the corner of her little eyes. Now her father never lied to her, it was true that if she saved all her money she one day could save enough to get the bike, but by that time she would be more interested in a car than a bike. So her father asked her just how much money she had. Looking at the jar she said that she had about 6 dollars and 50 cents. So her father told her “I tell you what, you give me the jar and a big hug and a kiss and the bike is yours”.

    I think the story ended with the father driving real slow along the side of the road following his little girl as she rode her new bike home.

    We can never do enough good works to qualify to live in Gods presence again. But if we prove to him that to live with him is all we really want when we leave this world and we are willing to give him a jar filled with our very best yet much lacking effort then he will make up the rest. But to assume that we can one day accept Jesus and we are saved, therefore we can go about our daily lives much the same as we always have (and there are countless numbers of us that fall within this category) then I would fear hearing the words “I never knew you, depart from me”.

    Anonymous said...

    I realize that no one wants to stand in judgment of another person, but without trying to pass judgment, but rather explaining from the Bible how it works what are my chances?

    I’m not much different than the average guy. I like sports, going to the bar with friends for a few drinks. I’m good to my wife and kids. Not much for going to church, would rather watch a good game, although I do believe in God and all that stuff. I do a good days work for my pay. I don’t make a lot so there isn’t a lot to go around so I don’t give that often to the church. I live by the philosophy, that if you leave me alone I will leave you alone. Other than a few tickets, I don’t break the law. And I help my neighbor when I can.

    So with this type of resume, what would be your best guess as to the chances of me going to Heaven, or suffering the torment of the other side? And Why? Would I even be happy in Heaven? If Heaven is worshiping God all the time, then it would just be 7 days of going to church and right now there are very few people that want to spend any more than one hour at church let alone 7 days a week. Sounds like to me the only reason for wanting to go to heaven is just so you’re not suffering in hell. If there were a third option, a place where your not burning in torment, but also not sitting in praise of God all day long. A place where you can just continue being very much the same as you are here, just living out your life doing what you want to do. I think most of us would opt for that rather than either of the other two.

    Cindy said...

    I believe a correct reading of the scriptures recognizes that our relationship with God really matters, and that relationship must be a covenant relationship, one that accepts His grace and the power of the free gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a very serious covenant that includes conditions for our access to that gift.

    This is a wonderful and heart felt though and motivated by a desire to truly love the Savior I'm sure. But if there are conditions that we must complete before having access to the gift of the forgiveness of our sins, then what is the standard upon which they are given? How much does God ask before He offers us the complete gift? Through our progression must we become perfect before the free gift is ours?

    Openminded said...

    When I was an Evvie, this faith vs. works debate was so important to me. I was a faith alone type, and I knew how amazing it could be. I'd prop it up with the standard bible verses, the expert authors on the subject, and i knew firsthand how much it can change--for the better--the people who believed in this doctrine.

    Their standard was "Christ died for me, and the least I could do is serve a mission", or something along those lines.

    And every time I debated this doctrine over at MRM, some Mormon could do the exact same thing.

    But here's something I think isn't included in the debate, but maybe shapes the thinking in some ways: Evvies like jackg believe in Hell; Mormons are borderline Universalists.

    When I was an Evvie, I had to confront the idea that a TON of people were going to Hell. Mormons were going to Hell, some of my friends were going to Hell, etc., etc. And when confronting this...doctrine of condemnation, faith alone made Jesus seem that much greater. The only condition was faith, and God could take it from there.

    Works are scary. Why would we have to do something so mundane just to be with Christ? Why would He do that to us? Because to us, salvation is the difference between heaven and hell. We dont get a lesser Heaven, we get an eternity away from God's glory.

    I'm not a believer any more, but I remember that perspective like no other. I don't know how much it influenced me, because I tried to see where Mormons were coming from with this debate. In fact, I remember most that I stopped joining this debate because it goes absolutely nowhere.

    The bible is just too open to interpretation in some parts.

    Sort of like the Spirit.

    Rusty Southwick said...

    Anonymous said:
    I’m not much different than the average guy. I like sports, going to the bar with friends for a few drinks. I’m good to my wife and kids. Not much for going to church, would rather watch a good game, although I do believe in God and all that stuff. I do a good days work for my pay. I don’t make a lot so there isn’t a lot to go around so I don’t give that often to the church. I live by the philosophy, that if you leave me alone I will leave you alone. Other than a few tickets, I don’t break the law. And I help my neighbor when I can.

    So with this type of resume, what would be your best guess as to the chances of me going to Heaven, or suffering the torment of the other side? And Why? Would I even be happy in Heaven?

    Hard to say just from those factors. You need more than good intentions, of course. And if you're truly helping other people, that's probably the best sign. It comes down to the difference between being selfish and selfless. And unless you're doing some bad things, that's pretty hard for others to discern.

    I would also ask: do you treat people well? People in your family, children, strangers? Are they better for knowing you?

    The scriptures say that we can each know for our own selves whether we're meeting the conditions God has set, simply through our attitude and desire. If it's what you really want, you'll make it a top priority and not let anything else get in your way of that goal. The way is set. It's there for us if we want it.

    The reason we would ultimately want to live with God is that God is perfect love. The most joyous times on Earth are when we feel the most love, both giving and receiving.

    Rusty Southwick said...

    As for the balance between grace and works, people seem to attach some kind of saving value to works simply because they are an essential component of salvation. There's a fine distinction here. Christ is the only one with the ability to save us. There's nothing we can do to save ourselves, but we can accept His gift and follow Him through obedience. The works, though, have absolutely no value in the absence His saving grace. Grace, however, still has ultimate value even in the absence of anyone's works.

    Another way to look at it is that none of us can ever "earn" salvation. It is something that is granted to us if we abide by the conditions.

    Cindy said...

    Another way to look at it is that none of us can ever "earn" salvation. It is something that is granted to us if we abide by the conditions.

    Okay, but then what are the conditions?

    Rusty Southwick said...

    Okay, but then what are the conditions?
    Accepting Christ by dedicating our lives to him and following the path that He's laid out for us.

    Salvation and exaltation is a gift given to us, and we can't take any credit for the gift, but we can receive it and accept it graciously. Those who don't accept it won't receive it.

    Cindy said...

    So you are saying that "salvation is granted to us if we abide by the conditions" of "accepting Christ by dedicating our lives to him and following the path that He's laid out for us?"
    Because of God's holy nature can we assume that God's standard of dedication and following the path is perfection?
    If that is true, then don't we need to achieve perfect dedication and following in order to have salvation granted to us?

    jackg said...

    Hi Rich,

    I definitely don't agree with the following statement you made, which is what differentiates our belief system: "That also could be said, unorganized matter immediatly obeyed and became what it was commanded by the creator to become."

    The reason I don't agree with it is because I believe that there is not anything that predates God. Unorganized matter would necessarily predate God. That is why I prefaced what I said with the term "ex nihilo." I believe God created everything, including matter out of nothing. That demonstrates the power of his Word.

    You stated: "Following in his footsteps we belive we need to be baptized as a step to the remission of our sins as well as entering into a covenant that will will do our best to not sin anymore." I agree with the idea of entering into a covenant. Regarding the act of baptism itself, it is an outward sign of an inward grace; however, it is not efficacious. This idea of sacraments being efficacious is what the Reformers fought against in their theological battle with the Roman Catholic Church. That's when Luther and others began to teach justification by faith.

    In an effort to avoid a reiteration of things I have already stated, I will just say I am a proponent of baptism. I just don't see it as a step to our remission of sins, but as a response to our forgiveness and remission of sins because of faith in Jesus Christ. I know there are Protestant faiths that agree with you on this. Ultimately, for me, this is a nonessential to salvation.

    Peace...

    jackg said...

    Anonymous,

    The problem with your resume is that it is all about you and your behavior, good or bad. The True Resume for salvation IS Jesus Christ.

    I want to say that I admire and appreciate your honestly. You say a lot of things that hit the nail right on the head. All I can say is that when one absolutely falls head-over-heels in love with Jesus that it all begins to make sense. We will understand what it means to worship God, and we won't look at it as "going to church" every day. I can understand why you would make such a statement. I think what we have to understand is that it is humans who make the going-to-church experience something that seems to be a burden. Right now, it might seem that you are far away from God, but I think the truth is that you are nearer to God that you might realize. He is calling you into a relationship with Him--NOT with a church or organization. Realizing this will make all the difference for you.

    Peace and blessings...

    Rusty Southwick said...

    Cindy said:
    Because of God's holy nature can we assume that God's standard of dedication and following the path is perfection?

    If that is true, then don't we need to achieve perfect dedication and following in order to have salvation granted to us?


    Yes, I would agree with that. In terms of the whole package of salvation and exaltation, we need to achieve perfect dedication at some point. But we could never do it on our own, because we fall so short of the glory of God. Jesus makes up the rest, which is the great bulk of it. Our part would be like throwing in a few pennies to "pay" for a meal.

    I think it comes down to the distinction between works being essential and works having saving value. I think they are essential, but they don't contain any saving value. If you think about it, the entire reason we even have an opportunity to show forth good works is that we're given the breath of life and granted forgiveness. The good we achieved was how much we let Christ lift us up, and how can we take any credit for that?

    mkprr said...

    Hey all, how many of you have checked out "The Guide to the Scriptures" under study helps at lds.org? Under the term salvation it is short and sweet:

    All people will be saved from physical death by the grace of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ.

    It then lists a bunch of scriptures

    Anonymous said...

    Jackg said,

    The problem with your resume is that it is all about you and your behavior, good or bad. The True Resume for salvation IS Jesus Christ.

    So if I understand what you are saying, what I do or how I live my life does not enter into it. It is all about Jesus. So what happens if I don't "Fall head-over-heels in love with Jesus" as you put it? And is that love an emotion or a behavior or both? And what would it look like?

    Cindy said...

    Rusty,

    "Yes, I would agree with that. In terms of the whole package of salvation and exaltation, we need to achieve perfect dedication at some point."

    So if we can achieve perfect dedication, which I assume is to the commandments...I know I shouldn't assume :) what was the purpose of Christ's sacrifice?

    Cindy said...

    Rusty,

    Here's what I don't understand.

    You say that salvation is granted to us only after we abide by the condition (commandments, right?) and that we "throw our pennies in" and "Jesus makes up the rest" right?

    So we do "all we can do" and then ask Christ to do the rest...

    but if "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." - 1 Nephi 3:7"

    then isn't "all we can do" keeping all of the commandments, or as you said, achieving perfect dedication?

    And if it is only after all we can do that Jesus grants us His grace, then isn't it only after we have achieved perfection that His grace is granted?

    Maybe I am dull, but I just don't get it!

    Cindy said...

    Mkprr,

    You said, "Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ."

    So we can only be saved from spiritual death by a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances and service to Christ?

    Anonymous said...

    Cindy said

    So we can only be saved from spiritual death by a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances and service to Christ?

    The key word that changes the meaning in this paraphrase is the word ONLY. That totally changes the meaning from the original intent. Christ has prepared away for us to be perfect even as our Father is perfect, but it is not “ONLY” through obedience to his commandments. We will fall short of perfection no matter how hard we try. Each and everyone of us will stand at the judgment bar of Christ lacking in that which will be required to enter into his kingdom. But he will look at us and see into our heart and know the true desire of our heart. And our desires are manifest through our actions. He then will fill in the gaps that are missing that we may enter.

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ - only if we accept it. Accepting Him includes following Him. He asks us and commands us to repent and follow Him. He tells us that if we will inherit life, keep the commandments. He reminds us that we will be judged by our works. They don't save us, the commandments don't save us, it's His grace. But the covenant relationship requires that we strive to follow Him to receive the full blessings of His grace. That's why He can say that those who endure to the end will be saved. Not that enduring saves us, but departing from the covenant certainly doesn't help.

    mkprr said...

    Cindy,

    You will note if you read the quote again that we are saved "by the grace of God"

    So to answer your question: no, our obedience doesn't seem to be doing the saving, it's God's grace that does the saving.


    Also, I'd like to point out again that that wasn't my statement. It is a statement from the LDS website under the word "salvation" from "the guide to the scriptures"

    Pops said...

    The Atonement of Christ is a gift in the same way that a scholarship is a gift.

    When the recipient of a full-ride scholarship registers for the required classes, attends classes, studies the material taught, turns in their homework, performs well in exams, and in all other ways meets the requirements of the institution, they receive a diploma.

    We say they've "earned" their degree. That doesn't mean they paid the tuition and fees or room and board. It doesn't mean they repaid their benefactor the monetary value of the scholarship.

    Furthermore, it isn't an insult to the giver of the scholarship, but rather shows the ultimate in gratitude. It means they recognized the purpose of the scholarship, accepted it, and applied themselves to receive the full benefit of the opportunity provided by the free gift.

    Frame the diploma, not the scholarship.

    Pops said...

    My last sentence was an egregiously poor expression. The point is that the prominent display of a scholarship is hollow and meaningless if no effort is made to "earn" a diploma. It suggests the gift was not truly appreciated, or was not understood, in that it was not used as the giver intended it to be used.

    Anonymous said...

    I started reading a book written by a Christian Pastor about Heaven and Hell and who goes where. In the book he talked about a Christian group putting on a sort of art show. In the show someone displayed a quote from Mehaut Megondi. Someone, a “Christian”, posted a note on the display which read “reality check, he is in hell”. To which the author asks the question “really?”

    So how and why would someone concluded that a person like Megondi has gone to hell? Or on the other hand what would one base his going to heaven on? If we assume we know what is necessary to avoid hell and reach heaven, then surely we could answer these questions.

    Cindy said...

    Jeff,

    You said, "He tells us that if we will inherit life, keep the commandments."

    Which ones? How many? Given the following, shouldn't we be able to keep them all...always?

    “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish
    the thing which he commandeth them” 1 Nephi 3:7

    Cindy said...

    Dear mkprr,

    You said, "Hey all, how many of you have checked out "The Guide to the Scriptures" under study helps at lds.org?"

    I went to lds.org and searched for "salvation" this is the first result. Maybe we are dealing with an issue of definitions, because this information seems to imply that salvation is given and exaltation is earned. Is that what you believe?

    “Salvation” and “exaltation” are two very important words relating to what we hope to receive after this life. Elder Russell M. Nelson explained that “to be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death.” Exaltation, he further taught, “refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm.”

    Cindy said...

    Pops,

    You said, "The Atonement of Christ is a gift in the same way that a scholarship is a gift."

    If it is truly a gift, when is it applied to us? After all we can do in keeping our covenants and obeying the commandments?

    “We are saved by the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. We must, however, come unto Christ on His terms in order to obtain all the blessings that He freely offers us. We come unto Christ by ‘doing all we can do’ to remember Him, keep our covenants with Him, and obey His commandments" BOM study guide

    Papa D said...

    Jeff, somehow I missed this post when you wrote it. This blog is on my blogroll, and I try not to miss any of your posts - EVER, so missing this one . . .

    Wonderful overview of the issues involved in this topic. It really is about a covenant relationship to me. I have called it a perceptual balancing act, but I like the covenant framing much better.

    Fwiw, I spoke today about not making a mock of others - and that is just one more example of how what we choose to do (how we act as agents unto ourselves as an expression of our sincere faith in Jesus and what he actually taught) is central to the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ.

    Cindy, you and I have had the discussion you are trying to have with others - and I simply have absolutely no desire to do so again. Jeff used nothing but Biblical scriptures - and MANY of them - in this post; I will leave it at what he wrote, in the words of Jesus and his ancient apostles.

    I don't mean that flippantly. I just don't have any belief whatsoever that I can change your mind or you can change mine - and going over and over and over the same thing in the exact same way expecting different results is the classic definition of insanity.

    I respect you and your passion greatly - but I have no desire to dance this particular dance again.

    Cindy said...

    Papa D,

    I respect your passion for the Lord as well and I understand your desire to avoid rehashing a previous discussion. I also understand what you described on the previous post and which Jeff used as the basis for this one.

    I appreciate your presentation of the options but I think there is still another one that you failed to consider. Rather than defining our relationship with God as beings who can contribute to our own righteousness through a covenant, isn't it possible that the true relationship that God desires with us is that we humbly admit our ongoing sinfulness and accept the need for a Savior to impute His righteousness to us? (The NEW covenant?)

    Once we admit that our salvation is through faith in Christ alone THEN our response will be a desire to respond with works.

    That seems to be the difference between the Biblical and LDS scriptures and the reason I submitted them...to demonstrate the contrast between the two.

    Again, I understand your desire not to start the discussion all over again..I just wanted to throw out this additional option to consider...take care :)

    Papa D said...

    Cindy, you said:

    "isn't it possible that the true relationship that God desires with us is that we humbly admit our ongoing sinfulness and accept the need for a Savior to impute His righteousness to us? (The NEW covenant?)

    Once we admit that our salvation is through faith in Christ alone THEN our response will be a desire to respond with works."

    That is bedrock Mormon doctrine, and nobody would bat an eye or complain in any way if it was taught in exactly those words from a pulpit in Sacrament Meeting - or Stake Conference - or General Conference - or any other Mormon meeting.

    That's why I don't want to discuss it further. What you write is fully consistent with official Mormon doctrine, but you can't see it. You keep telling us to believe something we already believe - and Jeff said in his post EXACTLY what you said in your last comment. You're arguing against Mormonism by preaching Mormon doctrine, and it's incredibly frustrating for those of us who are trying to help you understand that simple fact.

    When all I can say is, "Yes, I believe that - and I've heard it preached all my life" - and when all I get in response is, essentially, "No, you don't believe that, and it's not taught in Mormonism. Let me say it differently, so you can understand that you don't really believe it" . . .

    How else am I supposed to respond other than resignation and withdrawal?

    Cindy said...

    Papa D,

    I can feel your frustration through the airwaves! Believe me, my greatest wish would be that what you say is true and that we were all united in our beliefs, and if I only read what you said, I would! But every time I pick up an LDS set of scriptures, manual or listen to a talk, I hear a distinct emphasis on the role of mankind in determining his salvation. I am frustrated too, by your refusal to address these writings...do you not believe them?

    Here are just a few that make me weep:

    "In reality, this doctrine means that we earn and must earn what we get. Salvation must be earned." Widsoe

    "We are now experiencing mortal life. Our spirits are united with our bodies, giving us opportunities to grow and develop in ways that were not possible in premortal life. This part of our existence is a time of learning in which we can prove ourselves, choose to come unto Christ, and prepare to be worthy of eternal life."
    Gospel Study

    “They [Mormon missionaries] made clear distinction between general salvation or resurrection from the grave and individual salvation or exaltation earned by a man through his compliance with the laws of God. They taught that there are preferential places
    in heaven as there are on earth and that the highest place or Celestial Kingdom could be attained only by those who faithfully subscribe to and keep all the laws and ordinances Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby entitle themselves to come into the presence
    of our God and Jesus Christ, His Son” First Presidency 1941

    Papa D said...

    Cindy, what I'm saying is that wording often is semantic. We can make someone an offender for a word (like "earn"), simply because it means something to us but something different to someone else. You use "respond with works" - which is EXACTLY what "earn" means in Mormonism. It doesn't mean "earn independent of Jesus, the Christ" - or anything else that removes Jesus from the role of gracious God and Savior.

    Let me repeat that:

    In Mormonism, "earn" means "accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior and respond in faith to what he has asked of us by striving to do the works He commanded us to do". I.e., "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I.e., "That which ye have seen me do, do ye likewise." I.e., "Ye are my friends, IF ye do whatsoever I command you." I.e., the multiple quotes Jeff used in this post.

    NOT ONCE have I EVER heard a Mormon say or even imply that we "earn" salvation or exaltation or any other eternal reward independent of Jesus. Even after all we can do, it STILL is by the grace of God that we are saved - but if we truly believe the totality of the Bible, it is absolutely inescapable that we must, as you said, "respond with works".

    No matter the words we use, we teach what you said in that comment - but in response to the idea of "easy grace" (which you obviously reject), we sometimes use words like "earn" to show that we must "do something" - that what we do (our "works") actually are important, since Jesus of Nazareth and all of his early disciples taught that they are.

    I am continuing this discussion even though I didn't think I would specifically to make that point. I honestly don't expect you to understand and accept what I just said, since I think a contrary interpretation has been ingrained so deeply into your consciousness that it feels like I am just an individual who is twisting normal Mormon doctrine - but I'm not. Seriously, I have heard EXACTLY what you wrote (in meaning, and often in almost the exact same words) preached hundreds of times in my life - and I have NEVER heard works preached as anything but the proof of our faith in and acceptance of Jesus, the Christ.

    If it helps at all, Jeff is a former Bishop - and I have served for most of the past 6 years on the Stake High Council in two separate areas (and currently am teaching the LDS Institute / Religion class at the college where I work). I don't say that to boast in any way; I say it just to share that both of us are or have been "mainstream" local leaders where we've lived. NOBODY, EVER, has questioned me or tried to correct me when I teach what I've written here - mostly because NOBODY has disagreed.

    In summary, some word usage surely grates to those who use and define words differently, but the intended meaning of the message taught in Mormonism really is summarized beautifully in what you wrote - believe it or not.

    I really am done now. God continue to bless you, sincerely.

    Ken said...

    "In reality, this doctrine means that we earn and must earn what we get. Salvation must be earned." Widsoe

    Not sure of the context in which this was said, but if Paul said that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, would that not imply that this is something we must earn? So how do you work out, with fear and trembling, something that is a gift?

    "We are now experiencing mortal life. Our spirits are united with our bodies, giving us opportunities to grow and develop in ways that were not possible in premortal life. This part of our existence is a time of learning in which we can prove ourselves, choose to come unto Christ, and prepare to be worthy of eternal life."
    Gospel Study

    Paul said
    “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

    Christ said
    “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the surrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in cmarriage:” What was it that made them “worthy”of that world? He also said “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”


    “They [Mormon missionaries] made clear distinction between general salvation or resurrection from the grave and individual salvation or exaltation earned by a man through his compliance with the laws of God. They taught that there are preferential places
    in heaven as there are on earth and that the highest place or Celestial Kingdom could be attained only by those who faithfully subscribe to and keep all the laws and ordinances Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby entitle themselves to come into the presence
    of our God and Jesus Christ, His Son” First Presidency 1941

    In 1 John 3:22 we read “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
    So if we ask for his grace do we receive it because we keep his commandments?
    We also read in John 15:10 “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
    So what is the result if we do not keep his commandments? Do we still abide in his love or no? Christ also said “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

    Just as you can take individual statements from the Church to imply a different meaning, so to can individual scriptures be taken from the Bible to try and imply contradictions in meaning. Paul is no more incorrect in telling the people to work out their salvation with fear and trembling than Widsoe is in saying salvation must be earned. It can be argued that even if the only step that is to be taken is to say you accept Jesus as your personal savior, it is a step. It is an action on our part, something we must do. So then it can be argued that we must earn that gift even if it is only taking one small step. A broken heart and a contrite spirit are needed to earn salvation. Psalms 34:18. Repentance is needed to earn salvation 2 Corinthians 7:10. Or can someone be saved without repentance?

    Anonymous said...

    Cindy,

    As a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior you feel and know of his great love for you.

    Is there anything you must now do to abide in his love?

    Pops said...

    On my comparison of the Atonement to a scholarship, Cindy asks:

    "If it is truly a gift, when is it applied to us? After all we can do in keeping our covenants and obeying the commandments?"

    What I was trying to illustrate was the meaning of the word "earn" in the context of post-mortal reward, and why it doesn't contradict the fact that the Atonement is a pure gift. But since you asked...

    We were actually offered the scholarship in our premortal existence. Anyone here in mortality accepted the scholarship offer. (Those who didn't accept got booted out with Lucifer and missed out on the university experience.)

    In other words, planet earth is the university we are attending because of the scholarship we received from Christ - he built the university and runs the place.

    Those who use their university time to party will get the consolation prize - resurrection, plus a nice place in the Telestial Kingdom. They will first sojourn in the place called Hell because they didn't think it was important to ask Christ to pay for their sins. He paid for them, but because they didn't ask for forgiveness they won't receive it. (Or, more likely, they won't receive it until it occurs to them to ask for it while suffering in Hell.)

    The Terrestrial Kingdom is reserved for those who attend class diligently and focus mostly on meeting requirements, but who either don't really get the purpose of the university, or who get it but don't work very hard at it.

    Those who figure out that the point is to become educated - meaning to become as God is (i.e., "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect") and follow through on it may earn a spot in the Celestial Kingdom. Special tutoring, in the form of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, is available to those who get the purpose and enter into a covenant relationship with God to diligently seek to earn the highest degree offered by the university.

    Ken said...

    Cindy,

    you said that the quotes you listed from LDS sources made you weep. Why do they make you weep?

    Anonymous said...

    Will anyone read the following verses and then tell me what that "reward" is? assuming that it is the same in each verse.

    Matthew 16:27
    Luke 6:35
    1 Corinthians 3:8 & 14
    Rev 22:12

    Pops said...

    I'm not sure what you mean by "the same". They're the same in that each will receive a reward based on their works. They're different in that each will receive a different reward, given that their works are different. That's my take, FWIW.

    Anonymous said...

    What I mean by "the same" is that all four references are talking about a reward in Heaven and not some other kind of reward.

    So what you are saying is that the reward in Heaven spoken of in the bible is indendent of salvation, and has more to do with one of the levels or kingdoms?

    Pops said...

    "Salvation", as I understand it, is an umbrella term that covers everything of a saving nature that Christ provides.

    Some things require no action on our part, such as resurrection and a spot in the Telestial Kingdom. Other things are given in the form of an opportunity and an invitation, much like a scholarship - we receive the reward only if we comply with the conditions set by Christ. Celestial glory, for example, is only available to those who learn to live Celestial law.

    The ruler who asked the Savior, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life" elicited a response from Jesus that aligns with the notion of multiple kingdoms. The first answer, that he should obey the commandments, is in fact what is required to earn a spot in the Terrestrial Kingdom. Because the inquirer was already obedient to the commandments and apparently qualified for the Terrestrial Kingdom, Jesus raised the bar: "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor; ... and come follow me." Had the man been willing to follow this advice, he could have qualified for Celestial glory. But, sadly, he wasn't willing to make the effort.

    Elder Dallin Oaks gave an excellent talk on the subject, "Have You Been Saved?" in the April 1998 General Conference. In it he explains a number of the different meanings of the term "salvation". You can find it on the LDS.org website - search in "General Conference" for the title of the talk.

    Anonymous said...

    So in the New Testament when it talks about followers giving everything over to the church and the one couple that lied about it and died, they were doing what this rich ruler was unwilling to do (except for this one couple). They were living a higher law so they could go to a higher place?

    As I understand it when the Mormons first started they tried living that law plus having lots of wives to get to this top heaven. But the church has given up on both of these. So have the rules for going to this highest heaven changed or have Mormons given up on reaching that level and settled for the next one down?

    Pops said...

    It's the obedience that makes the difference. Celestial glory is given to those who learn to obey perfectly.

    Commandments specific to the circumstance in which we live are given and revoked by God as our circumstances change. [This requires ongoing revelation through God's oracle, as was the case in Biblical days.] Those who insist on living according to superceded commandments don't generally fare well in God's eyes. Or do you think we should still be living the Law of Moses?

    Cindy said...

    Ken,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to each of the statements that trouble me. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to make the point that we must do "something" to gain salvation, even if that something is simply to repent, or to "turn toward the Lord" in order to receive the gift. I agree that we must repent of our desire for self rule and humbly submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved. But is our individual salvation or exaltation, (as defined by the church) GAINED by our obedience to the commandments? Is our worthiness determined by the degree to which we keep the commandments?

    Cindy said...

    Anonymous,

    You asked "Is there anything you must now do to abide in his love?" I agree that Christ asks us to abide in His love after receiving His grace. Of course I want to demonstrate my love for Him after He saved me from eternal death! I am filled with gratitude and long to follow Him by keeping His commandments!

    But if His death on the cross only assures my general salvation is my individual salvation/exaltation in peril if I am unable to obey all of the commandments all of the time? To be perfect? Is that what Christ is saying in Matthew 5? Will I gain or lose my individual salvation/exaltation based on my obedience?

    Cindy said...

    Pops said, "Those who figure out that the point is to become educated - meaning to become as God is (i.e., "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect") and follow through on it may earn a spot in the Celestial Kingdom."

    Thanks for your honest description of the salvation process. If perfect obedience to the commandments is the way to earn a spot in the celestial kingdom, and if we are not given an commandment without the way to accomplish that command, do you know of anyone who has achieved perfect obedience? I mean, do you know of anyone who could honestly say that they are certain of their future in the celestial kingdom based on their perfect obedience to the commandments?

    Pops said...

    Cindy,

    One of our favorite scriptures is this one from the Book of Mormon:

    And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

    I don't know exactly what it is you're getting at, so maybe you could clarify. It's true that the Lord provides the way for us to keep his commandments, but it's still a choice for us to make.

    Do I know anyone who has achieved perfect obedience? Perhaps. I know I haven't. I know people who are far better at it than I am. But those who do achieve it, who have their "calling and election made sure", aren't likely to broadcast it publicly - to do so would be contrary to God's will.

    I've got a new analogy - see my next comment.

    Pops said...

    Here's an analogy from a mathematical perspective.

    The most simplistic view of Christ's Atonement and how it affects us is the one-dimensional Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. The Atonement is a constant to which we add nothing. This doesn't seem to harmonize well with scripture - why would Christ keep telling us to obey his commandments?

    The next step up introduces a tiny bit of agency on man's part, which is to either accept or reject Christ's Atonement. That gives us sort of a one-dimensional solution with two points. But in fact it introduces human will into the equation, so it's really a simplified two-dimensional equation where human action is a variable that affects the outcome.

    Cindy and others are very astute in recognizing the error of formulating the thing in this way:

    g(x) = x + (1-x)

    where g(x) is our post-mortal reward, x is man's actions, and (1-x) represents Christ doing whatever it is that we can't. This is clearly an error because humans can't do what Christ did. Not a bit of it. (This is where Stephen Robinson's bicycle analogy breaks down, but more on that later.)

    The problem with this formulation is still the same commandment issue. Why would Christ ask us to obey his commandments if it makes no difference? To resolve this problem, Cindy and others make a very clever adjustment to the equation - they move obedience to commandments to the left side of the equation! Now obedience to commandments is a result of our having accepted the Atonement and having been saved.

    What the Restoration offers is sort of like what string theory does for physics - it introduces another dimension and another variable, such that

    g = f(x, y)

    which reads, our post-mortal reward g is a function of two independent variables, the Atonement x and human action y. In other words, it informs us that it isn't a 2D equation at all, it's a 3D equation!

    Note that these two variables, x and y, are independent or orthogonal, which harmonizes with the fact that we humans can't do anything to add to the Atonement. By the same token, it also means that Christ won't do anything to compel us to obey. It forces us to recognize that our post-mortal reward requires the Atonement and it depends on our obedience.

    We often simplify three-dimensional surfaces by projecting them into two dimensions. Thinking in three dimensions is harder than thinking in two dimensions, and it's impossible to print in three dimensions. But doing a 2D project of a 3D surface necessarily hides information. Stephen Robinson's parable of the bicycle is a case where the projection of three dimensions into two makes it appear that humans can participate in the Atonement, or add to it. Since that's not the point of the parable, though, it's not fair to flag it as an error. All analogies break down when pushed too far.

    The discussion here is similar to Flatlanders disagreeing about different projections of a 3D being in their 2D world. Even though their views seem contradictory, they really are describing the same thing - just different projections of that same thing. The reason you and I appear to sometimes agree and sometimes disagree may be because I'm describing different projections of a 3D surface and you're probably thinking that I'm describing a 2D object made of jello.

    Pops said...

    To say that our existence can be simplified to a 3D equation with two independent variables (human action and Christ's Atonement) and one dependent variable (post-mortal reward) is also a simplification that hides data. The next step recognizes that the Atonement is timeless, whereas human action is a function of time. That's important because it brings repentance and growth into the equation - it doesn't require instantaneous perfection on our part. But now I'm getting carried away...

    Anonymous said...

    Pops

    wasn't the Mosaic law a prepatory law for the higher law that was to come?

    So it would seem that the higher law is made adaptable to man’s conditions and situations, unlike the Mosaic law which was fixed and inflexable, with stiff punishments for disobedience. If Jesus, when talking about those who would neither marry nor be given in marriage were worthy of a certain world based on compliance to the Mosaic law as Mormons believe, and now people can be married forever and go to a better world. because they live a higher law if conditions are right but they don’t have to follow all the laws if conditions are not right? But they still get the better reward?

    Pops said...

    God is the one who determines what law is currently in effect, and he also decides what the reward is for complying with that law.

    Ken said...

    Cindy

    You said “I agree that we must repent of our desire for self rule and humbly submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved”.

    I have two questions about that.

    Does repenting of our desire for “self rule” include all of our sinfulness?

    Does true repentance require work on our part? To turn to Christ we must first turn away from what ever is keeping us from Christ. True repentance is an action with many steps to be complete including acknowledgement of our wrong behavior, godly sorrow, and restitution to others if we have wronged them in our “self rule”. This all takes work on our part to complete does it not?

    Salvation and exaltation are two different conditions or states of man in the eternities.
    Salvation is a state of redemption from the sins of this world. Exaltation is one of the rewards spoken of that is conditional upon our works. Salvation is not lost or gained according to our worthiness or degree of obedience, but exaltation is. That is why we read in the Bible that we are saved by grace and we also read in the Bible that Jesus will come and reward us according to our works. Otherwise these two statements would be in conflict with each other.

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    Who said perfect obedience is the condition? No one is perfect. Nevertheless, Christ challenges us to be perfect even as His Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48), so I hope you'll stop dissing the idea of trying to obey Christ and do what He asks of us.

    The need to grow in our pursuit of godliness and to strive to press forward in following Christ -- yes, with effort, with diligence, with zeal, and with repentance for when we fail -- is essential to the call of true, original Christianity. It's what Peter was getting at in 2 Peter 1, verses 3-10:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

    We are commanded to follow Christ and make progress, to give diligence to make our calling and election sure. If we slack off and forget that high challenge, we can fall from grace. The grace is offered to us, if we will accept it. If we walk away from what Christ offers by failing to follow and repent, we can fall from grace once received. Do you doubt that this is so?

    Pops said...

    Who said perfect obedience is the condition? No one is perfect.

    I said it. In that particular projection of the equation of the plan of happiness, I collapsed the time variable in order to simplify the statement. See how projections (simplifications) can lead to misunderstanding?

    I'm pretty sure that at some point in time exalted Celestial beings, looking back in time, must have become perfectly obedient. God gave us the gift of time so that we can transition from what we are to what we must be. And, in God's eyes, we are perfect through Christ so long as we are yoked to him. His Atonement covers us while we work out our salvation, enabling us to receive marvelous gifts and blessings to help us along the way.

    Anonymous said...

    Cindy

    I think the one thing that we must acknowledge when we accept Christ is that we have accepted a command to become perfect. We can continue to sin while in this life, but once we enter into his father’s kingdom to join him as a joint heir with him we can no longer sin. We must be perfect even as he and our father are perfect. So how does that happen? Christ takes away the punishment of our sins through the atonement, but who takes away our desire to sin? We have the free agency to act upon the desires of our heart, and to sin is to act upon our desires. Does Jesus just take that free agency away from us to make us like him? Or do we have a role to play in this?

    Since we do have a desire to serve him and be like him (perfect) then there must be a conflict within us. On one had we want to do everything he has commanded, but on the other hand we want to “rule” ourselves and do what we want. Does he just remove from us the desire to do our own will when we die, or do we have a role to play in making that happen? Does the effort we put into it after we accept Christ determine the reward he gives us according to our works? Perhaps our works determine whether our glory is like unto his, or our glory is something a little less, perhaps in the state of salvation there is one glory that could be compared to that of the sun and another compared to that of the moon and another compared to that of the stars? And each of these are determined by our works?

    mkprr said...

    On a Bible question radio show I just heard yesterday the evangelical Christian hosting the show was asked how someone who grew up Christian could really know if he is a true Christian or not. His answer was that if that person sins and they know they have committed a sin, if they don't feel remorse for offending God, they can know that they aren't a Christian but have fallen away. I thought that was a good answer.

    Papa D said...

    If anyone is interested, I wrote the following almost three-and-a-half years ago on my personal blog:

    "For What Do I Hunger and Thirst?"

    (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008/04/for-what-do-i-hunger-and-thirst.html)

    Cindy said...

    Ken, You asked,

    "Does repenting of our desire for “self rule” include all of our sinfulness? "

    How can it, when we are described as the following in Romans 3?

    "for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one"

    You also asked, "Does true repentance require work on our part?"

    This is where our definitions of repentance are very different. The word repent in New Testament is the Greek word metanoeo. Metanoeo means, "to change one's mind," or "to convert."

    From what you have said, your definition is, "an action with many steps to be complete including acknowledgement of our wrong behavior, godly sorrow, and restitution to others if we have wronged them".

    I would agree that your definition requires a great deal of work!

    If repentance is a work, and is the means for forgiveness, (as stated on LDS.org) "Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness for our sins through sincere and complete repentance..."Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more" (D&C 58:42)"

    Then how do you resolve that with God's testimony of Jesus in Ephesians 1:

    "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace"?

    Cindy said...

    Pops,

    You are a very smart man! I do not count myself as very intelligent, so I am not sure I have the capability to effectively respond to you post. I think that you are saying that the equation of our reward in heaven is only possible by Christ's atonement, which is only attained through our work...is that right? Sort of like our works initiate the process of the atonement?

    But if our works include keeping the commandments, and as you stated, the standard of that work is perfection, (with which your scriptures agree:1 Ne. 22:31, 1 Ne. 17:3,1 Ne. 3:7,2 Ne. 30:1, and many others) how can we possibly gain the atonement?

    Cindy said...

    Jeff,

    You said, "Christ challenges us to be perfect even as His Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48)" I would challenge you to check the Greek definition of perfect in this verse, which is telios, or complete, and to read the verse in context, as it is prefaced by Christ's definition discussion of loving all people not just those like us.

    And I am sorry if it seems as though I am "dissing" the idea of following Christ. I am not in any way disagreeing with the idea that we are to follow and obey our Lord and Savior. I am simply asking whether or not it is that obedience is required for our salvation or a result of it?

    You and others have defined salvation in a way that is different from what I believe is stated in the Bible. Ken defined them in this way:

    "Salvation and exaltation are two different conditions or states of man in the eternities. Salvation is a state of redemption from the sins of this world."

    In contrast, Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin. Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

    "Exaltation is one of the rewards spoken of that is conditional upon our works."

    God's testimony of exaltation is that it is given only to the humble, "But if we humble ourselves, God gives us more grace and exalts us (Luke 14:11)" And we humble ourselves by accepting Christ's righteousness rather than trying to achieve our own.
    "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"

    You write, "The need to grow in our pursuit of godliness and to strive to press forward in following Christ -- yes, with effort, with diligence, with zeal, and with repentance for when we fail"

    If that is our goal, where will our thoughts be focused? On Christ's righteousness or our own? When we are successful in progressing, whose glory will we be witnessing?

    Rich said...

    Hi Cindy,
    Again I have a hard time finding the conflict between our understandings of the gospel. But you asked, and I know it wasn't directed at me, "Then how do you resolve that with God's testimony of Jesus in Ephesians 1:

    So this is how I resolve it.
    "Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ,(In whom we have redemption through his blood,) we can receive forgiveness for our sins through sincere and complete repentance(the forgiveness of sins) according to the riches of his grace.
    Just because grace is not mentioned where you read about it on the LDS website doesn't mean we don't include that in our repentance process. It is still by grace that we are forgiven of our sins.

    So how can we remove our work in the process of repentance in light of this scripture in Acts?
    Acts 26:20 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

    Papa D said...

    Cindy, I'll say this one more time:

    You are arguing a straw man based on a semantic reading of LDS quotes. Multiple Mormons here have agreed with pretty much everything you've said (and, really, not one has disagreed with you personally - just your mistaken reading of our teachings), but you just won't accept that we know what we believe and that we are correct in saying that you are describing what we actually believe.

    There's no true "conversation" going on here. You think you know what we believe, and you apparently think we don't - or that we can't see the difference that is so obvious to you.

    Maybe it's time you realize that we can't see the difference because it simply doesn't exist. We believe what you are trying to convince us to believe. Period. Full stop. Without that realization, these threads will continue to recycle the same discussion over and over and over again - every time Jeff posts something about this topic.

    Papa D said...

    One more attempt to phrase it succinctly:

    You said that we respond to God's grace with our works - that our works are no more than a manifestation of our acceptance of the free gift of grace.

    Mormonism teaches that. Period. You can't get past the word "earn" - but it's explicit in your own description that IF we accept God's grace we DO respond with what I will call "blessed works" (or "fruits of the Spirit"). Mormonism teaches that. Period.

    Pops said...

    Cindy,

    You're too kind. I worry that what I wrote was a bit too esoteric to be useful. I find that God's creations appear to have infinite levels of complexity. Most of the time we do a decent job of simplifying in useful ways. The point I was trying to make is that sometimes the simplifications occur in ways that mask important principles.

    Perfection (or "completeness") is indeed our goal in life. But the Atonement plays a major role all along the pathway toward perfection. Going back to the scholarship analogy: the Atonement built the University, pays the room and board, and provides the teaching and tutoring. So the Atonement is always in play.

    I sense some apprehension at the necessity of "perfection". First of all, I view perfection as having two parts. One is eliminating the negative. This is done through repentance, by pleading with Christ to remove from us our sins for which he has already paid the price in full, and by making the changes necessary in order to sin less and less as we go through life.

    The second part of perfection is gaining the positive character attributes that distinguish Christ from us, most notably his pure love of others. (It's pretty obvious most of us need a lot of work in that department.)

    I think Jeff tried to make the point a few comments ago that perfection isn't demanded of us at this moment in time. What is required of us is that we're working toward that goal. We're repenting, trying to love our neighbors a little bit more today than we did yesterday.

    We also make covenants with the Lord that we will stay the course and do our best, that we'll keep learning and not throw in the towel. The advantage of making covenants is that God rewards us for doing so in the form of gifts and blessings to help us progress. The Gift of the Holy Ghost, for example, is of paramount importance.

    We go through a weekly process of reviewing our situation before the Lord and renewing our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. If done properly - i.e., with true repentance for the errors of the past week, and with real intent to do our best to keep the commandments during the coming week - we are viewed by God as perfect through Christ, and therefore worthy of his blessings and the companionship of the Holy Ghost to help us.

    We also believe that those who do not achieve perfection in this life - I'm pretty sure I'll fall into that category - will be allowed to continue the quest in the Spirit World prior to the resurrection. God truly does love us - he does not look for ways to keep us out of his presence, but rather makes great effort to help us do what is necessary to return to him.

    Pops said...

    It might be useful to point out the difference between "being viewed by God as perfect through Christ" and "being perfect".

    During our time in mortality, few will achieve perfection of character. But we can be viewed by God as perfect through the Atonement of Christ, and eligible for his blessing and help, throughout our lives.

    But at some point in time, we will have to actually have become as perfect as God is - meaning being cleansed of all sin and having a pure love of others and a desire and ability to do nothing but good - if we wish to dwell with him as resurrected beings in the Celestial Kingdoms. And if we stay the course and do our best, he will make sure we make it.

    Ken said...

    Cindy

    You site Paul who quotes Psalms

    " There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one"
    So if no one understandeth, and no one seeking after God, would Paul be included in this group. Would it be correct to assume that the understanding part is referring to understanding God. So if no one understands God and no one seeketh after him, then how can anyone even call on Jesus for salvation? How can Jesus say "seek and ye shall find" if no one seeketh after him?

    You then state
    “This is where our definitions of repentance are very different. The word repent in New Testament is the Greek word metanoeo. Metanoeo means, "to change one's mind," or "to convert."

    But if one changes there mind do they not then change their behavior?

    “From what you have said, your definition is, "an action with many steps to be complete including acknowledgement of our wrong behavior, godly sorrow, and restitution to others if we have wronged them".”

    “I would agree that your definition requires a great deal of work!”

    What does it mean in Acts when it says
    “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

    This seems to be saying that true repentance does require some work on our part. If we use the term “change our mind” vs repent this then would read “and do works meet for a change of our mind”. In other words your actions will show that you have changed your mind.


    “Then how do you resolve that with God's testimony of Jesus in Ephesians 1:”

    "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace"?

    Acts also says in 3:19 “repent that your sins may be blotted out.”
    So is it repentance or grace that removes our sins? Or are both at play here?

    Pops said...

    Ken,

    I think you've overstepped the obvious - repentance is asking Christ to forgive some specific sin.

    If I ask my wife to forgive me for some thoughtless act (plenty to choose from, unfortunately), but do nothing to show my sincerity, such as a convincing display of sorrow for what I've done, she isn't going to take my request seriously. Likewise, if we ask Christ to remove from us the stain of some particular sin and we don't truly regret it and haven't done everything in our power to make it right and/or change our behavior, he probably won't take us seriously, either.

    Cindy said...

    Hi Papa D,

    I don't know what a straw man argument is...all I know is that on one hand you agree with what I said,

    "that we respond to God's grace with our works - that our works are no more than a manifestation of our acceptance of the free gift of grace."

    But your scriptures say the exact opposite:

    “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

    “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves
    of all ungodliness; and IF ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness
    and love God with all your might, mind and strength, THEN is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect
    in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).

    If I am reading these incorrectly, I apologize. Maybe we do agree and you truly do believe that you have the grace of Christ.

    If that is true according to John you should know that you have eternal life (defined in this way at lds.org "Eternal life, or exaltation, is to live in God's presence and to continue as families (see D&C 131:1–4)"

    "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life"

    Cindy said...

    Pops, here are my concerns about what you say about the perfection process:

    1. is that you don't have to attain it in this life. You said, "perfection isn't demanded of us at this moment in time. What is required of us is that we're working toward that goal" But Alma 34 says:

    32"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

    35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

    2. you say' "If done properly - i.e., with true repentance for the errors of the past week, and with real intent to do our best to keep the commandments during the coming week - we are viewed by God as perfect through Christ, and therefore worthy..."

    But if true repentance includes the following (from lds.org): "Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:43)

    then I don't know many (any!) who will be viewed as perfect by God, do you?!

    Cindy said...

    Ken,

    Lds.org states that the grace of Christ offers us forgiveness from the sins of Adam, and "He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven" (D&C 1:32)" (for our personal sins)

    The repentance process includes the following (again from lds.org):

    Sorrow for Sin.
    Confession.
    Restitution.
    Righteous Living.
    Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:43).

    We must maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that we will never repeat the transgression. When we keep this commitment, we will never experience the pain of that sin again. We must flee immediately from any compromising situation. If a certain situation causes us to sin or may cause us to sin, we must leave. We cannot linger in temptation and expect to overcome sin.

    Is anyone able to abandon sins and live righteously? Is that truly what we must do to be forgiven?

    Oh my gosh...I don't even have a chance!

    Pops said...

    Cindy,

    1. I would say that procrastinating one's repentance means not engaging in the process - it doesn't mean "engaging in the process but not being 100% successful right this instant". Note also that "this life" can mean either "until death" or "until the resurrection".

    [It is the opinion of some that those who enter the covenant and give it their all will be allowed as much time as necessary to reach perfection, including "millions of years". I don't know of any scriptural basis for this opinion.)

    2. God gives us a near-infinite number of do-overs if we're really trying. For example, a person who lashes out at others in anger may be able to abandon that sin for only short periods of time right now, but with practice those periods become longer and longer. The important point is that he stays the course until he becomes perfect in that regard, whether in mortality or in the spirit world after death and prior to the resurrection.

    I do know people in whom I can find no fault (not that I'm looking for faults in others). Whether they've reached perfection or not I'm in no position to judge.

    Oh my gosh...I don't even have a chance!

    Ah, but you do. God is patient with those who engage in the change process. He also provides vital assistance. I've found that the sanctifying influence of the Gift of the Holy Ghost is an important factor in the changes that have occurred in me during my lifetime. That gift is available from those authorized by the Lord to bestow it.

    Cindy said...

    Pops,

    I appreciate your desire to abandon sin and to establish your righteousness as a way to show your love for God, but I will hold fast to the righteousness of Christ for my justification

    "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: "

    Blessings to you...

    Ken said...

    Cindy

    Jesus said, if ye love me keep my commandments, he also said, he that hath my commandments and keeps them loves me. So if we fail to keep the commandments we don’t love Jesus? When Jesus said “be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect”, would we all not say, “Oh my gosh…I don’t even have a chance” So this same argument can be made of the teaching of the Bible that you are making of the D&C.

    The doctrine of keeping the commandments has not changed with the atonement. The only thing that has changed is the fact that we now answer to Christ and not to the law. He knows what we are capable of and he knows that you do stand a change, a perfect change to be even as he is. But it will not come easy and the price he paid was not cheap. Now he expects you and me to be perfect to get to where he is. That is the only way. We will always remain an independent creature that is in control of our own mind (this is where all sin starts). He will not take it over, he will not control it, and he will not change it for us. (We will always remain free to think for ourselves)

    The only thing short of keeping the commandments is trying to keep the commandments. But Christ is not going to lower the standard to fit us, but rather prepare a way for us to rise to where he is. In Jeff’s latest post I shared the example of playing the piano as an analogy for the atonement.

    Jesus has paid the cost of the lessons to learn the piano. Now he has told us to practice, not to try and learn the piano, but to learn through practice to play the piano perfectly. He knows we will leave this world with much left to learn. But we must learn to find joy in playing the piano here and now, even with all the mistakes we make and wrong notes we hit.

    A good way to look at the judgment based on the analogy of the piano is us sitting down and playing for Christ the lessons we have learned here in life. We will hit a lot of wrong notes and not play all that well, but our effort to practice will be obvious to him. Then he will sit down with us and show us how, with his help, we can play perfect music just like he does. But if we did not practice and found no joy in playing the piano while here, it will be painfully obvious to us and him. If our heart and mind is not into playing the piano, he will not force us to play because we would not be happy doing so.

    When Christ came and completed the atonement he removed the law of sacrifice, but in doing so he actually raised the bar he did not lower it. He gave us a whole new set of standards or commandments to live by. These were not given as an option, but by way of command.

    Cindy you said

    "but I will hold fast to the righteousness of Christ for my justification"

    Me too. And to me holding fast to his righteousness is holding fast to every word he has spoken. Holding fast to his righteousness is showing him that you love him, and that takes us back to the top of this post.

    Pops said...

    "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I don't know how it could be any more clear.

    Cindy said...

    Hi Ken,

    You said, "The doctrine of keeping the commandments has not changed with the atonement. The only thing that has changed is the fact that we now answer to Christ and not to the law. He knows what we are capable of and he knows that you do stand a chance, a perfect chance to be even as he is. But it will not come easy and the price he paid was not cheap. Now he expects you and me to be perfect to get to where he is."

    So you believe that Christ died in order to give us the chance to perfect ourselves by perfectly keeping the commandments?

    Do you really think that you will be able to perfectly repent (including the abandonment of every single sin) by the time your mortal probation is complete?

    Will you even be able to abandon the thought sins that Jesus defined in Matthew 5? Unjustified anger? Looking upon on a woman to lust? Swear oaths not at all?

    Did Christ really serve as the perfect sacrifice so that we could perfect ourselves? If our goal is to become perfect, where must our energies and focus be? On what we are doing or on what Christ did for us?

    I don't disagree that a life changed by the forgiveness of one's sins (for Christ also hath once suffered for sins) will be evident by a desire to keep the commandments, but if perfectly keeping the commandments is the requirement for the forgiveness of my personal sins then am I not my own savior?

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    You said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I don't know how it could be any more clear."

    I agree! But what are His commandments and given our sinful nature, how can we keep them? And if we CAN keep them, why do we need His help?

    The truth is we CAN'T keep the commandments. That is why we are told that the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It is through our unsuccessful efforts to keep the commandments that we will realize our need for a Savior.


    Christ came to fulfill the law and to fill us with His Holy Spirit to love God and love others through our acceptance of His righteousness on our behalf.

    Do we have to love God and others perfectly in order to live eternally with God? No! Christ does it all! He offers us justification for our sins and new life as a new creature (2 Cor.5:17), sanctification (the unfolding of the divine life that He places within us at our new birth) through the Holy Spirit as we trust in Him rather than ourselves for our salvation, and the hope of glorification at His coming, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself"

    Will we want to keep Christ's commandments to love God and love others? Yes! But who is empowered to love the most? Those who are forgiven much! So we are only able to keep Christ's commandments if we first admit that we rely on Him, not ourselves for our forgiveness. What a wonderful and gracious God!

    Pops said...

    Cindy,

    I can't figure out for the life of me how we are in disagreement. (Frankly, the world needs more people like you.) I wholeheartedly agree with the vast majority of what you say.

    The only minor tweak I would make to your last paragraph would be this: we rely on Christ for forgiveness, but we must seek it. Do you believe we must seek forgiveness? If so, how? If not, then what is the point in believing in Christ?

    Cindy said...

    Hi Pops,

    I think we both agree that we must be made fully righteous in order to live forever with God.

    The difference seems to me (in reading your comments and your scriptures) is that we disagree with our role in the process.

    You say, "What is required of us is that we're working toward that goal."

    The Gospel Principles manual lists the following requirements of us in order to gain eternal life (defined in this way at lds.org: Eternal life, or exaltation, is to live in God's presence and to continue as families D&C 131:1–4)

    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, God's Word in Romans 4 states, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh NOT, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

    Doesn't it demonstrate greater faith to call on the righteousness of Christ for our position with God than to present all that WE have done to prove our righteousness?

    Isn't it a greater witness of God that we trust in Him for our salvation rather than ourselves?

    Pops said...

    Romans 4 contains some very nuanced passages, as are many of Paul's writings. Because there is a possibility of misinterpretation, I like to refer back to the Savior's words to make sure I'm getting it.

    [At this point, I was going to include a ginormous list of quotations in which which Christ urges us to good works. But you already know these. Here's one, for example:

    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."]

    I suspect the question is not of righteousness or of good works, but rather of motives. There is perhaps a perception that the LDS culture is arrogant rather than humble. I don't know. I'm saddened when others tell me that I believe my works are more important than Christ's grace, because I don't believe that. I'm just trying to do what Christ said I ought to do. I don't think he would have given me commandments if it wasn't important. And I think the best way I can show my love to him is by doing the things he asks me to do.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    I'm not telling you that YOU believe your works are more important than grace, I'm just asking you about the teachings of your church.

    I'm also not saying that I don't believe that we are to do good works. I'm just asking if those works determine your eternal life, according again, to the teachings of the LDS church.

    In addition, I don't think that our eternal life is a question of faith OR works. I believe that God's Holiness requires a life of perfect works to atone for our sinfulness. So if Christ performed a life of perfect works why would He ask us to do it over again?

    If we think that there is anything we must do to impact our eternal life, then mustn't we serve as our own saviors? On the other hand, if we have faith in the perfect completeness of Christ's work on our behalf, we are fully freed to respond purely in love.

    So then what DOES Christ ask of us? To believe fully in His works for our righteousness and then follow the two commandments that fulfill all the others:

    "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it , Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

    Our ability to respond in perfect (complete) love for God and others does not determine our eternal life...it simply shows the depth of our belief in Christ's perfect work for us.

    That is what makes Christianity different from every other religion in the world...the focus is not on what we can do for God, but on what He did for us!

    "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

    mkprr said...

    Cindy,
    As I understand it, the LDS church teaches that Jesus Christ’s atonement is what saves us, but we are responsible for responding to it and continuing to respond to it until the end. I wonder if this is the key difference between what you believe and what the LDS church teaches. The LDS church teaches that we are individually responsible for turning to Jesus Christ and following him with all of our hearts and if we don’t do that, it is our fault. If you are coming from a Calvinistic background you would believe that Jesus not only saves us from sin, but he also makes Christians believe in and turn to Him therefore taking all responsibility for their salvation upon himself. Is that the theological background you are coming from?

    Rich said...

    Hi Cindy,
    So if I am to understand what you say correctly, that there is nothing we can do ourselves to determine our eternal life. While works are good, they don't do a thing for our eternal life. While faith is good it doesn't do a thing for our eternal life. I took these from what you said in you last post. So a person could have faith in Christ and respond with love towards him and end up in eternal damnation because none of that makes a difference. Nothing we can do will help our eternal position.
    Ok so I realize you really don't believe this extreme example but it is what you are saying. I would in fact be surprised if you actually agreed with me even though you said "Our ability to respond in perfect (complete) love for God and others does not determine our eternal life...it simply shows the depth of our belief in Christ's perfect work for us."

    You are at a point where you have to either admit that we can do things that determine our eternity or nothing we do matters. Having faith, responding with love, following the two commandments are all "do's" and if they don't really matter for our eternity then you could spend you life doing just what Christ asked us to do, those things you mentioned, and end up eternally damned. It's even more simple then that, is having faith in Christ a "must do" so that you can have eternal life or not? That's only one do but it challenges your position.

    Papa D said...

    Everyone, Cindy believes that we believe very differently than the LDS Church teaches. That's . . . mistaken, but she's said it numerous times to numerous people on this site. If a Mormon doesn't agree with her, it's proof of what she's saying - but if lots and lots of Mormons do agree, it's proof that we don't agree with what the Church teaches.

    It's an absolute no-win situation.

    As I said earlier, it's semantics - unless Cindy really does take a hardcore, extreme Calvinist stance, which is not reflected in some of her earlier comments.

    Cindy, sincere question:

    Are you a former member of the LDS Church?

    It sounds like you were raised in a home and/or ward where work was emphasized to the exclusion of grace (and, perhaps, even in a home where you were expected to be perfect) - and I am well aware that such a stance has been and is taken in too many Mormon homes and wards. It's not what I call "pure Mormonism" - but it absolutely exists.

    Papa D said...

    I should add that the exact same thing is taught in pretty much every religion and Christian denomination in too many congregations and homes. It's certainly not exclusive to Mormon wards and homes.

    Pops said...

    Cindy wrote:

    So then what DOES Christ ask of us? To believe fully in His works for our righteousness and then follow the two commandments that fulfill all the others

    "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it , Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

    Our ability to respond in perfect (complete) love for God and others does not determine our eternal life...it simply shows the depth of our belief in Christ's perfect work for us.


    Let me see if I can rephrase what you've written. If I love Christ, I will be rewarded in heaven because of that love, not because of the good works that were motivated by it. If I don't do good works, I don't really love Christ, and so I won't be rewarded in heaven.

    The end result is that all people who will be rewarded in heaven have two characteristics: they love Christ, and they do good works.

    If I have it right, you seem to be asserting that the LDS Church teaches members that works motivated by something other than love - e.g., a desire to get into heaven without meeting the love requirement - will suffice to get a person into heaven. Even though there are probably members who believe that, it's not at all what is taught. Try this:

    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

    But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

    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.

    Cindy said...

    Dear mkprr,

    You said, "As I understand it, the LDS church teaches that Jesus Christ’s atonement is what saves us, but we are responsible for responding to it and continuing to respond to it until the end. I wonder if this is the key difference between what you believe and what the LDS church teaches. The LDS church teaches that we are individually responsible for turning to Jesus Christ and following him with all of our hearts and if we don’t do that, it is our fault."

    I think you are right. The key difference between our beliefs seems to be our differing definitions of repentance or responding to the atonement of Christ. I accept the definition of the original Greek word for repentance:

    3340 metanoéō (from 3326 /metá, "changed after being with" and 3539 /noiéō, "think") – properly, "think differently after," "after a change of mind"; to repent (literally, "think differently afterwards")" So after learning about Christ's sacrifice for me, my response is that my mind has been changed and I have faith in Him instead of me for my salvation.

    Lds.org seems to basically say the opposite...that since there are conditional aspects of the atonement our response to it is required for our eternal life.

    From the 2006 Ensign article, "What Does the Atonement Mean to You?" The Atonement makes the Resurrection a reality for everyone. However, with respect to our individual transgressions and sins, conditional aspects of the Atonement require our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our repentance, and our compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

    So following Him with all our hearts means continually means engaging in the repentance process:

    Sorrow for Sin.
    Confession.
    Restitution.
    Righteous Living.
    Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough.

    The Lord has said, "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:43).

    And continually complying with all the laws and ordinances of the gospel:

    “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
    “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

    “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

    “You shall not murder.

    “You shall not commit adultery.

    “You shall not steal.

    “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Rich,

    From my last post you gathered that I believe that "nothing we can do will help our eternal position." I'm sorry if my post led you to believe that we are without any choice.

    I believe that the only true saving “work” is the work of faith as testified by Jesus in John 6:28-29: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

    Cindy said...

    Dear Papa,

    I am not, nor have I ever been a Mormon. No member of the LDS church has ever hurt my feelings. I do however, have some LDS friends and neighbors who I love dearly. I observe and listen to them express their fatigue, hopelessness and urgency to "keep the commandments" and "be worthy of eternal life". As we have shared the beliefs behind our actions I have become aware of the fundamental differences in what we believe about God, Jesus and the gospel. Perhaps they are teaching me incorrectly about "pure Mormonism", but I am reading from the LDS scriptures and sources that they have provided to me. If those sources are incorrect, then why are they being used? If they are correct, then why do they present such differing ideas about such critical issues?

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    I said, "Our ability to respond in perfect (complete) love for God and others does not determine our eternal life...it simply shows the depth of our belief in Christ's perfect work for us."

    and then you said, "Let me see if I can rephrase what you've written. If I love Christ, I will be rewarded in heaven because of that love, not because of the good works that were motivated by it. If I don't do good works, I don't really love Christ, and so I won't be rewarded in heaven."

    Your focus seems to be on a reward in heaven.

    I am not so much trying to earn a reward as I am trying to avoid what I deserve for my sins, which is eternal "not life".

    For I believe God's witness when He proclaims:

    “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.—Romans 3:19-20

    In what actions can I possibly participate that will perfectly erase my sin?

    Instead, I believe in God's proclamation of the only righteousness that can offer me eternal life:

    "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.…even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe"

    Jesus becomes to us not only the one who is just (righteous) but the one who justifies (declares righteous) those of us who believeth in Jesus. Jesus is our hope, not ourselves!

    Pops said...

    Dear Cindy,

    You wrote, "Jesus is our hope, not ourselves!"

    You previously quote a passage stating that justification comes through Christ to "all them that believe". Is then our fate not dependent on both Christ's Atonement and our response to it, even if our part were only to believe?

    I suspect we disagree not in principle, but in degree. I don't see any escape from the notion that we must do something - believe, at the very least - if we wish to receive remission of our sins through Christ's Atonement. (And I'm probably a lot more anxious about that than you are, but that's a different topic...)

    Cindy said...

    Oh Pops, you dear man. Don't we all believe in something? Doesnt our every action belie a belief? All God asks is for us to believe in Christ instead of anything else. "This IS the work of God. That we believe on Him who He hast sent". Will our works represent our belief? Absolutely! Don't our works of the law demonstrate our belief in the law? On the other hand, don't our works based on Christ demonstrate a belief that Christ fulfilled the law? If Christ fulfilled the law then I am free to love!

    Pops said...

    All God asks is for us to believe in Christ instead of anything else.

    I wouldn't have put it quite that way, but I think I understand your meaning. We believe in many things. We believe in Christ, first and foremost, that he will save us if we put our trust in him.

    But I also believe in myself, that I can do the things he asks of me. (That belief actually wraps back to Christ: I don't believe he would ask me to do things that I couldn't possibly do - that would be cruel and not loving.)

    What does Christ ask of us? The Gospels are full of the words of Christ commanding us to do specific things. Is it wrong to focus a bit of attention on doing those things? How does that constitute substituting trust in ourselves for trust in Christ, when what we're doing is demonstrating our love of and faith in Christ by responding to his commandments in a positive way?

    Papa D said...

    Cindy, semantics - seriously.

    The LDS Bible Dictionary defines "repentance" as "a change of mind" that allows us to see ourselves and God differently than "the natural man" - exactly as you did in your comment about it. We talk of the steps of repentance, but it all boils down to a change of mind.

    Papa D said...

    Again, much more bluntly than I probably have said it previously here on this blog:

    Anyone who says that God, the Father, and God, the Son, don't ask us to "do things" as a condition of salvation simply isn't reading the Bible critically. The need to obey God and His commandments is one of the central themes of the Bible - and it is stated explicitly and unequivocally in literally hundreds of passages (and implicitly in well over a thousand, I'm sure).

    Thanks for clarifying your background, Cindy. I understand completely that many Mormons stress out more than they should and misunderstand the true nature of repentance and grace. Believe me, I get that. It's why I separate cultural Mormonism from pure Mormonism. However, given a choice between stressing too much over an attempt at real obedience that is consistent with what the Bible actually says and not stressing at all in the belief that Jesus taught a simple "confess and be saved" theology that isn't consistent at all with what the Bible actually says . . . I'll try to mitigate and soften the Pharisaical tendency rather than reject outright what Jesus actually taught.

    I know we disagree about what I just said - and if your view works for you and keeps you from unhealthy angst and crushing guilt, I am fine with that. Honestly, I believe everyone needs to find whatever paradigm brings them faith, peace and joy.

    However, from a purely academic, intellectual perspective, ***if you are going to participate at a site that is dedicated to all things Mormon***, you should understand that you are cherry-picking an interpretation from a few verses that isn't consistent with the overall message of the text you say you accept as the word of God. We literally have shared dozens of Biblical verses that contradict what you have said in your last few comments - and you have responded with a couple that, taken completely in isolation and totally out of full context, can be read to support your view.

    Again, if it works for you, great - and I mean that sincerely. Just understand, please, why it's not convincing anyone here in the slightest - especially since so much of what you write actually supports Mormon teachings.

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    Cindy, try this. A couple believes in Christ but is living together in sin, contrary to the teachings of the Bible. What should their preacher tell them? Should they be encouraged to change (repent)? Why?

    Cindy said...

    Hi Pops,

    You said, "But I also believe in myself, that I can do the things he asks of me. (That belief actually wraps back to Christ: I don't believe he would ask me to do things that I couldn't possibly do - that would be cruel and not loving.)"

    So do you believe that you can achieve the perfection necessary to abide with a Holy God?

    The words of this member of the seventy seems to affirm the idea of becoming perfect to merit eternal life:

    “The Lord does not expect that we do what we cannot achieve. The command to become perfect, as He is, encourages us to achieve the best of ourselves, to discover and develop the talents and attributes with which we are blessed by a loving Eternal Father, who invites us to realize our potential as children of God. He knows us; He knows of our capacities and our limitations. The invitation and challenge to become perfect, to achieve eternal life is for all mankind.” – "Ensign, November 2009

    Cindy said...

    Dear Papa,

    So is our repentance the requirement for the forgiveness of our sins?

    Joseph Smith states that our repentance (as evidenced by the many steps listed before) as well as our obedience to the commandments gains us our forgiveness:

    "Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven." D&C 1:31–32

    In contrast, God's testimony is that Christ's death provides forgiveness:

    "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:"

    Repentance then becomes a change of mind about the severity of sin (penalty-death) and our role in overcoming it on our own (possibility-zero!)

    Cindy said...

    Dear Papa,

    I understand that you believe we must present both faith and works to God as a means to eternal life. God's mercy requires faith and His justice demands works, and I agree. So how are we to have faith AND works?

    I think Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:

    Faith: "Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.

    But Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'

    "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

    Works: "And behold, one came to Him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?'

    And He [Jesus] said to him, 'Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One Who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.'"

    The children come to Christ with nothing but their faith in Him and we are told that a simple moment of faith alone in Christ alone is all that suffices to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    The rich young ruler comes with a live full of obedience to the commandments and is sent away sad because he hasn't done enough.

    Jesus clearly states that if we seek to enter the kingdom based on our works, then we will fail, because only One is Good.

    But doesn't God's justice demand works? Yes! So the disciples ask "who then can be saved?

    "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"

    Christ's message to us is that it is not possible within the capability of any man to do what is necessary to be saved. Our Lord stated that only God can save a man. Man can do nothing. So how does a man get saved?

    "Then they asked Him, (John 6) 'What must we do to do the works God requires for eternal life?

    Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.'"

    That is the glorious nature of the gospel...not that works are simply not required anymore...but that Jesus completed them perfectly on my behalf!

    Does that eliminate "unhealthy angst" for me? You bet! I am free from the crushing weight of trying to perfectly keep the commandments in order to gain my own salvation.

    I can freely love God and others...because I know Christ fulfilled the law on my behalf!

    I can know that I will live with God forever in heaven because I believe in Jesus Christ!

    These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.

    Glory to God!

    Cindy said...

    Hi Jeff,

    You said, "A couple believes in Christ but is living together in sin, contrary to the teachings of the Bible. What should their preacher tell them? Should they be encouraged to change (repent)? Why?"

    I guess I would answer with what Jesus told us to do in this situation:

    "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

    It is not ours to judge or condemn, only to admit the guilt of our own sins, admit them aloud and admit our need for the forgiveness of Christ for them. A life lived honestly this way by people who seek to sin no more (even though though we continue to struggle against our sinful nature-For I know that in me (that is , in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not) is a powerful testimony of both the justice and mercy of God.

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    How tragically blind. This is the problem with much of mainstream religion. It has perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ such that the people are no longer instructed on the need to repent of sinful behavior. "Correct theology" seems far more important than the godly behavior and repentance from sin that Christ repeatedly taught. To the woman, who was apparently being exploited by men to create a case against Christ and may have even been a victim of sexual abuse, Christ did not say that anything goes, it's all good, and all that matters is having the correct Protestant theology. He acknowledged that she had been involved in sin and told her to sin no more. A true minister of Jesus Christ must be compassionate but also prepared to tell people exactly the same thing: stop sinning. The writings of Paul and others are so heavily focused on behavior and repentance from sin, as was were the teachings of Christ. How do some modern religions miss this? It is tragic blindness.

    For people to follow Christ, they must hear the word. They must hear that some forms of behavior are sinful and can separate us from God. They must here the teachings of Christ. To access the full blessings of grace, they must know the terms of the covenant and accept them. They must, for example, be baptized in the name of Christ and seek to follow him. And when there is serious sin in their lives, if they don't know it's sin, someone has to have the courage to help them understand and repent. For so-called ministers of Christ to ignore and condone sin is terribly, terribly tragic.

    Pops said...

    So do you believe that you can achieve the perfection necessary to abide with a Holy God?

    It isn't a question of can, but rather a question of will. Christ provides the means, but I must provide the will.

    As Paul states in Romans: "...God ... will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life".

    In my opinion, those who suffer anxiety because of what is asked don't really understand what is asked. We are asked to become perfect over time, not instantaneously. And we are aided significantly in that process if we follow it diligently.

    I suspect it may be like my son and his experience learning to play the saxophone. At first, it was painful getting him to practice (and painful listening to him practice, but that's another story). But he reached a point where something magical happened - he began to like it. He would rather practice than do anything else. And he became very good. When he went off to college he not only was accepted into the elite jazz ensemble at try-outs, but was named the lead, and ended up touring Europe and making recordings with the group.

    I expect that patiently continuing in seeking to become like Christ will produce a similar experience in those who stay the course: they will reach a point where living perfectly becomes natural, where the internal conflict disappears, where they are filled with the pure love of Christ and that is their only motivation.

    Will I make it? Absolutely, as long as I don't quit.

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    With regard to the couple living in sin, I recognize that it's popular today to overlook it and say who are we to judge. But God's true ministers are called to warn people from sin and help us repent. Thus Paul, for example, did not ignore sin, but railed against it. In 2 Cor. 12, he worries that the believers in Corinth who had fallen into sexual immorality might not repent. He said in verse 21 that he was worried that when he returns "I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed". This is after he bluntly warned them to flee fornication (1 Cor. 6:18). He says this kind of thing often. Another is 1 Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." Would that preachers today would teach that basic truth from the Bible and call people to repentance when they are engaged in sin. It takes courage, but it's essential for true Christianity.

    Cindy said...

    Jeff,

    I'm not saying that people living in sin shouldn't repent, just questioning who, and in what context they should be challenged.

    Paul challenged members of the churches about their behavior, not unbelievers.

    For those who have not yet acknowledged their sinfulness and their need for Christ, we are to live our own lives based on our hope in Christ and offer an answer to any who ask us about it. In this way sinners are directed to Christ for their forgiveness and their guidance, not us.

    Once they have admitted their need for Christ as Lord and Savior, and we are unified with them in the body of Christ, we can challenge each other in the love and truth knowing that it is toward Him that we are pointing.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    It seems that if perfection is a possibility, we must know those in whom it has been achieved. Can you say that you know of people who have achieved this standard? If so, why do we need Christ?

    You write of Paul's letter to the Romans:

    "those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life."

    and then say, "We are asked to become perfect over time, not instantaneously."

    How does doing good translate to becoming perfect? Is that really what Paul is asking?

    Since Paul later writes this:

    "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

    it seems clear that Paul is not asking us to become perfect, but that Christ imputed His perfection to us.

    What Paul is asking us to do is to be persistent in doing good because we are freed from the need to make ourselves holy. All of our efforts can now be on looking forward to eternal life in the presence of God's glory, not on making ourselves perfect.

    As a matter of fact, Paul's very next statement describes what will happen to those who reject the sacrifice of Christ and seek for themselves:

    "But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger."

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    Cindy, the example I gave involved believers who, like many professing Christ these days, were not striving to keep the commandments regarding marriage and sexual morality that the Lord has given us. Given the temptations of the flesh and the art of our adversary, it is inadequate to just expect all believers to gravitate on the right path naturally. They need to be taught and warned and called to repentance. Continuing in sin threatens our salvation.

    Personally, I am grateful that the offices of prophets and apostles given in the original church have been restored today so that we can have servants of God in our midst who dare to remind us of God's laws and the terms of the covenant. As Paul repeatedly taught, there is a great need to repent of such sins. They do affect our relationship with God. Christians can fall and need warnings and repentance now as in days of old.

    Cindy said...

    Forgive me for not taking notice of the fact that your example was of believers. In that case, is it only prophets and apostles who can challenge believers about their sin? Or can all believers in Christ have their behavior challenged by other believers for the edification of the body of Christ?

    Jeff Lindsay: said...

    A point I'm trying to make, Cindy, is that there is potential danger in misunderstanding the relationship between works, grace, and salvation. Apart from the rather extreme problem of some who have the warped notion that Mormons are not even Christian or eternally doomed for believing in Christ AND thinking we need to obey Him, there is the much more widespread problem of people taking an apathetic approach to the dangers of sin. If we cannot contribute anything to our covenant relationship with Christ and just need to let Him do all the work, how exactly will the errant couple who thinks they have already arrived as believing Christians find the strength and motivation to change their behavior, move out and quit shacking up? Especially if their minister doesn't say a direct word against one of the most popular sins in his or her congregation? Further, if someone believes that genuine effort, zeal, and repentance on our part are not required to access the blessings of grace through the Atonement of Christ, if one confuses striving to follow Christ with denial of grace, if one thinks that Christ's declaration "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" and NUMEROUS related statements do not mean that we need to keep divine commandments like fleeing fornication, and if one thinks that striving to change our behavior to comply with those biblical standards that are still clearly in force somehow shows a lack of faith, then it is entirely possible for a couple living in sin to miss their urgent need for repentance of a serious sin. The same logic applies to the numerous other traps of the adversary. We all need to grow in our journey toward Christ by repenting of sins and following Him and we must never let our guard down simply because we believe. Christians can fall. Grace can be lost. Sin can destroy our hope in Christ. Couples living in sin need to quit shacking up and wait until marriage for sex. Apostles and prophets of olden times boldly shared those standards and they are being taught in clarity again today by authorized ministers in the Restored Church. Anyone is free to help our friends, family, and neighbors in their journey, of course. But it's nice to have revealed clarity on what the standards are and how they apply in our day.

    Cindy said...

    You ask an interesting question Jeff,

    "If we cannot contribute anything to our covenant relationship with Christ and just need to let Him do all the work, how exactly will the errant couple who thinks they have already arrived as believing Christians find the strength and motivation to change their behavior?"

    What is a truly believing Christian? Is it one who believes in Christ for his/her salvation and eternal life? One who believes that his/her sins are truly forgiven and his/her eternal life with God is secure? One who puts Christ as Lord of his/her life and relies on His perfect sacrifice for his/her righteousness? If so, then that person will respond as Paul describes in Romans:

    "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

    Paul also describes the battle that ensues within believers:

    "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

    So can believers fall from grace by engaging in sin? No. Falling from grace is defined by Paul as returning to justification by the law and rejecting the grace of Christ, not by engaging in sin.

    "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace."

    So to what should we, as truly believing Christians, be calling one another? Perfectly sinless lives based on the law for justification? Or the truth of justification through the grace of Christ which will then convict the true believer of his/her sin?

    Sorry for the extra long post...I get a little carried away when I write about Christ! :)

    Pops said...

    What Paul is asking us to do is to be persistent in doing good because we are freed from the need to make ourselves holy. All of our efforts can now be on looking forward to eternal life in the presence of God's glory, not on making ourselves perfect.


    I suppose that's one interpretation, although Christ did say "Be ye therefore perfect", suggesting that we need to do something.

    At the root of our difference of opinion lies perhaps the question of what are we. Modern revelation teaches that we are in very fact children of God, and that the earth was created and the Atonement effected so that we may learn, grow, and become what we can become if we so choose. And how do we learn, grow, and become? By doing, enabled by the Atonement (no progress would be possible without it).

    Conversely, if we are just curiosities created by God for his amusement, then there may not be any reason to learn, grow, or become anything.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    I would suggest that Christ's command of us to be perfect relates to our willingness to love All others since it follows this:
    "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; "

    But I agree that the core of our differences can be found in our definitions of who we are. You say that we are "children of God, and that the earth was created and the Atonement effected so that we may learn, grow, and become what we can become if we so choose."

    But I agree with Christ when He make s a distinction between children of God and of Satan, and further defines how we can become children of God:

    "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"

    Yet, if it true as you say, that we are spiritual children of God...begotten through the procreation of our god and one of his wives...then this mortal probation truly IS our chance to prove ourselves worthy of our eternal position in heaven, so it naturally follows that that would be where our energies and focus must go, right?

    Conversely, if we are each individually CREATED by God, for the sole purpose of being in a relationship with Him that we can choose by admitting our need and acceptance of a Savior from our sins, then naturally our energies and focus would go to worshiping Him and witnessing Him to others! What a great God!

    Pops said...

    Our doctrine teaches that we are estranged from God as a result of the Fall and our own sins. Christ reconciles us to God and makes us joint heirs with him by the process of adoption - that is, we may become (again) the children of God. Those who choose not to follow the course leading back to the Father, who fail to qualify for adoption through their own choice and actions, end up in the wrong camp, as you point out.

    The CREATED concept happens to be something else I take issue with. The concept of creation ex nihilo is self-contradictory and thus cannot be reconciled with reality. As Joseph Smith pointed out, the verb create in Genesis was translated from the Hebrew word meaning "to organize". Matter and energy, while interchangeable, can neither be created nor destroyed.

    Paul, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians, mentions how we were chosen prior to the creation of this earth to be recipients of his grace; thus, it appears natural to suppose that we existed at that time.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Pops,

    The idea that God is subject to the eternal laws of matter, etc. is truly where we differ. You believe God organizes, I believe He forms. If you are correct then we really ARE all not only children of God, but co-equals in a sense because we all existed eternally as intelligences, right?

    I believe God's own testimony of Himself as the One eternal God in Isaiah where He says,

    "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."

    and later again when He states that He knows of no other god,

    "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid : have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any."

    Pops said...

    Cindy,

    Excellent! I believe that really is the root of our disagreement.

    I'm grateful to live in an age in which we have revelation that clarifies who God is and what our relationship is with him. It's pretty obvious why God felt it was important to call the young Joseph Smith to the great work of the restoration - so much had been lost. Having been exposed to a few of the writings of Clement, Origen, St. Augustine, and others of their time, I can see the profound effect of the loss of the living Apostles with their authority and link to God through revelation on those seeking to understand God's will.

    Why do I bother participating in these exchanges? Because I'm firmly convinced that God has and does speak with prophets in our day, and I desire to share that great news with others. But what so many reject is nothing more than a caricature of Joseph Smith and of the church, they having never learned who Joseph Smith really was or what the true doctrine is that is taught by the church.

    In spite of our differences, I treasure those things we have in common. I salute you for your dedication to the Lord, your service to others, and your kindness and consideration in conversation. Thank you, and may God bless you and your family.

    Cindy said...

    Pops,

    I thank you for your exchange as well and I feel your desire to know God. But while believing that we are the literal children of god may bring you more hope for your progression toward godhood, it also has ramifications for the nature of the god of which you were progeny. The Joseph Smith teachings that define your hope also redefines your god into a former man, subject to all the experiences of the mortal probation, doesn't it? How is your worship of that god affected by the thought that he might have been like you, with all of your gifts, but also with your foibles, imperfections, and even sins? What makes a god like that worthy of worship?

    http://www.mrm.org/god-never-sinned

    Papa D said...

    "The Joseph Smith teachings that define your hope also redefines your god into a former man, subject to all the experiences of the mortal probation, doesn't it?"

    Not necessarily, Cindy. There is a LOT of disagreement in the LDS Church about that idea. It was extrapolated from one verse in the Bible and penned into a couplet by someone who wasn't even an apostle or prophet - and Pres. Hinckley said explicitly that we don't teach it actively in the Church today (which is true). I've not heard it preached from the General Conference pulpit in my lifetime, although plenty of members believe it, based on that popular couplet.

    It's a valid argument you make, but it's not something that is universally believed in the LDS Church - not even at the very top levels.

    Cindy said...

    Dear Papa,

    You said, "it's (the idea that God was once a man) not something that is universally believed in the LDS Church - not even at the very top levels."

    But don't you believe in the principle of eternal progression? Isn't that the point of this mortal probation? To progress and become like God did?

    And didn't Joseph Smith himself say? "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us: yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)