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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Understanding Grace and Works: Grasping Prayer Might Help

As I struggle with the blindness of some ministers and their followers who condemn Mormons as non-Christians because we allegedly require "works" like following Christ and trying to do the things He taught, I'd like to suggest they step back and consider prayer. Before launching into the same old arguments about how we are not-saved since we think that our works can influence our salvation, or that any human action could possibly influence God's granting of grace to us, why not think about prayer first as a model? In prayer, we do something, turning to God in faith, requesting guidance and blessings sometimes. And He responds. He answers prayers. Maybe not the way we want sometimes, but millions of Christians have experienced the reality of prayer.

Through prayer, we may receive blessings from God--through grace--that He wants to give us, but might not have if we didn't seek and ask. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be given unto you. Asking and receiving is part of the Christian experience. Accessing grace that is made available with conditions--asking, seeking, exercising faith--does not destroy the concept of grace. It's inherent to it. We access the gift of grace by seeking to keep God's commandments and follow Him in faith. We don't earn salvation or anything else, but gladly receive the gifts of grace on the conditions God has created in His covenant of mercy. It's as simple as prayer.

38 comments:

NM said...

Prayer isn't a doing. Prayer itself is the very act of acknowledging that God is the giver and us, merely, as receivers.

The act of prayer is another picture of grace.

Mormography said...

I think you would do well to chill and not be so easily offended and so negative about other people's faith and perspectives.

Ray said...

Good thought, Jeff. There is a close relationship between prayer and other more "doing" forms of worship. A classic example: Jonah prayed (he was in a whale at the time), "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;" And Jonah showed it by doing: he sacrificed his pride, his fears, his time, and his efforts to serve the Lord. The people of Nineveh (in addition to praying)gave up food and water for a fast, and sacrificed their "evil ways" and the violence that was in their hands. And "God saw their works" and saved the city--
a symbol for salvation of the Soul.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Mormography, defending our faith against those who falsely distort our beliefs and tell others we don't even believe in Christ is not being negative about their religion, unless you're elevating anti-Mormonism to the status of a respectable religion in its own right. I don't think it is.

There are many good Christians whose views on us have been sadly distorted by the blindness of preachers with very poor theology used as an excuse for expelling us from the realm of Christianity. That is the negativism that you would do better to condemn.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

And NM, prayer isn't a doing? If you are praying, what are you doing exactly? Nothing?

You bet prayer is doing. It takes faith. It takes time. It takes effort. Prayer can even take great courage when it's banned (can get a guy tossed into the fire or the lion's den in some past regimes). Prayer is what the Lord taught us to DO. Regular, intense prayer. He set the example by devoting 40 days of His time to praying and fasting to draw closer to His Father. He taught us how to day (what to DO in the DOING of prayer), encouraged us to pray often, and continued praying throughout His ministry, even up to His final moments on the cross. Prayer is one of the most important things we can DO.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

But yes, prayer does acknowledge that God is the giver and we the receivers--if we comply with the conditions for the giving, that is. Seek, and ye shall find. Pray, and it shall be given. Believe and be baptized, and you shall be saved. Keep the commandments (rooted in faith in Christ) and endure in faith to the end, and ye shall have eternal life. That's what Christ taught--plainly, clearly. That's why Revel. 22 says that blessed are they that keep the commandments, for they shall have access to the tree of life. It doesn't earn them anything by right, but following Christ into baptism and repentance of sins is the condition for receiving the grace of forgiveness.

Mormography said...

I wonder if Mormanity recognizes that my post above was his own words verbatim? What is good for the goose is not good for the gander?

Mormanity, defending myself against those who falsely distort my statements, declare me anti, or full of pre-deceived notions is not being negative about others religion, unless you're elevating Mormon anti-Evangelicalism to the status of a respectable religion in its own right. I don't think it is.

There are many good Mormons whose views on Evangelicals have been sadly distorted by the blindness of Mormon apologist with very poor reasoning used as an excuse for expelling Evangelicals from the realm of Christianity. Declaring Evangelical creeds as an abomination in God's sight; that their professors are all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

That is the negativism that you would do better to condemn.

The hostilities of Mormon Polemics originated with Mormonism’s claims. The truth is, it is the Evangelicals that are the ones defending themselves.

GB said...

Mormography,

You really are equating anti-Mormonism with an organized religion and virtually acknowledging that you are a faithful follower.

Jeff only "attacked" anti-Mormonism and its tactics. If that is an "attack" on you and your religion, then what are we to conclude?

I don't see where he "distorted" your statements nor declared you "anti".

I haven't seen "Mormon anti-Evangelicalism" here nor any where else. I have seen anti-anti-Mormonism and have even engaged in some of it myself.

Are you equating "anti-Mormonism" with "Evangelicalism"?

Mormon Apologists defend Mormonism.

Evangelical Apologists defend Evangelicalism.

Apologetics is defensive in nature. Not offensive.

"That is the negativism that you would do better to condemn."

Unless it is what an Evangelical would say about Catholicism, then it would be OK, right?

Do you like your double standards to be so blatant?

jackg said...

Jeff,

I think you go astray when you say: "Believe and be baptized, and you shall be saved."

Alas, this is the same old path we have been down before. I don't really think you can equate the DO of praying with the DO of being baptized as a prerequisite to salvation. Neither of us are saying anything new, but it's good to read what you have to say.

BTW, I'm not sure if you ever responded to my question on an earlier thread: When you speak of salvation, do you speak of living eternally in the presence of God or merely being resurrected? When you speak of exaltation, are you speaking of living in the presence of God as a result of the works required to earn exaltation? It would be great if you would respond.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Jeff,

It doesn't matter if you choose to answer or not. What matters is that we both strive to please our Heavenly Father. We both think that we are misguided in certain points of theology. Fortunately, John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever has right theology shall be saved."

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, especially since reading "The Chronicles of Narnia." I think in our hearts we both seek the same Father, the same Son, the same Spirit. I think we both understand the importance of works in our lives, of DOING things because of who we are in Jesus Christ. It's a shame that we get hung up on the order of works: before salvation as a prerequisite to it or after salvation as a response to it. When I think about it, that's where the bottom line of our discussion is. In the end, does it really matter which one of us is right? Will God penalize us because we got such a detail wrong? Or, will we be judged on our hearts, our love of God, our trust in Him to save us, our desire to obey Him, understanding we need to overcome the frailties of humanity?

I am tired of the either/or thinking that our culture has instilled in us. Why can't we see things as both/and. Relationship with God is both grace and obedience. I think we agree on this point, and that should be the only point that really matters in how we view each other, which I hope is as brothers in Christ.

Anyway, that's all I have to say. But, to end on a lighter note: how about them Packers? :-)

Peace and blessings...

Pops said...

jackg's question shows the need for modern revelation, for Apostles and prophets to bring us to a unity of faith. They're here and they've clarified these issues.

One class of future inhabitants of the Terrestrial Kingdom is the "honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men." Whenever there is a paid clergy, there is also a conflict of interest - will they say what is the unvarnished truth, or will they say something calculated to please the listener? Therein lies a large component of the "craftiness of men" who create doctrines to please the masses in order to serve their own self-interest.

Kyle said...

It makes me sad to realize the blindness of people who claim to now us Mormons but have their facts wrong and declare us things we're not. It makes me even more sad when they refuse to look into our faith or even type lds.org into their browser.

jackg said...

Pops,

It's the either/or thinking with your proposition regarding LDS leaders that I have grown tired of, and I am not aiming this specifically at you; rather, I am making a general statement. I can say this about the either/or proposition between Reformed and Arminian theology. LDS leaders still perpetuate the thinking I am beginning to oppose. So, it's not whether your leaders have the answers, which I still believe they don't, but where we are in our relationship with Jesus Christ. My relationship with Him has never been more real, and I trust that you feel the same way about your relationship with Him. What I am trying to do is avoid the Mormons vs. Christians mentality. It is not a debate about the craftiness of men (and I still do not believe that JS was a prophet, and I don't think his behavior does him any favors--but this is not the debate with which we should be wasting our time). It is about falling in love with the One True God and loving others, by which we fulfill the Law.

Even though I do not agree with LDS theology, that does not mean that Mormons are automatically disqualified as followers of Christ. God has been working in my heart to bring me to this point where I can say this to you. I would not have made this statement a few months ago. And, I am trying like heck not to fall into the same dialogue we have experienced on this site. So, with that, I say God bless you all.

Peace...

Mormography said...

GB,

I think your confusion is you are not aware of Mormanity’s long history of attacking me. The first post above is a cut and paste of one his comments aimed at me, which as he pointed out for me in his response, is questionable. He jumps too quickly at his own reflection.

The second part of my second post was from the canonized Joseph Smith history. It is a scathing attack on Evangelicals. Hence, using Mormanity’s own logic, Mormonism is anti-Evangelicals. Just as you claim Jeff only “attacked” anti-Mormonism, then that is all Evangelicals are doing when they critique Mormonism. I agree that the double standards are blatant. However, the double standards are not mine, but rather Mormanity’s.

Mormography said...

GB,

Here is a copy and paste of what I have written elsewhere on this blog regarding the subject. “For what it is worth, I would classify Mormons as Christian as along as the caveat is given that it is a radically different interpretation of traditional catholic, protestant, or evangenlical Christianity. People interested in geniue dialgoue would do something like compare and contrast Coptic Christians who often simply refer to as Coptics, and who are almost always clarified as being Coptic Christians. Compared to Mormons, Coptics have merely added a few gnostic gospels to their Cannon, where as Mormons have added numerous scriptures to their cannon.”

The added Canon demands faith not only in the content as being divine, but that in their origin as well. The Mormon canon (Book Of Mormon, Book Of Abraham) also demand faith in their origins as there is no more archeological/anthropological evidence of the BoM than the City of Atlantis theory of the New World, which is to same as saying there is no evidence.

Wikipedia has Mormon's listed as part of Christianity. As we all know =) Wikipedia is the better determination of truth.

GB said...

Mo:I think your confusion is you are not aware of Mormanity’s long history of attacking me.

GB: It is you that is confused. I have been a visitor here for a long time. Your supposed "long history" doesn't exist.

And citing a single (alleged) post doesn't prove a "long history" either.

"The first post above is a cut and paste of one his comments aimed at me, which as he pointed out for me in his response, is questionable."

Without providing context, your accusation is hollow. You are perfectly capable of providing a link so that all may see.

"He jumps too quickly at his own reflection."

Perhaps, but so far you haven't provided evidence to support your assertion.

Mormography said...

GB,

So, are you conceding the "Mormon anti-Evangelicalism" discussion and not you would like to move the discussion to Mormanity's statements against me?

Not a problem, but before I provide the requested links you must agree to apologize after I provide them.

GB said...

Mormography,

After looking at your blog, it is rather OBVIOUS that it is YOU that has a "long history" (if you want to call it that) of being the ATTACKER!

I also notice that over your recent history of blogging (about 2 years, not much of a long history really) that you have only had comment (other than your own).

Are you just jealous that Mormanity gets A LOT!!! more attention than you do?

"It is a scathing attack on Evangelicals."

Reading comprehension is a problem for you, apparently. "Evangelicals" were not mentioned.

"Hence, using Mormanity’s own logic, Mormonism is anti-Evangelicals."

Nah, your logic isn't sound.


"Just as you claim Jeff only “attacked” anti-Mormonism, then that is all Evangelicals are doing when they critique Mormonism."

Nah, apparently you don't know the difference between honest critiquing and dishonest attacks.

"I agree that the double standards are blatant."

Yes, your double standards are blatant.

"However, the double standards are not mine, but rather Mormanity’s."

Nah, they are yours. You want to apply different standards for things Mormon than for things Evangelical.

You want to ignore your "long history" of attacks, while whining about people responding to you.

You are HERE attacking Mormanity, Mormons, and Mormonism. I have been to YOUR blog. NO ONE is attacking you there. In fact EVERYONE is ignoring you there.

Pops said...

jackg,

I understand what you're feeling. The issue with Joseph Smith is this: if what he said is true, then it's really God vs. a lot of self-appointed preachers. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of that one.

If God really didn't care about speicifics, then I would agree we should all sit around the campfire and sing KoomBaYa or whatever.

jackg said...

Pops,

I can consider you to be a Christian despite the fact that you put a lot of emphasis on the necessity to believe in JS as a prophet. It has taken me a long time to put the JS stuff aside and see you and other Mormons for who you are: people who love God and who want to obey Him. I have considered fellowshipping with the LDS ward in my area because you guys really have a sense of community; however, I know I couldn't sit through the meetings and hear all the teachings of LDS leaders. You see, our relationship with Christ really trumps all that stuff, I think. You might not agree with me, but that's okay. I am not really trying to get you to agree with me, but to understand where I am, and I am where I am because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Anyway, that's it for now. Take care and God bless. Wait...I do want you to know that I appreciate your words to me. I know what you say is generated by the fact that you care about me and my eternity. Thank you.

Peace...

The Seeking Disciple said...

But what do you do with 2 Nephi 25:23 which clearly says that we are saved after all that we can do. Even the LDS Bible Dictionary says the following:

"This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts. Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man's weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, 'It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Ne. 25:23)" (p. 697)."

Pops said...

Of course, you do with 2 Nephi 25:23 the same as with Romans 2:5-7:

"...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"."

Mormography said...

Mormanity - This exchange is with GB is yet another example. You tell me this blog is for dialogue, not attack, tell me to chill, etc., but do not tell your cronies the say thing. It is becoming apparent you are complicit to your cronies behavior.

Papa D said...

Interesting example of confirmation bias in these comments.

It is fascinating to me that some people just can't accept what the Bible actually says about our need to respond to grace with our own actions - the "fruits of the Spirit". Those fruits, while enabled to grow by grace, still are things that must grow from us.

Saying prayer is not an example of our works / fruits / response to the Spirit is something that truly baffles me. Saying "prayer is not a doing" is . . . non-sensical.

As far as the dominating conversation in this thread, I'll just say that there is a HUGE difference between attacking and critiquing - and Jeff is the epitome online of critiquing without attacking. It's why he gets so much respectful discussion - but it's also why he gets so much attacking, as well.

Anonymous said...

jeff,

I think you are off base when you give the reason for others saying we are not Christian. My experience is that others say we worship a different Christ. Our Jesus is the son of the Father. their Jesus is the Father. Very Different.

Ken said...

With prayer we are told, “ask and you shall receive”. The Savior also taught us in prayer to ask, “give us this day our daily bread”. But how many of us would sit down at an empty table, bow our heads and pray for a meal to eat and then look up expecting God to lay before us a meal to eat? Or do we go out and work and/or plant and harvest etc. so that we have food to eat?

So the question then becomes who provided the food to eat, us or God?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

It's OK to disagree with my views, if people are civil and open to dialog. It's also OK to disagree with Mormography. Keep it civil, of course. But Mormography, I'm not sure I understand what you find so unfair. When I get time to read the comments more fully, it might become clear.

jackg said...

What I am learning is that holding fast to a doctrine can lead to un-Christlike behavior. I believe in the Trinity, as most Christians do. Do I understand the Trinity to the degree that I can wrap my brain around it? No. LDS believe in three distinct personages, which is what sets them apart from what we will call "mainstream" Christianity. When we begin to protect our beliefs about this aspect of God, we begin to display un-Christlike behavior. We say things that are attacking and hurtful. So, I don't agree with LDS theology on this point, but I can agree that LDS are seeking the same God I seek. When I was LDS, I prayed to the same God I pray to, today. That has not changed. My information about God naturally molds my thinking about Him, but there are lots of things I just simply cannot comprehend fully because the finite cannot understand the infinite while still in a finite condition. I can accept that, and that is where faith comes into play. I believe in Jesus Christ despite the fact that I have not seen Him with my own eyes. And, to believe in Jesus Christ is the only thing I really need to believe. You can believe JS was a prophet, but I don't think one has to believe that to be in a true and living relationship with Christ. Conversely, I don't think believing in JS necessarily precludes one from being in relationship with Christ, either. You see, we let this stuff get in the way of the only thing that matters, which is faith in Christ Jesus who saved us through death on the cross, and that He is indeed risen again! I think we agree when it comes to this bottom-line thought.

Ken said...

Jackg,

Very well put, and I agree with you. I do believe it is very possible to have a very close and meaningful relationship with Christ without knowledge of Joseph Smith and the teachings that have been restored through modern prophets and Apostles. I would even go so far as to say that it is possible to have that relationship without any knowledge given to us through any of his Prophets and or Apostles, either today or in New testament times or Old Testament times or even Book of Mormon times. If we treat a stranger with kindness, caring and compassion, especially in their time of need, then we have a very close relationship to Christ because we have done it to him whether we know him by name or not.

But I do have to admit that I am so grateful for these books of Scripture. Because I for one don’t know how well I would do at following Christ without them. I am also very grateful for the teachings of modern Prophets and leaders. The best example I can give is the direction we have been given today of Home Teaching. If you once were LDS, then you know what I am talking about. This one concept has taught me more about what it means to be Christ like than most any other. It is one thing to talk about doing things for other people, but it is quite another to actually get out and do it, and to do it for the right reason.

As a home teacher I use to do it because I had to. It was required, so I did it, but didn’t think much of it. But over time I came to realize that being asked by my church leaders to look in on and teach lessons and do things for a few members of my ward, was the same as if Christ himself asked me to do it. Some of the families I home teach are getting older, and need help with a few things around the house. I so enjoy helping them out when I go to their homes. I learn more about Christ in the one hour that I spend in each of these homes each month than I do in all the hours I spend in church meetings. I have come to care for them the same as I would my own family.

Would I go out each month and check up on a few members of my church without that instruction? I shouldn’t have to be told to, but having been, has lead me to do it, and in so doing I have strengthen my relationship with Christ in a way that I would not have done otherwise.

Pops said...

It's rather informative to read God's reason for calling Joseph Smith to be his prophet: "Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith..."

In other words, God called Joseph Smith because of things that are happening and will happen in the world, in order that we might find refuge. God often calls prophets to perform this function. The children of Israel were liberated because they followed a living prophet. The people of Noah's day died because they would not.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

JackG, thank you for your thoughtful and kind expression. Really appreciate the openness!

Jeff Lindsay: said...

JackG, thank you for your thoughtful and kind expression. Really appreciate the openness!

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Having looked over comments a little more thoroughly, I can see that Mormography could feel harshly treated as one exchange reached a crescendo of exasperation. Let's all be careful not to fall into the traps that anger bring.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Given the context and circumstances, I'm OK for now, anyway, with the existing comments above. But let's stay on topic and focus more on the issues of grace and prayer and not whose got the doubliest standards.

Anonymous said...

[for what it's worth here's what I saw on the net: yours, Dan]

LDS a "cult"? What about the "rapture"?

by Bruce Rockwell

Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is "not a Christian" and Mormonism is a "cult," according to Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Dallas (TX) First Baptist Church.
His "cult" remark is based on his belief that the Latter-day Saints church (which didn't exist before 1830) is outside "the mainstream of Christianity."
But Jeffress hypocritically promotes the popular evangelical "rapture" (theologically the "any-moment pretribulation rapture") which is outside mainstream Christianity (Google "Pretrib Rapture Politics") and which also didn't exist before 1830 (Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty")!
And there are 50 million American rapture cultists (some of whom turn Wikipedia into "Wicked-pedia" by constantly distorting the real facts about the rapture's bizarre, 181-year-old history) compared with only 14 million LDS members.
The most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history that I have found is in a nonfiction book titled "The Rapture Plot" which is carried by leading online bookstores. I know also that the same 300-page work can also be borrowed through inter-library loan at any library.
Latter-day Saints believe in fairness, which is why I feel called to share this message.

Mormography said...

Anonymous Dan,

I truly appreciate your post. I applaud your efforts to hold people to their own standards. I will be sure to share this insight with Evangelicals I encounter in the future.

You may not have notice Mormanity's comments above. However, your post is precisely the sort of thing Mormanity has explicitly requested be avoided here.

GB said...

Mormography,

Does it bother you when any hypocrisy is exposed, or only when it is Evangelical, anti-Mormon hypocrisy that is exposed?

Cindy said...

Dear jackg,

Thank you so much for your witness of the Truth of Christ in love for the LDS people!