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

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Book of Mormon on Grace

While the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, repeatedly calls upon man to repent and obey God, the charge to keep the commandments must be understood in terms of the infinite grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, who offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal law if we will have faith in Him and accept His covenant of mercy, which involves the choice to repent and follow Him. The foundation of salvation by grace is laid out by Lehi, a wise philosopher-prophet in the 6th century B.C. Here is an excerpt from his very philosophical discourse in 2 Nephi 2:
4 ... And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
The full benefits of the Atonement of Christ are offered to those who seek to accept Christ. These are those who are humble and contrite, who believe in Christ. That this should involve seeking to keep His commandments in no way implies that they earn this infinite gift of grace or no longer need grace. It's simply accepting the gift under the conditions of the covenant Christ offers.

Wonderfully, part of the power of the Atonement and the grace of Christ is the gift of freedom to choose. We are given the power to choose God and Christ, or to reject them. That choice involves our response to the commandments God gives us and our willingness to repent or not (this is where humility and contriteness are essential). Read all of Lehi's discourse, but here are some of his concluding words:
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be hmiserable like unto himself.

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
Believe in Christ and seek to make Him our Lord by repenting and living His teachings, growing steadily in Him and relying daily on the infinite grace that He offers.

68 comments:

Obadiah said...

Whoa. Just saw this post immediately after publishing a VERY SIMILARLY themed post on my own blog! Certainly the Book of Mormon has many gems on Grace that I feel are often under-appreciated among latter-day saints. My thoughts on the subject for the evening:

"Grace and Godly Sorrow"

My best,

Obadiah

Kit Ian M. said...

It really is amazing that Jesus Christ has infinite grace upon us all.

I've learned a lot on grace from Stephen Robinson's book " Believing Christ : A Practical Approach to the Atonement ".

Truly the Book of Mormon sheds light when in comes to the doctrine of grace.

Openminded said...

Okay, hang on. I've never fully understood this concept.

So the Evvie concept of grace is being saved by faith alone. The Mormon stance on it is that His grace plays a huge role, but works are still required and not just faith.

Right?

Papa D said...

Openminded, I would say that the Mormon concept is that real faith causes someone to accept what is asked by Christ and strive to act on their stated belief in Christ. Iow, real faith is a motivator to act, but it's still the underlying grace that makes the actions worth anything at all.

This is taught so many times in the Gospels and the rest of the NT that it's almost impossible to argue otherwise, imo. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" probably is the most direct, but there are many more.

Iow, those who say they have faith but do nothing to try to keep his commandments might "accept Jesus as Lord and Master" but they don't really love Him - since they don't try to keep his commandments. It's like saying, "I love you, Dad, and I think you are all-wise and knowing and caring - but go jump off a cliff. I'm not going to try to do what you ask me to do." Yeah, that's recognition of his role and a verbal expression of love, but it sure isn't real love.

Ken said...

“Faith alone” is a dead concept. That is not just LDS thinking that is Biblical. As soon as you attempt to separate faith and works you end up with neither. One without the other is dead.

Because there was an atonement through Christ on our behalf, then there can be salvation for us, otherwise we were forever lost no matter what we did. If we believe in Christ and his atonement, then we will take up our cross and follow him. But to believe in him and to follow him, we must have faith. But we cannot claim any faith if we do not keep his commandments.

Neither our faith or our obedience is perfect, but the two must work together if we are to have any chance at being lifted from our fallen state through the atonement, because one without the other is less than imperfect, it is nothing.

Though there is no saving power to either faith or works, to accept that faith is essential to salvation is to accept that works is essential to salvation, for you cannot separate the two and be left with anything.

bearyb said...

Openminded, I was confused for a long time about this as well. Not about the necessity of works per se, but of how to explain it to those who thought faith was all that was needed. It has and will be an on-going debate I'm afraid.

The simplest explanation I've found, and the one that makes the most sense to me given what the scriptures say about it, is just what Jeff wrote: " That this should involve seeking to keep His commandments in no way implies that they earn this infinite gift of grace or no longer need grace. It's simply accepting the gift under the conditions of the covenant Christ offers."

As the Great Mediator and our Advocate with the Father, Christ has certainly told us what He expects us to do in order to gain Eternal Life (which, to us, is more than mere immortality). That it is something out of the reach of anything we can do of ourselves is made quite clear. Nevertheless, He has offered us condtions we can handle, and has left it up to us to choose.

The concept of conditional acceptance of gifts or trusts or any number of things is common in this life. It is no different with the Atonement.

He stands at the door and knocks. At the very least, we have to open it and let Him in.

jackg said...

Jeff,

Nice post. Beautiful scripture passage. I can't say that I disagree with anything in the passage.

Openminded,

The evangelical stance is that we are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ. Our works don't justify us. Our works are evidence of our faith in Christ, which is why James says faith without works is dead. Unfortunately, many evangelicals believe in what is called cheap grace. This position states that a person merely has to say they believe in Jesus and then live their lives without obeying God. This is a total misapplication of God's word to us.

As for works being required, I think I differ from the LDS position in that I don't believe they are required for justification. (Maybe we do agree...I'm just not real sure about that.) But, they are the fruit of our faith in Christ.

I have concluded that we don't have to be in agreement on how it all works. From my perspective, anyone who claims the risen Christ as their Redeemer and Savior, then shows forth good works as evidence of that faith, is indeed saved in God's Kingdom.

The bottom line is that our redemption and salvation are dependent solely on the merits of Jesus Christ, and I think this BOM passage supports that. This does not, however,excuse us from good works.

Blessings...

Openminded said...

It still sounds a bit like you're earning the grace in Mormonism. Fulfilling conditions before receiving a "gift" means you've earned the gift, really.

Wait....what do you guys refer to when you say grace?

It almost sounds like, in Mormonism, the grace part is Christ lowering the standards (which should be much, much higher).

(and thanks for your guys' input. jackg, it's nice to see an Evvie not think Mormons are going to Hell)

Steve said...

Openminded, I think you have it right- the Mormon stance is that works are required.

2 Nephi 25:23, "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.

After all we can do we are saved? That, my friend, is work-based salvation.

The third Article of Faith confirms 2 Nephi in that... “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”.

It's a very different concept of salvation than a Bible-based Christian perspective.

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Romans 3:23, 28: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; …Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Does that mean that a Christian can just say "I believe that Jesus is my savior", and continue to sin with abandon? Of course not. Not if he truly desires to follow Christ. I get this from Paul in Romans 6 (all of it) but read verses 14-15, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."

My point is that we don't need the BOM. The foundation of salvation by grace is laid out by Lehi... No- it's laid out by the apostle Paul.

Openminded said...

Honestly, based purely off the writings of Paul, Steve has a completely valid point.

Paul (though Ephesians may have been written by a follower instead of Paul himself) is markedly faith alone.

He'd probably disagree with James, but if we stick with Paul--salvation by grace alone, with no need for the conditions, is laid out in full

Papa D said...

"Paul (though Ephesians may have been written by a follower instead of Paul himself) is markedly faith alone."

No, he's not. He's anything but a proponent of passive faith alone. It's works alone (faith-less or "dead" works) that he condemns as useless.

Read Hebrews 11 - the entire chapter that is Paul's capstone statement on faith. There are lots of other references, but that chapter alone is enough to show that he saw faith as active and empowering - as a motivating belief that caused people to act. That's the central issue here - a bastardization of definition in the most fundamental sense.

It's really important in this discussion, imo, to use the Gospels and Hebrews 1 as the foundation of Paul's teachings about faith, grace and works. Without that foundation, the very definition of "faith" changes radically - and produces the type of misunderstanding illustrated here in this thread. There is a very simple, very consistent message with that foundation - but it gets lost really easily when individual verses and passages get taken out of that foundation, isolated and interpreted alone. Faith, without works, is dead, being alone - but, likewise, works, without faith, is dead, being alone. Iow, "faith without works" isn't true "faith" - but merely verbal belief statement or hopeless human effort.

Finally, even if Paul really did preach faith / grace without works (which, again, he doesn't in any way), I'd still think Christians would value the words of Jesus, of Nazareth, over Paul - and Jesus clearly taught the need for "following in obedience" (faith fueled fruit).

Papa D said...

I meant to type Hebrews 11 in both places in that last comment, not Hebrews 1.

Pops said...

Different passages of scripture appear to say contradictory things about faith and works. Reminds me of the dilemma faced by physicists at the turn of the last century. Newtonian physics asserted that the measured speed of light would differ based on the relative velocity of source and observer, but when measurements were taken the data disagreed with the theory. The apparent contradiction was resolved when Einstein created a mathematical superset that showed Newtonian physics to be sufficiently precise in most cases, but that reality is more complex than suggested by Newton's Laws.

The grace / works contention can also be resolved with a more complex model, one that agrees with all of the scriptural teachings about the Atonement.

The overly-simplistic model represents salvation as a one-dimensional problem: at point A is fallen man; at point B is salvation; and the line that bridges the gap between the two is the pathway to salvation. Some argue that Christ alone can bridge the gap between A and B. Some argue that man can - and must - do some of the effort, and Christ does the rest. But because the model is too simple, it's a meaningless argument.

A more realistic model shows salvation as a two-dimensional model, with fallen man at the lower left corner of a rectangle, and exaltation at the upper right corner of the rectangle. In this model, Christ does all the vertical work - the heavy lifting. Man does the horizontal work. Together they move one from a fallen state to an exalted state. Man cannot do any of the vertical work - it is an impossibility. God will not / cannot do the horizontal work - it would violate our agency. So, in this model, grace is a free gift that man can neither earn nor do himself, AND works are required for exaltation.

If you think this is an impossible model, recall how fixed-wing aircraft fly. The propeller provides no lift whatsoever - lift comes from the wings. But unless the aircraft is moved forward by the propeller, the wings are useless.

bearyb said...

Openminded, the hangup seems to be whether works are required at all. It seems obvious that they are, since faith is required and true faith is accompanied by works. It is simple enough to find separate passages of scripture that mention one without the other, but following that strategy one could make the Bible say anything they want it to.

We may not be able to earn grace, but there are things Christ has said we must do to accept what He offers. How else can we show Him we accept it unless we do those things?

bearyb said...

Steve, why you say we don't need the BoM? I mean, upon what grounds? People have gotten by before without cars, computers, and cellphones, so in the strictest sense we don't need those either. In fact, millions of people still don't have any of those things (though I wouldn't want to live where they do).

But those things certainly can help us along in those areas of the world that have the infrastructure that they were designed to be used in.

Let's consider the general state of those who have 'only' the Bible - how many different ways do they understand the same passages of scripture, or how many of them even use the same version of translation? Even among those who claim belief in the BoM there are divisions, likewise the D&C. (The answer to avoiding confusion is on-going revelation, but that's not the point of my post.)

Why would anyone say we should reject a body of information when what we desperately need is more information, not less?

bearyb said...

Pops, I like your two-dimensional model. It makes sense.

Salvation is a free gift because we can't earn it. That is to say, there is no way we can come up with the full price. But that doesn't mean it won't cost us anything.

Some of the confusion where LDS doctrine is concerned is that some of the benefits of the Atonement are understood by us to be unconditional - resurrection, for instance, will be enjoyed by ALL who kept their first estate (all those who have been or will be born with a physical body on the earth).

After that, Paul's great writing on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) tells us that there will be different "glories" in the resurrection, and elsewhere in the Bible Christ speaks of "many mansions" in His Father's house.

I believe that part of the purpose for obeying the commandments is to condition us, to prepare us, for where we will end up based on the degree to which we have been obedient - or what we have become with what was given us to work with (hence the Parable of the Talents).

"Salvation" means different things to different people, but I've only ever heard the LDS speak of "exaltation."

Do any non-LDS belief systems incorporate differing "degrees" of salvation?

Openminded said...

PapaD,
It's been largely accepted by scholarship that Hebrews was not written by Paul. I don't know why everyone keeps assuming this, there's not even a solid basis to go off of (much unlike his other books).

Paul made plenty of statements about the efficacy of belief and faith in his writings, and at the very most, specified baptism as all that was needed (and even that part is hard to pin down) to share in the Resurrection of Jesus.

Where did this "Paul wrote Hebrews" idea come from?

TJayT said...

jackg and Pops, You both have one of the best expansions of the two ideas of salvation (faith alone and synthetic respectively). Thank you both so much for sharing.

Ken said...

As I read through the comment I think the breakdown or difference may be in how the words grace, faith and works are being used.

It seems to me that grace and faith are being used interchangeably which would signify that they have the same meaning.

When the phrase “grace alone” and “faith alone” are used is everyone understanding these to mean the same thing? Perhaps we need definitions to each of these words to make sure they are being discussed with the same understanding.

Ken said...

Does anyone take exception to the following? “Grace is a gift that we have access to through our faith in Jesus Christ”. Here the two words grace and faith have different meanings. If we interchange them does the sentence still mean the same thing? Faith is a gift that we have access to through our grace in Jesus Christ.

jackg said...

PapaD,

I like, "faith fueled fruit." That would make a great t-shirt, seriously!! And, I believe this simple, three-word alliteration hits the nail on the head. Works are the result of our faith; our faith is the fuel for those works. Brilliant, PapaD! (BTW, I'd be the first to buy the t-shirt.)

Pops,

I think I will always differ from LDS teaching regarding salvation and exaltation. I will never believe that man will be exalted and become a god. Ultimately, I no longer believe this to be a wedge between myself and LDS Christians. Believing in it or not believing in it, in my opinion, will not be the determining factor of whether or not I dwell eternally in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

(PS Pops...I know we have had our share of heated discussions, so I hope you are able to sense the change in my tone in my response to you. Your explanation expertly addresses what you believe and why. The fact that I don't agree with it doesn't make your point any less valid. :-) )

Ken,

I like what you said about changing out "grace" and "faith" in the sentence you presented for us to think about. I think it works. Ultimately, Christ is the source of everything for us--even our faith in Him.

It's my prayer that we don't let different schools of thought separate us from the basic truth that we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is, ultimately, the path we are all on. And, I rejoice in that!

Peace...

Steve said...

By the grace of God, my faith is all that is required for salvation. And I’m not talking about the “unconditional resurrection” concept that has no Biblical foundation. But that’s a topic for another post as well.

Pops, I don’t agree with your two-dimensional model. The faith-works debate IS very simple. Your one-dimensional model is Biblical. Why is simple a bad thing? Because that’s exactly what happens; Christ bridges the gap between sinful man and salvation. His sacrifice for us on the cross is all that is needed. To say that man has to earn even part of his salvation is to nullify Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

When Christ says “be ye perfect”, it is an exhortation to strive to be perfect in God’s love. He knows that man cannot be perfect in this life. If men could be perfect, there would have been no need for His sacrifice/resurrection.

Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. By earning or working for “progression” you are saying that the grace of God is not enough, that Jesus died for nothing. I am not saying that good works should not happen, or that we should not try to follow God’s laws. By our faith, good works will follow. But they are not *required* for salvation.

When Christ told the parable about the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, THAT was his point- He has the right to award “salvation” to anyone, regardless of how much work they’ve done. Workers who had only worked an hour got paid just as much as those that had worked all day. The same can be said for the malefactor on the cross next to Christ, as in Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. That malefactor had done no “work” to earn anything other than trust that Christ was the Savior. Yes Jesus said that was enough. He didn’t say, “OK, but before I see you in paradise, you have to tithe, attend services regularly, be married in a temple, be baptized…you have to do some work.” Believing (faith) is enough. Works follow faith.

There are levels of Christian maturity, as illustrated by Jesus’ parable about the sower in Mark 4 “some fell upon stony ground”, etc. Some who profess Christianity are not always good examples of that. But that is our daily struggle; to live in a more Christ-like manner.

When James says in chapter 2 verse 26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also”, it does not conflict with Paul’s writings. Good works do not earn us anything. If we have faith that is alive and active, if we study God’s word and endeavor to follow his commandments, even though we know we cannot fully do so, good works follow that faith.

Bearby, you can’t liken cars, computers, etc. to the BOM. You don’t need more information; God’s inspired Word is in the Bible. I can’t accept the BoM as God’s inspired word, when I consider its author (you probably call him a translator) and all of his false prophesies.

1 Corinthians 15:40, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” Where is the mention of telestial?

But, back to the topic- the BoM on Grace. The 2 Nephi 25:23 , “after all you can do”, 1 Nephi 3:7 “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing…”, Mosiah 4:30, “if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.” These BoM passages say that salvation depends on works, as does the Third Article of Faith, and the counterpoints brought up by some comments. A works-based salvation is not Biblical.

Pops said...

The faith-works debate IS very simple. Your one-dimensional model is Biblical.

It's only Biblical if one explains away numerous passages whose obvious meaning contradicts the philosophy of salvation without works. You also need to find a pattern of Christ promoting salvation without works. But there isn't one.

When Christ says “be ye perfect”, it is an exhortation to strive to be perfect in God’s love.

No, it's an injunction to become perfect even as the Father is perfect. At least that's what he said.

He has the right to award “salvation” to anyone, regardless of how much work they’ve done. Workers who had only worked an hour got paid just as much as those that had worked all day.

Curiously, they all worked.

Pops said...

(I wish I could post diagrams...)

The 2D model of salvation, with fallen man at the lower left corner, has a range of outcomes across the top line. To the far left, directly above "fallen man", lies Telestial salvation. No works are required to get here. One does not even need to acknowledge Christ in this life. Sin away! (Just kidding - you'll regret it if you do.)

Somewhere in the middle of the top line is Terrestrial salvation. People who end up here have given some, but not all.

At the far right end of the top line lies Celestial salvation, for those who have given all.

So if you turn the 2D model and view it edge-on, it's the simplistic 1D salvation model. At the top is a curious mish-mash of salvations all jumbled together. But when viewed as a 2D model, it all makes sense and agrees with all of the scriptural passages dealing with salvation.

Pops said...

He didn’t say, “OK, but before I see you in paradise, you have to tithe, attend services regularly, be married in a temple, be baptized…you have to do some work.”

Of course, paradise isn't salvation, as explained in Alma 40.

Works follow faith.

Well of course. That's like saying circles are round.

How do we increase our faith? A good method is by doing good works. That way we can know through experience that the works we've done, the commandments we've obeyed, are in fact good, and that God can be trusted.

bearyb said...

Steve, if "unconditional resurrection" has no biblical basis, what is to be understood by the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:22 - "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

Ken said...

"By the grace of God, my faith is all that is required for salvation."

So it is God’s grace and our faith that together bring about salvation?

"When Christ says “be ye perfect”, it is an exhortation to strive to be perfect in God’s love."

Who are we to apply a meaning different from the actual words of Jesus that were recorded? When told to do something, then turn it around and say, well he didn’t really mean that, he just meant to try. That sounds like a big leap of private interpretation.

For me when Jesus says to do something, I am better off focusing on how to do it rather than justifying myself by adding words to his.

jackg said...

I love the reference to the sermon on the mount passage. It shows that we as humans can really mess things up, creating camps that divide us, and getting into the debate of who is right or wrong. I praise the Lord that He has caused me to grow weary of this bickering. It does no one any good.

In my opinion, LDS live lives that bring honor to God. For the most part, they are a compassionate people. I do not agree with most of LDS doctrines, but from a theological standing, the core belief that makes us saved followers of Jesus is that Jesus indeed came to the earth to save us. AND, He does expect us to obey Him as a sign of our faith in Him.

In an exegetical study of the last pericope of Matthew 5, I learned that the context is love. Jesus is talking about loving our enemies. John Wesley describes Christian perfection as being perfect in love. We sing "O, Holy Night" with the words: "His law is love, and His gospel is peace." John Wesley also teaches that we CAN become perfect in love in this life, that we DON'T have to sin. But, he also expresses the caveat that we as human beings will make mistakes--mistakes are not inherently sinful.

Personally, I don't agree with President Kimball's teaching on perfection as expressed in "The Miracle of Forgiveness." There will be lots of people who don't agree with me regarding the teachings of John Wesley on the subject. So what! Ultimately, these issues will fade away into the distance when we come face to face with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Theology must be divided into three categories: 1. dogma, which consists of those things one absolutely needs to believe in order to be identified as a follower of Jesus, and this category should be small; 2. doctrine, which identifies beliefs one must hold to in order to be a member of a certain group of believers, i.e. Baptists, Nazarenes, LDS, ets.; 3. opinion, which is the broadest category and covers things such as baptism as necessary to salvation (this is not only a hot topic between LDS and certain evangelical denominations, but within evangelical Christianity itself), etc.

In my journey, I went from LDS to Christian/non-LDS to Christian/anti-LDS to follower of Jesus Christ. I am no longer anti-LDS even though I do not agree with much of LDS teachings. What we share in common is our faith in Jesus Christ and the desire to obey Him, to bring Him honor, and to live our lives in a way that shows the world that we indeed have the true and living God in our lives.

I think I'm beginning to sound a bit like a broken record, but I am passionate about conquering divisiveness within the body of Christ.

Peace and blessings...

Darren said...

Steve;

My point is that we don't need the BOM. The foundation of salvation by grace is laid out by Lehi... No- it's laid out by the apostle Paul.

And what if Lehi and Paul were on the same page as far as salvation goes? I do not find anything I Lehi's writings which contradict Paul's writings.

As for faith alone, it's not biblical. You yourself, as do many Evangelicals it seems, argue that faith is all that is needed and then argue that works are needed to be saved.

Does that mean that a Christian can just say "I believe that Jesus is my savior", and continue to sin with abandon? Of course not. Not if he truly desires to follow Christ.

That's exactly what Mormons believe.

Darren said...

Openminded;

Allow me to show where you pretty much invalidate your own statement that Mormonism *may* be wrong in its theology. You said (bold mine):

He'd probably disagree with James, but if we stick with Paul--salvation by grace alone, with no need for the conditions, is laid out in full

fortunately, we don't have "Paul alone" in the scriptures; just like we do not have "faith alone" in the scritures. Paul was only speaking about one side ofthe salvation coin. The other saide is read in, as you pointed out, the Book of James as well as in other passages ofthe scriptures.

Darren said...

Pops;

A more realistic model shows salvation as a two-dimensional model, with fallen man at the lower left corner of a rectangle, and exaltation at the upper right corner of the rectangle. In this model, Christ does all the vertical work - the heavy lifting. Man does the horizontal work. Together they move one from a fallen state to an exalted state. Man cannot do any of the vertical work - it is an impossibility. God will not / cannot do the horizontal work - it would violate our agency. So, in this model, grace is a free gift that man can neither earn nor do himself, AND works are required for exaltation.

If you think this is an impossible model, recall how fixed-wing aircraft fly. The propeller provides no lift whatsoever - lift comes from the wings. But unless the aircraft is moved forward by the propeller, the wings are useless.


Absolutely genius.

Darren said...

bearyb;

People have gotten by before without cars, computers, and cellphones, so in the strictest sense we don't need those either.

People got by without computers? Such savagery.

In fact, millions of people still don't have any of those things

Milions of people don't have computers? Such savages!

;>)

In all due serousness, modern technology is a blessing and I wouldn't want to live without them either.

Good comparison.

Darren said...

Openminded;

Where did this "Paul wrote Hebrews" idea come from?

Here's from the LDS scripture site:

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews

Is that wrong?

Darren said...

Steve;
Some who profess Christianity are not always good examples of that.

So what happens to their salvation?

Darren said...

Steve;
1 Corinthians 15:40, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” Where is the mention of telestial?

Fill in the blank: The Sun, the Moon, and the ___________. What does "telestrial" corrdinate with?

That malefactor had done no “work” to earn anything other than trust that Christ was the Savior.

first off, nobody here has ever said he "earned" anything from God. However, how do we know what the malefactor did previous to being condemned to death upon the cross?

If we have faith that is alive and active, if we study God’s word and endeavor to follow his commandments, even though we know we cannot fully do so, good works follow that faith.

And if we cease our works for God, what happens to our faith?

Re: Mosiah 4:30

What do you say happens to those who do not watch their works?

Ad let me requote the 3rd Article of Faith but shift the bold you originaly used:

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

Allow me to do the same for 2 Nephi 25:23:

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.

That's what saves; not works.

Openminded said...

Darren,
Paul is just one person, but he was very misleading if he left out anything. James disagreeing with him points out a contradiction, not a more fully explained concept. I know you swear by the concept of continuing revelation, though, so no worries there, unless you're worried that part of Paul's teachings were ditched.

That's more of an issue to biblical innerrantists though.

And wow, I didn't know the Mormon scriptures website added his name to the title. I've never seen that in any of the bibles I've encountered (unless I overlooked it in a KJV, but that book is a product of its time anyways).

You should check to see where they got it from. That's pretty misleading for them to do that

Darren said...

Openminded

unless you're worried that part of Paul's teachings were ditched.

Not at all. As I said before, Paul taught one side of the salvation coin and James the other in regards to what is needed for salvation. Both teachings are 100% compatible one to the other. I only question the modern-era Evangelical/Protestant belief in sola fide. Faith only was never taught by Christ's Apostles; nor did Christians think that way until the 16th century.

That's pretty misleading for them to do that

As a non-betting man myself, i cal you on that. Show me your hand. :>)

Papa D said...

OM, I short-handed Hebrews as Paul's words, since it's commonly accepted among most believers. Iow, sure, Paul might not have written it, but it's likely that Paul didn't write ANYTHING in the Bible - that ALL of it was written by scribes or people later who claimed his authorship to give validity to their own words. It's ALL conjecture, frankly.

That doens't matter, when it comes to this discussion. As I said, if someone is willing to ignore Jesus of Nazareth in this conversation and the Gospels that purport to be a record of his teachings, instead focusing solely on "the epistles of Paul" . . . I just don't get it. I'd think that Christians would place primary importance of the words they believe were spoken by Jesus - and I it's patently obvious that Jesus' words don't support a condemnation of faith-fueled fruit (God/Spirit-infused actions, to put it in more Protestant terms).

Seriously, if you can answer that one central question, I will be satisfied. Why should the words attributed to Paul (or even James, for that matter) be given more importance than the words attributed to Jesus? If there is an apparent conflict between the two, why should Paul's words be accepted over those of Jesus?

Papa D said...

OM, it's really absurd to say that claiming Hebrews is from Paul is disingenuous.

To simulate what a common, layperson would find if she was curious about the authorship of Hebrews, I did a simple Google search with the question: "Why wrote Hebrews?" I then scanned the first five references. Three talked about the difficulty of answering that question authoritatively, and two were strongly worded defences of Paul as the author. Notably, the two strong defences were evangelical in nature.

Yes, I understand the complexity of the issue - but "disingenuous"? Nope.

Papa D said...

Sorry, "Who wrote Hebrews?"

How'd I miss that when re-reading? *sigh*

bearyb said...

Steve, Here is more biblical evidence of unconditional resurrection. In John 5: 25, 28-29
we read:

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.


To us that means ALL will resurrect, but not to the same rewards. Are works important? These verses indicate that they are.

And I know that cars, computers and cell phones are not comparable to the BoM. I was merely making a point about what we may think we do or do not need, particularly in the area of knowledge. That the Bible is unclear on many doctrinal points is demonstrated by the sheer number of different belief systems that claim it as the inspired word of God. We LDS agree that it is, but obviously disagree with many on the meaning (interpretation) of those words. In this we are apparently far from alone.

And now I understand that the basis for your rejection of the BoM is due to your judgment of Joseph Smith as a false prophet. Ok, I understand. It's not the first time I've heard that argument. Joseph Smith was certainly human and susceptible to human error. He admitted as much. I wonder if you put any stock into any of Saul/Paul's writings, as you could as easily dismiss him on the known facts of his admitted past. Or Peter's, or any of the other apostles who were also human and made mistakes. Has anyone in the LDS church ever claimed perfection on the part of any of the prophets or scriputural cannon? None of whom I'm aware.

But the BoM is not so easliy dismissed. You even quote many of its verses as though you are very familiar with it, but you seem to be missing the point of its existence. Much of its value is in the clarification (read "more knowledge") it gives to many biblical passages and doctrines. Instead of trying to use it as a weapon to point out where you think it might disagree with biblical teachings, I would encourage you to try to see how it might augment and clarify your understanding of them. The BoM often puts very succinctly and clearly things you would have to glean from many different parts of the Bible in order to obtain understanding about.

I hope you understand I mean no disrespect nor intend any offense. I really enjoy such discussion as this. I am sincerely curious about the "Whys" and "Hows" of the beliefs of individuals and groups, particularly those who claim Christian belief and common belief in the Bible.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in the discussion regarding whose words are more important is whether the Bible is inerrant in its message. There are camps who seem to believe that the Bible has contradictions, while there are camps who do not believe that. One would think from following this thread that Jesus and Paul are incompatible. That is hard to digest when Jesus called Saul of Tarsus into the ministry. Alas, this is just another argument that has gone in circles. Basically, the question we all need to answer is, "Who do you say that Jesus is?" How one responds reveals their heart and understanding of the role of Jesus Christ in our lives, which is the only issue truly to matter in the long run.

Blessings...

Openminded said...

"Paul might not have written it, but it's likely that Paul didn't write ANYTHING in the Bible - that ALL of it was written by scribes or people later who claimed his authorship to give validity to their own words. It's ALL conjecture, frankly. "

PapaD,
That's wrong, and you give off a lot of implications that are just as wrong.

And since when should we care about what lay people say of the bible? Lay people don't take as much time to explore a text, and taking links from Google like they're authoritative just for being on the front page is an absurd standard. People believe lots of things.

As for Jesus, he has different messages in different gospels. Sola fide people can find things in John (like 3:16, as a quick example) that support their beliefs. They can find things in Matthew that should give them pause.

But then Paul comes in with 6 epistles--and most importantly, Romans, which lays everything out in full--while Jesus mostly covered parables on how to live alongside a history of his ministry.

Paul dives very deeply into salvation, and does so multiple times. He's a natural source for the doctrine of salvation. And besides, he's an Apostle.

As much as I think the whole document isn't good for anything beyond some decent morals every here and there, I can see why people go to Paul for questions of salvation instead of Jesus.

It's sort of like how they don't go to Jesus for biblical reasons to discriminate against gays. he said nothing about them.

bearyb said...

jackg, I appreciate your willingness to discuss these things in a civil manner and avoid contention. It seem almost as though you have taken a cue from 3 Nephi 11: 28-30:

28 ...And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

bearyb said...

Openminded, have you ever wondered who may have taught Paul everything he (Paul) knew about the gospel?

bearyb said...

Anonymous (whoever you are ;)), even if the Bible were inerrant, don't you think it could be more complete? I mean, for example, why couldn't the correct mode of baptism have just been laid out there, proper wording and all, so that there would be no reason to question it?

I can't tell you how frustrated I was once when I tried doing some work on my car with the "help" of a Chilton's repair manual. The authors obviously took a lot of knowledge for granted in many of their step-by-step procedures.

While not strictly "in error," it would have been much more helpful to have had a few more details...

Openminded said...

beryb,
Since he never saw Jesus, I'm assuming the Apostles.

Of course, he did claim to have revelations from Jesus (right? been a while).

Papa D said...

OM, yeah, it's obvious I'm wrong, since it's obvious exactly who wrote what in the Bible.

Also, I didn't say one word (not a single thing) about what lay people SAY about the Bible; I said I was showing what lay persons would find written by "experts" about the authorship of Hebrews if they tried to research the question using a simple Google search - since such a search brings up writings of "experts" about the question. If you're going to dismiss something I write, at least dismiss what I actually write and not what you misinterpret it to be saying.

Laying that aside, you still didn't address in any way my main point. You'd think we are trying to understand the Gospel of Paul, and we're not. I agree that Jesus and Paul aren't incompatible - that they aren't in conflict, but when Paul is read, interpreted and quoted in isolation, we end up with the idea that faith and Christian works can be separated. I simply don't see it that way, at all - since the idea that they are entwined inseparably is a core thread of the Gospels and reinforced in the Pauline epistles, imo. I've heard that concept taught in Divinity School classes by conservative AND liberal theologians, so maybe it's disingenuous to assert that it obviously isn't the case. *grin*

We've gone the rounds on this general topic multiple times, and I know we're not changing each others' minds, so I'll bow out at this point.

bearyb said...

Openminded, it is my understanding from the NT account that most of Saul/Paul's instruction would have to have happened through revelation. He started his ministry within days of being visited by Christ (Acts 9). While he did spend some time with some of the other apostles, it seems most of his efforts were accomplished without their assistance. So I would say that most of his knowledge of the gospel, and the content of his epistles to the saints in various cities, would have had to come from Christ.

Some additional information about the Pauline Epistles, as taken from the LDS Bible Dictionary:

"Paul’s 14 epistles found in our present N.T. were written to members of the Church who already had some knowledge of the gospel. They are not evangelistic; rather, they are regulatory in nature. The arrangement is neither chronological, geographical, nor alphabetical, but by length, in descending order form the longest (Romans) to the shortest (Philemon). This is the case except with the epistle to the Hebrews, which was placed last because some have questioned whether or not it was written by Paul."

Regarding the Epistle to the Hebrews- "Some have felt that the literary style is different from that of Paul’s other letters. However, the ideas are certainly Paul’s.

"Summary: It is from Paul’s writings that we learn the most about the N.T. Church, but it must be remembered that they were written for the use of men who were already members of the Church. The N.T. presupposes on the part of its readers at least an elementary knowledge of gospel truth. Paul’s life is characterized by an extraordinary zeal for the Lord. His greatest contribution is what he tells us about Jesus." (emphasis mine)

Some of the "missing" information, then, could be attributed to the context in which the epistles were written (like my Chilton's repair manual example). If the saints had a hangup about the law, which many of them did (being converted Jews), he tried to teach them about the necessity of grace and the role of the Atonement.

bearyb said...

Ken, you said

Does anyone take exception to the following? “Grace is a gift that we have access to through our faith in Jesus Christ”. Here the two words grace and faith have different meanings.

If we interchange them does the sentence still mean the same thing? Faith is a gift that we have access to through our grace in Jesus Christ.


Interestingly, faith IS also a gift. One place where that is explained is in 1 Corinthians 12:9 (7-11).

bearyb said...

Steve, I just found another verse in the BoM that may shed further light on the "all we can do" phrase. It is found in Alma 24:15

And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to atake them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—

Steve said...

Hello bearby,
I do appreciate that, for the most part, the folks who comment here strive NOT to create contention. We can discuss differences in opinions without getting bent out of shape. I certainly don’t intend to create hard feelings, and I hope I haven’t done so. This blog is “not just for Mormons”, right?

So you are saying that in Alma 24:15 that “all we can do” relates only to repentance? And the same applies to 2 Nephi 25:23? Sorry, in the context of the BoM, I don’t believe it.

I don’t care how much “bold type shifting” anyone does in the comments above, the meaning of the sentences is the same. There is a condition to the end of the 2 Nephi verse, and to the end of the Third AofF. That tells me that the teachings of the LDS church say that works are required to advance to the higher levels of heaven. It’s laid out very clearly in the Gospel Principles, Chapter 47, Requirements for Exaltation:

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.

And that’s just for starters; there is more as I’m sure you know. These are works. I certainly don’t believe there are different levels of heaven, but the Mormon church has this way of putting the pressure on individuals to “be perfect”. Please tell me one person alive on earth, other than Christ, who was ever perfect.

The body of Christ is not limited to one denomination or religion. The body of Christ consists of believers in his TOTAL redemption of our sins. To say that someone must do something, other than to believe that His sacrifice was sufficient, to gain a higher degree of glory, or any degree of glory, is not Biblical. Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:27: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The body of Christ is the true church. It consists of people who acknowledge that they sin and need forgiveness, for “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The body of Christ believes that Christ fully paid for our sins. Please don’t turn this into a works/grace debate again- it seems we have some agreement that works are the result of faith. If that’s true, then works don’t earn anyone anything, including heaven, or your exaltation.

Steve said...

(continued)...Speaking of Christ, the Christ of the Mormon church is not the same Christ that Bible-believing Christians believe in. Joseph Smith was supposedly told by God to join no other church, “…for they were all wrong…” How arrogant. But this is the same man who boasted, “A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 409). Such Arrogance for a “prophet”.

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (LDS Seventy Bernard P. Brockbank, The Ensign, May 1977, p. 26).

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated, “…virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 269)

I’m not sure what you mean by “unconditional resurrection”- does this mean that this is the terrestrial kingdom? But there is no such thing. Your quote from John 5:29: “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” This says that the people who have done good (because of their faith) will go to heaven, and those that have not done good (because of lack of faith), will go to that one other place, hell.

“but you seem to be missing the point of its (BoM’s) existence…” There is enough law, which makes us aware of our sins (OT) and grace (NT) in the Bible for me.

Re: the different translations of the Bible, you should head to Biblegateway.com. It has the KJV, and many other translations. I can’t speak for all of them, but respected versions have been translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I prefer the New International Version myself, because it is easier to read and understand than the KJV in many areas. You know the KJV was writing in 1611, right? By and large, we don’t talk like that anymore.

And yes, I believe that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. You compared him to Saul/Paul, Peter, or other disciples, saying that they were not perfect either. Of course not, the discussion is not about perfection. It’s about prophecy. It only takes one false prophesy for someone to be a false prophet. And Joseph Smith had many.

Darren said...

Steve;

That tells me that the teachings of the LDS church say that works are required to advance to the higher levels of heaven.

Yup. They also say that works are needed to keep one's faith alive. And both these are solidly biblical. I'm not talking sbout any one particular passage ofthe bible which people may use to representthe entirety onthe bible, I mean the Bible as a whole absolutely advocates works. "You gotta be good to get to heaven" makes perfect sense to me and it made perfect sense to those who authroed the Bible. It als omade perfect sense unti lthe Reformation.

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.


Yup and yup.

2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of claying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Hebrews 6:2

Here' "baptism" and the "layng on of hands" are declared as some of the most fundamental principles ofthe gospel of Jesus Christ though not at all the completion of working towards exaltation; but more is to be done for "perfection".

3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.

4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Psalms 110:4

Jesus was also seen as Melchezidek. The melchizedek Preisthood is Christ's power which He authorizes us to use.

4. We must receive the temple endowment.
5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.


Again, yup and yup:

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s chouse shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Isaiah 2:3

I've always sen that as a prophecy regarding the construction ofthe Salt Lake City Temple. But that's for another discusson topic. The "house of Jacob" will "teach us" the ways of God.

(continued)

Darren said...

(con't)

Regarding marriage as essential:

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:11

I certainly don’t believe there are different levels of heaven

that's been posted here already. There are "many ansions" in the Father's kingdom as well as different degrees of the resurrection. Why so if all are either saled or damned?

Please tell me one person alive on earth, other than Christ, who was ever perfect.

That's exactly what the LDS believe as it is firmly part oftheir official doctrine. Only Christ was the perfect being to have lived on earth. Now, if He had to carry out the will ofthe Father, how much more so so we?

Also, it is precisely in Christ tha we are "perfected"; not by anything we *do*. Not only did I cite Hebrews 6:2 which mentions "perfection" by name, not only did Christ command us ot be perfect like the Father, but here's the LORD's own interceciary prayer:

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

John 17:21

it seems we have some agreement that works are the result of faith. If that’s true, then works don’t earn anyone anything, including heaven, or your exaltation.

Again, the LDS do NOT believe that man 'earns" anything.

I say, if ye should serve him with all your ewhole souls yet ye would be funprofitable servants.

Mosiah 2:21

Darren said...

Speaking of Christ, the Christ of the Mormon church is not the same Christ that Bible-believing Christians believe in

[Yaaaaaawwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn]

Joseph Smith was supposedly told by God to join no other church, “…for they were all wrong…” How arrogant.

Here's why the LORD told Jseph Smith they were all wrong (bold mine):

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight;

Joseph Smith History 1:19

And just to know, i think History of the Church is a horriblly bad reliable source to quote Joseph Smith unless its text can be corrbrated by first-hand sources external to those volumes of works.

The article you cite from Elder Brockbank is called, "The Living Christ". To know what he was talking about you need to read the full paragraph and preceeding and following two:

“In fact, there is good reason for regarding them as a new religion rather than as another variety of Christianity. The Christ they follow is both the Christian Messiah of the New Testament, and the Risen Christ who visited the New World after the end of His ministry in the old one. Traditional Christianity—Roman Catholic [and] Protestant … —rejects the very existence of this Christ who reappeared on earth after the Ascension, and so the Christ followed by the Mormons is not the Christ followed by traditional Christianity.” (“Alcohol, tea, and smoking banned,” The London Times, June 18, 1976, special supplement on Mormons, p. II.)

It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, from the Church of England’s Articles of Religion, article one, I quote: “There is but one living God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worships a God and a Jesus Christ with bodies, with parts, and with passions. We also believe that the trinity of the Godhead is made up of three separate personages—God, the Eternal Father; Jesus Christ, the Son of God—our Savior; and the Holy Ghost. These two concepts of the Trinity and their attributes are completely different.

The Jesus Christ of the holy scriptures has a body of flesh and bones and passions before and after his resurrection.


This relates directly to the LORD telling Joseph Smith that all the church's *creeds* are an abomination in His site. What Brockbank was talking about is the Holy Trinity which was formulated in the Nicene Creed and subsequent creeds. "Holy Trinity" is neither biblical, nor doctrinal. Read these creeds and you'll find words very flattering otthe philosophical mined; but quite foreign tothe doctrinal minded. You have no biblical declaration of "Holy Trinity", "sanme substance", "immaterial" or "without parts of passion". In fact, as for the latter, I can very easily use hte Bible to show you an anthromorphic God very much with parts and passions. And I believe this is what Bruce R. McConkie was getting at as well so this addresses your citation of him as well.

(con't)

Darren said...

(con't)

The christ of the "Holy Trinity" is mytholigical; not doctrinal. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints very much rejects the creeds which remove Christ from His own doctrines and establishes Him as a philosophical entity. The LDS Church restores God's truth; including the true nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and the true nature of their oness.

It’s about prophecy. It only takes one false prophesy for someone to be a false prophet.

I disagree but let's go ahead and assume that's true. What would you say if a prophecy was not fulfilled as it had been prophecied?

jackg said...

Bearyb:

"Anonymous (whoever you are ;)), even if the Bible were inerrant, don't you think it could be more complete?"

Sorry, but that was me. I guess I forgot to put in my name and it came out as anonymous.

As an evangelical, I believe the Bible is complete regarding salvation history. Everything one needs to know to be saved in God's Kingdom for eternity can be found in the Bible. The reason I say that is that Jesus is the Way. So, it boils down to what one believes about John 3:16.

Theology is divided into three major categories: dogma (what one must believe to be considered a Christian); doctrine (what one must believe to belong to a certain sect or denomination; opinion (those things in which the Bible might have varying examples and/or limited information).

Generally, groups that put a lot of stuff into the dogma category tend to be legalistic. You asked about baptism. Well, baptism is not the Way to God's presence because Jesus is the Way. Baptism is not efficacious but, as Wesley puts it, is an outward sign of inward grace.

I know that LDS doctrine contradicts me, and that's okay. In fact, there are other Christian denominations who disagree with me, as well. Ultimately, it's not about me and whether anyone agrees with me or not. It's about being in a relationship with Jesus. Do I believe baptism was commanded by Jesus? Sure. Have I been baptized? Absolutely. Did the act of baptism save me? No. My faith in Jesus Christ saves me.

Hope this helps you get a feel for where I stand.

Blessings...

bearyb said...

Jackg, I understand that we have different opinions of the meaning of various biblical passages. My example with baptism wasn't to argue whether it was necessary or what role it may or may not play in our salvation. (But since you specifically mentioned that baptism didn't save you, I wonder if you are familiar with 1 Peter 3:21 "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:")

No, what I meant was - wouldn't it be nice if there were more completeness regarding certain teachings? There are some, for example, that do not agree that baptism is necessary at all. Or if it is, whether it should be by immersion or some other means. And who should be authorized to do it? And what, if any, are the proper words to say? And what exactly the person being baptised is committing to? And what symbolism is being invoked? Maybe even why baptism and not some other ordinance to accomplish the same thing? Why aren't all these things put there all in one place to help avoid confusion?

I encountered a saying recently that said, in effect, "Teach not so that they can understand, but so they that cannot misunderstand." Why isn't the bible more like that?

bearyb said...

Steve, I appreciate your response. Please allow me to address a few of your points:

So you are saying that in Alma 24:15 that “all we can do” relates only to repentance? And the same applies to 2 Nephi 25:23? Sorry, in the context of the BoM, I don’t believe it. I don’t care how much “bold type shifting” anyone does in the comments above, the meaning of the sentences is the same.

The only reason I "bold shifted" anything was to make sure the phrase I was referring to stood out and wasn't skipped over. I meant no other emphasis than that. I'll try in the future to refrain from such emphasis in replies to you.

But I think it is an oversimplification to refer to repentance as one act, or one little part of a whole. Christ's mandate to His apostles was for them to preach repentance and baptism. That's it. It's still the case today. Repentance means change, and is an ongoing, lifelong process - not a "once and you're done" kind of thing.

"There is a condition to the end of the 2 Nephi verse, and to the end of the Third AofF. That tells me that the teachings of the LDS church say that works are required to advance to the higher levels of heaven. It’s laid out very clearly in the Gospel Principles, Chapter 47, Requirements for Exaltation:

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.

And that’s just for starters; there is more as I’m sure you know. These are works. I certainly don’t believe there are different levels of heaven, but the Mormon church has this way of putting the pressure on individuals to “be perfect”. Please tell me one person alive on earth, other than Christ, who was ever perfect.


I must say, you do have remarkable talent and energy for research. In our view, all of the concepts you listed agree with biblical teachings, even though some of them may be difficult to extrapolate from current biblical texts. As far as the pressure LDS members sometimes feel to be perfect - it is unfortunate, but I'm afraid that it is very real in the minds of some. I used to sometimes feel the same way. Then I read Believing Christ and Following Christ (two books by Stephen E. Robinson), and they really helped me to understand what Christ has offered us, and the promises and assurances He gives if we "are willing" to do what He has asked us to do. Importantly, they seem to agree with what I understand the scriptures to say on the matter.

The body of Christ is not limited to one denomination or religion. The body of Christ consists of believers in his TOTAL redemption of our sins. To say that someone must do something, other than to believe that His sacrifice was sufficient, to gain a higher degree of glory, or any degree of glory, is not Biblical. Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:27: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The body of Christ is the true church. It consists of people who acknowledge that they sin and need forgiveness, for “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The body of Christ believes that Christ fully paid for our sins. Please don’t turn this into a works/grace debate again- it seems we have some agreement that works are the result of faith. If that’s true, then works don’t earn anyone anything, including heaven, or your exaltation.

I don't want to debate the faith/works subject any more than you do. There seems to be a consensus on the importance of faith. But there are enough statements in the Bible about the consequences of our actions (good and bad) that they also warrant careful study and understanding.

bearyb said...

(continued) Steve said...
Speaking of Christ, the Christ of the Mormon church is not the same Christ that Bible-believing Christians believe in. Joseph Smith was supposedly told by God to join no other church, “…for they were all wrong…” How arrogant. But this is the same man who boasted, “A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 409). Such Arrogance for a “prophet”.

I agree, that sounds pretty boastful and arrogant. I am familiar with that quote, and only hope that these words were not actually uttered by the Prophet, or at least not in the way they have been portrayed.

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (LDS Seventy Bernard P. Brockbank, The Ensign, May 1977, p. 26).

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated, “…virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 269)


These statements likely allude to the reason many think we are not Christian. Our understanding of the corporeal natures of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are not accepted by mainstream Christianity. Given this fact, these statements seem substantively accurate, if not very "PC."

I’m not sure what you mean by “unconditional resurrection”- does this mean that this is the terrestrial kingdom? But there is no such thing. Your quote from John 5:29: “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” This says that the people who have done good (because of their faith) will go to heaven, and those that have not done good (because of lack of faith), will go to that one other place, hell.

Perhaps you should do a little more research on this one. To be "damned" in our view simply means "stopped." Since eternal progression has only been revealed to be the privilege of those attaining the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, I take this to mean (this means it is my opinion) that all other destinations will result in some form of "damnation." This is also where eternal marriage comes in. For in what other way can we have "eternal increase" except through our families?

bearyb said...

(continued) Steve said...
“but you seem to be missing the point of its (BoM’s) existence…” There is enough law, which makes us aware of our sins (OT) and grace (NT) in the Bible for me.

I'm not sure of the best way to put this, but if that is all the law you need, I can't say otherwise. Personally, I hope to be able to learn more and better ways to live as I go. The Law of Moses is all the children of Israel could accept, and they didn't even do that very well. Then Christ came along with a higher bar of expectations. We have all been struggling with those ever since. But I think He has even more in store for those who are willing to take it on.

Re: the different translations of the Bible, you should head to Biblegateway.com. It has the KJV, and many other translations. I can’t speak for all of them, but respected versions have been translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I prefer the New International Version myself, because it is easier to read and understand than the KJV in many areas. You know the KJV was writing in 1611, right? By and large, we don’t talk like that anymore.

I am well aware that many, many translations of the Bible exist. I've even heard from some that no matter which translation you choose, the Bible is still the Bible. Not everyone who cherishes the Bible as the word of God is so openminded as that, but it is what it is. I wonder how anyone knows which version to use when different ones disagree. I don't know all the reasons the LDS Church chose to use the KJV (which yes, I was aware was written in 1611). We probably could have used the JST as far as that goes, but I understand it was never "ratified" by the general Church membership, so we didn't.

On a related tangent - The Bible being a record of the Jews, how many Christians ever reach out and thank them for this indispensable book? And, as I'm sure you are aware, the LDS believe that other records of God's dealings with other peoples exist (beyond the BoM). What will happen when they come to light?

And yes, I believe that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. You compared him to Saul/Paul, Peter, or other disciples, saying that they were not perfect either. Of course not, the discussion is not about perfection. It’s about prophecy. It only takes one false prophesy for someone to be a false prophet. And Joseph Smith had many.

I'm not sure what kinds of false prophecies you have in mind. It's likely you won't want to go in to them, and I don't think I do either. I've probably heard them before anyway. I suppose that if the "fruits of his labors" haven't been apparent enough to secure his standing as a prophet in your heart and mind, perhaps it will take more time to see what happens to them. But either he was or he wasn't. Nothing I (nor anyone else I know of) can say or do would ever have enough power to convince anyone anyway, so I won't try here.

bearyb said...

Sorry, Steve. In reviewing my post, I realized I neglected to answer something you asked about "unconditional resurrection." All I meant was that resurrection will be enjoyed (well, "enjoyed" might be kinda subjective) by all. That means that without regard to faith or works - good or bad - or anything else, ALL will resurrect. I think that's pretty clearly stated in the Bible. It is after the resurrection that the Final Judgement will be held.

jackg said...

bearyb,

I referred to baptism because that is one of the easiest examples. You referred to the passage in Peter as evidence of baptism saving us. Acts 2:38 also refers to baptism as a condition of salvation; however, Acts 3:19 does not. So, people can debate this issue until the coming of Christ, and both camps will be able to support their belief. Ultimately, as I have said before, it is Jesus who saves us--no one or nothing else does. I'm content with how I believe regarding baptism. I'm sure you're content with how you believe. I don't think we need to get into an either/or thinking pattern where one of us has to be right and the other wrong.

The beauty of the Bible is that God has chosen to reveal His Word through a fallen and flawed humanity. That's the amazing part of it all. He is sovereign, and one has to trust that He has preserved His Word through the ages. I trust that about Him. The essence of the gospel remains intact: we are human beings in need of a Redeemer, and Jesus Christ came into the world to do for us and to redeem us. He rose from the dead on the third day. He lives today. If we believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, we will be saved. That's the gospel message in a nut shell.

Obedience is our response to God. It is not a prerequisite to salvation. Obedience does bring blessings while disobedience brings consequences we would rather not have to experience. Obedience is the key to a life that is in the center of God's will. It is evidence of our faith in and love for Jesus Christ.

Blessings...

jackg said...

Oops...I meant that He came to die for us, not "do" for us.


P.S. Jeff, I am struggling to read the letters.

bearyb said...

Wait... are you saying that if some verses say one thing (like baptism saving us) but others don't (like failing to mention it) that you can simply pick the ones you want to agree with and leave the others out? I would have figured that they should all be taken together, as much as possible, to gain the most complete picture of God's will for us.

Since I assume you take the entire Bible to be the word of God, I would like to know how you decide which teachings to include in your belief system, and which to leave out.

jackg said...

bearyb,

I understand your consternation. This is why there is such a theological category as opinion. It seems that you are struggling with whether or not baptism is efficacious. The only thing efficacious is Jesus dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead.

As for picking and choosing Bible verses, I would say that your concern is valid. Not only do people pick and choose Bible verses to support their particular biblical position, they also bring into the biblical text their own stuff, which is called eisegesis.

I understand the LDS position is that God sent a prophet to clear up the erroneous teachings. But, it was God who chose to reveal His Word through a fallen and shattered humanity. I still maintain that the crux of the gospel message, which is referred to as salvation history, is intact. That means that anyone can come to know God and the way to salvation through a reading of the Bible. The way to salvation is Jesus Christ not baptism. That which is essential to salvation is still there.

It doesn't bother me when I believe that a person has bad theology as long as they believe in Christ and exhibit their faith through obedience and good works. I work with evangelical Christians whose emphases can be unhealthy, but they are still fellow believers because they believe in Christ crucified and resurrected. I don't know what else to say to clarify my position. You believe differently than I do on what I consider to be non-essentials, and I'm okay with it. The question is whether or not you're okay with it. We both believe that Jesus Christ came to the earth to die for us and to resurrect from the dead. That's the only point that matters.

Peace and blessings...

jackg said...

bearyb,

P.S. to all the posts. I appreciate the dialogue. :-)