Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Sabbath Day and the Temple

Recently a Church leader (an Area Seventy) came to the Shanghai International District to provide some training and talked about the important decision recently made by Church leaders to give renewed emphasis to the Sabbath day. See "Church Leaders Call for Better Observance of Sabbath Day" at MormonNewsroom.com. There is great wisdom in this. I feel that when members understand and love the Sabbath day, they will have habits and attitudes that will help them keep growing in the Gospel and continue nurturing their relationship with the Lord even when it might be easy to drift away.

As we work to teach more about the Sabbath day, I expect we will also have some intriguing discussions about the connection between the Sabbath and the temple. The temple, after all, is the place of God's rest, and the place where we prepare to enter into the rest of the Lord. It is expressly called a "house of rest" in 1 Chronicles 28:2, and the symbolism of its construction in the Old Testament is rich with Sabbath themes. For example, it took Solomon seven years to complete it (1 Kings 6:38), following the Jewish agricultural law in Lev. 25:1-7 that included a cycle of six years of work and one of rest, with the seventh year called "a sabbath of rest" (v. 4). Solomon dedicated the temple during the festival of tabernacles, a seven-day feast in the seventh month (Deut. 16:13 and I Kings 8:2). Jewish scholar Jon Levenson (currently at Harvard) points out additional connections to the theme of rest linking Solomon's temple and the Sabbath:
His speech on that occasion [the festival of tabernacles] includes a carefully constructed list of seven specific petitions (1 Kings 8:31–53) [for details, see Jon Levenson, "The Paranomasia of Solomon's Seventh Petition," Hebrew Annual Review 6 (1982) 131-35, as cited by Levenson]. In short, both the appurtenances of the Temple and the account of its construction reflect the character of the acts of creation narrated in Gen 1:1–2:4a.

Since the creation of the world and the construction of the Temple are parallel, if not identical, then the experience of the completed universe and that of the completed sanctuary should also be parallel. In fact, the two entities share an interest in rest as the consummation of the processes that produced them. In the case of creation, God “rested” on the seventh day, the primordial Sabbath, after he had completed his labors (wayyanah, Exod 20:11), and he commands his servants to rest in imitatione Dei in similar language [e.g., Exod. 23:12 and Deut. 5:14,each with yanuah]. The same root (nwh) describes his experience in the Temple as well:
13 For YHWH has chosen Zion,
He has desired it for his seat:
14 “This is my resting place (menuhati) forever;
Here I shall be enthroned, for I desire it.” (Ps 132:13–14)
The book of Chronicles goes so far as even to say that Solomon, and not David, would build the Temple because the former is a “man of rest” (menûhâ) and of peace (šalôm) , as his name (šelomoh) would imply (I Chr 22:9).
[Jon Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985), p. 144.]
Levenson then summarizes the relationship:
The Sabbatical experience and the Temple experience are one. The first represents sanctity in time, the second, sanctity in space, and yet they are somehow the same. The Sabbath is to time and to the work of creation what the Temple is to space and to the painful history of Israel which its completion brings to an end, as God has at last given Solomon “rest from all his enemies round about” (1 Chr 22:9). “The seventh day is,” in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s splendid phrase, “like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.”
[Levenson, p. 145]
The temple is a house and a sacred mountain, a sacred space, for entering into the presence of God as Moses did on Sinai and for making sacred covenants to advance us in that cause. The Sabbath is a sacred time for drawing closer to the Lord and for remembering and renewing covenants.

Of particular importance on the Sabbath is partaking of the sacrament, where we witness that we are willing to take the name of the Lord upon us. There is great significance in this act, and part of the significance points to the blessings of the temple, where we most fully take on the name of the Lord. This point was beautifully explained by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his April 1985 Conference talk, "Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ." One of many great resources to discuss and contemplate as we strengthen our approach to the Sabbath day.

I would welcome your thoughts on the meaning of the connections between the Sabbath and temple, along with suggestions on how we can better help members appreciate the beauty of the Sabbath day.


flying fig said...

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal 2:16

flying fig said...

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal 2:21

flying fig said...

Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Pops said...

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10

A common mistake that is made with regard to the apparent conflict between grace and works is that they are usually oversimplified. In mathematical terms, consider grace and works to be orthogonal axes of a two-dimensional space. Collapsing one axis into the other makes either grace or works meaningless, depending on which axis has been collapsed; both resulting one-dimensional systems are obviously incorrect. With respect to salvation, Christ paid the price of our sins, and that is grace. We cannot in any way pay for even the least of our sins, hence the true statement that we are saved by grace and not by works. The other part of the equation, and the sourced of the apparent contradiction, is that Christ is now in a position to require something of us -- we are indebted to him. What he asks of us is that we obey the commandments which he has given us (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount). If we do not, he will withhold his grace from us. Grace is free in the sense that we cannot earn it or buy it. But we do need to qualify for it by obeying Christ's commandments.

An analogy I like is the scholarship analogy. Christ, by his Atonement, gives each of us a full-ride scholarship to the University of Life. Some are content to frame the scholarship and hang it on the wall. Others realize the scholarship will mean nothing if they do not attend classes, do the homework, and perform well in exams. Studying, of course, does nothing to pay for room and board, buildings or professors. That comes to one courtesy of the scholarship. So, because of the ambiguity in our language, we can say that the scholarship pays for one's education, and yet at the same time speak of one who has "earned" a degree. But it, too, is a two-dimensional proposition in spite of the semantic problems we have in the language we use to describe it.

Anonymous said...

The quote miners and cherry pickers.........always use Paul's teachings......and ignore the rest of the Bible.
An evangelical leader even said Paul trumps Jesus! I believe it.
And I have read evangelicals saying the Old Testament is not important.

flying fig said...

If you need to call entire books of the Bible "cherry picking" so be it.
But Hey, If you want to live by the law, then I suggest you keep all of it!
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Gal3:10

Thankfully Jesus fulfilled the law through His sacrifice and I'm no longer bound to it.

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL THE LAW and the prophets. MATT22

Unknown said...

If I may interrupt the theological disputation long enough to make a suggestion of the sort I think Jeff was calling for in his post.... For a new perspective on the Sabbath-- or rather, a very old one -- you might consider attending a Saturday morning Shabbat service at a Jewish temple or synagogue. If you're in a decent-sized city you should easily be able to google up such a service; find out when it starts and just drop in.

I'd recommend a Conservative synagogue rather than Orthodox (might be mostly in Hebrew or Yiddish and hard to follow along) or Reform (might be pretty bland). The Conservative Shabbat service is accessible but still pretty traditional, still centered on the ritual removal of the Torah scroll from the Ark followed by the Torah reading from the bimah.

Practical considerations: Dress a little nicer than casual but not too fancy. Arrive a little early and you'll likely see a lot of heartfelt greetings and reunions going on, and probably get some welcomes as well. If asked about your presence, just say you're curious. No one will try to convert you. There will be kippahs or yarmulkes (skullcaps) there for men and boys to put on, as is customary (and in some synagogues required) when entering the sanctuary. Usually there's a reception right after the service, featuring a blessing of wine (and grape juice for those who abstain) and challa (braided bread, usually delicious).

Even better, IMO, is the Friday evening service that ushers in the Sabbath with the candle-lighting ritual and prayer that were immortalized in Fiddler on the Roof. This takes place in the home, though, not the synagogue, so you'll need an invitation.

flying fig said...

The problem is, Orbiting, most LDS would say the OT Jewish Sabbath was fulfilled through Christ based on the NT passages, but in the same breath tell you to observe an LDS version of the Sabbath based on OT passages which Jeff has just done. They want it both ways

Unknown said...

Well, sure, FF. But there's still plenty to be learned by observing different approaches to the Sabbath. Not on the theological level, perhaps -- simply observing a service cannot prove any given theology to be the "true" one -- but certainly on the level of ritual, tradition, and the like, which for many people are more important than theology anyway.

flying fig said...

Great point. Well said, OK

Anonymous said...

Grace and works....wonderful!

Three options. Pick one:

1. Work to earn salvation.
2. Work because you are grateful to have received salvation.
3. Work to access the grace (which can't be earned) that brings salvation.

In the first case, I work as an employee works. My work earns my wages. Paul addresses this and says it can't be done.

Second option. This is the Protestant view. My work can't save me. In fact, my work isn't even any good until I have been saved. And then, it is God working in me that produces the works.

The third option is Mormonism. Grace saves me. Not works. But the works lead me into that grace that saves. But my question would then be this: in what way can it be said that I am working? I am not earning salvation. So my work doesn't merit salvation. But if I don't work I won't be saved. This is the way a slave works. The slave is fed by the master. But the slave's work isn't earning the food. And if the works stop, the slave is cast out and won't be fed.

Mormons receive salvation in the way that a slave gets to eat. They don't earn it, but they don't get it without the works. And thus, like a slave, they live a life of fear.

Anonymous said...

The "rest of the Lord" is not something we enjoy in the future post-mortal existence. It is something we can experience and live in now. But only if we know we are redeemed through the blood of Christ. But Mormons do not have this knowledge. They hope to enter into the rest after they have worked hard enough.

Paul talks about the "rest of the Lord" and likens it to the rest the Lord enjoyed on the seventh day AFTER his works were ceased. We enjoy this same rest NOW if we cease trying to work our way to Heaven, just as God rested from his works.

Anonymous said...

There you go again, telling us what we believe and how we feel. You should change your moniker to "Speaker for the Mormons."


Anonymous said...

Well, Steve, I was a Mormon for close to 40 years. I was never taught that I could enter into the rest of the Lord in this lifetime. Feel free to refute anything I say.

And if you contend with my statements about Mormon grace, I'll just say that I know, having been a Mormon, that grace is defined differently than it is defined in the Protestant world, so you can't just say, "I believe in salvation by grace" as a Mormon and leave it at that and assume there will not be any confusion. If you do, you haven't been forthcoming!

It would be like going to England and asking for pudding knowing full well that English pudding is not the smooth, chilled custard-like desserts we find in the U.S. And then, when they bring you a baked bread dish, you get bent out of shape.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can speak for myself in that I don't keep the commandments out of fear. I enjoy doing good works because of the feeling that I get when I do. Other commandments I keep probably because my pre-frontal cortex kicks in and reminds me of real consequences that will happen if I don't keep them. I like to live a trouble free life (avoiding those nasty consequences of wrong choices) because then my energies can be better used to helping my family and my community instead of using my energies making right what I did wrong.

Christ's grace is sufficient for me, I love him so I keep his commandments.

Sounds like you spent 40 years doing the wrong thing.


Anonymous said...


Well, shucks. I wish someone would've told me I was doing the wrong thing. I attended every meeting I was supposed to attend. I wonder how I missed the memo.

Christ's grace isn't sufficient for you until you've denied yourself of all ungodliness. Moroni 10:32. Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? That is the Book of Mormon, the most correct book. Of course, this has been re-interpreted to mean that you only need to try your hardest. Just like in the temple, you only covenant to TRY. And that is why Satan looks you in the eye and says that if you fail to live up to 30% of what you've covenanted to do, you'll be in his power.

Steve, I think you need to bring your personal doctrine back in line with what the church doctrine really says.

Anonymous said...

The Protestants here argue that Jesus was a liar; because Jesus said that baptism was a requirement for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. No, it doesn't, say these Protestants. Because that's a work and Jesus ended works... even when He commanded us to perform them.

But even the most "it's only grace!" Protestant still requires works. After all, even if you are saved by saying the magic phrase "Jesus saves me!" or something similar, you must still recite the magic formula. Those who don't, don't get salvation.

Ultimately Jesus saves everyone, or else something is required of us to access that salvation. If the former, then who cares about this life? Freedom of will means nothing, and the concept of sin is nonsense. If the latter, then works are vital to salvation; and we just disagree what works are required. Is confessing that Jesus is the Christ necessary for salvation? If so, then it is a work. If not,then it's all pointless.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:24

No, reciting the magic formula DOESN'T save you. Actually meaning it and believing it saves you. It is faith that saves, not opening your mouth and saying the right words. There is a big difference. There will be many who will say, "We did this in your name," but they never knew Christ.

You seem to be taking the approach that belief/faith is a work. We have to DO it to be saved. In the way we use language, you have a point, but this "work" is really a non-work. It is more of a "giving up the fight" altogether. As C. S. Lewis said, it is laying down your arms. Surrendering yourself entirely to God. If you think you can show God you have surrendered by doing the right works, or that God requires this of you for salvation, then you are back under law. You have chosen law again, and therefore, as Flying Fig pointed out by quoting the Bible, you had better live it perfectly, because that is the way law works.

We are all in a state of condemnation. That is our default setting. We don't choose evil or righteousness. We are not in a state of neutrality. The only option is to choose God. And we choose God by giving up, by surrendering. It is not a work at all.

Anonymous said...

If you don't believe it, you could always try an experiment. You could go to God and give up the fight, tell him you accept Jesus as your Savior and that you come to him and him alone for mercy and salvation. Of course, part of the experiment would include actually meaning it. And that is the hard part, especially when you have most likely been mocking it most of your life. I know of what I speak. I was a Mormon missionary, and we found those "born again" Mormons who believed in the "grace of sweet Jesus, Hallelujah!" to be quite amusing.

But try it. And mean it. If you are resistant to trying it, ask yourself why? Why are you resistant to giving up the fight? If you are self-reflective, I think you might learn a lot about yourself.

Anonymous said...


I wonder how you missed the memo too. Don't worry about me. I'm a sinner, I stumble, I repent, I keep moving forward.


Pops said...

A fixed-wing airplane needs two things to fly: a propeller to give it forward motion and wings to give it lift. Neither one alone is sufficient.

Grace is like wings. They're always there and capable of lifting the plane, just as grace is always there and capable of lifting us. But if there's no propeller to push (or pull) it through the air, the plane won't fly, just as we won't be saved by grace unless we demonstrate to God that we desire to receive grace by our works.

Stop oversimplifying it.

Jesus didn't do away with the 10 commandments, either. In fact, he raised the bar in the Sermon on the Mount.

flying fig said...

Pops, nice illustration unfortunately it's unbiblical.
Over and over, why did the Pharisees oppose Jesus? Because He was preaching that salvation was a matter of the heart, believing in Him, rather than a bunch of empty rituals, costumes, and rules. Christ summed up the entire law in Matt22. Not at all an easy thing to do, but a SIMPLE concept.
The apostle Paul, (trained in the law) shows us how the OT points to Christ, the completion of the Law. There's no ignoring of the OT, but an understanding that the law could not save us, only through Christ could the law be fulfilled. Paul knew there was nothing he could do but to believe in Christ to be saved. He knew that works were a RESULT of being saved by grace, not a MEANS to.
"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal 2:21
Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Not at all " Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" Rom6
Tell me Matt22 is wrong, tell me Paul was wrong, throw out the entire books of Galatians, Romans, Colossians, etc... then you'll have a case.
We do works BECAUSE we are saved, not to earn it.

Anonymous said...

Pops, You say "stop oversimplifying it." But it IS simple. As simple as looking at the brazen serpent for healing in the wilderness. But many refuse to look because of the simpleness of the way.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Orbiting, thank you for a very helpful comment. I have valued some of the worshipful times I've spent with Jewish friends, particularly when we lived in the Atlanta Area, and gained much from participating with them on some special occasions. I also think most LDS people would really enjoy participating in a Passover Seder and learning the symbolism of each part of the meal. Spending time learning from intelligent people of other faiths is so often an energizing, uplifting experience for me, and a reminder that we do not have a monopoly on truth, faith, wisdom, or goodness.

James Anglin said...

To the best of my understanding, the traditional Christian doctrine about faith versus works has always been an incoherent mess. On the one hand, the worst of sinners need only repent, to be saved. On the other hand, you're supposed to be holy. There's an obvious tension, here. Does it go as far as flat contradiction? Well, what exactly does 'repent' mean? Feel bad? Or never sin again? And what is the force of 'supposed to be'? Ideal at which to aim? Or strict requirement for salvation?

Churches have swung back and forth over the centuries. There are extremes that everyone agrees are bad. You should never be so smug about being saved, whether by grace or by works, that you start patting yourself on the back instead of bowing your head in prayer. But, on the other extreme, you shouldn't be miserable. The gospel is supposed to be good news.

One thing that seems to fall outside the broad band of orthodoxy, though, is simplicity. Everybody has always had to admit that it's fairly confusing, at best. The Christian concept of salvation has a persistent paradox.

Appropriately, perhaps, I'm of two minds about that, as a Christian. On the one hand it leaves me dissatisfied. I'm not willing to just say It's A Mystery. We ought to be able to straighten this out. Just because we haven't understood salvation for two thousand years doesn't mean we can't figure it out in the future. For two thousand years we didn't understand quantum field theory, either.

On the other hand, though, I feel that the confusing paradox must in some sense be on the right track. Lots of really important things do seem to be subtle and complex: consciousness, immunology, quantum field theory. The thermonuclear ignition of a star is a mysterious process in which gravity manages to flip entropy on its head, and make heat spontaneously concentrate instead of dispersing. The salvation of a soul is probably at least as complicated. So paradox and confusion over faith and works seem to me to be a sign that we are at least not settling for some outrageous oversimplification. How simple could salvation really be, given how complicated people are?

Anonymous said...


I struggled with paradox myself for many years. But the moment I had a direct and personal encounter with divinity, the paradox disappeared. It is not my job in any way to determine if one has truly been born again as Christ has commanded, and I hate the way the expression "born again" is thrown around in Evangelical circles, but having had what I can only describe as a "born again" experience, I am content.

My wife had a "born again" experience long before I did. She talked about her experience in terms that I perfectly understood, having grown up a Christian/Mormon. At least, I thought I understood what she was talking about. But when it happened to me, I suddenly realized I really wasn't understanding her all those years at all. Because I just had an experience that matched what she described, but which no longer matched what I had experienced as a Mormon.

This is the problem: the experience is of such a nature that words simply do not describe it, even though words do exist that describe it. I can describe it to any Mormon I know, and they will say, "Yes! I know! That is what we teach as Mormons!" And I am like, "No....it isn't. Because I was a Mormon and Mormonism NEVER taught me anything to describe the experience I just had. Never." And they'll say, "But we do teach it! You described it just the way we understand it." At that point, what can I do, except throw up my hands and think, "Well...someday, you might understand. Someday."

flying fig said...

This is the simplest way I understand it.

1. Salvation is completely from God by grace on the basis of the redemption of Christ, the merit of His shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" John 1:12
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" Ephesians 2:8–10

2. Regeneration is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, HAS eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" John 5:24

3. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits worthy of repentance as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. Good works are the EVIDENCE and fruit of regeneration.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" 1 Corinthians 6:19–20

4. We grow in our relationship with God (progressive sanctification) Through obedience to the Word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like Christ.
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" 2 Corinthians 3:18

That said, every redeemed person is involved in a daily conflict (the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh). Eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin.
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please" Galatians 5:16–25

Pierce said...

The protestants here will cherry pick selected verses of Paul, cherry pick 'worky' passages from the BoM, largely ignore the Gospels, and invite us to 'actually' accept Jesus and 'actually' mean it by accepting their particular flavor of Christianity. Rinse and repeat.

Jeff used to host this conversation about once a month. I guess we were all due ;-)

Anonymous said...


I am not asking anyone to accept my "flavor" of Christianity. I don't believe in "one true and living" flavor at all. (By the way, the phrase "true and living church" does not come from the D&C at all. It is to be found in various Christian and Swedenborgian writings prior to the publication of even the Book of Mormon. Just a little trivia.)

I wish denominationalists would step outside of their respective paradigms and ask themselves if Christianity is really about joining the right club or if it is about following the right Leader. Because I don't see where Mormons really understand the difference. I don't see it. I see nothing more than many people who have equated Jesus with a Church and vice versa.

As for cherry-picking, I think Mormons have this practice down to an art. And they much prefer the Old Testament cherries to the New Testament variety.

Pierce said...


Your judgmental comments about how my faith makes me live in fear and as a slave, along with inviting Steve to pray and "really mean it" this time already contradict your last statement. Your club may not have a name, but you're preaching its dogma.

Your last sentence is weird. I don't see Mormons quoting the OT in faith/works discussions. They tend to shy away from it as much as any Christian. But, here's a nice big list of NT verses that encompass more than the Romans 6 flavor, and most are from the 4 Gospels. I'll take a look at it and see if I can find where Jesus says that His grace/salvation is secured by only a heartfelt prayer of surrendering and that the deeds He commands us to do are merely a result of our surrendering rather than our agency and have no bearing on salvation.


flying fig said...

Please tell me the entire letters of Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians should be thrown out of the Bible. Please tell me the apostle Paul is a heretic. Because he is Crystal clear when he says he is saved by grace and not by works, he does not mix words.
Please read the entire book of Galatians and tell me Paul is a heretic.

flying fig said...

You accuse protestants of cherry picking, the LDS have created an entire theology (baptism of the dead) from a SINGLE, SOLITARY verse neither condoning nor condemning the ritual! And who said it? Paul!
Oh, the irony :-)

Anonymous said...


I'll invite you also to pray also. I don't know why a Mormon would have a problem being invited to pray sincerely. 80,000 young Mormon men and women have been unleashed upon the world specifically to invite everyone to do just this. Maybe being on the other side of the equation is helping you to see the church's missionary efforts from a different perspective.

Please, correct me where I am wrong. Do your works justify you before God? The Mormon says no. Are your works required for eternal life? The Mormon says yes. So, your works do not save you, but your works are necessary in order to be saved.

So in what way are you working? As an employee who earns his wages? No. Your work does not EARN you anything, but without the work, you get nothing. This is the same way a slave works.

Please, correct me. Tell me you believe in eternal life by grace alone or that you believe you earn eternal life through your works. Paul is clear that it cannot be both. If it is both, grace is no longer grace and work is no longer work.

I wish Paul didn't make it so hard for you all. I'll put Paul aside, though. I can use the Epistles of John to make my case against Mormonism. Even James does it. Yes...even James.

Pops said...

"So in what way are you working? As an employee who earns his wages? No. Your work does not EARN you anything, but without the work, you get nothing. This is the same way a slave works."

Wrong analogy. Use the full-ride scholarship analogy. Working - that is, studying - "earns" a degree. But it doesn't pay for tuition, fees, books, room, or board. Obeying commandments can never pay for the tiniest sin, so it doesn't earn anything that grace provides. It does qualify one to receive the gift of redeeming grace. That's why Christ would often say, "Go thy way and sin no more" rather than "Go thy way."

"But it IS simple. As simple as looking at the brazen serpent for healing in the wilderness. But many refuse to look because of the simpleness of the way."

But the looking was NOT the power that healed. Looking was the act that was required to gain access to the healing power, in the same way that obedience to commandments gives one access to the power of grace. It's a great illustration of how the Atonement works, in that our efforts to obey commandments are so puny and insignificant in comparison to the mighty power that comes through grace.

Pierce said...

Christ as well as Paul taught us how we can access His grace. We have to have a Saviour and cannot hope to earn salvation without him, no matter how good we think we are. We actually both agree on that. What we ACTUALLY differ on is how this grace is accessed. You have expressed the idea that a mere acknowledgement of this dependency through a sincere prayer is enough to fully (and perhaps permanently) access this grace. My tongue in cheek challenge was to look at all the words of Christ and determine if your philosophy of a surrender prayer is more in line with how to access grace, or if there is more to it.
I feel that this is the actual correct framing of our disagreement--all disingenuous hyperbole aside. Let's see you make the case, and let's see it using the red letters

Anonymous said...

Pierce, if the grace is not accessed through a sincere prayer (although I don't think a prayer is even necessary to access the grace, certainly not a formal, "Dear God...Amen" kind of prayer) exactly when do YOU access the grace that will declare you cleansed from your wickedness and justified before God?

I would submit to you that you cannot tell me when you access this saving grace. I am not talking about the 'grace-lite' that Uchtdorf has been espousing lately: the grace that helps you to wake up and go to church or that helps you not look at porn or whatever you may be struggling with. I am talking about the grace that justifies you before God. That BIG grace. The FINAL grace. If you don't receive it at the moment you finally stand naked before God, when exactly do you get it as a Latter-day Saint?

Paul and John talk as if it is something we get NOW. John especially says so. He says we HAVE eternal life if we have the Son. He doesn't say we'll get it later. We have it by virtue of believing in Christ. It is in his epistle. How do you deal with the passage?

Jesus even says so, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:24.

Anonymous said...

Pops. Let me see if I have this right.

We have a full-ride scholarship. This is grace. We use this full-ride to go to college to earn the degree. These are works. Nice. But answer me this: How do you earn the full-ride scholarship in the first place?

Pierce said...

"When" is immaterial to this discussion, unless it somehow relates to what Christ taught about eternal life and it warrants exploration. Passages like Matt 19:16-19 don't concern themselves with things like "when" a person 'gets saved.' Again, what do His words tell us about how to access His grace?
Let's try to stay in the framework so that this stays meaningful.

flying fig said...

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins," (John 8:24).

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:40

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes HAS eternal life. John 6:49

flying fig said...

How do we access saving grace?

Acts 16:30-31 "He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

That is as direct an answer as you can get

Pierce said...

Doesn't believing in Jesus also include believing everything Jesus taught? We already accept that belief is essential. But a further examination demonstrates that the Savior also taught what that belief entails. The onus is on you to take all of those scriptures and demonstrate how they harmonize with your doctrine that salvation is only obtained by heartfelt acknowledgement, or your version of "believe"

Btw, honestly Mat 19:16 is just as direct as Acts 16.

Anonymous said...


First of all, "when" may be immaterial to the discussion YOU want to have. But it is a significant question. Let's say I concede and I see your point about grace and works. Fine. I'll give you all of that, if only to hear you tell me exactly when you will get this grace that justifies. (Answer: The Book of Mormon already answered the question for you. When you have denied yourself of ALL ungodliness, then is his grace sufficient.)

You asked for red-letter scriptures. Flying Fig gave you red-letter scriptures.

I love it when Mormons try to get me to make my case with a limited selection of scriptures. "Make your argument without quoting Paul." This is rich! You probably don't want to go down that road, Pierce. Make the case for iniatories, endowments, Word of Wisdom, eternal progression, and eternal marriage using only the Bible. When you can do that, you will have earned the right to enforce these kinds of restrictions on others.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I just can't understand how a Mormon, who believes so strongly in continuing revelation and the idea that the living prophet's word is of greater weight, would dare to say, "Make your case without citing Paul," or "You can only limit yourself to these verses to make your case."

flying fig said...

Matthew 19:16 Is a great example of Salvation by Divine grace rather than man's own merit.
Does this passage simply mean "keep the commandments and you'll be saved?" Not at all. When read in context, Jesus is teaching a profound truth that harmonizes perfectly with what Paul expounds upon later.

When Jesus tells the rich young ruler to keep the ten commandments this is law, not gospel. Before showing him the way to salvation Jesus wanted to impress on him both the impossible high standard required by God and the absolute futility of seeking salvation by his own merit.

This requirement by Jesus should have elicited a response about the IMPOSSIBILITY of keeping the law perfectly like the disciples' response in v.25 (Who then can be saved?) But instead the young man confidently declared he qualified for heaven under this terms. He does not admit to his own sin.

In v.21 Is Jesus teaching that salvation comes by selling all you have? No, He was exposing the young man's true heart! Jesus was not teaching salvation through philanthropy, but that salvation comes by making Christ first in your life. This is why Matt22 is so important.

The entire point of this passage is summed up in v.26: salvation is not possible by keeping the law, there's no way to obey all of it! It's only possible by divine grace rather than man's own works and merit.

This is the point Paul makes later in Galatians. The law was set up to show man's inability to gain salvation by his own merit and deeds. It's only through accepting Christ's free gift of payment to the impossible law. How do we accept it? Over and over Jesus says believe, believe, surrender, trust. Give it to God and stop trying to earn it yourself. The fruit of your faith will follow in good deeds and righteous living knowing we're justified in Him

This is where Mormonism fails. Many LDS are still trying to gain salvation on their own merit when Jesus says in Matt 19:26 it's impossible.

James Anglin said...

Proof texts can be tossed back and forth, and so can analogies. The post with which Jeff launched this discussion was about the Sabbath and the Temple.

Insofar as I understand Mormon Temples, they're very different from any church I've known; what I've heard about them makes them sound like the Old Testament Temple, with its strict priestly rituals. In fact what I understand is that this is exactly the intention of Mormon Temples. And with three-hour blocks of church attendance, which I believe is entirely separate from Temple work, the Mormon Sabbath also sounds a lot stricter than anything I know, outside of monasteries. So to me the Mormon Temple and Sabbath seem to be practical and pragmatic indications that external observances are emphasized substantially more in Mormonism than in most Christian churches. However the doctrines are phrased or explained, what they end up meaning in concrete terms seems to be consistent with an emphasis that makes works matter significantly more in Mormonism than in other denominations.

I'm not saying that's wrong. Who am I to judge it? I'm just observing that Jeff's original post does seem to bear on the apparently derailed discussion here in the comments.

It occurs to me that it might bear in another way, too. The Sabbath happens once a week, every week. And in ancient Israel, the Temple was — as I believe it is in Mormonism now — a place that everybody has to go regularly, but where few people stay all the time. Maybe the way in which faith, grace and works are all parts of one whole could be like the way in which days and seasons are parts of a life, or the way different buildings are pars of a city.

I don't know what more to do with the Temple/building aspect of that idea, but the time/season part of it suggests another metaphor, of a kind that Jesus seemed to like. Maybe salvation is like a plant, which has to be planted, grown, and harvested.

Depending on the plant and its location, one or more of those processes might be difficult while the others are automatic. Some plants, for instance, grow wild, from seeds that are carried everywhere on the wind, but finding and picking them can be hard. And some crops pretty much grow by themselves, once they're planted in the right place. If you're a hunter-gatherer living on the first kind of plant, getting food will be all about harvesting. If you're a potato farmer, it will be all about planting.

So maybe faith, grace, and works are all involved, for everyone, as stages that are all necessary in some kind of growth sequence; but one may seem more important to some people, while for other people the importance lies in a different one. Hence the controversy and confusion, as different people insist on exclusive priority for different parts, when in fact all must be present in the whole, and which one is most important is a matter of time and place, like Sabbath and Temple.

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful idea, James. And I think there might be a lot of truth in it. But Mormonism doesn't allow for this idea of "finding your own way." It presents a set of rituals which ALL must participate in if they wish to be exalted. And in order to participate in these rituals, all must live according to a rather strict code of conduct (no tea!? Really!?).

So, to take up your analogy, Mormonism tells everyone they need to be hunter-gatherers. And they have to endure to the end as such.

While this may appeal to some people, perhaps even be exactly what they need at a certain point in their life, it doesn't make it easy for that person when he/she suddenly finds that it no longer works. Recent articles in Church magazines have openly declared (more or less) that if it is no longer working, just keeping obeying until it does again.

So, on the whole, I find Mormonism to be very dangerous to spiritual progress.

Anonymous said...

Flying Fig at 8:06 AM (just a few spots upthread) I think has sufficiently dealt with the issue in a way that should satisfy those who want only red letter proof. C.S.Lewis talks about "wealth" not only being money, but a good upbringing and a personal proclivity toward righteousness. This is wealth also. And he says many people who are wealthy in this way, for whom the "law" is not that difficult to live, for whom righteous works come naturally and with ease, are going to be disappointed just as this rich, young man was disappointed, unless they hand both their righteousness AND their wickedness over to God.

So Mormons, I wouldn't brag about your healthy lifestyle and your low divorce rates and your service/welfare activities and your glorious history. This wealth, if not sanctified to God, will damn you in the end.

Pierce said...


The significance of a question does not make it material to the discussion at hand. That's what makes things a strawman argument. "When" is an evangelical talking point that doesn't have anything to do with "how." So you'll excuse me if I don't follow you down that rabbit hole.

You seem really uncomfortable talking about salvation in terms of Christ's teachings. Why is that? If someone challenged me to use the Master's teachings to demonstrate the harmony of our salvation doctrine, we would be more than happy to. We'd even do it with JUST Paul's scriptures. I issue this challenge because nobody that I've talked to who parrot Roman 6 has satisfactorily demonstrated a better harmony than the one that the Book of Mormon presents. Sure, it doesn't sound like a perfect match of what Paul says a few times, but it more perfectly represents the harmony of ALL teachings regarding salvation. And I haven't seen that from you. You are the one on a Mormon blog criticizing our doctrine, so yes, I think it fair to be the one to frame a fair discussion about it. Quoting Jesus and looking at all of this teachings should not be "unfair."

Flying Fig did a good job of finding some verses that sound like they have evangelical bent to it, but that's not the challenge. The challenge is to prove that "belief" consists only of a heart felt prayer and that all of the "do," "commandment" "be" "and judgment" scriptures have no real place in our salvation. I have put forward the case that scriptures suggest more than heartfelt prayer, and I'm waiting for a better harmony than the one the Book of Mormon puts forth. It should be a simple exercise.

"Seriously, I just can't understand how a Mormon, who believes so strongly in continuing revelation and the idea that the living prophet's word is of greater weight, would dare to say, "Make your case without citing Paul,"

Because the teachings of Jesus regarding this subject make you uncomfortable, and there is a reason for it. That's a red flag to me.

Pierce said...


I don't cite Mathew 16 in order to prove that keeping the commandments somehow save us. It's only there to demonstrate that cherry picking little passages that sound like they support our side is fruitless, because there is much more to them and the doctrine is stated differently in other places when you look. Your exegesis indicates that.

I also see that explanation as a sort of mental gymnastics which require a person to take the opposite of what Jesus said in order to make it sound more like Paul. Someone asked Jesus what they must do, and the answer wasn't "bow down and confess the name of Jesus and you'll be saved forever." Although it would have been a great time to say that, if that were all there was to it. Besides, your point is that there's no way to keep all the law and grace is needed. Mormons believe that, and this was already covered in the framework. See my reply to EBU. That is what you should be able to demonstrate--the harmony of everything Jesus taught. If your answer for all verses is "Well secretly, Jesus doesn't expect us to do what He taught and we really won't be judged by it," then I'll suggest that your philosophy pales in comparison to the harmony taught in the Book of Mormon, and is the opposite of what Jesus actually taught.

flying fig said...

"Flying Fig did a good job of finding some verses that sound like they have evangelical bent to it...The challenge is to prove that "belief" consists only of a heart felt prayer and that all of the "do," "commandment" "be" "and judgment" scriptures have no real place in our salvation"

Pierce, I've given ample "red letter" support that were saved by faith.

Every one of the passages I presented Jesus says to believe and you are saved. In John 6:29 It's even asked as "What WORK should we do? Believe! Over and over, what should we do? Believe.

You challenged with Matthew 19 but a reading in context supports my view that it's impossible to be saved by human effort, clearly harmonizing with Paul's teaching. Did you read my post at 8:06?

Matt 22 Jesus again stresses its a matter of the heart, not the empty checklist of the rich young ruler of Matthew 19

flying fig said...

You still can't answer all the red letter passages of Jesus as well as entire books from Paul, John, Peter and James

James Anglin said...

I think my own beliefs are closer to those of everythingbeforeus than they are to Mormonism, but I'm serious when I call the doctrine of salvation an incoherent mess. No simple doctrine I've seen so far has convinced me that it is the true unraveling of the mystery.

I'll admit explicitly that I do not treat all parts of the Bible as equally authoritative. Jesus's own teachings are primary for me; I read everything else as commentary on them. And I notice that when the gospels describe Jesus as 'proclaiming the good news of the kingdom', they do not then quote him as explaining the Four Spiritual Laws, or announcing that everyone has to accept him as their personal savior. Instead the soundbite version of his message is given as, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And the longer version is stuff like the Sermon on the Mount, some remarks after healings, and a bunch of parables.

Now, I can actually reconcile Jesus's own teachings with the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity. I think that if you try to collect everything Jesus said into something coherent, eventually you conclude that a lot of the stuff that Paul and later Christians said really is an apt way of expressing the crucial points. But I can't help figuring that, if the formulas about personal faith in Jesus as savior were really the only way to express the gospel, or even the best way, then Jesus himself would surely have done a better job of presenting those formulations in his own preaching.

When you've already read a thick book or seen a complicated movie, then somebody can comment on the story you know in a brief and striking way, and you'll know what they mean, and maybe gain some fresh insight into the story by seeing it in a new light. But that same insightful comment might give you a totally false impression of the story, if you didn't already know the story when you heard the comment. So I try to read the New Testament by reading the gospels first, and interpreting everything else in light of them, because i figure that if Jesus really wanted those later formulations to be primary, he would have presented them himself first of all. And in particular I agree that Jesus seems a lot more serious about works than simple formulas about faith would lead you to think, if you only read them.

The thing is, though: in the gospels I find much less trace still of Mormonism than I do of evangelical protestantism. Jesus says nothing I can remotely recognize in the gospels about priesthood powers or Temple endowments or celestial marriage or three degrees of glory and exaltation to deity, let alone about sacred garments or abstaining from coffee and alcohol. And if all that stuff were really important, I can't think why Jesus wouldn't have mentioned it in the gospels.

The only Mormon explanation for that which I can understand would be that the New Testament was somehow corrupted, leaving out lots of essential stuff that was only restored with the later Mormon scriptures. But if that's the proposition, then it seems to me to be admitting outright that the Mormon version of the gospel is really substantially different from the rest of Christianity. And certainly the Jesus figure portrayed in the Book of Mormon, who directly and personally annihilates several cities, is completely unrecognizable to me as the Jesus of the gospels. Supposedly blasphemous works like The Last Temptation of Christ seem positively pious in comparison to 3 Nephi, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...


I really don't feel the need to do what you are asking. Because if you did what you are asking us to do, your entire religion fails, and you are basically side-lined. Using only the Master's teachings, tell me all about the endowment and eternal marriage. These are commandment's that you believe Christ is referring to when he said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." If we are going to accept your concept of works, we need some scriptural support for these works that your church says are essential for exaltation.

And you can't do it. You are done. Conversation is over, because the opposing team has to leave the field. You no longer have a case to make.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for that horrible "apostrophe s" that should just be a pluralized noun. So embarrassing. My wife would kill me.

Pierce said...

Fig: Yes, you found some passages which demonstrate that belief is necessary to our salvation. Now kindly harmonize that with the rest of what Jesus taught, since that is my actual challenge. Am I right in summarizing your harmonizing as: "Jesus taught this stuff but didn't mean for us to do it, and he has no expectations or judgments for us,?" If so, I'm afraid that really pales in comparison to Mormonism's harmonizing of the two concepts. If your conclusion is that Jesus didn't expect the young rich ruler to ACTUALLY come follow him as a part of his salvation, then verse 29 must have been a mistake. I've heard this reasoning before, and the gospels make no indication that Jesus spoke completely in hyperbole. Mormonism's salvation doctrine makes much more sense than writing off 3/4 of what Jesus taught as hyperbole.

Of course you don't feel the need to do this. Evangelical Protestantism has a huge problem with the concepts and plain doctrine taught by Jesus, which is why my very first post called out what the reactions would be from y'all in a discussion about salvation. It is regular as clockwork. The Book of Mormon perfectly blends together ALL of the concepts taught in the New Testament as a whole, even if it is odds with 'Romans 6' when isolated. I have given you a lot of opportunities to demonstrate your claim that grace is accessed by heartfelt prayer/acceptance alone based on the teachings of your own Lord, and have provided a HUGE list of scriptures from the Gospels that demonstrate this is not the case, and I have asked you to attempt a better harmony than what the Book of Mormon provides. In the end you just want to preach Romans 6 and Galatians 5 and all of your other cherry picked scriptures that support a philosophy that the scriptures as a whole don't support.

In fact, you bypassed the whole point of our conversation with another strawman. Temple endowments are immaterial to the discussion, because the discussion is about whether or not grace is accessed by a mere submission prayer, or if the Savior has asked for more than that. If it's a mere submission prayer, explain the rest of His teachings on the list (or find the verse where he says 'all you have to do is accept me into your heart, and do nothing else'). If it's more than mere acceptance, as we teach, then HOW those concepts are distilled is a different subject. Temple ceremonies have to do with a covenant relationship and commandments--things that we believe are a part of our salvation. What's up for debate are the concepts, not the methods. If you agree that Jesus wants more than acceptance in order to access grace, then we can talk about whether or not temple endowments are necessary.

James Anglin said...

Pierce, you may want to separate the broad question, of whether works are in any form or degree required for salvation, from the question of whether the New Testament supports Mormon rituals specifically. Everythingbeforeus isn't necessarily required to see the same clean separation of subjects that you see here.

One reason someone might not see your clear separation is that 'works' is a vague term. In the broadest sense it might include anything whatever that a person in any sense does — to the point where even a brief prayer of submission counts as a form of work. Pretty much everyone is going to concede that the necessity of works in such a broad sense is at least ambiguous.

But often, when someone talks about 'works' as opposed to faith or grace, what they mainly mean are ritual acts, like the tithings and washings and ostentatious almsgiving that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. If one thinks of 'works' in that way, then the dispute over works and faith is directly about the importance of anything like the rather ritualistic Mormon requirements. Attempting to divert that discussion onto the safer ground of works-in-the-broadest-sense is going to seem like a dodge, from this point of view.

I don't mean to put words in the mouth of everythingbeforeus. Speaking for myself, though, I'm quite willing to drop objections about works-in-the-broadest-sense. I'm not trying to uphold any one clear and simple theory of salvation, because I admit I am confused. I do think, though, that condemning ritualistic obligations is a clear and major theme of Jesus's own teaching as described in the canonical gospels. The absence of any specific endorsements of Mormon rituals is in this sense no accident; the Jesus I see in the New Testament seems to me to be the last person who would ever ban wine and coffee, demand the wearing of sacred garments, or insist on an elaborate set of Temple ceremonies. To connect again to Jeff's original post, a casual attitude to Sabbath observance was one of the very things that got Jesus into trouble with Jewish authorities.

Knocking down an overly strict doctrine of Faith Alone, and establishing some kind of need for works in some kind of sense, doesn't seem to me to get Mormons off the hook for a ritualism that really does go directly against one of Jesus's main principles.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, James.

Mormons love to pigeon-hole Christians by throwing the Epistle of James at us. "See! Faith without works is dead!" Gotcha!

I will throw James' epistle right back at you. James says that if you live the Royal Law's dictate to love others, you do well, but if you break some other part of that law, you are guilty of violating ALL OF IT! And you are condemned. Therefore, live according to the Law of Liberty. You will be shown the mercy that you show. That is what James says.

I will throw James at you again: Prove to me that when seguing from a discussion about favoritism to a discussion about works, he means "temple ordinances" when he is referring to the kinds of works that justify us. That is a real stretch. A real leap.

James doesn't help your cause as a Mormon, Pierce.

Pierce said...


Thank you for the input. I was indeed trying to separate the broad question. The reason that I don't really care to use terms like "works" is because it frames things in the limited framework of what I consider to be 'Romans 6' dogma. It's true that Jesus uses the word, such as "he shall reward every man according to his works" (which should end this debate in my mind). But to put things on a more level playing field, I have framed the only way that I believe this discussion should be had that is fair to both sides:
We all believe in the grace of Christ, and that is only way we are cleansed and accepted into heaven. The question is "how do we access this grace." And here is where we divert. Some say mere acceptance, others say Christ requires more. So what do the majority of Jesus' teachings say about his expectations (for his grace)? From what I see in the list of scriptures provided, Jesus expects more than mere acceptance that we need Him, and I think the Book of Mormon explains this relationship better than what I've ever seen from those who balk at an attempt to harmonize in lieu of *some* of Paul's teachings.

We could definitely have a different discussion about the place of rituals in worship--Jesus instituted baptism and communion after all, and he instituted the "New Covenant", he commanded disciples to fast, etc-- all of which employ the use of ritual. But until we get to the bottom of whether or not we even have a real part in our salvation other than acceptance, it's a bit immaterial to the current discussion.

Pierce said...


Who's talking about the Epistle of James? Strawman much?

flying fig said...

Well said James. You nailed it exactly on the head. Jesus fought continually with the Pharisees over the strict religious demands that are so familiar in the Mormon church today. The never ending ladder of peer pressured achievements and levels an LDS member spends his/her life climbing has been rightly compared to boy scouts.

flying fig said...

I have already presented multiple red let's letter passages of Jesus saying to simply believe with no qualifiers, how it's clearly harmonized with Paul's teachings. You just don't accept the very words of Christ, toss out whatever Paul says and then say your challenge remains unanswered.

flying fig said...

Pierce, you said "We all believe in the grace of Christ, and that is only way we are cleansed and accepted into heaven. The question is "how do we access this grace."

How do we access grace? Grace by definition is unmerited favor. How is it grace at all if its paid for? Once you pay for it, it is no longer grace

Pierce said...

Again, the point of this wasn't to pick out the few verses that you think sound like Romans 6. The point was for you to look at ALL of the other 75% of what Jesus said (the list I provided), and demonstrate how those coincide with your doctrine that mere acceptance is all that Jesus requires of us to access His grace. Because the Book of Mormon presents an excellent harmony, and you have not presented anything close to it.

The only attempt at this that I have seen from either you or EBU so far is when you wrote Matt 19 off as hyperbole. How far do you extend the hyperbole explanation for works/reward/judgment/improvement based teachings? Or is it limited to Matt 19?

Pierce said...


If grace is 100% as you have described, then every single person who has ever lived is covered, correct? No? You have to accept Christ's sacrifice?

That is what I mean by accessing grace. From there we can have a conversation about what that actually entails based on what Jesus taught ACROSS the Gospels.

flying fig said...

"If grace is 100% as you have described, then every single person who has ever lived is covered"
Wrong. Why would you assume that? Even unmerited favor needs to be accepted.
Your version of "grace" demands payment. Hardly grace.

Pierce said...

It was a rhetorical question Fig, and one that I answered. When you are saying that "unmerited favor needs to be accepted," we are talking about accessing grace, and we both agree on that. This is about what "accept" entails. Those scriptures I listed are the strings that Jesus himself attached to His grace. His commandments are real, his judgments are real, his rewards and punishments are real, and his love is real, and it all applies to Christians and what they choose to do with His grace. None of it is hyperbole.
Your rhetoric of "payment" is off topic and is word-mincing. I don't believe that I am paying for my own sins or paying Jesus to atone for me by doing what he says.

This conversation seems to be a little over your head, to be honest. Or you can't step away evangelical rhetoric long enough to carry it on productively.

flying fig said...

I'm talking simple terms, Peirce. Try to pay attention.
Grace, by definition is unmerited favor. Right? unmerited.
How in the world can you have"strings" attached to something unmerited?
if you insist on redefining words I'll move on.
When you have time look up the definition of sacrifice, grace, free, and gift
Have a nice evening

Pops said...

"How do you earn the full-ride scholarship in the first place?"

You don't. It's a gift.

Pierce said...

I don't think he can wrap his head around the analogy, pops.

Fig, the funny thing here is that this was a challenge to your philosophy, not a defense of mine. You came touting it on an LDS blog. It seems to me that your philosophy doesn't jive with a majority of scriptures found in the gospels, which causes you to simply fall back on evangelical rhetoric--of which I have zero interest. My challenge is simple, and you cannot answer it in any meaningful way, and certainly not even close to the harmony found in the Book of Mormon. Thanks for the chat.

Anonymous said...


The Book of Mormon doesn't harmonize the doctrine. It claims the Bible is flawed and that the Book of Mormon alone reveals the "plain and precious" truth in its fullness. In other words, whenever the Bible contradicts the Book of Mormon, throw out the Bible. Whenever the Bible matches the Book of Mormon, that was just some truth that managed to remain.

And I can wrap my head around the analogy just fine. I just reject it because it is flawed. Full-ride scholarships cannot be used to stand in for the gift of grace, because a full-ride scholarship is NOT a gift. You have to earn it.

James Anglin said...

Peirce, you thanked me for my input, but you simply ignored what I said. I said that focusing first on 'faith alone' (yea or nay), before discussing anything about Mormon rituals in particular, was simply your personal preference, not a rule that everyone had agreed. Of course you don't have to talk about anything you don't want to discuss; but I don't think it's valid to insist that everyone play it your way.

Faith-versus-works has been argued for centuries. Catholics and protestants, with great learning and intelligence on both sides, have hurled proof-texts at each other for centuries, and accused each other of cherry-picking. Cherry-picked proof-texts are easy to read, while a sense of what Scripture as a whole is coherently saying is much trickier. Maybe an objective truth about what a large text means as a whole really does exist, but it sure seems in practice that intelligent and learned people can disagree about it. So it's bizarre to just state flatly that the Book of Mormon harmonizes perfectly with the coherent meaning of the Bible as a whole, as if this were an obvious fact. Facts of that entire kind are never obvious, even when they are facts.

But why do we have to keep mud-wrestling in that old quagmire? This is a blog about Mormonism, that is explicitly addressed also to non-Mormons, and we're exchanging comments about a post on 'The Sabbath Day and the Temple'. The post explicitly raises these rather legalistic and ritualistic elements of Mormon belief and practice. A non-Mormon like me may well ask, Hey, this is supposed to be a church of Jesus Christ, and yet this emphasis on ritual works sounds kind of Pharisee-ish. What's with that?

I'm not actually quite that much of a newb about Mormonism (though I'm certainly not an expert). RIghtly or wrongly, though, what I've learned makes me think that this is actually a very serious question.

flying fig said...

Unfortunately James, Pierce can only participate in civil discussion for so long before he ultimately resorts to personal attacks and "I'm right and you're wrong" statements.

flying fig said...

Pierce slings condescending insults "This conversation seems to be a little over your head" and "I don't think he can wrap his head around the analogy" simply because we don't agree with him and somehow and cannot grasp his wisdom.

His position (as far as my limited brain is capable of comprehending) is that grace (unmerited favor) has strings attached and must be "accessed" by something more than just accepting it. My position is that "grace" by definition ceases to be just that if it requires a payment to receive. It would be the same as McDonald's offering "free" Big Macs that require a fee in order to receive.
I believe the Bible (including the BIBLICAL teachings of Paul) teach that "grace" is exactly what the word means, grace. Salvation is a free, unmerited gift. Putting God first, good deeds, righteous living and obedience is the evidence of genuine regeneration after we've received the free gift of salvation.

Anonymous said...

Flying Fig,

I agree 100%, but as you know, the cross is foolishness and a stumblingblock to those who insist on doing at least a little bit of the work for themselves.

James Anglin said...

I don't think Pierce has been uncivil or resorted to personal attacks. The faith/works argument has been carried on for centuries as an infuriating contest between clarity and obstinacy — on each side, as viewed by the other. It's understandable for people to get testy. That's why I called it 'mud-wrestling'.

I'd still like to hear a Mormon explanation for what seems to me to be a degree of ritualism that Jesus would not have liked. This is not a matter of proof-texting. Concern for spiritual realities rather than external forms was such a basic theme throughout Jesus's whole life that, if you wanted to find texts in which this theme didn't appear, you would have to pick your cherries very carefully. Concern that spiritual realities are expressed in concrete action, and not just in lip service, was a similarly basic theme for Jesus. So I'd like to hear a discussion in these basic terms, where we really grapple with everything Jesus said, and not just volley single verses back and forth.

For Catholics and Protestants, the way out of the quagmire seems to me to have been to ask seriously why each side ends up doing the specific practices that makes up most of its religious life. There's nothing in the New Testament about praying the Rosary, for example. Catholics will quickly admit that they do not base their teachings only on Scripture, but draw much from Church tradition — and they'll point out that the matter of what writings count as Scripture is itself a Church tradition.

Once you see this, you see that tossing Scripture texts back and forth is really quite beside the point, for Catholics and Protestants. They are really following two quite different faiths, drawn from quite different sources. On the other hand, their religions are not totally separate, since they both grew organically over centuries from the same origin. Calling ceasefire on the proof-text firefight not only lets us accept that some of our differences are too radical for useful dispute. It also lets us see what we have in common.

My guess is that most of the beliefs and practices that make up actual life as a Mormon are found nowhere in the Bible. That doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find some kind of harmony between them and the Bible, but I'll be surprised if they're really there explicitly. So from where do the specifically Mormon institutions and observances — the Temples and Sabbath Days — really come? My guess is that most don't even come from the Book of Mormon, but from still later parts of specifically Mormon revelation. This would make a really big and basic difference between Mormonism and older Christian faiths.

Anonymous said...

OK, fig, so grace needs to be accepted. What about those who were prevented by their circumstances from accepting it?

flying fig said...

Anon1129 Great question. The bible tells us that God's attributes are evident to all man (Romans tells us creation itself testifies to the existence of God) so that man may have a relationship with Him.

Ryan said...

I wasn't going to enter this conversation because I've been trying to step away from "mud-wrestling," but I like your question. I will try to answer it in a way that does not incite more mud-wrestling, having no intention myself to engage in anything of the sort. Your question, essentially, is "why do Mormons participate in a degree of ritualism that it seems to me Jesus would not have liked?" My answer may not speak for all Mormons, but here is my take:

As Pierce mentioned above, there were rituals that Christ seemed to condone, some of which He instituted Himself. For instance, He instituted the Sacrament (communion), commanded His apostles to go and baptize, and also to confer the Holy Ghost (whether by laying on of hands or some other mechanism, there does seem to have been a ritual element to that), etc. He also seemed to think that something about the temple, a place of rituals, was important, as He cleansed it twice. Pierce also points out that Christ's disciples were to pray and fast before they would be able to cast out devils. From my perspective, what Christ seems to condemn is not the ritual itself, but the use of rituals as a way of saying "Hey, look how good I am!" He didn't say not to do alms, He said to do them in secret. He didn't say not to fast, He said not to make a big fuss about it. Of course, this all needs to be tempered with the injunction to "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."

So from my perspective, it's not a question of whether rituals or rites should happen. Jesus seemed to be in favor of them happening. It's a question of how they're carried out. They should be done in a way that draws men to glorify God and not themselves.

Pierce said...

James, Fig, EBU: I didn't start the conversation about 'grace vs works' but I did participate it in. James, you are actually trying to have a conversation about what the post is actually about, and that should be applauded, and perhaps soon I will make time to participate in that as well. Almost all of my comments are related to the side topic. And I recognize that I was establishing a framework to have this discussion in that others didn't want to have. I feel that Protestants always hijack conversation by putting the conversation in terms of how well it fits with Romans, and Mormons take the bait. But I framed it this way simply because the doctrines taught by Christ should put us on a level ground, right? But they make evangelical protestants uncomfortable, and there's a reason for that. As a Mormon, I have no problem discussing salvation solely in terms of the Gospels.. It's very telling to me that the critics here are unable to take ALL of Jesus' teachings and explain how the only part in salvation that we play is acceptance.

If the tables were turned, and this challenge were issued to me, I'd start out with this concept: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/grace
Then I'd take any scriptures from the Gospels list, or even Paul, and show how they harmonize with this doctrine. What Fig refuses to understand about Mormons is that Mormons do believe that grace (rescuing a sinner from Hell) is a free gift and is unmerited. If you don't believe me, read our newsroom article. However, the concepts of becoming/judgment/rewards/punishment are taught by Jesus and even Paul THROUGHOUT the whole New Testament. To preach that our actions don't affect our salvation, or what happens after this life, is completely out of harmony with the teachings of Jesus. If that's not what you preach, then why criticize Mormons for believing what Christ taught? By saying that the Mormon concept of grace is foolishness, you open yourself up to presenting something better, or at least something that better harmonizes with all of the scriptures (not just cherry picked verses from Paul). And I haven't seen a coherent thought yet--just evangelical talking points.

I think I'm done. I am not going to get what I'm asking for.

James Anglin said...

Thank you, Ryan. That is the kind of answer for which I was looking. You give a bunch of examples, not as knock-down proof-texts, but just to point towards something I also recognize as a basic attitude that Jesus really showed in many places. The way I would put what I think you say is that Jesus disliked rituals as ends in themselves, but was at least comfortable with using them as expressions or vehicles for spiritual things. And then I'd agree that Jesus often emphasized that material and spiritual things can occur together. His parables, and many of the miracles that he apparently considered as further parables, are all based on that attitude. John's great epiphany did not just come out of nowhere: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

So I can buy that Jesus would actually have been cool with a fair amount of ritual, if it was ritual rightly used, to nurture and express spiritual reality. I'm not sure Jesus would ever have been super-rigid about practicing rituals in any particular ways; I rather think he would have been flexible in adapting them to circumstances. Anyway, your answer sounds to me like a Christian answer. If it's often a challenge for Mormons in practice to experience spiritual reality in the external forms of church rituals, I can't comment on specifically Mormon problems, but I can say that the same kind of challenge is there in all Christian churches. In my experience even non-liturgical churches fall in practice into quite rigid ritual forms; even the fervent feeling of an evangelical altar call can become as much of a mere habit as mumbling Rosaries.

The specific source of specifically Mormon rituals remains another question, in which I'm also interested. I'm prepared to be corrected on my theory that the main source is Doctrines and Covenants, or even revelations to later Prophets; but let me say in advance that I don't mean this theory as a condemnation of Mormonism, any more than it's a condemnation of Islam to say that Muhammed had an extra-Biblical revelation. Mormonism has some important strands that I recognize as Christian, but as a whole it is still quite a different faith from mine. I don't mind learning about it. So where does the Mormon Temple come from? Why do Mormons observe the Sabbath as they do?

Anonymous said...

Pierce, when Mormons and Christians debate, the "doctrines of Christ" do not put the two sides on level ground, because you have a lot more "doctrines of Christ" then Christians have. Even in your "tables turned" scenario, you start off NOT with the "Master's Red Letters," but with an article from the Mormon Newsroom. !?

And incidentally, this Newsroom article has done the exact same thing you accuse us of doing, only in reverse. It ONLY cites scriptures from Matthew, James, and 2 Peter. It ignores Paul altogether.

Not only have you changed the definition of grace, you now seem to be changing the definition of "unmerited" also. I can't believe you are not seeing what you are doing here.

You are actually arguing that the gift of grace is truly unmerited, but what we do affects our access to it. You are arguing that we don't deserve the gift (that is what unmerited means) but if we do something wrong, we lose it. Conversely, if we therefore do something not wrong (in other words, we do something right), we gain it.

I am not so concerned that you believe this, but I am irritated that you believe this and can't just admit that you DO NOT BELIEVE in an merited gift. It is NOT an unmerited gift that moment you have to do something to receive it, keep it, maintain it, etc. You need a different term if you are going to make this claim. You can't keep talking about grace if you don't really mean it. It is dishonest, duplicitous, and deceptive.

flying fig said...

Ryan, I appreciate your response. While I often fall short, I hope to be as civil as you are while engaging in these discussions.
Do you feel certain LDS rituals fall into the type of thing was against when they become scheduled tasks such as annual tithing settlements and the sRyan, I appreciate your response. While I often fall short, I hope to be as civil as you are while engaging in these discussions.
Do you feel certain LDS rituals might be perceived as the type of thing Jesus was against when they become scheduled tasks such as annual tithing settlement and scheduled fast day? Would temple recommend cards fall into this same concern?

Anonymous said...


Can you point me to the revelation in Mormon writing that commands all humankind to enter into covenants with God and to keep these covenants sacred and private upon the threat of death?

Ryan said...

James, that second question is a tougher one to answer. I think it depends on the specific ritual, or even on the specific aspect of a specific ritual, in question. For instance, the fact that the sacrament exists can easily be traced to the New Testament. The specific prayers that are said in blessing the emblems are found in both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. The change from wine to water is only alluded to in Doctrine and Covenants: "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory" (D&C 27:2). That particular verse, by the way, does give some provision for flexibility according to circumstances, as you mention.

Sabbath day observance, of course, goes back to Old Testament times, as far back as Genesis. And of course, it is among the 10 commandments, so I believe the command can not be thrown out any more easily than "thou shalt not kill." In the New Testament, Jesus observed the Sabbath (he taught in the synagogues and such), just not always in ways that the pharisees liked. It seems the apostles observed the Sabbath as well, although their "modern revelation" led them to transition from Saturday to Sunday, initially observing both the Sabbath and the Day of the Lord, and eventually just lumping both of those together. There is also instruction in the D&C relating to Sabbath day observance, although I believe it is fairly general. That Mormons specifically have 3 hours of church on Sunday was not always the case- in fact, it's a fairly recent development, so that would be post-JS revelation. And I believe that sort of aspect of it is more a matter of convenience than mandate. In fact, as a missionary in Argentina we had a branch that skipped third hour altogether, not having sufficient membership to really support an Elder's Quorum, RS, Primary, etc.

A similar trend happens with temples. That they exist dates back at least to the time of Solomon, though if we count the tabernacle, they date back to at least Moses' time. The temple's existence is found throughout scripture, and again, was something that Jesus and the apostles observed. The specific rites of Mormon temples today are not, to my knowledge found in the Bible or the Book of Mormon, other than a brief allusion to baptisms for the dead in 1 Corinthians and the notion that the spirits in prison were taught be Christ between His death and resurrection. Baptism for the dead is much more largely touched upon in D&C. The actual endowment ceremony is not to be found explicitly in any of the standard works that I know of, though it was initially instituted by Joseph Smith. Modern revelation has altered the ceremony since then according to need, while keeping the basics of the ordinance in tact.

That is a long-winded way of saying that these "Mormon rites" have roots in both ancient and modern scripture, along with some practical things that are not canonized. I could probably say more, but I think I've prattled on enough for the moment. Thanks for the question.

Ryan said...

Do you feel certain LDS rituals might be perceived as the type of thing Jesus was against when they become scheduled tasks such as annual tithing settlement and scheduled fast day? Would temple recommend cards fall into this same concern?

Fig, I can see how they might be perceived that way. From my perspective, scheduled fast day is a matter of convenience. In fact, I don't think it was always that way, and there have been "fast Sundays" where I do not observe the fast for personal reasons, and that people who can not fast for health reasons, such as my wife, are not expected to do so. I do, however, believe fasting is an important way to improve my relationship with God, so when I can't participate in the scheduled day, I make time for myself.

I know temple recommends can be perceived as someone else (bishops/stake presidents) judging my relationship with God. I suppose there may be some aspect to that, as we see bishops as "judges in Israel." However, I more typically view temple recommend interviews as an opportunity for me to evaluate my own relationship with God. I could lie to the interviewers, and I would probably receive a recommend if I did. So it ends up being, for me, more of an introspective thing than a judgement session.

I view tithing settlement in a similar light. I suppose the Bishop could, in theory, conduct it year round. I think the timing is, again, a convenience thing. But like the temple recommend interview, it is a personal thing. I could not be paying a full tithe, and lie about it, and I don't think the bishop would press me on it. It's a chance for me to formally declare that I honor that commandment.

All of that said, I can see how these things could be perceived in a different light. I'm just giving you my perspective.

Ryan said...

EBU, as I said, I do not wish to engage in mud wrestling.

Ryan said...

James, one other thing- you may already know this, but it bears repeating: Those aspects of Mormon rituals not found now in ancient scripture are generally believed, from the Mormon perspective, to have either been lost and restored (I believe much of the endowment falls in this category), or to be something specifically revealed in our day.

Anonymous said...

Paul and James are not in conflict about works and grace. They actually compliment one another.

Get a clue.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Regarding grace and works - which really wasn't the subject of this post! - I like the way Pierce and Pops speak of access to the grace Christ offers. What better way to understand Rev. 22 and its frank discourse on final judgment? It reminds us that Christ is the beginning and the end, the Savior, the bright and morning star, but there's no way to avoid the blunt reality that he will judge us by our works, and that those who keep the commandments will gain access to the tree of life. That doesn't earn anything, of course, it's by grace, but we must obey Christ, take up his yoke, and keep his commandments to gain access to his grace. Here's an excerpt from Rev. 22:

12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

Jeff Lindsay said...

As for Everything's claim that Mormonism teaches us to live our lives in fear, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite early Christian fearmongers, even though Peter warned that this particular man wrote things that confused many people about the Gospel (2 Peter 3:16). So, recognizing that there may be risk in relying too heavily on his sometimes confusing words, allow me to introduce you to the fearmonger named Paul.

Here is some fearful preaching in Hebrews 4:

1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it....

9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

In other words, "Folks, be afraid, be very afraid, for you can fall and depart from the promised rest God offers to his people. So don't slack off, but labor diligently to enter into that rest, lest you fall."

Paul was big on fear. In Acts 13:26, he told his audience that "whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent." And when, after his conversion, he joined up with the Christians in Judea and neighboring regions, they were soon "walking in the fear of the Lord" (Acts 9:31). I bet it was his fault.

But plain old fear was not enough for Paul. He wanted something more dramatic, namely, fear and trembling. Thus, in Phil. 2:12, we have this extreme example of fear-based emphasis on obedience: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." He used that same phrase in Eph. 6:5 and 2 Cor. 7:15. I know, I know, with all that talk of works, obedience, and fear, he has no more right to be called a Christian than any Mormon does. Yes, I recognize such doctrine is a horrible departure from historic Christianity (here I use the generally accepted definition of "historic Christianity" which means "that particular branch of Christianity that developed in a portion of northern Europe about 600 years ago"). But still, I rather like the man. Guess it's my life of fear as a Mormon that helps me appreciate Paul's words.

So when Paul tells us to cleanse ourselves and seek "holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1), when he praises those who respond to his preaching with repentance and fear (2 Cor. 7:11), when he tells us to submit "in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21), when he encourages Church leaders to rebuke sinners so "that others also may fear" (1 Tim. 5:20), when he warns that willful sin will bring "a certain fearful looking" for the judgment of God (Heb. 10:27), and even says that it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:27), I'm willing to take his words with a grain of salt and, frankly, am still willing to accept him as a fellow Christian, in spite of Peter's warning about his words.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Peter has his Mormonesque fear-based issues also, as we see in 1 Peter 1:17: "And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear". Wow, Peter was also into that whole "fear God and obey him" Mormon-like thing. But in the end, I know that both Peter and Paul also understood the love and grace of God. They both realized that we can fall from grace and depart from the living God (1 Cor. 10:12), and that we needed to endure to the end to receive the full blessings of grace (1 Peter 1:3-10, though Peter sounds way too Mormon there). So telling us to not slack off and to have some fear about the alternatives if we depart was actually a kind, loving thing for them to do. At least I think their heart was in the right place, so I'm willing to give both of them a pass on this. Hope the rest of you will soften your hearts and give them a break as well.

flying fig said...

Jeff, how can you "access" a free, unmerited gift by works? It's not possible. I believe you are confusing Two different concepts which are: We are saved by faith and rewarded according to our works.

Being given eternal life is the penny each laborer was given no matter how many hours he worked. The reward of governing ten cities, five cities etc. is the reward given according to works. Tow different things that are tied together in salvation as a whole

Regeneration, the impartation of eternal life as a free gift to the sinner who trusts Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, is by faith apart from works (Rom 4:5; Eph 2:8-9). In contrast, and quite distinct from regeneration, every believer's Christian life will be subject to evaluation by Christ. The end result of this evaluation of the believer's works will be the bestowal or denial of special rewards.

1 Cor 3:11-15 The works which we have done will be tested by fire. Those works that stand the test will result in rewards to the believer. We are building upon our foundation who is Christ. If we build poorly then our works will perish in the fire. How do we build those things that will stand the test? He that winneth souls is wise. All the works that stand will be those done in the strength of the Lord and not our will

We are saved by faith and rewarded according to our works.

1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

And the criteria for judgment is according to our works...

Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Rev 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Notice these scriptures are referring to giving to every man according to his works. Salvation (eternal life) is the gift of God and has nothing to do with a reward according to works. The reward for each of us will be different and it will be according to our works....

1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Co 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Jeff Lindsay said...

James, interesting questions. I hope the answers Ryan, Pierce, and perhaps others provided are helpful.

Early Christianity placed a lot of emphasis on ritual, including rituals not in the scriptures but that were purportedly handed down by the Apostles. Many variations in the liturgy, but some interesting leads that at least resonate with LDS views. The relationship between symbolism and ritual, including the role of sacred vestments, anointing, etc., in early First Temple Judaism and early Christianity is a topic worthy of further discussion, and one that intrigues some LDS folks. If you look at the excitement in LDS circles caused by the works of Margaret Barker, for example, you might get a taste of that. Something I might address later.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Fig, why is having faith in Christ not a "work"? Is there not a choice? Do we not need to respond to the word and act in some way? Is there not a possibility to fall away from faith? I think you're approaching this with a rigid philosophical system that gets in the way of simple truths--my perspective, of course.

Jeff Lindsay said...

So what would you say to someone who asked you this simple question: "What must I do to gain eternal life?" Is your answer something like, "Do? What do you mean do? There's nothing to do, just let God do everything." If so, how can you square that with the way Christ Himself answered that question? I've heard some Protestant ministers resolve that huge gap by saying that Christ was just being sarcastic and mocking the young man who asked that question in Matthew 19. But the story is also told in Mark 10, with the important detail that "Jesus beholding him loved him" (v. 21) as he then delivered the soul-specific instructions that the rich young man needed to overcome what stood between him and fully following the Lord. He wasn't being sarcastic. he was being loving and quite serious. His words were point blank and simple, and apply to all of us today, teaching us how to come unto him, how to take up his yoke and learn from him and follow him, that we may have rest (Matt. 11:28-30), and the words were these: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." It's not if thou wilt earn salvation on your own. Not even close. Life is offered through grace, but there's a straight and narrow path on the way to it. We need to take up our yoke, and even take up our own cross, in pale but humble imitation of the Savior's willingness to obey God, and follow him on the path he has prepared. The path is offered by grace. We are given strength to bear our yoke by grace. We are given this life through his power and love, we resurrect through his grace and power, and we can return to his presence through his grace and Atonement, if we will believe in him and follow him. Moving forward on the path he has created for us is no cause to boast and no denial of his grace. The work involved in choosing to believe him, in loving him, in following him, and in obeying him does not "merit" eternal life, resurrection, forgiveness of sin, or any other gift he gives us. But it's what he calls us to do in order to come unto him. Grace, made accessible in a covenant relationship. It's the ancient way of the scriptures and of early Christianity, and I think it's rather similar in what we call the Restoration.

flying fig said...

everythingbeforeus put it nicely in an earlier post
"You seem to be taking the approach that belief/faith is a work. We have to DO it to be saved. In the way we use language, you have a point, but this "work" is really a non-work. It is more of a "giving up the fight" altogether. As C. S. Lewis said, it is laying down your arms. Surrendering yourself entirely to God."

The bible certainly seems to support a dual concept of faith/works which is we are saved by faith and rewarded according to our works.

flying fig said...

There are many point blank answers concerning salvation. 1 Corinthians 3 harmonizes the grace/works confusion in that we are indeed saved by grace and later rewarded for our works.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

James Anglin said...

But I find the Bible vague and ambiguous about exactly what 'salvation' is, as opposed to 'reward'. Pretty much every passage that mentions either one or the other seems to me to be heavily metaphorical — as any statement would pretty much have to be, if it were about a life beyond the universe we know. I mean, white robes and golden crowns are impressive symbols, but if they turn out to be literal depictions of the state of the blessed, then if I make it that far, I'll be disappointed. I'm hoping for more than a flashy but limited wardrobe.

So, within the hard-to-measure leeway of metaphor for transcendent things, every Biblical statement about good results from final judgement seems to me as though it could be talking about the same thing. I grant that some kind of distinction between salvation and rewards may be consistent with the Bible, but I don't feel I can see that the Bible clearly teaches this. It's an interpretation that is largely cut from fresh cloth, and although it can probably be stretched over the New Testament without tearing, I would hardly say it fits like a glove.

Even the places where the fit seems especially snug often turn out to fit other interpretations equally well. For instance, Paul's famous depiction of imperfect souls being saved 'as through fire', the way a person might escape from a burning house but lose all their goods, has been taken as a clear statement that one can be saved by Christian faith without being rewarded for good works like the more faithful workers. It has also been taken as a basis for the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, which holds that many saved souls will still need some finite amount of purging from sin. It has even been taken to mean that literally everyone will be saved, with no condition whatever (universalism).

Mormonism may be inconsistent with forms of evangelical Protestantism, but I think that many Mormon principles and attitudes do fit comfortably within the much broader range of traditional Christianity. Fear, for example, has always been a big Christian theme, and even denominations like Lutheranism, which emphasize 'faith alone' most extremely, have had to backpedal enough to warn against what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called 'cheap grace'. In evangelical churches that emphasize confident claiming of God's promises, post-baptismal sin and repentance are part of real life, even when they have to be fit into altar call rituals whose language is really aimed at initial conversion.

Having made that much of a defense of Mormonism, I don't want to be two-faced, so I'll say frankly that I see the Latter Day Saints as a part of the Body of Christ that is still crucified, with the nails of Joseph Smith's fraud. I hope that view can be heard here as honesty, not lack of respect for Mormons. In fact I think most Mormons would agree that this is exactly what Mormonism would be, if Joseph Smith were not a true prophet. I don't believe he was, so there it is. I believe I can learn some good things from Mormons, but I'm not a Mormon.

flying fig said...

"But I find the Bible vague and ambiguous about exactly what 'salvation' is, as opposed to 'reward'"

There are so many verses that say "saved by grace without works" AND "you'll be judged by your works", What my post from 7:20am and 1 Corinthians 3 means is we are first saved by accepting the free gift of grace. After that salvation occurs our Christian lives will be evaluated and we'll receive (or not receive) heavenly rewards for our works.

flying fig said...

There are five heavenly crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be awarded to believers. They are the imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life. The Greek word translated “crown” is stephanos (the source for the name Stephen the martyr) and means “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally.” Used during the ancient Greek games, it referred to a wreath or garland of leaves placed on a victor’s head as a reward for winning an athletic contest. As such, this word is used figuratively in the New Testament of the rewards of heaven God promises those who are faithful. Paul’s passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 best defines for us how these crowns are awarded.

James tells us the crown of life is for all those who love God (James 1:12). The question then is how do we demonstrate our love for God? The apostle John answers this for us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). As His children we must keep His commandments, obeying Him, always remaining faithful. So, as we endure the inevitable trials, pains, heartaches, and tribulations—as long as we live—may we ever move forward, always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and receive the crown of life that awaits us

James Anglin said...

I think everyone has to agree that the NT has many texts that speak of salvation as a gift far out of proportion to its requirement, whatever that is, and also many texts that speak of judgement for works. One possible way of reconciling these apparently different principles is to say that they are talking about salvation and rewards, as two separate things. The thing is, though, that I can't think of any verses that explicitly spell out, Hey, God has two separate classes of goody to bestow on us: salvation, first of all, and, secondly, rewards.

Paul's verses about the building and the foundation are the closest any passage comes to spelling this out clearly, as far as I can remember; but this passage is still ambiguous. In context, it rather looks as though what Paul means by different qualities of building that can be built on the foundation, and that may survive judgement in worse or better shape, are not works of different quality in a saved Christian's life, but rather advanced teachings that may be taught by various other preachers, after Paul himself preached the basic Christian gospel. So it's not at all clear that this passage in 1 Corinthians is really the clear resolution of the basic and general issue of faith versus works, by relating them respectively to salvation and rewards.

And if this distinction between salvation and rewards were really the simple reconciliation of the great apparent paradox at the heart of Christianity, then I would really think that some revelation would indeed have spelled it out in unmistakeable terms. I don't find any such revelation, so I grant that the salvation-versus-rewards theory is one reasonably consistent way of reconciling the Christian paradox, but it's still an interpretation constructed outside the Bible, and read into it, rather than read out from it. And the fact that it has to be read in, when it's a simple idea that could easily have been stated explicitly, makes me doubt that it is really what God had in mind.

flying fig said...

This commentary has some good insight on the matter

I believe that we are saved solely by the grace of God. When I say this, I mean I believe God sets us apart for salvation based not on anything we could do on our own effort, but based on the “free gift” of salvation offered by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Our ‘works’ play no role in our salvation. We cannot ‘earn’ our way into Heaven, this is a gift of God, so no man or woman could ever boast they ‘earned’ a place in Heaven with God.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But when we make this claim to those who believe salvation results from some human effort in combination with the work of God we often hear the complaint orthodox Christianity seems to ignore the behavior of believers altogether. After all, do we actually think all believers are acceptable to God no matter what they do or how they behave? Do we believe someone can simply say they believe but then live a life exhibiting very little evidence of this belief and still expect to get into Heaven?

Aren’t We Asked to Work While We Are Here?
The beliefs of Christians are often mischaracterized. While we, as Christians, don’t believe our works have anything to do with our entry to heaven, we do understand our works have everything to do with our reward once we get there.The Apostle John reminds us of the importance of the need to “work” while we are here on Earth:

John 9:4-5
“We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.”

So, why is it so important for us to “work”? Is it so that we can earn our Salvation? That can’t be the reason, because the passage we just read in Ephesians makes it clear our Salvation is not the product of our work. The issue here is not Salvation; it is reward. The orthodox Christian view of Heaven sees it as a place where rewards are distributed to the saints in accordance with the nature of their lives here on earth.

There are many good Biblical reasons to believe there are different levels of reward in Heaven. Orthodox Christianity does teach faith alone saves us. But Christianity also teaches our salvation is not the same as our reward. We serve an equitable and fair King, who loves us and is also just and holy. Grace alone brings us into the kingdom. Nothing we can do on our own can ever ‘earn’ this for us:

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In this sense, the gift of “eternal life” is given to all believers equally based on their faith alone. But there is plenty of Scripture suggesting there is a reward awaiting us in Heaven beyond our Salvation, and this reward will be distributed to us on the basis of our obedience and love for God demonstrated in our mortal lives.

Luke 15:6-7
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

From this passage, it’s clear it’s possible for us to have more joy (meaning of course, it must be possible for us to less joy as well). If this is true, and our experience of joy can be thought of as a reward, then it is also clear there are differing degrees of reward in Heaven.

Jesus told his followers there Are DEGREES of Reward in Heaven, that each of them would receive a reward in heaven based on what they did here on earth:

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.

This statement is so clear and direct it can hardly be argued. Jesus promised to “repay each person according to what he has done”. Think about it. If Jesus is not telling us God dispenses fair and just rewards (and punishments) in the next life, what would this passage mean?

flying fig said...

Matthew 25:14-30
For it (the kingdom of heaven) is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’ The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Jesus clearly told his followers the Kingdom of Heaven would be a place where individual saved believers would be rewarded according to their deeds. If you do a lot with what God has given you; you will get a greater reward in Heaven. If you squander what God has given you; don’t be surprised to find that your reward is much less.

Paul seemed to understand this as well. When writing to the believers in Rome, he used language very similar to the language used by Jesus:

Romans 2:5-6
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds…

Since we know from the scriptures God does not render salvation according to our deeds, what is it He is rendering? He is rendering reward according to our deeds. This means as our deeds increase, our reward increases as well.

flying fig said...

1 Corinthians 3:11-15
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

Paul clearly proclaims rewards are waiting for us as saved Christians. But he is also clear about the fact some of us will receive more reward than others. Some will work here on earth to create something persevering and as a result will obtain an enduring reward in Heaven. Others will not produce enduring work here on earth, and while they will still be saved, their reward in heaven will be nothing more than Salvation (“he
himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire”).

Solomon Agrees That There Are Degrees of Reward

Proverbs 24:12
If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?

I believe the Bible teaches salvation comes freely from God. Rewards are earned by those who are already saved freely by God. What kind of reward might we receive based on our work here on earth? The Bible does not give us the clarity we might like on this issue.

James Anglin said...

One can look at the Bible as a big jigsaw puzzle, and try to fit the pieces all together to make a single clear picture. I've never seen any such supposed completion of the puzzle, however, in which all the pieces really fit together without quite a few of those awkward spots that little kids make in puzzles, where the fit isn't really perfect but the pieces will kind of go together if you jam them a little.

For example, that passage about the house in 1 Corinthians. As I said, in context it pretty clearly seems to be talking about alternative advanced teachings following after the basic gospel, and not about good works after salvation. But if you really think that salvation-versus-rewards is an important theme in the entire Bible, then you can maybe argue that Paul simply made a brief digression, in the middle of his discussion about the various schools of teaching led by Apollos and Cephas and others, and in this digression he referred, perhaps as a sort of analogy for the basics-versus-advanced issue, to the general principle of salvation and rewards. Okay, that's conceivable; but I have to call it iffy, because Paul doesn't say anything like, 'Let me digress.' And it's clearly not showing the highest possible respect to the natural reading of the text itself. That's like jamming a jigsaw piece into a spot where it only kind of fits.

Moreover there are usually quite a few pieces left over in the box. These are the passages that one simply avoids, or writes off as 'poetical', or declares to be replaced by later revelations, or something.

Given that kind of imperfection in any solution to the Biblical jigsaw puzzle, it shouldn't really be a surprise that one can put the puzzle together just as well in several quite different ways. Not just any old jumble will do, by any means; but there are quite a few different ways to put the pieces together and have most of them fit. To get a new one you'll have to rearrange a lot of the pieces, turning many of them around and fitting them together differently; and you'll probably pull a bunch of the leftovers out of the box, and toss a few others back in. You'll still end up with a fair number of awkward spots that really only kind of fit. But if you're prepared to consider such a substantial rearrangement, you really will end up with an equally good solution to the puzzle. And you can do this again several times.

If you really still think that the thing is supposed to be a puzzle in which all the pieces fit perfectly in just one way, then you may want to keep arguing about which solution is closer to fulfilling that ideal, and you may want to tell yourself that the one you like best really does fit, and it uses up all the intended pieces. My feeling is that if we're honest, and really give the text the respect we ought to give it if we think it's divinely inspired, then we ought to admit that none of the solutions really comes close enough to perfection to be clearly preferred over all the others.

I suppose it's because I see the Scripture as a somewhat loose collection of revelations that the basic Mormon concept of new revelations doesn't bother me. On the other hand, I'm afraid this means that my rejection of Mormon scriptures is harsher, in a way, because I'm really not just rejecting them for not fitting my evangelical framework. I could in principle accept new Scriptures, but I still don't buy these ones.

flying fig said...

Point taken, James. I realize not every theological issue is spelled out explicitly in the Bible. But when there is such ample support for two distinct views such as the one we're discussing (saved by grace & judged by works) the only option we have is to search the scriptures to reconcile the apparent contradiction. In doing so, quite often we find it's not a contradiction after all, but just required a little digging.
While I feel there's enough scripture to support my perspective on this particular issue, I'm always learning something new and appreciate various insight from people like you

Anonymous said...

@ James Anglin: truth in love to Mormons is a big steaming pile of cow pies.

Anonymous said...

Faith Alone
Grace Alone
Scripture Alone
Christ Alone
God Alone

So which one is it? I can never get a straight answer. The last two, Christ and God, don't make sense because they are one and the same; so it should be one or the other but not