Some Mormons seem to think that Mormons don’t understand grace. This is a grave mistake, even if it is an honest mistake. The Book of Mormon is the best discussion of grace in the Christian world. Anyone who thinks Mormons don’t understand grace needs to read the Book of Mormon more carefully, and not start looking elsewhere just because reading and pondering the Book of Mormon is too much work. Please be patient with my candor.
Sure, contemporary Protestants, and even Catholics, use the English word, “grace” a lot more frequently than most Mormons do. And the word “grace” is not very common in the Book of Mormon, either. But what if someone spends a lot of time talking about Heavenly Father, and rarely uses the word, “God”. Does that mean s/he doesn’t understand God? Obviously not. Similarly, what about someone who spends lots of time talking about spark plugs and transmissions and intake manifolds and tires, but rarely uses the word “car”? Does that mean this person doesn’t know about cars? Quite the opposite! Your typical auto mechanic can talk about cars for a very long time without using that particular word, precisely because he understands cars very well. The person who only knows that the car either works or doesn’t work is the one in the dark here.
Ah, but what if the person can talk for hours about catalytic converters and clutches and CV joints but doesn’t understand someone who says something about a horseless carriage? Doesn’t that show that the person is actually lost in the minutiae and doesn’t understand cars? Cars are, after all, horseless carriages . . . No, that only shows that the word “horseless carriage” is archaic!
Unfortunately, by too frequent repetition the word “grace” has become disconnected in some people’s minds from the thing, or things it refers to. Hence these people don’t recognize that Mormons are actually talking about grace all the time, only in a far more informative way. Grace is a word for generosity or a gift. In particular, grace in a Christian context refers to what God does to allow us to return to live in his presence, joyfully, for eternity. How are we saved? By grace! By God’s love! By God’s amazing plan of happiness and salvation! By God’s mercy! By God’s gift of his Son, who willingly died to save us! By the baptism of fire, which not only frees us from the guilt of past sins, but purifies our desires so that we have no more desire to sin! By the action of the Holy Spirit, which leads us on the true path! By the atonement of Jesus Christ, which satisfied the demands of justice and let the sinners go free! These are all God’s generous gifts, all part of one plan of salvation by which he shows us his generous love and invites us and enables us to partake of it, to return to his glorious presence, and what is more, to be filled with his love ourselves and carry on his work–not only to partake of his grace, but to be filled with it ourselves.
“But wait,” some will say, “Mormons think it matters what you do! But the whole point of grace is that we are saved despite the fact that we don’t deserve it! So Mormons don’t understand grace, no matter how much they talk about God’s mercy and Christ’s atonement.”
Yes, the difference between typical Protestant discussions of grace and Mormon discussions is not merely verbal. Mormons have a different conception of grace. In brief, the Mormon perspective (as I understand it) says, “You may try to show me what grace you have received without your works; but I will show you what grace I have received by my works.” Indeed, faith is also a gift from God. It is primarily by doing God’s work, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that we manifest his grace in our lives. One could spend longer trying to clarify this point of disagreement. I hope to do so at another time. But my point for now is that Mormons do believe in grace, but this goes unrecognized because of two things: they often use other words, and they disagree with typical Protestants about how grace works. It is worth noting that Catholics use the word grace quite often, but also disagree with typical Prostestants, in interesting and salvifically important ways, about just what it is and how it works.
Grace is God’s way of bringing us back into his presence, despite the fact that we have all sinned. So, what is it, more precisely? The plan of salvation, the gifts of the Spirit, the atonement of Christ, and so on. If you want to know about that, there is no better discourse than the Book of Mormon.
Isn’t it a different question whether Mormons understand grace (meaning the people) versus whether it is discussed in our theology? I recall when Dr. Millet started writing on grace back in the late 80’s. It really was an eye opening experience for many people. Even now, nearly 20 years since these issues were grappled with more, I think many Mormons are ignorant of the basic Book of Mormon notions of being born again and of grace. Sadly so.
I disagree with Dr. Millet’s theology in many ways. I think he tries perhaps too much to bridge the gap between Evangelicals and Mormons. But this is a great place where he does a very important job. Further, I think the Book of Mormon avoids some of the common flaws that lay member understanding of Grace among Evangelicals falls into. (I’ll not take Evangelical thinkers to task, as many are far more careful, just as Mormon thinkers are more careful than the average person in Sunday School)
I’d add that I think Millet, in his latest book, is dead on when he raises the issue of process vs. event as a key difference between Evangelicals and Mormons. (Read the review of his latest book at my blog)
“?You may try to show me what grace you have received without your works; but I will show you what grace I have received by my works.? ”
‘by my works’ is key. Protestants think we think God is running some sort of test, in which our works demonstrates our worthiness, and then we get rewards. They think we think the connection between what we do and what we receive is artificial. Now I do believe this is sometimes true, but mostly it isn’t. The work and the gift are intrinsincally connected. Grace is recieved ‘by works.’ God does not say, ‘pick up your room and I’ll give you a cookie.’ He says ‘pick up your room and I’ll flood your soul with the joy of cleanliness and the joy of discipline.’ Or really what he says is, ‘try and pick up your room and I’ll show you how and encourage you when you are discouraged and I’ll endow your act with eternal meaning and I’ll flood your soul with the joy of cleanliness and the joy of discipline, which will redound to your good forever.’
Sure, Clark, there is an importance distinction between what the Book of Mormon teaches and what any given Mormon understands, or even what most Mormons understand. But I don’t think I need to change what I said to accommodate that fact. I think most Mormons understand grace pretty well, even if they haven’t absorbed everything in the Book of Mormon. I think most Mormons understand that without God’s merciful gifts, we would be lost and could not help ourselves. They understand that it is through the Holy Ghost that we become able to walk the path back into God’s presence, etc. They may not have fully internalized this message, but it is quite present in our regular Sunday discourse. Bob Millet and I may disagree on some particulars of how grace works; I don’t know exactly what he thinks.
Enjoyed your post on grace and the Book of Mormon. Just read through king Benjamin’s sermon and was amazed by the clarity and Christian message.
http://scriptures.lds.org/mosiah/4 verses 6-8
http://scriptures.lds.org/mosiah/5 verses 5-13
As I read these chapters over the past week, I thought of differences which would make not being considered Christian by some of my evangelical friends. Is the dispute more over the operationalization of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice? On the spectrum of predestination to universal salvation do others feel we lean too much to one side? Is there a dislike for concepts of authority and external ordinances as stressed by the Church? Or is more on random quotes from people a hundred and fifty years ago or standard issues such as polygamy and our concept of God that keep us from being seen as Christian in their eyes.
To me some creedal Christians seem to think we cut out the Christ part of the atonement, and we think they cut out their personal responsibility in their understanding of the mercy (Luke 1:70-72).
I equate discipleship with work, becoming and change, and can’t understand why I should expect any less. I may be stuck in a Mormon mindset, but can’t get away from the idea that what I do matters also, though not enough to fully save me.
Thanks, Adam, I completely agree. Of course, I think many Mormons, especially young Mormons or others whose faith is immature, also think about salvation a bit like a cookie sometimes, but we also recognize that salvation is a process of refinement that continues long after we enter into the gate: we have to press forward and endure, which fits much better with the truth than the on/off understanding of salvation that is implied by the evangelical rhetoric about either being saved or not.
Clark, I just read the review you linked to on your blog. I’m not sure what is supposed to be eye-opening about it. Millet clarifies what one of the key problems has been in miscommunication between Mormons and evangelicals. But I don’t see that he is making some radical new point as far as Mormon doctrine goes. Are you saying it is new for Mormons to think of salvation as a process? They may not have used those words before, because it only becomes a pressing question when you are confronted by someone who thinks that it is something that just suddenly happens one day, but I don’t think that makes it a new idea, just a new meta-observation about what Mormons believe, as helpful and interesting as it is.
I realize there is surely more in Millet’s book. Sorry, can’t read it this month.
Being born again, Clark . . . are you saying Mormons are ignorant of the need to be baptized? of the need to live in a new way? of the need to be born of water and of the Spirit? I do not understand what you could possibly mean in saying that Mormons are ignorant of the need to be born again!
Ryan, there are a few typical things non-Mormons bring up to try to say Mormons aren’t Christian. They say our understanding of God is so different it can’t be the same God, or our understanding of salvation is so different, or we don’t accept the Bible as God’s final word, or . . . Different people pick out different things to object to. Basically, it comes down to, “You’re just too different.” Well, we are very different. If we are right, then they are wrong–then all traditional Christians are wrong in crucial respects–and they can’t accept that. Ultimately I don’t think it’s any one thing; it’s the whole thing. But if evangelicals are honest about what they believe it is to be a Christian, they have to admit we are, because we accept Christ as our Lord and commit to follow him and ask to be changed by his grace, whether in those words or others. Bob Millet’s book that Clark brought up would be informative on this. So would another book called Offenders for a Word. Or I have an essay in FARMS Review volume 14, responding to one recent evangelical publication on this.
Ben, thanks so much for this. A beautiful way to describe grace, and a good platform for discussion…I’ve been trying to figure out a way to talk about this with my Seminary kids, and now I’m going to shamelessly poach your ideas. In teenage speak…I heart your post. :o)
The trouble with the Birthing analogy is that in physical terms, childbirth is pretty quick (though I’m sure it seems like eternity).
We are born again in the sense of becoming so different and better that we are, indeed, a new person. But that doesn’t mean that it takes 6 to 18 hours start to finish. It takes time, and it takes work to overcome ourselves.
I like to think of being ‘born again’ as a life-long labor.
Ben: I agree that the Book of Mormon is a great place to go to find the LDS doctrine of grace. However, we often butcher it beyond recognition. The notion that we are saved by grace “after all we can do” is often translated into “we must do all that we can do first in order to be saved by grace.” Of course, such a reading eviscerates the text of any notion of grace at all. What it really means, it seems to me, is that by the grace of God, through Christ’s atonement, we are made free to choose for ourselves. Herein lies the difference between LDS and at least Calvinist evangelicals (and we shouldn’t lump together Arminians with Calvinists since they are two very different way of elucidating grace).
Here is the issue. The Book of Mormon teaches that we are free by grace to choose for ourselves. We are made free to repent of our sins and to turn to Christ in the act of repentance (which I think is based on the Hebrew term for “repent,” shuv, which means merely to turn around). However, if we must do something to receive the grace, then Calvinist evangelicals will reject it as a gospel of works (just as they reject Arminianism for the same reason). However, the Calvinist view of grace faces insuperable problems. According to them, because of original sin we are utterly incapable of choosing or repenting for ourselves. Therefore, if we are saved, it must be God who makes the choice as to whom is saved and who is damned. We arrive that easily at the doctrine of predestination which is entailed the Calvinist notion of grace. If we have no say in accepting grace, then it must be all up to God and predestination follows. If we have some say, then it won’t count as grace for many evangelicals.
In my view, I love the re-orietation of the doctrine of grace in LDS scripture. I view justification, the act of being born again, converted or “saved by grace” as the equivalent of entering into relationship with the Father through Christ. He accepts us into relationship without any conditions attached in pure love (we could call it ‘unconditional love’ except for the apostate and misbegotten view that uncondtional love is not a part of the gospel of Christ that has infiltrated our doctrine). We are thus accepted into relationship with God through sheer grace alone without works of any kind. All that we can do is accept the gift of love, the gift of the Son, that the Father offers to us unconditionally. However, once in the covenant relationship (entered through baptism), we must abide by the commandments to remain in the relationship and grow in in the process of sanctification toward glorification and exaltation. However, these commandments are not heavy burdens but merely ways we are taught that loving people treat each other. “Works” are always “works of love,” the works that follow from abiding the law of love that summarizes all of the commandments.
Top those who complain that repenting as a condition of salvation reinstates a gospel of works, I reply that repentance merely means giving up those behaviors and ways of being that alienate us and keep us from accepting of the gift of love that is offered to us. When a person holds out his hands to accept a gift it is not a “work” in the sense that earns the gift, but merely the willing acceptance of a gift. Here is the key difference in my view: the gift offered is a loving relationship — and a person who loves another always leaves the other free to choose whether to enter into relationship and whether to maintain it. Love, by its very nature, is freely chosen. That is why the evangelical (Calvinist) view of graceis actually the opposite of grace, for it doesn’t leave the beloved free to accept or reject the loving relationship that is offered.
One final comment. Whereas salvation or being freed from sin is a matter of grace, the reward that we receive is always a matter of judgment of the works done while in this mortal life. If we confuse thse two, then we will confuse the scheme of grace and works. We will be judged and receive according to our deeds. Works relate to the life we live after we learn to love and accept the loving relationship which saves us in Christ. However, these works are not done because commanded (although they are part of the love commandment), they are done because we love one another. And by these works of love we know who the true Christians are.
While Mormons may speak of Grace, they do not understand the doctrine, and this post and the ensuing comments is ample evidence of that. People, this is a clear semantical problem, and the only way to resolve problems with Protestants, Catholics, and whoever else you are talking to is to eliminate the semantical problems.
When Protestants and Evangelicals are talking about “being Saved” they are talking about Justification by Grace, and thats it. They are ignoring the rest of the Sanctification and enduring to the end stuff, which is what Mormons are focused on. So, both sides end up arguing past each other and being contentious because they are both saying “Saved” , but ignorantly of one another meaning different things.
When the Scriptures, all Scriptures ancient and modern, but especially the Pauline ones, speak of Grace, they are talking about Justification only. And Justification means only the expiation of sin, and thats it. When we sin, we deserve to be punished, which punishment would take us out of the presence of God eternally. But, by Grace, we are spared this punishment by the merit of what Christ did, not by any merit of what we do, because what we do damns us. We do not deserve to be forgiven and have our sins expiated by Christ, and nothing we do can make us deserve that. It is solely by Christ’s Grace that we can have that. Committing good works XYZ will not make us deserve forgiveness for committing sins ABC, because nothing we can do undoes the fact that we did ABC and therefore should be punished.
When the Scriptures speak of works, they are talking about the Sanctification process, which is necessary. This is where the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes in, it purifies us as if by fire so that we can repent and reconcile our walks to Christ’s walk. Enduring to the end is also necessary, because falling back into sin alienates the individual from God again.
When Nephi says we are “saved by grace after all we can do” he is talking about the final point of Justification, which is at the Judgement Bar, when Jesus either accepts or rejects you. If you have faith, repent, and endure to the end (i.e., after all you can do) then at the Judgement Bar Jesus will accept you and you will be Justified before the Father and enter into His glory. Nephi is not in any way saying that works get you Grace, or earn you Grace or anything like that. And he is not arguing that the whole Plan of Salvation is an act of Grace. He is very specifically laboring to make it known to his children and later generations of relatives that Christ is central and pivotal to the Plan of Salvation, he knew it and he wants all his family to know it, and while they have to keep the Law of Moses (“all you can do”) that it is by Christ’s grace they are saved.
Some Mormons also believe the Resurrection is by Grace. Its not, and nowhere in the Scriptures says it is. No faith is required for Resurrection, nothing is, it just happens to everyone who has ever on the earth.
Here it is plainly in D&C 20, as follows:
29 And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. (You must endure to the end)
30 And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; (Justification is by Grace, note the complete absence of any reference of works, it is by Grace only)
31 And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.
(Now comes the works, which are required to be sanctified, and yes, there is grace here, because the Lord doesnt have to even grant us this opportunity either, but He does, and so we might exercise our agency to repent, with His assistance via the Holy Spirit)
Gavin–Are you talking about “the trouble with the Birthing analogy” from the perspective of the parents, or the baby? Either way, if it’s so troublesome, why do the scriptures use it incessantly? Why did the Savior use it right before Gathsemane? The “solution” is that physical birth is not just the labor and delivery part. The parent’s (and their parents, and their parents) genetic makeup, experiences, health, what they eat, what they are influenced by, their state of mind, etc. etc. all influence the baby’s genetics, prenatal experiences, birth experience, early life, eternity. That is a part of birth. The parents’ behavior in courting, marrying (it is hoped), loving, caring for, and nurturing one another and their baby(ies) throughout gestation, labor, and life. The parent’s behavior in parenting. The parent’s behavior in helping their child(ren) become people in their own right… If the baby’s–ditto on the influences, purpose, and results of birth being much longer-range than just physical birth itself. I think that the “Birthing analogy” is perfect. It (even physical birth) is an eternal and beyond comprehension multi-faceted work.
(BTW, we almost named a son Gavin!)
how about posts entitled: the fruits of studying at a non-LDS university? or is it just me that sees a common tie behind Adam and Ben’s agreement?
I think you have a much broader image of how ‘being born’ relates to eternal progression than most do. This is fine; as far as you’re concerned the analogy is perfect. However, I’m arguing that to most people (and I believe the encounter with Nicodemus was included because he epitomizes the average joe), being born again means some single event whereby they are ‘saved’, after which they need do nothing more. And for most LDS, this seems to mean baptism (water) and confirmation (fire/spirit), and not much more.
Maybe I am underestimating the public (by which, I’m told, I can never go broke), but it seems to me that if this weren’t the case, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I realize that writing here is sometimes preaching to the choir, and that those with the greatest misunderstandings about Grace, etc. probably don’t read T&S. However, my view of the term ‘being born again’ is that it equates to ‘a mighty change of heart’, and not a one-time-only Justification.
I think you’ll agree that the change involved here is Sanctification, which takes time. If one understands birthing to encompass all that goes before bearing a child and all that comes after (which is a great deal, why don’t we just say ‘living again’), then there’s no problem from the parent- or child-perspective. I suspect that Christ uses this analogy in part because he wants us to have this broader view of being born. If we actually start a new life, then being born again is just the beginning. I would still hold that most “Born-Again Christians” don’t really see it that way.
I’m both sad and happy that you almost named a son Gavin. Sad that you ultimately chose a lesser name, yet happy that there will not be one less reason for me to feel special (counting them as I do on the fingers of not many hands as it is). I suppose, though, that I should never live in the UK, if I want to continue to feel unique in this way. I don’t deal well with competition. My condolences to all those with common first names.
I’m also happy that you’re bucking the Mormon trend of made-up names, made-up spellings, last-names-as-first-names, naming after relatives and famous people, and other similar gimmicks we’re famous for (a close second to the African-American community in my book). That’s another post, though. I just hope you didn’t end up going with Parley or Porter or McMillan, or Stee’vuhn, or JsQh’ 9 (pronounced ‘Carl’).
How do you know that I am bucking those Mormon trends, not knowing what I have named my children? (he he)
Um, did Gavin really just say that birthing is a pretty quick? (#9) Yeah, tell that to a woman who has endured 36 hours of labor. Even marathons last no longer than 5 hours. Most labors last much longer than that, with no rest, unless, of course, you get an epidural, but even then, most women would say that they endured pain for quite some time before they got that relief. And that’s not even talking about the 9 months of hell endured to even get to that point.
I’m just going to make a tiny non sequitor threadjack-like statement and ask that men not talk about birth as if they know anything about it. It bugs. Go ahead and use it for analogies if you want, especially in this kind of context when we are talking about being born again and what that can mean, but please, don’t say silly things like “in the physical sense, it’s pretty quick.”
So Heather, how do you feel about Jesus using birth as an analogy for the atonement?
Noone (I hope) is foolish enough to question the difficulty of the birthing process. However, as it relates to this thread, the duration of the that process is short compared to nine months of gestation followed by eighteen years of raising the child. So when speaking of spiritual rebirth–what are we talking about symbolically? Can it be likened unto the *relatively* short process of getting the baby out or is there more to it than that?
I was afflicted with two large kidney stones for over a week and had to take Limbaugh level narcotics in between several trips to the ER for the really strong stuff. Does that qualify me to make cracks about the birthing process?
First, I would like to apologize, it would seem that I hit some kind of nerve with what I said. That is why I said I have to be careful with what I say to members, I tend to offend them too much. But I thought I could be a little more froward here. It just seems that grace is a difficult topic for us Mormons to discuss without involving strong feelings. So sorry if I offended you in some way.
Second, I feel bad that you felt it necessary to address this yourself. I know you said that you did not have the time right now to do so, so I thought someone else might take it on. But, thank you for doing so, you certainly seem to have the ability to explain yourself very well. I wish someone around here had you ability, perhaps I would not have struggled with this issue for so long as I have. People around here will not even discuss it with me. So I have been left to my own to try and figure it out. The following will be my reasons for believing the way I do. Of course I will be glad to entertain any and all dialog, and even willing to accept that I could be wrong. What I will not do is turn this into a debate, which I think creates a harmful spirit for any kind of helpful discourse.
To me this is all about missionary work. If we are happy with the way the Church is growing, then there is no need to change anything. If on the other hand, we are not happy with the missionary work, then something needs to change. I believe in changing what we can, and making what we cannot change work the best we can. We cannot change the fact that the Church used to practice polygamy, so we accept that and make do the best we can with it.
But,when I hear someone say that Mormons are not Christian, because they think they can work their way to heaven, I think, that is not correct, and can be fixed. Kirk is right, it probable is mostly about semantics, but semantics really do count. Here are a couple of things I think we can change that would make a difference.
First, and maybe most importantly, Blake is correct that 2Nephi 25:23 needs to be understood differently than the way it is now. It is not even logical that grace is not effective until you have done all that you can do. But that is how the leaders interpret that scripture. What they should do if they want to interpret it that way is use Alma 24:10-12 (or somewhere around there) to define just what all you can do really is. Basically, it is have faith and repent, that really is all one can do.
Second, I respectfully disagree with you about the words we use not making a big difference. I think you made a good analogy with the car, but I think it falls apart in two ways.
If we use a different word for grace than what the other Christians use, then we set ourselves up for a break down in communication with them. Not a good thing if we want our missionary work to go forward. When we send our missionaries on foreign missions, we teach them to speak the language of the people, we do not expect the foreigners to learn to speak our language.
Furthermore, using a different word for grace, over enough time, we ourselves will loose the true meaning and intent of grace. I hear all the time in testimony meetings someone say how thankful they are for the atonement. I am too, but I am more thankful that the atonement has been offered to us free of charge, it has already been paid for. All I have to do is accept it. Blake explained it very well.
Also, I think a problem lies in the fact that we think that the Evangelia’s misunderstand grace and therefore, whatever they say about it must be wrong. I think we misunderstand them as badly as they misunderstand us.
I heard a Baptist preacher say this, “if you can go out and commit sin, and your conscience not bother you, you are not saved.” They do believe in doing good things, they just do not think it helps add anything to your being saved, a better place in heaven yes, but not adding to what the Savior did for us. When Christ said “it is finished” they take that literal.
I hope this helps with what I said earlier and at least you can better understand where I am coming form.
Perhaps later I can explain why I have found grace to be so important, but I think I have already made this too long.
Ben: I think most Mormons understand grace pretty well, even if they haven’t absorbed everything in the Book of Mormon.
I think Dr. Millet deserves some credit for that, although I’m not at all convinced most Mormons actually think about it much nor necessarily understand it well But I could be mistaken. It’s very hard to answer these sorts of claims of “Mormons believe X” since most that we have is anecdotal evidence. I think both you and I have tended to live in places where perhaps people are a little better informed theologically that elsewhere. I’m not at all convinced Mormons know their theology as well as they ought.
It is true that most, if not all Mormons, believe without God we can’t do, that’s hardly all there is to the notion of grace.
Ben: But I don’t see that he is making some radical new point as far as Mormon doctrine goes. Are you saying it is new for Mormons to think of salvation as a process?
Not in terms of formal theology. But I think it very helpful to understand the difference between Evangelicals and Mormons. It is a major difference. However I’d say that the “process view” is a commonly held and understood one among regular Mormons. It wasn’t meant as a criticism of your comments. More a nice key factor to explain the difference.
Kurt, I’m not sure the justification vs. sanctification distinction is that helpful. The real issue (as I think Millet brings up) is whether grace (of whatever sort) is a process or an event. Evangelicals take it as an event, especially with regard to justification. I think Mormons take it as a process.
Now one can make an argument for the event model on the basis of the Book of Mormon. (Hel 10 being one obvious example) But I think that treating it as an event that is then complete is mistaken. (Thus Joseph’s comments about falling from grace)
I don’t think you give the saints enough credit. I think Ben is right in suggesting that the saints understand grace pretty well–at least, on an *intuitive* level if nothing else. Most members of the church can live with the idea that they have a long way to go before they learn their salvation. I think this is indicative of a sense of grace. Of course, there are a few of us who beat ourselves with unnecessary stripes. But by and large, the attitude is one of believing in a merciful God who is quick to forgive and who is ever ready to help His children along though they be underserving. This may not answer the “grace” question as we read it in section 93, but (imo) it certainly has to do with grace and will, in the end, lead one toward salvation–if for no other reason than it incites a trust in God because of the sense that one has of His goodness.
Look at it another way, Clark.
The imperfect Mormon understanding of grace is consistent with the Mormon idea that salvation is a process.
Yeah but the process is us coming to an understanding. There isn’t any process on God’s side.
That’s a great comment, and indeed, may be applied to our understanding of the theology, generally.
*our* theology, generally.
I have come to realize that accepting the gift of grace is more of an event than a process. At least I do not believe it needs to be a very long process. I think a process would be more in line with Mormons, but only because they tend to think it needs to be so.
I have also come to believe that there is a BIG difference in understanding grace, even as well as Ben obviously does, and receiving the gift of grace. I now believe that grace is as much as a gift of the spirit as any of the other gifts of the spirit. The difference in this gift is that I think that God wants everyone to receive this one. Other gifts are given to people as God sees fit. In other words, we do not all receive the same gifts as everyone else.
There is a really neat book called “The Bonds That Make Us Free.” It is written by a member of the Church but it is not a Church book.
The premise of the whole book, is that Warner says that we all understand that we should do good things in our lives and be good people, but until, what he calls a light comes into your life, you will never be able to do those things for the right reason. You can try and do them, but they will always be done for the wrong reason, and therefore are ineffective.
He does not tell the reader just what he thinks the light is, but to me, it is grace. At least that has been my experience with grace. It is a life altering event. Of course it could be that I lead such a sinful life that I had need for a larger change than most others in the Church.
I do not believe that accepting the gift of grace is an end to it all, but starts the process of sanctification. I tend to believe that until one accepts grace, that you can try and be a good person and do the right things, but it will be for the wrong reasons. Grace makes doing the right things easier and enduring to the end much easier also.
There is a really neat man in a ward I used to attend, and one day in SS class, (He was the teacher) he told us of all the neat things he had done in the Church, but he said he did them all out of duty and responsibility, and how he wished he had done them out of love for his savior. I think he had come to understand and accept grace and that is why he said what he did.
Of course all of the above is just my opinion, but until I hear something that makes more sense to me, I will continue to believe it is all true.
Oooh Nooo! She pulled out the dreaded “Men will never understand childbirth” trump card, thus ending all possible further argument!!
Drat! Foiled again! (cue: gnashing of teeth)
Back into my lair I must creep, never again to impugn the hardships of motherhood.
I think it’s possible that many members are more “born again” than they think they are. They just need to hang on to the agency that God has given them and choose to go through life happily believing that God smiles on a wide range of good works–that they’re free to do good!
Blake, thanks for an interesting foray into the details. For the moment, let me just say that I agree that we are saved by grace before, during, and after all we can do. We become able to do good only because of Christ’s atonement, which makes us free to choose: “because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26)
When the Scriptures, all Scriptures ancient and modern, but especially the Pauline ones, speak of Grace, they are talking about Justification only
Kurt, I disagree. Sure, Protestants tend to focus on what they call justification, and if we read grace through a Protestant lens, that’s what it’s for. But I don’t read grace through a Protestant lens. Grace is a much broader word, as I have explained above, referring to many aspects of the plan of salvation, or even the whole thing.
lyle, my basic understanding of God’s role in our salvation (i.e. grace) has not changed in any appreciable way since my time at Notre Dame. It was essentially worked out on my mission, as I studied the Book of Mormon, and many aspects came before that. My dad said something to me making essentially the same point as Adam, many years before I came to Notre Dame. That said, I do think Catholic thinking on grace is on the whole closer to the truth than Protestant thinking.
CEF, yes, you provoked me to this, but no, not in a bad way, so don’t worry. I have been wanting to post on this for a long time, and the thoughts came together, so here it is. I still will try to restrain myself from a detailed engagement with Kurt and Blake on the specifics of how salvation works, with apologies simply because I haven’t the time.
I agree we would do well to communicate more effectively with other Christians, and this will help missionary work. Partly I think we have historically tended to think of “grace” as referring to whatever evangelicals believe, and deny that, as we should, because it is mistaken. But of course God’s grace is a part of the story of salvation, so ultimately we should get straight how it fits in, and rather than merely rejecting mistaken notions of grace, replace them with correct notions.
However, I do not agree that we should talk about grace more in our own discourse, in Sunday meetings etc. That might make it easier for evangelicals to accept us, but it is just not a very informative way to talk about salvation. As I have said, “grace” is a very broad word. We cannot replace talk about the atonement, the Holy Spirit, God’s love and mercy, and so forth, with talk about grace. That would be like telling mechanics to stop talking about cylinders and distributors because their clients don’t understand: too bad, the truth about the car involves cylinders and distributors, and avoiding them just leaves the client in the dark. If the client then chooses not to pay attention, that is his business, and his loss.
You are right, of course, that we need to avoid caricaturing evangelical notions of grace. They are not as bad as we sometimes make them sound, but they are still missing important truths.
As for salvation as process versus event, I think that old habits die hard, and the choice to accept Christ is a choice we have to re-make again and again. Our souls are like the trees in the Lord’s oliveyard, discussed in Jacob 5, and usually have to be purified by degrees, cutting off wild branches and grafting in tame ones over time. People for whom the change happens mostly at once end up unconscious for days under the strain (e.g. Alma the younger, King Limhi, etc.), and most probably couldn’t even withstand that. Someone who has already been doing the right things, but out of duty, has already made much of the change, but even then, the change in desire usually happens over months and years.
Clark, thanks for the reply. It sounds like we may differ more on details of how grace works. But I agree Mormons need to understand their own theology better, need to study their scriptures and ponder and listen to the Spirit better, and I think Bob Millet’s work helps us do that. Of course. I also agree with you, Clark, that the “justification/sanctification” categories may not be the best way to understand salvation. Sorry, can’t give details now, but I would be interested to hear more of your thoughts on this.
We have to re-make the choice to accept Christ again and again, especially because we encounter new situations. For example, I have accepted Christ in a lot of ways, but working with children in Primary requires me to accept the transformation of the Spirit in new ways. My patience is tried in new ways . . . and I have to pluck off the bad branches I have found in this heretofore neglected area of my soul, and replace them with good ones. This is all part of the refining process.
I was beginning to get discouraged about the church. First the thing in California about gay marriage, then I found out here they were against the ERA, and now today in my other reading I found they were for capital punishmant. I was beginning to question my testimony from all these things, and wonder if I was in the wrong church after all. Then Adam said this.
“God does not say, ‘pick up your room and I’ll give you a cookie.’ … really what he says is, ‘try and pick up your room and I’ll show you how and encourage you when you are discouraged and I’ll endow your act with eternal meaning and I’ll flood your soul with the joy of cleanliness and the joy of discipline, which will redound to your good forever.’”
And I realize yes that’s exactly right, and I am Mormon, no getting around it. So I’ve just got to reconcile things somehow.
It strikes me that in one sense we Mormons can claim to believe in grace more than our evangelical cousins. After all, one measure for how much you believe in grace is what, precisely, you think it can do. We think (or at least one strand of our doctrine teaches) that God’s grace in Christ can ultimately make us “equal in power, and in might, and in dominion” to God Himself, receiving “all that the Father hath.” On this point we are sometimes criticized for blasphemy–how dare we think that we could become as God? A partial answer, I think, is that we think such a thing is possible not because the gulf between us and God’s perfection is small, but rather because God’s grace extends to bridge the full immensity of that gulf. In this crucial respect, other Christians sell God’s grace short, expecting felicity to be sure, but not setting their sights any higher.
Of course, other Christians have reasons unrelated to beliefs about grace for believing that the final state of humankind remains vastly inferior to God. I share these beliefs with respect to other creatures–in my opinion, it does not show any lack of grace for God not to lead a mosquito into a Godlike life; God manifests his grace by allowing mosquitos to have that fullness of joy that is appropriate to their nature.
So to be fair, I must concede that differences in beliefs about the destiny of humankind are likely to be rooted in different understandings of what constitutes fulfillment of human potential, not in differences in belief about what grace can accomplish. But still, our belief that God’s grace extends not only to justifying us and sanctifying us on a human level but also to making us divine demonstrates that the grace in which we believe is, in a uniquely Mormon sense, amazing.
CEF, I think there is a point where we turn towards God and start to accept grace. But even there, as I think D&C 93 indicates, we move grace to grace. Even when we turn to God, we have habits and weaknesses that keep us from opening ourselves up to him. Even being born again is a process more than an event. We may have events of great spiritual outpouring and turning away from our sinful ways. But I think grace is more than that as is opening ourselves up to it.
Ben I think you’re right that Mormons for too long considered Grace to be what Protestants believed. I think this was what, primarily, Dr. Millet was working against. (Indeed one of his tapes from the 80’s talks about just this situation) I think over the last 20 years he’s been successful in turning us aside from that. Even if we don’t use the Protestant terminology, I do agree Mormons think about it more than we did prior to the mid-80’s. Even in Conference talks there is a difference. That’s not to attribute this purely to Dr. Millet. Clearly there were many others thinking along these lines.
Regarding justification/sanctification. I think that the scriptures adopt a kind of perspectivism to the Atonement. That is, they don’t maintain a single taxonomy or way of thinking about it. That’s why there are several different and often incompatible analogies for the atonement in the scriptures. The atonement is more than what any simple discourse can convey. Something we need keep in mind when discussing it. Obviously one can take a more philosophical consideration of this point, and from my terminology I assume you can see where I’m going with it.
The irony is that this is the same Adam who abominates gay marriage, has opposing the ERA in his genes, and who loves capital punishment. When God can use even a right-wing thug to bring comfort, grace is truly abounding and you gotta know this is the right place.
Glad you dropped in, Tatiana! Stick with us; we need you on our side!
Michael, fancy meeting you here! I hope you’re well.
Clark, good point about multiple models or taxonomies.
I won’t contest that Mormons probably use the word “grace” a smidge more lately in talking about what we believe. But I don’t think this represents any substantive change in our teachings, only word choice largely traceable to concerns about miscommunication. We could make the same points talking about God’s mercy and love, Christ’s perfect sacrifice, etc. It is possible that there has been a bit of drift toward talking more about relying on God to make up for our shortcomings, but this would be a subtle thing to do with frequency of reference, and I don’t particularly have the impression it is happening. To pin that down would require a careful survey of GC addresses and such.
Adam: (smiles) I can’t help but think that was part of the point.
Ben H: Thanks for the welcome! I really like it here.
And thinking more about it, maybe I am not supposed to always reconcile everything, but rather hold some things in a superposition of states, awaiting further enlightenment.
33 & 39.
Tatiana, I’ve come to the same attitude — patience has become a blessing in many parts of my life.
FWIW, the Church’s official position on capital punishment is — no position.
Clark, Justification and Sanctification are two entirely different things. One is Jesus expiating your sins for you by his grace and mercy, and one is your cessation of sin with assitance of the Holy Spirit. How is it not helpful to get Mormons to understand the difference between these two things? Protestants focus on the former, Mormons focus on the latter. And thats why they end up yelling at each other like idiots.
Ben, yes, naturally, Grace is involved in the entire Atonement from start to finish. But, when Paul says “saved by grace not by works” he is talking exclusively about Justification and not anything else, cf. Gal. 2:16, Rom. 5:1-2. Ignoring this fact by saying “Well, thats what Protestants say and I dont have to see it that way” is ignoring what Paul said, not what the Protestants say. If you want to stop contending with your non-LDS Christian friends and neighbors, you need to talk to them using words that are fair. Expecting them to see your BofM-derived POV is the same as them expecting you to see their POV, which is narrow-minded on both sides. The only common ground is taking it from Paul’s POV, since he wrote it in the first place, and it is easily established what he was talking about.
Kurt–I disagree with your definitions of justification and sanctification. How did you come to these?
Try Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (both of which are on the www). Also, look up the Greek terms “dikaiosis” and “hagiasmos” in Strong’s (also on the web). You can also look up those terms in the lds.org “Guide to the Scriptures” at:
You’ll find the definitions I use conforms to those above.
What are your definitions for these terms?
At the risk looking like a shill for Blake, I have to say that his comment #10 was the strongest, most coherent take on Grace that I have yet seen.
How did that gem go ignored here?
I will address this to everyone,
I would like to say thank you to Ben for starting this post, and I am grateful that no one has gotten upset about anything. Members around here are so uptight about it, as I said, they will not even talk to me about it. So I decided it is best just to keep my mouth shut than it is to try and make a point.
I am concerned about the difference we see in accepting grace (or as the protestants say it, Christ as our savior) as an event of process. The conclusion I have come to was certainly a process not an event. The miracle of change in my life came about as a process, but the transformation itself was more of an event. Like a watershed kind of thing.
When I was in the mission field, we were teaching a very golden couple, and in one of the discussions, the lady looked me right in the eye and asked me if the experience she had as a young girl of 14 when she accepted Christ was a bad thing. (it had changed her life) The spirit in the room was as strong as I have ever felt it. I told her in no uncertain terms that no, it certainly was a good thing, and look where it had brought her. They ended up joining the Church.
Bare with me, I promise to make a point with this-
At one point in the last few years, my Stake Pres. asked me if I thought I understood grace better than he did. My SP has a PhD and is very knowledgeable in the gospel. He had a good question, and I did not have a good answer. I most certainly believed I had it right and he did not, but then, logic told me he must be correct and I must be wrong, even though it did not seem that way to me. So I struggled with that for some time.
Finally, I reached the conclusion that grace is a gift, and no matter how well you intellectually understand it, until you are willing to fully embrace it, it will not change you in any way. I have understood grace differently than most members since I was nineteen, but it did not change me at all.
It was not until I read a most wonderful book about grace that I allowed myself to fully embrace it. The book is nothing but stories about grace and what he calls ungrace. But those stories softened my heart enough that I allowed the grace of the savior to flood my soul and that “event” literally changed who and what I am. My wife would be the first to confirm such a change.
If you have something in your life that is not right and unwilling to turn loose of, you will not be able to embrace grace. I gave a copy of the book to an older brother who said he would be glad to read it. About two weeks later, he called and said, “If I understand this guy, he is saying if someone rapes my wife or kills my kids I have to forgive him.” I said yes I believe that is correct. He said “To hell with that.” Needless to say, my brother did not embrace grace and had no change of heart.
Grace is a very difficult concept, but as I said, it is not complicated, but it is hard to do. I have one more point before I try and tie this all together.
We do use different words in the place of grace for various reasons, and one of those words (I am surprised it has not come up here) is charity. We talk about charity all the time in the Church. But to put charity in the context of the BOM, you will not have charity in your life until you first have grace in your life. Now to try and put this all together.
I believe every aspect of the gospel is a process that is suppose to lead us to have charity in our lives making us more Christ like. But along the way we have certain events that are suppose to be life changing, “The Mighty Change Of Heart” being one of those. It is as if a light comes into your life and literally changes you from a man of sin to a new creature to walk in a Newness of life. I believe that light is pure and simple grace. If that is not true, then I lack the ability to explain the events in peoples lives like the lady in the mission field. There are many people just like her. Or my wife, (she has change also) and of course myself. And it also explains why people like my SP and many others in the Church that most certainly understand the meaning of the word grace, yet do not get what it is that my wife and I have tried to share with them.
So I came to the conclusion that the only way to make sense of all of this is by putting it in a context of grace being a gift and not all are willing to receive it for whatever reason.
One last story. About a month ago, we went to Utah to see my daughter and son-in-law. While there, we visited with the person that taught my wife the gospel when she was thirteen. I have heard about him and his wife for the thirty years we have been married but never met them. They are very successful and very active in the Church. She was the most well versed woman in church doctrine that I have ever met personally. Somehow grace came up. (My wife always brings it up) We talked about our dilemma out here and it was nice to have someone in the Church tell us there is nothing wrong with us and that there is a place in the Church for people like us. That was a first. But she said something that has brothered me a little. She said that she was not ready to accept the gift of grace yet in her life. She was a little afraid to do so. We had already been there for two hours and had to leave, so I did not get to visit with her about just what she meat by that, but I wonder how many other members in the Church have a similar feeling about grace. They somehow know there is more to it than they are living, but not willing to explore it further. I hope that is not true.
In conclusion, I have also come to believe that grace really is irresistible. Not in the context that we have no choice, we always have choices to make, but more in the line with someone holding out an ice cream cone to a child who has had one before. (I think we have all felt forgiven at times in our lives before) Sooner of latter that child will decide to accept that gift. Sooner of latter everyone will accept the gift of grace, why not sooner.
superposition . . . physicist perhaps? Most people I know named Tatiana don’t do quantum mechanics : ) Yeah, I think we have to maintain a superposition on some things. I wonder what you would think of this post on how our knowledge should develop.
Geoff J, yeah, it really helps to have somebody really dig into the sticky parts of the question of how grace works. I suppose Blake’s discussion shows that the word “grace” has often been used as a kind of buzzword for “God’s action” as contrasted with “our action” in a debate with strong ties to philosophical debates over freedom and determinism. I would quibble a bit with Blake on this, for similar reasons to the reasons I disagree with him on the relationship of freedom and determinism (and I do tie this into the scriptures, too). But Blake’s account is a pretty good one and well suited to Mormons.
40 manaen: I’m glad to hear capital punishment is not the official position of the church now. I was going by this that I read in the Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121 and 122, page 71:
“Alma 1:17-18. Capital Punishment
The law of God is, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: (Genesis 9-6). In 1889 the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles prepared a declaration regarding the Church’s position on capital punishment:
“We solemnly make the following declarations, viz.:
That this Church views the shedding of human blood with the utmost abhorrence. That we regard the killing of human beings, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime which should be punished by shedding the blood of the criminal, after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land. …
The revelations of God to this Church make death the penalty for capital crime, and require that offenders against life and property shall be delivered up to and tried by the laws of the land. (“Official Declaration,” Millennial Star, 20 Jan 1890, pp. 33-34)””
I’m not trying to threadjack, but has this been superceded by new revelation, or allowed to fall into obscurity?
Ben H.: I’m an electrical engineer with a strong interest in physics. So you’re exactly right that I meant superposition in a quantum mechanical sense. (smiles)
Tatiana, my comment about capital punishment was from reading recently that the Church has no official position on it, in the context of not advocating whether or not a government should adopt it. Your citation refers to being tried by the laws of the land and I only meant that the Church holds no position on what should be the law regarding capital punishment.
manaen, the source Tatiana cites does seem to take a position on what the law of the land should be. But this is a very old source, and might reflect the situation on the frontier as much as any revelation. Our present, soft-touch judicial system, is a bit of a bourgeois luxury–thank God for bourgeois luxuries! (though I’m not sure all of its bourgeois-ness is good)
Items that are not incorporated into the standard works are not necessarily binding on the church anymore if they don’t show up in contemporary discourse. They have a sort of built-in expiration date, you might say. It would be interesting to see the specifics of a more recent source, though.
47, 49, 50
Here’s the text from the Church’s website that I had in mind for my comment about the Church’s position on capital punishment:
“A number of recent press reports regarding capital punishment in Utah have incorrectly implied that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorses the state’s practice of using firing squads to carry out the death penalty. Following is the Church’s position on capital punishment:
” ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment.’ ”
Personally, I used to be a strong supporter of capital punishment. Now, feeling God’s grace open the way to heal from, and be forgiven for, my sins, I worry about the BoM’s warnings regarding those who die in their sins (Jn 8:21,24; 2 Ne 9:38, Msh 2:33, 15:26; Al 12:16; Mni 10:26 — also Jn 8:21,24). Maybe we’d improve their chances by giving them longer to decide to repent “And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the bwill of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.” (2 Ne 2:21)
NOTE: Clicking on the link in #51 doesn’t work. Copy/paste the entire link to open that page.
Ben: I won’t contest that Mormons probably use the word “grace” a smidge more lately in talking about what we believe. But I don’t think this represents any substantive change in our teachings, only word choice largely traceable to concerns about miscommunication.
I’d definitely disagree. However this is the problem of moving from anecdotal evidence to meaningful comments about the community. I think one big problem that Mormons faced was the seige mentality that developed due to all the persecutions in our history, along with our relative isolation until the last few decades. Until the 1980’s I think that resulted in a kind of focus on works that neglected grace. Thus I see it as far more than just a terminological issue. Of course *proving that* would be more difficult. Perhaps a sample of conference talks would be useful. But even that’s not always the best, given that there is often a large disconnect between theology taught in conference and what members internalize.
I think the biggest change in notions of Grace came about when there was the renewed focus on the Book of Mormon in the 1980’s. It’s hard to read the Book of Mormon without seeing many discussions of grace. Likewise the account of say the conversion of Alma the younger is a great example of some of the things we’ve been discussing here. But one must recall that prior to the mid-80’s the Book of Mormon was very neglected among Mormons in terms of developing actual theology. Simply put, we didn’t read it much.
Kurt: Clark, Justification and Sanctification are two entirely different things. One is Jesus expiating your sins for you by his grace and mercy, and one is your cessation of sin with assitance of the Holy Spirit.
My point would mainly be that there is far more to this. Consider Helaman 10 which to me is the ultimate example of Justification. So I think you’re reading too much of a pure Protestant view. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of truth in the taxonomy. Just that there’s more to it.
You may count me as one of those “uptight” members. Your position on this subject tends to negate the tears and anguish of many who are striving to know God as pointless or fruitless. And furthermore your position tends to imply the God is a respecter of persons–that only those who have the “gift” of faith to reach out and accept God’s gift of grace are those who truely know of His grace. In other words, God, by virtue of his grace, chooses who will receive enough grace to receive His grace.
In the debate on works v. grace. A friend once used that quote from Nephi :We are saved by grace after all we can do to mean. We do the 10% or whatever that we can towards our exaltation and God makes up the 90%. (I assume that is 10% across our entire pre-exaltation existence) Essentially 90% + 10% = 100%
I see it as being more like this: 100% x 100%=%100. And as a rough analogy, climbing a mountian. God gives us the direction, the air we breathe, all of the strength that we have, any knowledge that we need. All that would be grace. We have to hear that direction, learn that knowledge, breathe that air and use that strength.
A good scripture that I just though of is moroni talking about charity. Pray with all energy of hear + be a true follower of christ => Charity, which means we will be saved. Question: Thanks to whom is it possible for us to pray, follow that example etc.
I don’t know Clark,
One could also argue that a greater focus on the BoM has given us a balance in our view of grace–without which we may have gone too far in the direction of our evangelical friends.
Talking more about grace, grace, LDS understanding of grace, works (of love) and charity, accepting the gift of grace, and qualifying vs. earning grace were discussed by Bruce Hafen (his book, “The Broken Heart” helped to heal mine) in GenCon 4/2004. Some relevant excerpts:
In recent years, we Latter-day Saints have been teaching, singing, and testifying much more about the Savior Jesus Christ. I rejoice that we are rejoicing more.
As we “talk [more] of Christ,” the gospel’s doctrinal fulness will come out of obscurity. For example, some of our friends can’t see how our Atonement beliefs relate to our beliefs about becoming more like our Heavenly Father. Others mistakenly think our Church is moving toward an understanding of the relationship between grace and works that draws on Protestant teachings.
Christ’s Atonement is at the very core of this plan. Without His dear, dear sacrifice, there would be no way home, no way to be together, no way to be like Him. He gave us all He had. Therefore, “how great is his joy,” when even one of us “gets it”—when we look up from the weed patch and turn our face to the Son.
Only the restored gospel has the fulness of these truths! Yet the adversary is engaged in one of history’s greatest cover-ups, trying to persuade people that this Church knows least—when in fact it knows most—about how our relationship with Christ makes true Christians of us.
So we must willingly give everything, because God Himself can’t make us grow against our will and without our full participation. Yet even when we utterly spend ourselves, we lack the power to create the perfection only God can complete. Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the “finisher of our faith.” At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough.
We need grace both to overcome sinful weeds and to grow divine flowers. We can do neither one fully by ourselves. But grace is not cheap. It is very expensive, even very dear. How much does this grace cost? Is it enough simply to believe in Christ? The man who found the pearl of great price gave “all that he had” for it. If we desire “all that [the] Father hath,” God asks all that we have. To qualify for such exquisite treasure, in whatever way is ours, we must give the way Christ gave—every drop He had: “How exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” Paul said, “If so be that we suffer with him,” we are “joint-heirs with Christ.” All of His heart, all of our hearts.
The people in 3 Nephi 17 had survived destruction, doubt, and darkness just to get to the temple with Jesus. After listening to Him for hours in wonder, they grew too weary to comprehend Him. As He prepared to leave, they tearfully looked at Him with such total desire that He stayed and blessed their afflicted ones and their children. They didn’t even understand Him, but they wanted to be with Him more than they wanted any other thing. So He stayed. Their almost was enough.
Almost is especially enough when our own sacrifices somehow echo the Savior’s sacrifice, however imperfect we are. We cannot really feel charity—Christ’s love for others—without at least tasting His suffering for others, because the love and the suffering are but two sides of a single reality. When we really are afflicted in the afflictions of other people, we may enter “the fellowship of his sufferings” enough to become joint-heirs with Him.
May we not shrink when we discover, paradoxically, how dear a price we must pay to receive what is, finally, a gift from Him. When the Savior’s all and our all come together, we will find not only forgiveness of sin, “we shall see him as he is,” and “we shall be like him. ” I love Him. I want to be with Him.
I am sorry that you have misunderstood me, or I have not made myself more clear. I am not trying to say that whatever effort one puts forth is of no consequence in the eyes of the Lord. That of course would not be true. Even the SS teacher I mentioned who did things only out of duty and responsibility would still find favor with the Lord. I am only trying to say that there is a better way of doing things.
There is a really neat article over on the Meridian web site called “A New Look At Enos and the Main Message of the Gospel.” http://www.meridianmagazine.com/articles/050811enos.html
You go about have way through the article before it tells of two different stories that I think would be very appropriate. Basically they tell the story of a lady in the Church that struggled with her weight and all of the callings and duties she had in the Church. After years of struggling, she finally turned her live over to Christ and let Him shoulder her burdens, and when she did that, she felt such a great relief. The other story is about a guy that struggled with pornography for years, always trying to over come it on his own. Finally, after years of struggling on his own, he admitted that he could not help himself, and turned to Christ for help.
I am sure I did not do justice to these stories, so you should read them for yourself to make sure I am not miss stating something.
People like my SP would probably read these stories and say, you see, it was only “after” they had done all they could that they could turn to their Savior and get help. People like me, and I think the person writing the article would say, the point these two people were trying to make in the books that they wrote about their lives, was why did I take so long to let my Savior help me with this.
So what I am trying to say is that there is a difference of attitude towards grace that we have in the Church that fosters a do it on my own that I believe hinders our relationship with the Savior.
Which do you think is a bitter way of seeing things? I am doing all I can to make myself better so the Savior will love me more and “maybe” I will make it to the Celestial Kingdom, (at what point have I done enough?) or, I am so thankful that the Savior “has” saved me that I am now willing to do anything He asks me to do. He said I need to be baptized, where is the water? He said I need to be a doer of the word, get out of my way and let me get going.
I hope this makes what I think a little more clear, if not, I will be more than happy to try again.
By the way, I am the worlds worst speller, so please try and disregard all of the mistakes I make :)
You are the second worst speller around here. It is common knowledge that I’m the first.
I think the problem that I have with what you’re saying is that (imo) you’re not really talking about grace per se. You’re talking about faith. You’re talking about having the faith to accept whole-heartedly the gift that God has offered to us. And (imo) this is a decision that the individual must be a party to. It requires an “act” of sorts on our part to position ourselves so as to be able to receive more of God’s grace.
I think one of the things that we get hung up on is the problem of understanding when God’s grace becomes “sufficient” to save us. The BoM makes it very clear that only after certain things are in place will God’s grace be sufficient. We must deny ourselves of all ungodliness. We must love God with all our hearts, etc.. (as per Moroni ch.10) However, this doesn’t mean that His grace is not operative before it becomes sufficient. It simply means that it’s not sufficient until we have done what we need to do to position ourselves to receive that measure of grace that will save us. That said, If not for His grace we would never overcome all ungodliness and therefore would never be in a position to receive a full measure of His grace. So His grace is present throughout the whole process of salvation. I’m one of those who believes that this “day” of preparation extends for a great while after this life allowing ample time for God’s grace to become sufficient–the lengthly duration of our summer’s day of preparation being a manifestation of grace itself.
I must say that I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that there’s a “better way.” I’ve heard this notion preached by those who have separated themselves from the church and aren’t really doing a whole lot to help in establishing the Kingdom. It is my opinion the latter-day saints are encumbered with a unique set of problems which cause an added measure of stress and doubt as to their basic goodness and general acceptance by God. I think, more than just a failure in finding the “narrow way” because of a lack of faith or a fix on worldiness, what we have is a collective psychological problem which has its roots in the theological strictures of our modern culture. It’s a trial! A difficult one for many. And to imply that some are failing to find a better way merely because they are not accepting God’s grace is to risk riding roughshod over the suffering of those who are ordained to experience certain trials which are calculated to refine their souls.
I realized I did not address all of your concerns. I only started calling grace a gift about a year ago. That was because I was trying to put some reason to why I would see things so differently that my SP and others out here. If it is not a gift, then I am back to square one on trying to understand what has happened to me and my wife.
I fully realize that saying that I have been given a gift that others do not have, sounds at best hubris, and or course there are worst things that it could be called.
I have no idea why me and not others more deserving. I am nothing special and only stumbled across this by pure accident. But this I know, others that have had the same experience, all feel the same way. They would do more for our Savior now than they ever would have done before they had this experience. And be glad to do it.
How would you explain such experiences as the lady I talked about in the mission field? When she asked me the question, she had tears in her eyes. Something unique had happened to her that she could not deny.
As I said though, I believe this is a gift that God wants everyone to have, it is not reserved for anyone special or more deserving, but you do have to be willing to accept it. The member lady in Salt Lake I mentioned, was consciously aware that she was not ready to accept it. I wish I knew why.
I read “The Broken Heart” about four or five years ago. It was in that book I found the answer to another question my SP asked me. “If I understood grace correctly, they why did not the GA’s teach it the way I did.” That was another question that stumped me. It is a good question. The answer is in the preface.
In short, it is because they are afraid that members would take it as a license that we do not have to do anything. I am sorry they feel that way. I am sure there would be some that would say they are saved and would not be willing to do any more than that. Just like some in the evangelical world do. But true Christians know better. Paul struggled with this same problem, of course James was a little more blunt about it. Show me your faith by your works.
Going back–those who have rejected the significance or usefulness of the justification/sanctification comparison–why?
Kurt–I was hoping for scriptural definitions–i.e. references. Your definition of sanctification sounds like part of what I consider justification. To me, sanctification is more. A becoming holy–becoming more godlike. Not just not sinning more (including sins of commission and omission). Just my sense. No scriptures to back me up. But now that you’ve piqued my interest, I will be looking at this more closely.
“And to imply that some are failing to find a better way merely because they are not accepting God’s grace is to risk riding roughshod over the suffering of those who are ordained to experience certain trials which are calculated to refine their souls.
CEF, I’ve had similar experience in that I’ve received what I only can consider a wonderful gift of grace. With it, the Spirit leads my heart to new understandings about the atonement and the rest of the plan for happiness. My experience echoes the story you cited (58) of the woman who “finally turned her live over to Christ and let Him shoulder her burdens, and when she did that, she felt such a great relief” and your comment, “what I am trying to say is that there is a difference of attitude towards grace that we have in the Church that fosters a do it on my own that I believe hinders our relationship with the Savior.”
For me, this came from trying my first 40 years to do it on my own. The increased loneliness I felt resulted in me doing things that ended with me asking priesthood leaders for help. My stake president listened for more than three hours as I put everything on the table. I expected justice, but at also freedom. I wasn’t ready for his response: he hugged me and told me he loved me. That was the moment my heart broke. As I drove home, I felt God’s love wash through me and cleanse my heart. I haven’t been the same since. That was the *event* that changed me. Then, I had a long *process* of learning to live healthily and to love.
Since then, one of my favorite passages is
“A new heart also will I cgive you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezk 36:26-27)
This new heart is any amazing *gift* God gave me. I certainly do not merit it.
Being driven to my knees in despair caused me to, finally, turn to the Lord and confess my deficiencies. I suppose this is called lowliness of heart. In the years since, I sensed that many people at church haven’t come to this broken heart and contrite spirit and so they move along service-ing in callings, working hard, and getting worn out because they’re trying to do it well enough to be acceptable, without understanding that their gift of their heart is what’s acceptable.
“As I said though, I believe this is a gift that God wants everyone to have, it is not reserved for anyone special or more deserving, but you do have to be willing to accept it. The member lady in Salt Lake I mentioned, was consciously aware that she was not ready to accept it. I wish I knew why.” I agree God want everyone to have this gift. Maybe she wasn’t ready to accept it because conscious awareness isn’t the courage to endure the chastening and renewal that accompany this gift. Someone with a broken heart and a contrite spirit already is chastened and now craves the renewal.
The security and peace that come from this gift and knowing God’s love is constant was explained recently: “Most of all, you should pray to be filled with the love of Christ. This love is given to those who are true followers of Jesus Christ, who ask for it with all the energy of their heart. This love is the fruit of the tree of life, and tasting it is a major part of your conversion because **once you have felt your Savior’s love for you, even the smallest part, you will feel secure**, and a love for Him and for your Heavenly Father will grow within you. In your heart you will want to do what these holy beings ask of you.” (D. Todd Christopherson, GenCon 4/2004). Which is the opposite of your comment “that members would take it as a license that we do not have to do anything.” We just don’t worry about current failure now.
I later found confirmation of my experiences in the BoM, “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the holy Ghost, which comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” (Mni 8:26) This double gift of hope in the place of despair (“if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity –Mni 10:22) and unending love brought peace into my life and the courage to love others.
Clark, you seem to assume a grace vs. works dichotomy, then say that we have moved away from works and toward grace. But I deny the dichotomy. As (Adam and) I said above, it is through a godly walk etc. that we show God’s grace has worked on us. Nor is this merely a sign. Christ doesn’t save us *in* our sins; he saves us *from* our sins. That means until we leave them all behind, really behind, we are not done being saved.
Sorry, will be on a road trip for a couple of days and may not be able to respond for a bit.
LisaB, one way to put how I object to the justification/sanctification bit is to look at what I’ve said above about being freed from our sins and note that it is all about sanctification. There ain’t no other salvation. “Justification”, if it is supposed to be something different from sanctification, I don’t think exists. That will probably just make things less clear, though. Sorry.
Jack & CEF:
I promise, at least in my mind, this post will ultimately have to do with yours!
The main text for Mormons on this point is the “after all that we can do” passage in 2 Nephi 25:23; already in this thread several posts (#10, #11, #55, to name a few) have referred to it. In this thread, it generally seems to be interpreted as stipulating that there is some role for works in some aspect of salvation (although people disagree about precisely what that role is).
I find it interesting that this text is ambiguous; instead of being read to say “grace saves us, but only after the all that we can do condition is satisfied, it can be read as: “all our efforts to obtain salvation are insufficient, and in the end after we’ve tried everything, we see that it is grace [not those insufficient works] that saves us.” On this latter reading, the passage only stresses that our own capacities are insufficient and that we therefore need grace–it says nothing one way or the other about what role works and choice play in making grace, and salvation, available to us.
Along the same lines would be my favorite words of Limhi: “O ye my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made.” The effectual struggle, as the next verse makes clear, can be thought possible (even “after” numerous past failures) only if the people put their trust in God.
Jack, your discomfort with CEF’s view seems to be, in part, based on a desire not to trivialize the struggles of those who are doing their best to bear heavy trials well. We should not say that these struggles are “in vain,” to use the Limhi language. CEF’s response is to point to accounts in which, when the burden is finally lifted, the believer feels exactly what Jack wants to deny–that his attempts to carry the burden were in vain and unsuccessful, and ultimately by turning them over to Christ he has found a “better way.”
Does the Limhi account suggest that in some situations, both may be right? Can it be that sometimes the sanctification of our souls requires us not only to struggle, but to struggle “in vain,” until we finally long so much for deliverance (and recognize our inability to obtain it with our own powers) that we become uniquely ready to receive, and to appreciate, the miraculous deliverance when it comes? If so, CEF would be right to say that (in the end) we can see that the works were not what did the trick, but Jack would be right to insist that making the attempt was a necessary part of the process.
Well, how does my proposed resolution strike you? CEF, are you willing to concede that for some people the 40 years of carrying the weight before having it lifted by Christ may be a necessary and valuable experience preparing them to accept, and appreciate, his grace? Jack, does this do adequate justice to the struggles of those suffering as they strive to carry heavy burdens, or am I still riding roughshod?
Of course justification exists. Simply put–we are accepted into the covenant though we are not yet purged completely of our disposition to do evil. IMO, most who are striving to live the gospel are in a state of justifcation and on the road to becoming completely sanctified.
My comment (#66) was in response to Ben H.
How do you interpret Job’s dilema? Was he not converted before he went through those aweful trials? Was Joseph Smith not sanctified before he experienced his trials in Liberty jail? I have no doubt that both of these characters where very much aware of God’s grace in their lives and yet the Lord required them to carry burdens which caused them no small amount of discomfort. The problem that I have with the above argument is that, not only does it tend to trivialize the suffering of others (though it may be completely unintended), it also presupposes that because some may be groaning a bit under the weight of life that they must not know the “better way.” IMO, there is only one way, and that is to love God. That said, as we grow in that love we find ourselves becoming purged by degrees in ways that are unique to our particular dispositions–in ways that only God can know how to prepare because of His intimate understanding of our needs. We have to be really careful not to assume too much about where our brothers and sisters are on the road to salvation.
Yeah, I agree with Geoff, Blake’s #10 is wonderful. But I’m printing and studying this whole thread. I always love to hear about grace.
Michael, your last two paragraphs capture my feelings in #63, even to the 40-year wait!
Jack, I suppose that Joseph wasn’t sanctified (=exalted) before Liberty jail. God told him that it “shall” give him experience and be for his good. Even Jesus learned from the things which he suffered in this life.
I agree with your “IMO, there is only one way, and that is to love God. That said, as we grow in that love we find ourselves becoming purged by degrees in ways that are unique to our particular dispositions–in ways that only God can know how to prepare because of His intimate understanding of our needs.” Part of the preparation you mentioned is to give us weakness compared to our burdens in order to humble us so that we will discover God’s grace: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my *grace* is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Hel 12:27) This is why Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light: not because it weighs less, but because the weight is a smaller % of the new strength we have through the gift of grace. I believe this understanding of grace will help others as it is helping me.
There is no judgment for us to make of our neighbors, so responding to their groans only is to recognize that we could ease their suffering by helping them understand the strength available to carry their burden. The groans are symptoms of this need for (better) understanding that God’s chastenings are acts of love. Laman & Lemuel murmured on the boat. Nehi, on the same boat, sang his own version of “why should we mourn or think our lot is hard, ’tis not so, all is right.”
The restored gospel teaches us that the lowest *unrepentant* murderer who is devoid of good works is saved simply by accepting Jesus as his savior.
Although this is true, I phrased it that way to entice you to wade through what follows. Joseph Fielding Smith’s clarification of redemption, salvation, and exaltation may help us reach agreement in this discussion:
I want to discuss a little these three terms, redemption, salvation, and exaltation, used synonymously in the scriptures. Many places where you see the word redemption or where you see the word salvation it means exaltation, or in other word’s salvation in the kingdom of God; and yet sometimes there is a difference in meaning. While these three terms are used frequently in the scriptures synonymously, in fact most of the time, yet they also do have different meanings describing three separate stages in the eternal progress of man.
REDEMPTION is the act of purchasing back, recovering from captivity, or restoring. So Christ becomes our Redeemer in bringing life back again where it was taken away through the transgression. There will be some individuals who will be redeemed from death-I am speaking now of the physical death-and that is all. They will go out as sons of perdition to dwell with the devil and his angels, as set forth in section 76 and other scriptures. They are not redeemed from the spiritual death, which is banishment from the presence of God.
SALVATION is preservation from impending evil; deliverance from sin and its penalty realized in a future state; also, the means of deliverance from evil and ruin. That is salvation. (I am giving you the dictionary definition of these terms.)
Salvation will come to the great body of humanity. The redemption of the soul is the resurrection. Salvation is to find a place somewhere in that redeemed state, freed from the realms “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” in its fulness, or in other words redemption from that spiritual death which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when the Lord says unto them, “Depart,” and they go into the realms of Satan.
Salvation will come to all who enter the terrestrial kingdom. They will receive a higher grade of salvation than will those in the telestial kingdom. Salvation will come also to those who enter the celestial kingdom. That will be a still higher grade of salvation.
Salvation is the gift of God, according to the scriptures, to all men who do not sin against the light and become sons of perdition. Salvation is of varying stages or degrees. Every man is to be judged according to his works, and for this reason various degrees or kingdoms have been established.
EXALTATION is the act of being raised or elevated, as in position or rank; it is to be magnified or glorified. So in the celestial kingdom those who pass by the gods who are set to guard the way to a fulness, receive exaltation. The telestial kingdom is not a kingdom of exaltation; the terrestrial kingdom is not a kingdom of exaltation, although it is higher than the telestial kingdom; and there will be many who will enter the celestial kingdom in their saved condition without an exaltation in it, for there are different degrees even in the celestial kingdom. Exaltation is to dwell in the presence of God and to be like him.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 11-13.) [Some parts deleted or recombined in this posting – m.]
Any of the three degrees of glory is salvation from what otherwise would befall us without a Savior. LDS doctrine, then, is that we are *saved* only by accepting Christ as our Savior regardless of our works. This is why we say the unrepentant murderer mentioned at the beginning of this posting is saved somewhere in the telestial kingdom simply by accepting Jesus’s offer.
This sounds foreign to LDS not because it’s wrong but because we’re really in the exaltation business, not the salvation business like are our Catholic and Protestant friends. They promise a heaven that closely resembles the terrestrial kingdom for diligent believers and something like the telestial kingdom to believers without accompanying works – and the restored gospel says that they will deliver on their promises. IMO Jesus told Joseph Smith that their creeds are abominations not because they lead closer to evil but because they deny people the blessings of the celestial kingdom, which was the true purpose of the creation and the atonement.
We depend upon God’s grace for all three stages: redemption, salvation, and exaltation, as well as the spiritual and physical births. I do not believe that we earn any of them by our works. Rather, our works can help us become the type of people that God in his grace will exalt in his kingdom. Even the steps to do that require God’s grace as we falter, regather strength, and are led by the Holy Ghost. Redemption is, and salvation almost is, a freebie that comes from a loving Father. Elder Oaks said “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become” in his GenCon 10/2004 talk that expounds upon that idea (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-15,00.html). I see a parallel here with acting out the ordinances; there is more changing and learning when action follows belief especially in front of witnesses.
So, we aren’t much different from what the other Christian camps preach, as far as they go, once we clear the differences in phrasing. I wonder whether we don’t lose converts because we miss that they actually are talking about salvation, but not exaltation. I can see one of them saying, “If I know you’re wrong about the things I do know, like being saved by grace regardless of works, why would I trust you to lead me to things I do not know?”
I notice similar misunderstanding among contributors to this thread. I hope this clarification of terms also brings more agreement among us.
a Star thread on what exaltation is has turned into a parallel discussion to this one, but with weird differences:
Thank you for your thoughts and concerns. I in no way would ever trivialize anyone struggles or hardships, or assume that people get what they deserve because they are not doing things in accordance with the right way. (not exactly your words)
This life was intended to be a life of trials and hardships, so just because we accept Christ, does not in anyway protect us from such things. If anything, we may even have to endure more. But what the gospel is all about, is that you do not have to endure these things by yourself. Because of Christ, we can look forward to a better time, and the really “good news” is that we do not even have to wait until we die to be delivered from these hardships. At lease mentally.
My favorite Christian writer is Philip Yancey. In his most resent book he tells of his travels with some guy that checks on people in prisons in third world countries. The conditions are worst than most of us can even comprehend. And yet, in these dark holes, he found people holding on to their belief in a Savior that still loved them. The book was worth the price just to read that one story. I hope this helps some.
My eyes filled with tears when I read your post this morning. Alas, a kindred spirit. I am so thankful for what you said. I could just say amen and let it go at that, but I would like to say a few things.
My understanding of justification is that once you accept Christ as your Savior, you establish a relationship with Him. His righteousness becomes yours. You are not perfect, but your are perfect in Christ. Simply meaning, that you are now found innocent.
Sanctification simple means becoming holy, which I believe is a life long process. Robinson in his book “Believing Christ” covers all of this very well.
I really believe the problem we have in the Church with grace “all” comes form 2Nephi 25:23. I have a little story that I think might explain how this might have happened.
When I was growing up, my dad told of a story about one of his uncles that could shoot a rabbits head off at 100 yards with a shot gun. He told that story until I reached the very wise age of sixteen. Having been shooting a shot gun since I was twelve, I realized that it is a physical impossibility to shoot a rabbit’s head off at 100 years with a shot gun. The pattern at that range would be so scattered you would be lucky if just a few BB’s hit the rabbit.
So, I challenged my day one day after he told that story. Keep in mind, my dad was very good with a shot gun. I said, “how can that happen, the pattern would be so big, you would be lucky to even kill the rabbit, let along shoot it’s head off?” My dad said, “how the hell would I know, I just know he did.” He become very mad and I thought he was going to tear “my” head off. This is what I think happened.
As a young boy, my dad heard his family talk about how good of a shot his uncle was with a shot gun and exaggerated the point, but my dad was so young that he did not know that they were exaggerating just to make a point. He took it literal and never once stopped to thing about it. He just passed the story along as he heard it. That is until I come along. To my dads credit, I never heard him tell that story again.
The point is, just reading the verse in question, it does say “after all you can do.” If you do not stop and think about it, well, that must be what it means. For some reason, none of our leaders ever stop to question if perhaps that scripture could have a different meaning, such as, after everything is said and done, it is still by grace that we are saved.
There are scholars in the Church that are questioning the interpretation of that scripture. Robinson, Millet, and others I have heard on the BYU station. But until we hear a general authority say something different, we are stuck with trying to rectify the ambiguity that now exists.
It’s been a fun exchange. I’ve enjoyed reading you comments–and Michael’s and manaen’s as well.
To continue in the fun–
You say: “For some reason, none of our leaders ever stop to question if perhaps that scripture could have a different meaning, such as, after everything is said and done, it is still by grace that we are saved.”
I’m going to assume that the positvisim in this statement is merely a rhetorical device used for emphasis. IMO, most members will find themselves at one point or another thinking about the question of grace (generally–not neceassarily in conjunction with 2nd Ne 25). Some will crash into it at a moment of crisis while others, who for some reason seem to be less troubled by it, will take it in stride.
Many saints simply are not troubled by the idea of doing all they can to remain in the covenant. On the other hand, some feel that the burden is excessive and are in a constant state of weariness. However, those that suffer in this manner do not necessarily need a mighty change of heart. They’re already on the road to full conversion. They’re already good souls. They simply need to understand that God has already extended His grace, that He already has accepted them into the covenant and that the workings of the Spirit in their lives is ample evidence that they’re doing OK.
As I mentioned before, I think what many of us are struggling against is a collective psychological problem–not just a problem with a lack of conversion. We don’t recognize conversion within ourselves very well these days. Many of the burdens that we think need casting off are not burdens that should be taken on in the first place. We are still in the process of over coming the captivity that Nephi speaks of in 1Ne 13–“that which bindeth the saints and yoketh them with a yoke of iron,” etc. IMO this heavy yoke is not only caused by sin, but by a load of false tradition which is calculated to drive the saints into despair.
I think, in many cases, we just need to remember.
I too have enjoyed this exchange, it has been very interesting.
I do believe you are catching on to my lack of ability to say things in a cohesive and well thought out manner. So, yes, saying that the leaders have not thought out that there could be a different interpretation to 2Nephi 25:23 was used to make a point, but I am sorry to say that is was not as innocent as it should have been.
I do think that the Church did not stop to think about if there could be a different interpretation for a long time though. The point I made about my dad being good with a shot gun, was a reference to the leaders of the Church should have come up with a different interpretation for that scripture a long time ago. My dad should have never believed that you can shoot a rabbits head off at 100 yards with a shot gun, he knew better. There is a question begged with the current interpretation. It goes like this.
We are not saved by grace until after we have done all we can do. Question: Have you done all that you can do. Answer: No, of course you have not, nor have I or anyone else. Conclusion: I have no grace in my life and will not have any until at the very end of my life. If by some chance I have not been able to perfect myself (Matt. 5:48) then the grace of Christ will cover where I might have fallen short.
I would hope the utter absurdness of such logic is obvious. But it must not be. Other wise, someone in the leadership would have fixed this problem a long before now.
I am sure there are leaders that are aware of the problem now, but how do you fix a problem that has been around for so long? Answer: I think you do it a little at a time. “Believing Christ” was the first time I ever came across someone in the Church that addressed this head on. The fact that Howard W. Hunter was Robinson’s uncle and President of the Church and told him that he liked his book just the way it was, and that Elder Oaks in an Ensign of 92 called “Believing Christ” inspired would lead me to believe that it will eventually be changed, but not fast enough for me.
Again, it is all about missionary work to me. I believe this is something that can be fixed and should be fixed. Of course I am not the one to fix it, I am only a thorn in the side of some members, so try and be content to voice my feelings in places like this and keep my mouth shut in Church. I find I do more harm than good otherwise.
I would be glad to hear someone give an argument in favor of the current interpretation of 2Nephi 25:23. There is always a chance that I have missed something and have it wrong.
I too remember reading Robinson’s book way back when and feeling a bit of relief. His interpretation (as I remember) was something like: we are saved by grace [even] after all we can do.
The interesting thing is that the more converted we become the more we find ourselves doing good. I suppose that pattern will continue until we, like Helaman of old, are doing good continually–and that becasue we love it. What more can we do than that?
You are a neat man Jack. My SP is a neat man also, but he refuses to see grace in any other way than “after all you can do. Perhaps the next SP will see things differently and they might ask me to do something again. It is very frustrating wanting to do more now than I have ever wanted to do before, and be seen as some kind of heretic. Perhaps the Lord wants me to learn more patience. And I thought I had all the patience I could stand. :)
Ben: Clark, you seem to assume a grace vs. works dichotomy, then say that we have moved away from works and toward grace. But I deny the dichotomy
I think it would better characterize my position to say we once bought into the dichotomy but have since rejected that there is such. However not all the membership recognize that yet.
Who’s we then, Clark?
CEF, that’s not a red flag you’re waving at me, is it?
Re: 2 Ne 25:23.
Maybe the wording is not accidental. As we stretch to understand whether “after” is to be taken synonymously with “beyond” or sequentially, we’re developing deeper appreciation for the atonement and grace.
Maybe the answer is both (which also would account for the ambiguity of this verse): our struggle now to do all we can is aided along the way by God giving us the strength and peace we need to continue — an in-the-moment salvation from defeat. The interworkings of this struggle and the continuing relief from God help us to become (see Elder Oaks’ talk on becoming, cited in #70) the kind of person that God will save/exalt *after* our time of probation, in the Judgment. This probation is the time to perform our labors; God won’t let us do more upon which to be judged after the Judgment. In this strictly sequential sense, there is no way we would be saved before the end of our probation, hence the final salvation/exaltation will be “after all we can do.”
Thanks for the interesting thoughts. I wouldn’t want to have to say that Joseph Smith and Job and all the other people who have trials are doing so because they haven’t become converted. My proposal–that sometimes struggling can be meaningful even if it turns out its purpose is simply to prepare us to receive God’s deliverance–was meant as an account of some, not all, religious experience. Also, even if a trial, and struggling in vain against it, has the primary purpose of preparing someone to appreciate God’s grace (when it comes at last), that may not be because they were unconverted or unwilling to rely on God before (though that is also possible). Sometimes it’s just that we can’t enjoy certain kinds of communion and grace from God until we have struggled with weights too big for us to lift ourselves in certain ways. To those of us not yet closely acquainted with the pain of death, it’s hard to share Paul’s triumph: “O Death, where is thy sting?”
I’m not sure that I think the ambiguity in 2 Nephi 25:23 is a problem that needs to be solved. I think, rather, that it usefully captures two sides of our experience of grace: the feeling that notwithstanding all our efforts, it was ultimately grace that delivered us; and the reality that there is real spiritual striving to be done on the path towards receiving a fullness of grace.
I agree with you that the view, “I can’t have any grace because I’m not perfect (I haven’t done all)” doesn’t make much sense. But I also don’t think many members of the Church think this. If you took a poll and asked members whether they could experience grace before the end of their lives, I bet close to 100% would say, “Of course.” Certainly the views of Jack and manaen show a much richer conception of the relation of grace and works in spiritual life.
If the question is whether God demands our efforts as a precondition for his help, maybe we’re mistaken to approach the question as a general theological one. That makes it seem like the answer has got to be the same for all of us and across all times.
The other day my wife came home from an Enrichment where the speaker had, following Robinson and others, stressed that we don’t need to worry about whether we’ve done enough to be saved; we just need to focus on Christ, and realize that He has already saved us. This was a very spiritual meeting for her, and she was convinced the Spirit had ratified what the speaker had said. I, ever the critic, took issue with what I thought was too one-sided a presentation; in my scripture study, I had recently been impressed with God’s insistence on our exercise of agency as a precondition of saving grace: “only the penitent are saved.”
One unnecessary argument later, I came to the following tentative conclusion: On our spiritual journey, God sometimes tells us to look hard at ourselves to see whether we have done “all that we can do,” and we sometimes need to redouble our efforts before we expect his help. Other times, our efforts our still flawed and imperfect, but he in his wisdom knows it is enough and tells us it is time to rest in the assurance that Christ’s grace will cover our failures. He knows when to chasten and when to bind our wounds. But when the Lord tells me that it’s time to put my shoulder to the wheel, I shouldn’t be too quick to conclude my wife is off base when she says his message is for her to cast her burden on Him. And vice versa. Perhaps 2 Nephi 25:23 is ambiguous precisely so that the Spirit can make it ring in each person’s ears with the sense that person needs at that time.
Not that anyone is paying attention anymore…
I see the Nephi of Hela. 10 as having his C&EMS, which is why the Lord grants him cart blanche. He has reconciled his will entirely to the Lord’s, and so the Lord can entirely trust him, hence the statement of complete support. Justification isnt a matter of a Protestant definition or not, it is what the Scriptures say it is, its by faith and not by works and its something we dont dererve or earn, its having your sins expiated, and thats it. Going beyond that and equivocating on a broader definition/usage of “righteousness” may be where we are talking past each other. In order for a person to be righteous, they must have a godly walk, and that keeps them out of sin, but that has nothing at all to do with how their past sins are dealth with and/or expiated.
Sorry about the misunderstanding on the request. There are a lot of passages that discuss Justification in the salvation sense. Most people tend to focus on the Pauline ones, since he is discussing it the most, as a result of hammering on the Jews and Judaizers who want to minimize, or deliberately misunderstand/misrepresent, Jesus’ sacrifice in the Atonement and the manner in which it expiates sins. A couple of relevant references dealing with Justification in the sense of a person’s salvation are Acts 13:39 and Rom. 3:20-28.
Ah yes, Kurt. The instant-gratification/attention deficit nature of the internet renders even the most in-depth and potentially illuminating discussions “expired” after 48 hours or so. I was interested in how you formulated your own definition of justification and sanctification. I agree that we often talk about them in the manner you have. I agree more closely with CEF’s “found innocent” or reconciled with the law vs “made holy” (comment #72)–but including more than just washing the slate clean in that sanctification. Maybe I’m thinking of glorification and it is even an additional process, although we are told that what every glory we inherit will match our works (the greatest of which being our acceptance of grace or not?, how’s that for a twist?) I think it is interesting to consider Ben’s (?) proposal that these are one and the same–especialy given our human difficulty of overcoming temporal/ consecutive/ hierarchical thinking (I think applies to Michael #80, too). Except that just this morning I encountered another scripture implying two distinct processes related to cleaning the slate–2 Nephi 14:4 talks about the time “when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion [that means all of us–not just the women and girls], an shall have purged the blod of Jerusalem from the midst thereof [here are the two processes:] by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.” This seems to draw the distinction not in terms of what is being accomplished, but HOW. Both processes are for the purpose of cleansing (making justification and sanctification synonymous as Ben claims), and both require grace, but they are done in two ways: throught judgment (the law), and through “burning” (sanctifying trials which further “refine” us). Previous study of this issue has lead me to believe that the difference may have more (in some ways) to do with agent than result. Jesus reconciles us to the law, the Holy Spirit sanctifies. Both processes reconcile us to God. Perhaps they are not so much consecutive or hierarchical as we tend to think or want, but rather focus on different aspects of purification and perfection. Though I have wondered about denying the Holy Ghost being a graver sin than denying Christ. So perhaps that implies a hierarchy there, too?
Manaen #79–Perhaps this point you make is like Chirst giving Moses and the Children of Israel the Law to [eventually] prove to Israel that they really DO need Him “after all”? I used to argue with my dad that obedience was only the “first” (ie initial) law of heaven, not the “supreme” law of heaven (as he implied). I counter argued that love was the supreme law.
Oh, a couple important references on justification and sanctification for me are 1 John 5:5-8 and Moses 6:59-60.
The definitions I use are not mine, they are the standard theological definitions used by pretty much all Christian academics.
I think the conflation of Justification and Sanctification in the minds of Mormons is part of the problem. Theyre two entirely different things from the point of view of salvation (i.e., speaking strictly in a soteriological sense). D&C 20:29-31 makes that plain, and is (again speaking strictly soteriologically) probably the plainest definition in the modern LDS canon.
Now, from a practical, daily life sort of way, they blend together, and thats fine. But, when nit-picking these fine points of doctrine, you have to set those practical things aside and split hairs in the rarified air of theology.
I don’t have much of a problem with the ambiguity of that verse either. I agree that looking at it both ways makes sense. I think it makes sense because both interpretations are really two facets of the same process. We know that no matter what we do we simply cannot save ourselves. We must rely on the atonement. On the other hand, we must do all we can to reach upward so that, by virtue of our agency, we are open to receiving the gift–God will not force it upon us. It is my opinion that in some instances, though we verily believe our desires to be pure, we are not ready to receive the gift (or more of it). God may know that we still have a few obstacles to over come within ourselves before we can truely embrace the next measure grace (speaking of the gift giving more in terms of a process).
I think Nephi’s linear exposition in the latter chapters of 2Nephi points to justification occuring at the point where we “enter in by the way.” We have repented of our sins, proven our committment by baptism, and received the Holy Ghost (in some measure). As we move forward from there we endure in the process of sanctification. How justification plays a part in that process or might itself be a process is a little ambiguous to me. That said, it seems clear to me that justification may be viewed as separate from sanctification (though the two may happen side by side) as it seems that the Lord is willing to accept us into the covenant though we have not completely conquered our disposition to do evil. We may be pronounced “innocent” (by virtue of the atonement) as we repent though we are not completely sanctified.
Kurt, I strongly believe justification and election are closely tied together (although obviously not the same)
No, not at all. I can see that there could be a good case made that English is my second language. But I am sorry to say that it is the only language that I can even half way converse in. Putting what I said about you in the same sentence as what I said about my SP certainly would muddy the waters some. Sorry about that. You are a neat man period. I did good just to get out of high school. So my writing skills are very limited. As far as that goes, my reasoning skills are not the best either. But I do like learning things, so I tend to hang out in these kind of places.
I am going to wax a little philosophical, or at least try and put all of this together in the way that I think it is suppose to work. Someone disagreeing with me will not hurt my feelings.
The first principle of the the gospel is faith in Christ. The reason, is that He is the only one that can apply the atonement to you personally. This establishes a personal relationship with your Savior. This personal relationship (partnership) with Christ now allows His perfection to become your perfection. You are now justified (literally found innocent, without blame) because of this relationship based on your faith and His grace and infinite atonement.
The atonement had to be infinite not in a sense of quantity, (infinite number of sins) but in a sense of duration of time. His atonement has to cover (justify) our sins forever. I do not think there will ever be a time when we will be on our own, without the need for Christ’s grace to keep us in this relationship. Perhaps you are starting to get the reason why we should be so very grateful for His grace.
The second principle of the gospel is repentance. Even Philip Yancey said there is a catch to grace. You do have to repent. Why? You not only have to be willing to accept the gift of grace, but you also have to be “willing” to turn from your sinful nature. This “willingness” is sufficient to qualify you for the “gift” of eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. I believe having this willingness is what will cause God to bless you with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, enabling you to do your best to keep the commandants and endure to the end, repenting along the way when you fall short.
All of the above will be sufficient to get you into heaven. The problem with us Mormons is that we only consider the Celestial Kingdom as heaven. When you do that, you totally ignore two-thirds of heaven. The place you go to in heaven is based on what you do (your works)with this gift that has been given to you. Some of us will accept that there are other things that the Lord has asked us to do and be glad to do them. Others will be content just to get to heaven, wherever they end-up will be just fine.
Some will say, see I told you salvation is free, but Exaltation you have to earn. First of all, we should totally scrap the word earn from our vocabulary. The word earn or earned is not even found in the D&C. The word use is inherit or inheritance. You do have to do things to qualify for an inheritance, but you do not earn it. It works like this.
Lets say a person really does not have faith in Christ, but gets baptized anyway. Were his sins washed away, or did he just get wet? A person receives the gift of the holy ghost, but did not repent before he was baptized. Will he walk in a newness of life?
None of our works will get us anywhere if we have not first accepted Christ and established that personal relationship with Him. Then what we do, we do, not trying to become saved, but we now do things because we are saved and have had a mighty change of heart with a willingness to be obedient to a higher order of laws.
I fully accept that not everyone will follow the above idealistic outline. Some will struggle years before they finally establish a personal relationship with their Savior. And perhaps many of us have to go through personal hardships before we are ever humbled to the point to where we look for help outside of our own abilities.
What I am saying, is that I do not think that we “have” to go through all of the heartache and struggles on our own because we think we have to do all we can before we can expect Christ to lift our burdens from us. Back to grace.
How many here think the prodigal son was fully forgiven? I have found that far too many members think that he was forgiven, but lost his inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom. How far will grace go?
Finally, what it is about grace that helped change me, was not just knowing that Christ loves me unconditionally, and will forgive me even though I do not deserve it, but coming to an understanding that I have to forgive others as well. Even if they do not deserve it. Grace for grace. When my heart was softened to the point to where I allowed Christs love to wash through me, body, mind, and spirit, it changed me to where I now wish to forgive others, other wise, how can I ask Christ to forgive me?
I have tried to share this knowledge with other members out here, because we could certainly use a little more grace in our Ward, but I have found it next to impossible to share. Why? I think members are afraid of grace, afraid to embrace it. After all, we have not done “all we can do” yet.
IMO, we need a paradigm shift in the way we view and understand grace in the Church. I think it is coming, but much too slow.
I remember with shock when I read a footnote in a conference talk that clarified that complete forgiveness is not the same as exaltation.
CEF, Thanks for your comments. As you noted before, we’re in general agreement on this.
You gave me a start, though, with your last line until I realized that you mean not the Church (official doctrine, GAs) but some of the members “need a paradigm shift in the way [they] view and understand grace”!
LisaB, I also was surprised when I realized that it’s one thing to be clean/forgiven and it’s quite another to be lifted above that to a higher state. Details of the differences available in the quote of Jos. Fielding Smith in #70 above.
Good judgment tells me to leave this alone, but I have never been accused of having good judgment. The can of worms I am about to open is not meant to make anyone unset, uptight, angry, feelings that have been hurt, in anyway uncomfortable, least of all, with me.
I know of no other venue where I can fine intelligent LDS to discuss this with. As I have said, no one here will talk to me about it. And I have struggled with this now for years. So please do not become upset and just get mad at me. I am not trying to cause trouble, just trying to get my mind around this issue.
I would agree that 100 percent of the members would agree that you do not have to wait your whole life until you can experience grace. Here is the problem though.
I have never heard a talk by a leader that does not end their talk about grace with 2Nephi 25:23. If we do not believe it, why do we teach it? It is not logical and has created a very harmful atmosphere in the Church towards grace. One academic that has been mentioned here has said that 2Nephi 25:23 is the most misinterpreted scripture in the whole BOM.
I also agree with the speaker who “following Robinson and others, stressed that we don’t need to worry about whether we’ve done enough to be saved; we just need to focus on Christ, and realize that He has already saved us.” Why? Because it creates a more healthy peace of mind and sense of well being than verbally beating members over the head because they do not do enough.
I do not think that ambiguity is ever a good thing. There most certainly is two sides to a coin and both need to be explored to better under the whole concept, but the end result should not be ambiguous. There is not a question about the importance of works in the gospel. The question is if by our works we think we can make the Savior love us more, or somehow add to the work that the Savior has done in our behalf. If not, then our works are done in behalf of what the Savior has done for us, out of our love for him. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Not trying to earn anything.
There is nothing that you could say that would change the way I feel about you, so if I say something here that you take issue with, do not hesitate to say so.
As I said earlier here, it is not that the GA’S do not understand grace, but (at least according to Bruce Hafen in “The Broken Heart”)they are not willing to explain it without the “all you can do” for fear that members would take it as a license to do nothing. As I also said, I am sorry they feel that way, because I do not think members would do such a thing. Millet in his “Grace Works” does not think that members would loose their desire to do things either. So until the leaders change the way they see things, I do not expect the members to change theirs either.
LisaB and manean,
This is the part I thought might cause the most eyebrows to rise. I believe that the prodigal son was fully forgiven. First and foremost, because Talmage says so in “Jesus The Christ.” Also, as someone I heard say, “if he was not, then repentance is way over rated.” I agree. I think the problem comes form a misunderstanding of the parable.
When the father said to the older son that he should not worry, because everything he had was his (the older son’s), it makes it sound like the younger son would not receive anything else, he squandered all of his. But, we are not talking about earthly things here.
If I have a infinite amount of money, and I give you all I have, I still have an infinite amount of money to give someone else. In other words, just because the father said to the older son that everything he had would be his, does not mean that the younger son could not still receive everything also.
If I have any of this wrong, I am quick to repent and apologize.
I agree that some members do overemphasize the prodigal’s spent inheritance. Also prevalent is the idea that one who has never sinned will always be better off than one who has sinned and been forgiven. This is usually brought up in relation to ‘serious’ sins, but the idea I get from that kind of statement is that forgiveness doesn’t work so well on ‘tough stains’. This teaching seems mostly to be geared towards deterring people (especially youth) from experimenting and counting on repenting later.
By the same token, leaders understandably don’t want to come across as condoning ‘evangelical laziness’, but they don’t know how to do that without spinning the doctrine a bit. Leaders and teachers need to make sure we don’t neglect our responsibilities to each other in church service (which ideally should spring from love of Christ and not guilt), and discourage conscious sinning. Still it’s pretty silly to teach that grace only applies chronologically after your works, or that you can be forgiven of all your sins, but some sins even when forgiven, somehow carry a stigma in the hereafter.
This could be only the limited understanding and predjudice of some who tranfer that predjudice onto the Atonement. It also could be that leaders (who supposedly understand the doctrine correctly themselves) quote 2 Ne 25:23 word for word for the sake of not paraphrasing scripture, and for the purpose of letting each understand it in his own time, but causing them to err on the side of works in the meantime.
I actually believe ambiguity to be a good thing–in a certain sense. Were there no ambiguity in the gospel we would be without agency. Part of our growth involves coming to terms with our salvation in hind-sight. “Salvation” is quite an abstract thing and can only really be understood by growing into it–by becoming like God. If we were to understand things too clearly from the get-go we would be ground to powder.
Just to add,
This is why I think most faithful members of the church have an intuitive sense of grace in their lives. They can taste it though they may not be able to give a definitive description as to *exactly* what it is. Even on this thread–though I think many of the comments have been very insightful–we have only been dancing around the fire in our attempt to describe the burn.
Regarding your comment that the prodigal son was fully forgiven, I don’t see anything surprising about that. I see this story as an example of 2 Ne 2:21.
You may be interested in Elder Holland’s comments that *both* sons in that story needed to repent and to be forgiven. The elder one believed he was “saved” because of his consistent good works, but he lacked a key part of the gospel. (“The Other Prodigal” 4/2002 http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-266-23,00.html).
It is true that we are saved from what would happen to us were there no Savior solely by grace and by accepting Christ. However, any glory beyond the telestial kingdom comes from becoming, through living the gospel, the kind of person to have it. IMO, if our leaders were to preach strictly salvation without works, they would be leading us to something less, not more, than the other Christian groups who at least get people into the terrestrial kingdom.
As Jos. Fielding Smith was quoted in #70, the words salvation, redemption, and exaltation often are used synonymously in the scriptures. Church leaders also use them so. I believe that 2 Ne 25:23 and many conference talks refer more to salvation with rewards and to exaltation than only to the salvation of those completely unrepentant. God has higher hopes for us and his servants work to lead us there.
Here are some citations about this from General Conferences:
THEODORE M BURTON, 4/1972, uses salvation for redemption & exaltation:
MARION G. ROMNEY, 10/1976, uses salvation to mean the celestial kingdom
RICHARD G. SCOTT, 10/1981, says spiritual blessings [an increase, not saved from falling] depend upon all we can do RGS Oct 81
ELDER BACKMAN, 10/1991:
That is what the gospel is all about. Without him, without his intervention in our behalf, we would be helpless in the face of Adam’s transgression. We are indeed saved by grace “through faith,” (see Eph. 2:8) or as Nephi wrote, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” ( 2 Ne. 25:23).
ELDER POELMAN, 10/1993:
The Lord’s gift of forgiveness, however, is not complete until it is accepted. True and complete repentance is a process by which we may become reconciled with God and accept the divine gift of forgiveness.
In the words of Nephi, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” ( 2 Ne. 25:23).
The effect of the infinite, atoning sacrifice was twofold: First, resurrection and immortality for all, unconditionally granted. Second, eternal life for each one who fulfills the prescribed conditions, which are faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer, followed by repentance.
Then we must qualify for and receive the saving and exalting ordinances of the gospel with their associated covenants, continuously striving to keep those covenants and obey the commandments of God.
BOYD K. PACKER, 10/1995:
Letters come from those who have made tragic mistakes. They ask, “Can I ever be forgiven?”
The answer is yes!
The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” That is, Isaiah continued, “if ye be willing and obedient.” 9 [9. Isa. 1:18–19.]
Even that grace of God promised in the scriptures comes only “after all we can do.” 10 [10. 2 Ne. 25:23.]
RICHARD G. SCOTT, 4/1997:
Jesus Christ possessed merits that no other child of Heavenly Father could possibly have. He was a God, Jehovah, before His birth in Bethlehem. His Father not only gave Him His spirit body, but Jesus was His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Our Master lived a perfect, sinless life and therefore was free from the demands of justice. He was and is perfect in every attribute, including love, compassion, patience, obedience, forgiveness, and humility. His mercy pays our debt to justice when we repent and obey Him. Even with our best efforts to obey His teachings we will still fall short, yet because of His grace we will be saved “after all we can do.” 12 [12. 2 Ne. 25:23.]
ELDER OAKS, 4/1998:
Relying upon the totality of Bible teachings and upon clarifications received through modern revelation, we testify that being cleansed from sin through Christ’s Atonement is conditioned upon the individual sinner’s faith, which must be manifested by obedience to the Lord’s command to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37–38). “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” Jesus taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” ( John 3:5; see also Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37–38). Believers who have had this required rebirth at the hands of those having authority have already been saved from sin conditionally, but they will not be saved finally until they have completed their mortal probation with the required continuing repentance, faithfulness, service, and enduring to the end.
Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints who give this answer of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, “For we labor diligently … to persuade our children … to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” ( 2 Ne. 25:23). And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” ( Moro. 10:32).
We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).
The question of whether a person has been saved is sometimes phrased in terms of whether that person has been “born again.” Being “born again” is a familiar reference in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. As noted earlier, Jesus taught that except a man was “born again” ( John 3:3), of water and of the Spirit, he could not enter into the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). The Book of Mormon has many teachings about the necessity of being “born again” or “born of God” ( Mosiah 27:25; see Mosiah 27:24–26; Alma 36:24, 26; Moses 6:59). As we understand these scriptures, our answer to whether we have been born again is clearly “yes.” We were born again when we entered into a covenant relationship with our Savior by being born of water and of the Spirit and by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We can renew that rebirth each Sabbath when we partake of the sacrament.
manaen–I think the Packer talk you listed above is the one in which the footnote clarifies that complete forgiveness does not necessarily mean exaltation. An example frequently given is David–who (we are told in modern revelation) was completely forgiven of lust and murder, but lost his exaltation.
I went to Dallas yeaterday, and don’t have much time today, so I will try and respond tomorrow. Thank you for all or your time on this.
Jack #93, I completely disagree with your statement that “most faithful members understand grace.” I think most faithful, aka active, members are working their buns off so they don’t go to hell and are scared to death they will never make the celestial kingdom. And we also do a lot of judging and comparing and if we are ahead of somebody, we sigh a little sigh of relief, then we see somebody ahead of us and we get scared again. And we work harder. We don’t get it.
A LITTLE ambiguity might be a good thing, but we have a huge amount of ambiguity on the subject of grace.
That, in my opinion, is the explanation for the large amount of inactives, besides lack of fellowship. I think a lot of people just get discouraged and give up.
annegb, Paul the apostle said we should work out our salvation “in fear and trembling”. What do you say?
“If we were to understand things too clearly from the get-go we would be ground to powder.”
Well put, Jack : )
I think you unintentionally mis-quoted me.
I wrote (#93): “I think most faithful members of the church have an intuitive sense of grace in their lives.”
And in #23: “I think Ben is right in suggesting that the saints understand grace pretty well–at least, on an *intuitive* level if nothing else.”
Being the light-speed reader that you are (I envy your gift!), my guess is that you inadvertently blended the two comments together. My real emphasis has been on an *intuitive* understanding of grace. Most members have a sense that God is good. I think it’s the world that wears them out more than their commitment to the gospel.
I’ve wondered about the “fear and trembling” mentioned by Paul. Do we fear the consequences of failure? Or, do we fear (appropriately) the greatness of God as we approach draw nearer to His throne?
Lets say I grant that LDS use grace the same way as Protestants and Catholics. What I have the hardest time with is not accepting that LDS believe in grace like Protestants do, but the implications this has for the LDS. The implications for Protestants are vastly different than that of a Mormons. Define it the same way, but to convince me that it doesn’t result in something completely different will take a lot more.
I believe that there is universal acceptance that grace means God’s merciful and loving gift of something we don’t earn. Without God’s grace, we would remain as uncreated intelligences. His gifts of grace include the spiritual and physical births, all enjoyments we have because of those births, the blessings of the ordinances, resurrection, forgiveness of sins, any degree of glory, and especially exaltation. However, we may become the kind of person to whom God promised to gift exaltation as living the gospel so changes us. Receiving a gift that was promised is very different to earning it. Hence, we are saved/exalted by grace after all we can do.
As you noted, “The implications for Protestants are vastly different than that of a Mormons.” We differ from Protestants in what we believe is the range gifts that God offers. As I understand it, their view of the best rewards in heaven matches fairly well with our view of the terrestrial kingdom. LDS doctrine even agrees that such will be their reward for following their path. LDS, of course, believe that the gift of exaltation in the celestial kingdom is available to everyone born on earth.
This is how we “LDS use grace the same way as Protestants and Catholics” and have it “result in something completely different.” We believe more is available by God’s grace than do they. Their hope is our failure.
Jordan (100) . . . –what manaen said : )
Jack (99), I do think there are different flavors of fear, but I’m not sure they can be separated from each other quite as fully as you seem to be suggesting. Especially when “fear” is right next to “trembling”. Seems to me fear as Paul refers to it is at least an anxiety over whether we are worthy to be in his presence.
The self-satisfaction that typically results from a too-common evangelical conception of being saved by grace seems to me the most powerful argument against it. Religion is not supposed to make us self-satisfied. When Moses spoke with God, was he comfortable? Enoch? Mary? Lehi? the Brother of Jared? When Peter, James, and John saw Christ transfigured on the mountain top, were they comfortable?
I’ll admit that the anxiety can get out of hand, and can be misdirected. This is a good reason for God to stay on the far side of the veil while we prepare to be reunited with him. But I think if our theology did not produce anxiety in fallen us, that would be a clear sign that it was false and unredemptive.
manaen–you said “of course”–but do we believe that exaltation is available to everyone born on earth? Or just salvation?
102. Ben H,
Thx for posting your concurrence!
We have a solution for that fear and trembling in God’s presence that at first sounds like the evangelical’s self-satisfaction that you noted, but is much different. As CEF, others, and I discussed earlier, there is a peace that comes by God’s grace. It is *not* from a belief that you can accept Jesus, hit the snooze bar, and awaken for your reward on Judgment Day. This peace is a gift of grace through the Holy Ghost that we are accepted by God. The catalyst for this is the broken heart and contrite spirit that is the humility to confess that we cannot do this alone. I believe God arranged the challenges in this life to drive us to this grace, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me” (Hel 12:27). The difference is that evangelicals (I believe) say this is the end and we believe that it is the beginning of our journey to God’s best rewards. However, this beginning is sufficient for the gift of peace to be given us now.
Once we commit fully, give our hearts completely, we receive the assurance that God’s grace, specifically through the atonement, is sufficient for us now. The weariness of burn-out comes from measuring our imperfect selves against a perfect standard. We can avoid that burn-out when we stop measuring, give our all, and receive the Holy Ghost’s assurance that’s sufficient for now as we move forward.
The answer to the fear & trembling in God’s presence is near the end of D&C 121. After the instructions to not use the priesthood to support pride or to hide sins, but to have pure love for others, we learn the promised gift for doing it: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; ***then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God***” (D&C 121:45). This was a huge discovery for me and a major step in accepting the peace I was finding.
103. LisaB, RE: “do we believe that exaltation is available to everyone born on earth? Or just salvation?”
I meant that exaltation is available to everyone born on earth *** when they are born ***. Choices duirng this life make exaltation unavailable for the proud and unrepentant of us. I depend upon the hope that exaltation remains available throughout this life for all but sons and daughters of perdition and takers of innocent life.
Okay, I have some time now. Mondays are hectic around here.
I am glad that no one became upset with the prodigal son thing. I got into the most trouble with a leader because I disagreed with him about that issue. It must have been BRM that taught that the son was not going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. I just do not get that out of that parable. I am glad that Talmage does not either.
I like what you said, with perhaps one exception.
“This teaching seems mostly to be geared towards deterring people (especially youth) from experimenting and counting on repenting later.”
I think we should teach our youth (and everyone) that committing sin changes you in that very process, and who is to say that you will ever “want” to repent. To me, that is the real danger, not if God can forgive you and if you can still make it to the CK.
Also, kind of in the same vein, I do not think that evangelicals are any more lazy that the rest of us. Rick Warren of the “Perfect Driven Life” fame, makes his congregation sign a contract to be baptized, pay tithing, and be active in church. Also, think of all the missionaries that have been sent out from these other churches for hundreds of years.
104. Pls append “by repenting and resuming our efforts to follow God’s path.” to the last sentence
I will concede that ambiguity is part of life. I do not like it, but the older I get, the more I see things not so black and white. But I do not see any reason to make more of it than there needs to be. To me there is no ambiguity in the grace/works issue.
Nibley said it best, ” work we must, but the lunch is free.
Yes, this is what I was getting at when I spoke of the fear we might have at approaching His throne. I tried to draw a distinction between that and fear over the consequences of “failure” because no matter how righteous we are there will always be something to tremble at as we learn more about the greatness of God. As you put it so well: “This is a good reason for God to stay on the far side of the veil while we prepare to be reunited with him.”
That said, then we read that “perfect love casteth out all fear.” And, while we are growing in that love our hope becomes brighter which (hope) brings “peace in this world” and increased confidence in obtaining “eternal life in the next.” There are also references to “entering into the Lord’s rest” and what not.
All this taken together seems to suggest that the “fear” ought to stem from a healthy understanding of our situation. We “fear and tremble” at the potential of coming into God’s presence unprepared–though “if [we] are prepared we shall not fear.” And, of course, that preparation is made possible because of the atonement.
I seem to be failing miserably in making a point that I do not believe that works are not important. Bruce Wilkinson who wrote “The Prayer of Jabez” wrote another book called “A Life God Rewards.” It is all about how important “doing” good works are.
We are not the only christian church that teaches the importance of doing good works, it is just that we are just about the only one that ties our good works to, in someway, adding to what the Savior has done for us.
The following is a quote I here all too often in the Church. “Salvation is a free gift through the grace of Christ, but Exaltation must be earned.” If exaltation could be earned, it would not be called a “gift.”
All of the quotes makes my point very well that GA’S always couch grace in “after all we can do.”
manaen (104), you’re right if you intuited that I haven’t followed all the comments closely, but I agree with you say in this comment about peace. I would simply underscore, the “for now” part. There is peace and confidence to be found in humility, through the Spirit. But that peace and confidence are found precisely because we have committed ourself to pressing forward on the path, progressing and purifying ourselves. It is by accepting and embracing the ongoing process (including pain) of purification that we find peace and even joy in this new, redemptive relationship with God. It is by embracing his aspirations for us, despite the dizziness they induce, that we find an inner serenity, and that means going ever upward and onward.
We are to find peace in the assurance that ultimately God can perfect us through his grace, if we submit to and cooperate with and learn to relish his regimen and the changes it brings–not in a false assurance that he doesn’t want us to be perfect. That, for me, is the key difference between “cheap” and “dear” grace (though those very words suggest a “my contribution vs. yours” view of the process which I reject), and I see no conflict between it and, say, Nibley’s apt words.
Teaching grace should not lead us to let go of the aspiration to perfection. Teaching grace should lead us to aspire humbly and strive in a more appropriate way to move toward perfection in God’s way and time.
My comment (#108) was in response to Ben.
We can’t get around ambiguity. We may say that it is necessary to have faith in order to be saved. This is true–plain and simple. But, what is faith?
If eternal life is to become like God then should we suppose that we can calculate the difference between our present nature and His that we might have a better view of what it is that we need to know in order to be like Him? That’s impossible because we simply are not prepared to know all there is to know about God, and by extention, all there is to know about eternal life. And yet, we are called to trudge through a dark and drearily ambiguous wilderness in that direction. Thus the need for constant revelation.
I agree with your assessment. What you said and missionary work are the reasons I strongly think there needs to be a change in our teaching of grace.
If you notice, it says “work out” your salvation not work “on” your salvation. We should defiantly be working out just how we are going to share this gift we have been given. But not trying to work on the gift itself.
I think Jack gives a pretty good understanding of fear and trembling.
I believe I have made the best case, that I have the ability to make, in favor for a change in the way we teach grace. I am thankful to Ben for starting this discussion. It has been interesting. I am thankful to all of those that have shared their ideas and feelings. I feel that I have a few more friends in the world now, or at least, people I know a little better now.
In short, I think Blake shows the best knowledge of grace and I should have just said amen after his post (#10) and let it go at that, but I guess I like the sound of my own words too much. I understand his second volume will be coming out soon and I look forward to reading it. I also understand a few chapters could be on grace. I also understand that grace will be covered in his third volume. Needless to say, I will look forward to reading that one too.
It would be interesting if someone had the time to recap the high points made here and put them together in one post. If I can get the time I might try and do that. Of course I might slant the thread in the wrong direction. :)
Thanks again, for talking to me.
Reply to # 72
This is way late and not even related to the topic and literal minded in a childish way. But it might give you some insight into your father and his telling of a story about an uncle shooting rabbits with a shot gun at 100 yards.
Actually I think it is possible to shoot an animal at a considerable range with a shot gun, with the use of special ammunition. One is called the American Foster slug, another is the old Brenneke slug developed in Germany about 100 years ago and no longer in use, which I am told worked even better. And there is always home loaded ammunition which can be just about anything.
The reason a rifle works and the bullet flies straight for such a long distance is because spiral grooves cut into the barrel of the gun give the bullet a rotation that stabilizes it in flight, similar to the perfect spiral football passes that fly straight and accurate. (Seen with greater frequency at BYU games in the remote past than currently). Gun manufacturers get into quite a bit of detail concerning the basic physics of bullet flight. A shot gun barrel is smooth and the individual little pellets tend to rapidly lose velocity and they bang into each other and scatter rapidly. So they will not fly very far in a tight pattern. If you have a fewer number of larger pellets, they fly farther and straighter. We call this “goose shot” or “deer shot.” If you have one large single slug the same diameter as the shotgun barrel, it still won’t fly very straight.
But if you put the grooves on the single slug in just exactly the correct way, it will impart the proper spin on the slug as it accelerates down the smooth barrel and it will fly straight and at velocities in the range of smaller hand guns and travel a surprizingly far distance. Not thousands of yards like a true rifle bullet (which is of much smaller caliber and has an enormous amount of powder behind it in proportion), but quite possibly several dozen yards. A rabbit in the head at 100 yards would still be pretty amazing and lucky. Or unlucky for the rabbit.
For the record I am also in the habit of telling heroic tall tales about my brother when he was younger, most of which episodes he has entirely forgotten. None involve guns. But there is this hush-hush story about my dad shooting one of Utah’s rare black swans in the head with his left hand while driving a Studebaker down a dirt road at over 120 miles an hour with a WWII issued 30-30 rifle at a range of over two miles. The game warden was chasing him and found the swan and charges were filed and the details of the story were established in court and a hefty fine was levied. My uncle was riding in the car and “witnessed” it, but he died last year.
I do not think the truthfulness of the details of the heroic story is the point although the fact that it was kept quiet might lend credibility to some aspects of it. The meaning of the black swan story is that my dad was a war hero and somewhat of a maverick and had to make some adjustments to fit back into the civilized world after coming home. But you better not give him any trouble because he might revert back to his “heroic” ways. Or something like that.
Now boys and girls put your guns away and get back to your books and computers.
Oh, Manaen–I think I’ve been taught the same thing, but now wonder if we really all have a chance at exaltation–or just salvation. Why do you feel pretty sure it’s both?
I was so busy yesterday that I thought I would just leave this alone. But this morning I thought I would share something from Philip Yancey with you.
I just picked a couple of quotes to try and give you some idea of how he thinks and writes about grace. He says it so much better than I ever could.
“Forgiveness – undeserved, unearned – can cut the
cords and let oppressive burden of guilt roll away.
The New Testament shows a resurrected Jesus leading
Peter by the hand through a three-fold ritual of
forgiveness. Peter need not go through life with the
guilty, hangdog look of one who has betrayed the Son
of God. Oh, no. On the backs of such transformed
sinners Christ would build his Church.” I like that.
This one, I think, goes along with what Blake was saying.
“One summer I had to learn basic German in order to
finish a graduate degree. What a wretched summer!
… Five nights a week, three hours a night I spent
memorizing vocabulary and word endings that I would
never again use. I endured such torture for one
purpose only: to pass the test and get my degree.
What if the school registrar had promised me, “Philip,
we want you to study hard, learn German, and take the
test, but we promise you in advance that you’ll get a
passing grade. Your diploma has already been filled
out.” Do you think I would have spent every
delectable summer evening inside a hot, stuffy
apartment? Not a chance. In a nutshell, that was the
theological dilemma Paul confronts in Romans.
Why learn German? There are noble reasons, to be sure
– languages broaden the mind and expand the range of
communication – but these had never motivated me to
study German before. I studied for selfish reasons,
to finish a degree, and only the threat of
consequences hanging over me caused me to reorder my
summer priorities. Today, I remember very little of
the German I crammed into my brain. “The old way of
the written code” (Paul’s description of the Old
testament law) produces short-term results at best.
What would inspire me to learn German? I can think of
one powerful incentive. If my wife, the woman I fell
in love with, spoke only German, I would have learned
the language in record time. Why? I would have a
desperate desire to communicate mit einer schonen
Frau. … I would have learned German unbegrudgingly,
with the relationship itself as my reward.
That reality helps me understand Paul’s gruff “God
forbid!” response to the question “Shall we go on
sinning that grace may increase?” Would a groom on
his wedding night hold the following conversation with
hid bride? “Honey, I love you so much, and I’m eager
to spend my life with you. But I need to work out a
few details. Now that we’re married, how far can I go
with other women? Can I sleep with them? Kiss them?
You don’t mind a few affairs now and then, do you? I
know it might hurt you, but just think of all the
opportunities you’ll have to forgive me after I betray
you!” To such a Don Juan the only reasonable response
is a slap in the face and a “God forbid!” Obviously,
he does not understand the first thing about love.
Similarly, if we approach God with a “What can I get
away with?” attitude, it proves we do not grasp what
God has in mind for us. God wants something far
beyond the relationship I might have with a slave
master, who will enforce my obedience with a whip.
Indeed, God wants something more intimate than the
closest relationship on earth, the lifetime bond
between a man and a woman. What God Wants is not a
good performance, but my heart. I do “good works” for
my wife not in order to earn credit but to express my
love for her. Likewise, God wants me to serve “in the
new way of the Spirit” : not out of compulsion but out
of desire. “Discipleship,” says Clifford Williams,
“simply means the life which springs from grace.”
…If we comprehend what Christ has done for us, then
surely out of gratitude we will strive to live
“worthy” of such great love. We will strive for
holiness not to make God love us but because he
already does. As Paul told Titus, it is the grace of
God that “teaches us to say No to ungodliness and
worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright
and godly lives.”
This would be more along the lines of what I think our works should be all about.
I believe you make a good point, but my dad’s family was very poor and I am sure they only had at best, buck shot. At 100 yards one would be lucky to have a couple of pellets hit the rabbit, not enough to relieve the rabbit of it’s northern most extremity.
Here is the point I was trying to make; my dad never told the story again, why? Because he knew it was impossible to do what was suppose to have happened.
I did not see anyone taking the position that it is logical to interpret 2Nephi 25:23 the way the Church does, but yet it continues to do so. You would think that at least once it has been pointed out how illogical it is, that they would just not say it any more. My dad never said he was wrong, he just never told the story anymore. But, what do I know?
Those are very good and useful quotes. Thanks for posting them.
LisaB, regarding “Oh, Manaen–I think I’ve been taught the same thing, but now wonder if we really all have a chance at exaltation–or just salvation. Why do you feel pretty sure it’s both?”
I’m sure it’s both because I’ve experienced the repentance and forgiveness that make it possible. Here’s a summary:
My sins and broken trusts resulted in me deciding that I didn’t deserve to live; I longed for suicide’s release. Only my testimony of the plan of salvation kept me from killing myself because I knew I would continue with the same suffering and have the suicide’s guilt added to it.
I finally dropped my pride enough to ask my bishop for help. My local leaders had spoken clearly about what are the gospel standards and I expected chastisement, discipline, and rejection. I was surprised at the help my bishop offered, after the carping I’d done about him and the ward. I then spent several hours explaining my sins in detail to my stake president. At the end of my confessions, I was ready for the rebuffs that I expected. Instead, he hugged me and told me he loved me! That was when my heart broke – to have him love me after I’d just taken him through the details of how unlovable I was. I wept all the way home as I then felt God’s love, for the first time, wash through and bring to life my heart. Then I had to deal with my stake president and God loving me — which I not only hadn’t earned, but also had done much to dis-earn. One of my personal favorite passages now is “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezk 36:26-27) God gave me a new heart that night.
My wonder increased through the half-day disciplinary council. At its end, my stake president, each of his counselors, and most of the high council hugged me and assured me of their support. And they delivered it: at first I had weekly meetings with the stake president, later with his counselor that he assigned to me. The counselor was kind and helpful every time, but I could see that he also grew in grace as he got past what I sensed originally was his disgust at my sins. I’ve had regular visits of real support with my stake presidents and bishops since.
I finally accepted love but as I realized and felt the pains I’d caused others, I would be angry and bitter with myself for hurting them. After several years, I asked my stake president what more I needed to do on the path to recovering full Church blessings. His answer surprised me, “You need to forgive yourself.” There seemed to be some cosmic injustice to forgiving myself and moving on when the people I’d hurt still were in pain. This took me to the atonement again because I then realized that Christ’s atonement is available at any time to heal anyone, regardless of the spiritual accounting we may try to keep. I also realized how selfish I’d been in asking God and everyone but me to do what I had not done: to forgive my sins against them. I learned that this self-forgiveness is very different from never feeling remorse in that healing requires two necessary steps: first, feel bad enough to change; and then – in God’s grace – feel good as the “new man” born from repentance effective because of Christ’s atonement. That freed me to accept not only love, but also the joy that comes with it. I now echo Alma’s words in that my joy is as great as was my pain.
I like the description by President Romney of what happened to me, “It would appear that membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Being converted, as we are here using the term, and having a testimony are not necessarily the same either. A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith; that is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion, on the other hand, is the fruit of, or the reward for, repentance and obedience. […] [Someone] may be assured of it when ***by the power of the Holy Spirit his soul is healed.*** When this occurs, he will recognize it by the way he feels, for he will feel as the people of Benjamin felt when they received remission of sins. The record says, ‘ . . . the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience. . . . ‘ (Mosiah 4:3.)” (GenCon 10/1963).
I love that description of having your soul healed by the power of the Holy Ghost because it expresses how I feel — healed. I later found this summary of my experiences from sin, to forgiveness, to receiving God’s love, to hope of exaltation, “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” (Mni 8:26).
(CEF, I wonder whether what we’ve been discussing isn’t the conversion in the last two paragraphs instead of salvation).
(I recommend pp. 115-125 of “Believing Christ” for an explanation of how the atonement can make us not just guilty-but-forgiven but innocent again).
This journey has shown me a side of the Church that many, fortunately, do not see: the love, compassion, healing, and help that come once a sinner seeks to repent. I only received encouragement to work to return to the temple and to pursue exaltation. To feel finally in my heart, not just know from Spirit-born testimony, the reality of that opportunity is a source of daily wonder for me. I now know and rejoice that Christ’s atonement does open all God’s blessings to me. This is overwhelming for me, who had decided that I did not deserve to live any longer. All joy in my life after that decision has been a gift of grace.
I’m much different now:
· With my stony heart, I didn’t feel compassion. I was judgmental in an effort to prove I was better than others and thus acceptable. With the continuing superabundant love I feel from God, I’m much like Lehi in that now all I want to do is share this delicious fruit with others. As I love others, the Spirit continues to assure me that I even can walk with confidence before God! (D&C 121:45). Now I help stranded motorists, give to beggars, just look for ways to help.
· I only saw duties, checklists, and mechanical obedience to earn a reward. Now I don’t worry about the rewards I may earn because I earned death. Grace opened the door to life, then joy, and possibly exaltation. Jesus literally is the light and life for me. I later was surprised to learn that it’s harmful to measure ourselves now against a standard God will apply later, in the Judgment. He only asks for what we can do now, with the promise that more will be added as we seek to follow Him (back to 2 Ne 25:23). This time without formal callings has freed me from check listing and given me time to learn spontaneous service.
· I lost my old fascination with mysteries, historical challenges, debates, and empirical evidences. They’re somewhat interesting intellectually but spending a lot of time on them that could be used to help people now seems to be a symptom of someone, who lacks sufficiency, trying to prove what he doubts. My answer anymore is “Hey, God gave me a new heart, he healed my soul, and I have this nagging sense of well-being. I know this and I’m no longer interested in doubting what I do not know.” Having tasted the infinite healing power of the atonement and having the Spirit open new understandings of the heart to me, the debates that used to fascinate me now seem like lesser lights preoccupied with lesser subjects. Far better to ask what we can learn about God and ourselves from an issue than to wonder whether He got this one right. Even cases in which the Church, leaders, members, or anyone else may be late or err don’t concern me anymore because they do not affect the healing I enjoy and that others can have. I’ve learned that God’s love truly is the most joyous to the soul and that lesser issues don’t take it from me.
LisaB, I hope this answers your question. Because I’m sure the door is open even for me, I’m sure that everyone else has the opportunity for exaltation as well as for salvation. It’s a matter of coming to trust God enough to accept that his love and grace actually work like He said they do.
Thank you Jesse,
Yancey’s book literally has the ability to change lives. It received, I think it is called, the Gold Medallion award for the year it came out in. That award is given to what is considered the best christian book of the year. Actually, Yancey has won that award several times.
Below is another quote from his book. I really like the way he approached writing the book.
“Grace does not offer an easy subject for a writer. To
borrow E. B. White’s comment about humor,”[Grace]can
be dissected, as a frog, but the thing dies in the
process, and the innards are discouraging to any but
the pure scientific mind.” I have just read a
thirteen-page treatise on grace in the New Catholic
Encyclopedia, which has cured me of any desire to
dissect grace and display its innards. I do not want
the thing to die. For this reason, I will rely more on
stories than on syllogisms. In sum, I would far
rather convey grace than explain it.”
I wish I had the ability of self-disclosure as you do. I have always been the type of person who keeps his feelings and thoughts to himself.
What a neat story and thank you for sharing it with us. Yancey said something to the affect, that only grace can melt ungrace. I will have to learn that scripture in Ezk., it is a good one.
My experience has been very much like yours. I “literally” am not the same person I used to be. I used to have a quick temper, not as bad as my dads, but bad enough. Where I have changed the most, is in not holding grudges any more. Yancey tells a story about a family he knows that passed on ungrace from generation to generation.
When I read that story, I said to myself, that is me, (my dad had a sister that he never talked to. I never even met her.) but it will stop with me. I will not pass it on to my kids. That has helped with my marriage immensely. My wife and I hardly ever have any kind of fight any more, and if we do it does not last long or get heated at all. That is a good thing!
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us.
Oh–Manaen–thank you for such an honest and personal answer. I was actually really asking on a more theoretical plane. I have had similar experience with grace and redemption, but am less willing/ able to assume that this experience can necessarily be the same for everyone. Some folks seem to have near impossible odds of either finding or exercising faith in God based on their formative experiences and life circumstances. It is about these “others” that I wonder. And that’s why knowing scriptural sources for universally possible exaltation (rather than just salvation) would be reassuring to me.
“Some folks seem to have near impossible odds of either finding or exercising faith in God based on their formative experiences and life circumstances. It is about these “others” that I wonder.”
Lisa, my sentiments exactly. I have actually tried, on more than one ocassion, to “let go–let god” without positive results. The last time I tried I crashed into a deathly depression from which I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover. Perhaps I lack the gift of faith, but it seems to me that if one is willing to yield one’s heart to God that He would be accepting of whatever token offering one has the strength to give. Well, I gave what I could and only found misery. But even so, I would never want to go back to the way things were before. I guess that knowledge in and of itself is something positive and therefore indicative of God’s hand in my life. Still, I haven’t found the “peace that passeth understanding.”
I don’t think all of us are meant to be these grace-all-in-an-instant folks, just as some of us aren’t testimony-all-in-an-instant folks. Some of us are sloggers, for now. Just remember that slogging is a gift in its own way. Though we have to put off receiving Christ’s gift fully, we get to muddle through like he did.
Nice way of putting Adam. And a nice bit of irony. Actually, I do experience a little peace on those rare ocassions when I understand–however dimly–that slogging may be the very thing that I’m called to do at present.
Thanks for sharing your story Manaen. In some ways it seems that shifting from a checklist mentality to one based on doing good because that is what flows out of us without compulsory means has to do with the ordering of our relationships. The former is a sort of Us-Church-God relationship, whereas the latter is an Us-God-Church relationship. When our relationship or experience of God is weak and we are in the former type of relationship, then any weakness, oddity, quirk in the history, or reality of sin in the memberships becomes a stumbling block for us in our membership in the church and an impediment in our relating to God. If, however, our primary goal is to have a relationship with God and our relationship is of the latter sort, then it doesn’t matter what oddities or inconsistencies or sins we encounter, because our primary relationship is not with the flawed and imperfect, but with God. This has been a recent shift for me, and much as you have related, it has allowed me to really just look past all of the humanity of the whole thing. In a way, it is shifting from relying on the arm of flesh, to relying on God’s arm and His arm has been, for me, unshaking. I still like musing about doctrines and policies, but really, the main point is for me to be a decent person and love my neighbor and frankly, that can be a lot more challenging for me than the other exercise.
And again, thank you for sharing that very personal story. I believe very strongly that many times it is better to simply see examples of grace and God’s love and actually feel and experience His intervention in our lives, to recognize that reality, than to try to puzzle things out intellectually as the latter will always fall short.
Jesse, thank you for your comments. I would say the same words with my own accent. Like you, I am amazed at how much more en*joy*able life is now and how little effect have others’ shorfalls and foibles to set me down.
I believe we each have a basic need for joy. I learned that this comes by love, with its accompanying acceptance and security. Our sources are shaky except for the “unshaking” arm of God that you mentioned. Elder Christofferson’s talk in GenCon 4/2004 talks of the joy of real conversion. In it he says, “once you have felt your Savior’s love for you, even the smallest part, *you will feel secure*, and a love for Him and for your Heavenly Father will grow within you. In your heart you will want to do what these holy beings ask of you.”
This security settled me because I lost the anxiety about whether I would have joy and whether it would remain. Now, with the joy from God, I find joy in helping others. A small part of that comes from the freedom I now have to overlook their weaknesses, that used to seem threatening, and to share peace with them.
I’ve mentioned it before in some threads, but you may want to read Sister Rasband’s book, “Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem.” It expands on this peace from the Lord. It’s out of print, but used copies are available from Amazon, etc.
“I still like musing about doctrines and policies, but really, the main point is for me to be a decent person and love my neighbor and frankly, that can be a lot more challenging for me than the other exercise. I believe very strongly that many times it is better to simply see examples of grace and God’s love and actually feel and experience His intervention in our lives, to recognize that reality, than to try to puzzle things out intellectually as the latter will always fall short.”
Amen to that! I found it’s more work, more satisfying, more stimulating to love and to serve my neighbor. Sister Rasband suggests that maybe it’s wrong to seek signs because a believer sees so many signs of God and his love everywhere that it would never occur to him to look for one.
Thank you again for sharing your experience.
This doesn’t directly speak to any of the comments here, but we keep talking about Evangelicals, so here’s an experience I had, with some thoughts.
Today one of my jobs was to tune the piano at a large Baptist church in Brooklyn. While there I noticed a piece of choir music lying around with the title, “Is Your All on the Altar?”
This is not much to go on, but it signifies to me that these Baptists, and probably Baptists in general, which are the epitome of what we call evangelicals, have some degree of a handle on the interplay between grace and works, at least insofar as Grace requires sacrifice, and there aren’t many meaningful ways to sacrifice without doing something, hence works.
The fact remains, however, that these kinds of churches and especially those christians that eschew organized religion as a whole, do not have a structure for requiring sacrifice, as Mormons do. They have paid clergy (made possible by the big business of Church) and so the laity need not perform any organized form of church service. Opporunities are there, but no real impetus. The Evangelical Christian is left to find his own ways of sacrificing for the gospel, usually oriented towards a general “love/serve God and thy neighbor” commandment. But precisely because his sacrifice depends on what he can come up with himself, he is unlikely to do things he would otherwise be very unwilling to do, which would be REAL sacrifice.
The LDS church exists in part to challenge its members to grow in their love of God and man through service, and it is often that one is called to do things that are very inconvenient, if not downright distasteful. These are opportunities for real growth, and the true disciple of Christ eventually gets over the discomfort and learns to love what he is called to do, and it brings him closer to Christ. Then he is usually called to do something else he doesn’t like.
This may have been quoted earlier, but Joseph Smith taught that any religion [personal or institutional] which does not require Everything of its members, can never have power to save them.
Having a lot required of us Mormons is precisely the reason we CAN and DO gain a personal relationship with Christ, despite those who lose perspective and get burned-out. This is what is meant by “cheap grace”: the gift without any standard to meet.
We are called (at various times) to wake up early to go to meetings, fast once a month, visit people we may not like, have children when we think we can’t afford them, refrain from taking certain things into our body, go to a foreign place and preach Repentance at young selfish age, to humbly own up to a sometimes inconvenient historical past, and many more things besides.
The solution is not to say, “If some is good, more is better.” and make the checklist longer like Pharisees. The point is that as we make sacrifices by doing good works (being that the nature of Fallen Man is not to always do good works), we learn the rewards that go with them, and they can cease to be a sacrifice.
The gospel requires a lot of its disciples, there are options for those who don’t feel up to it, but these options entail less than “all that the Father hath”.