Monthly Archives: May 2012

Truly Amazing Grace

While Mormons are often thought to be soft on Grace, it is traditional Christianity, not Latter-day Saints, that sets limits on the power of the Atonement of Christ.

It is one thing to believe that through Christ we can be cleansed from our sins and made to dwell eternally in worshipful awe of The Divine.  But to believe that we can become like our Father in Heaven requires a categorically different perspective on Grace.

Only an infinite Atonement could bridge the infinite gulf between who we are now and who we may become.  There is no penance mortals can pay to satisfy Justice.  A stone would have an easier time willing itself to become the Pietà without the hand of a sculptor.

But what about all that Mormon talk about works?  A Book of Mormon prophet, Abinadi, illuminates the subject.  He was speaking with a group of corrupted priests and explained the usefulness and the limitations of obeying the law of Moses:

Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?  What say ye?  And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.  But now Abinadi said unto them:  I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount Sinai….And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses.  I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

Mosiah 13:27-28

There are conditions for Grace to be sure, and even the most ardent evangelical believes that Faith, at least, is requisite.  But the conditions are not a co-pay; they add no credit to a celestial balance sheet.  We believe in repentance and keeping the commandments, but neither of these do anything to overcome sin and death, they do not earn us salvation, because without Christ all is vain.

“I say unto you, my bretheren,” said King Mosiah to his people,

that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you… I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning…if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.  And behold, all that he requires is to keep his commandments.”

Mosiah 2:20-21

To carry on the financial metaphor, we are never in the black.  Nothing we do shrinks the debt.  Christ paid every senine.  But the conditions of repentance and commandment keeping are necessary to receive The Heavenly Gift.

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Filed under Book of Mormon, God and Man, Rebuttles, Teachings of Mormonism

Predestination

Mormons tend to shy away from the charged word “predestination” primarily because we’re uncomfortable with its deterministic connotation.  We favor the word “foreordination” which feels more friendly to the possibility of rejecting the call or election.  While foreordination is doctrinally accurate (Alma 13, Jeremiah 1:4-5) predestination is the actual biblical word (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5,11.)  But predestination properly understood does not negate Free Will at all.

To have a destination predetermined does not guarantee arrival.  If I plan a vacation to Baja but stop and visit friends on the way and waste all my vacation days, it doesn’t mean the destination wasn’t available.  My hotel and dining reservations would likely be filled with travelers who may have made a last-minute decision to head south of the border from some delectable oceanic cuisine.  They have every right to enjoy the fish tacos I forfeited.

This is in large part what Christ taught in the parable of the marriage feast:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which amade a bmarriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and athey would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:  And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and agathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding agarment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into aouter darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are acalled, but few are chosen.b

Mathew 2:2-14, KJV

The Feast was prepared for the predestined, and rejected.

Unlike vaycay in Baja, Salvation is not a zero sum affair.  The mansions prepared in The Father’s House are open to all who embrace the Christ.

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Filed under Book of Mormon, Free Will, New Testament

The Mormon Way Business

Here’s an interesting and fairly accurate post about one aspect of Mormon culture over at the Economist:

What explains the Mormons’ success? Clean living probably helps: alcohol clouds judgment and lubricates bad deals. A history of persecution may breed self-reliance: 19th-century Mormons trekked westwards across plains and mountains to escape the kind of bigots who murdered their founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844. Modern Mormons have something in common with other industrious minorities, such as Parsees, who are prominent in corporate India, the overseas Chinese and Jews. But some of the answer may lie in the faith itself. Mormonism—the only global religion to have been invented in the past 200 years—is in some ways more business-friendly than its more ancient rivals.

Read the whole thing here.

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Persuasion

Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n

He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In endless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.

Freedom and reason make us men;
take that away what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heav’n or hell.

May we no more our pow’rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.

Anonymous, ca. 1805, Boston. Included in the first LDS hymnbook

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile– reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou has reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

-D&C 121:41-44

Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.

-Joseph Smith

Calling for civility in politics is wishful thinking.  Godly persuasion is unnatural.  “But what is government itself,” said James Madison, “but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”

Those striving to live as saints should not participate nor condone lashing out in vitriolic envy towards others.  It is not a noble demonstration of patriotism. Rather it leads to despotism.

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Filed under Doctrine and Covenants, Free Will, Politics