The Greg & Bob Show Hits Santa Barbara

Last night I was able to finally attend “A Mormon and an Evangelical in Dialogue” featuring Greg Johnson and Robert Millet. The event was held at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. I was excited to go and see this event for myself and thought it was important that I finally get to attend. It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Millet for the first time. I also got to meet Sarah for the first time, who had just moved to California the day before. I enjoyed chatting with both of them after the event and getting to know them on a more personal level.

From previous reviews of the event I expected the conversation to be on the surface level of the differences between Evangelicals and Mormons. But I did not find that to be the case. The two men dove head long into authority claims, the role of grace and works in salvation, the nature of God and whether or not Mormons are Christians. Because of time constraints none of discussions could be fully developed, but I was satisfied that they at least addressed what I think are the most important distinctions.

I think the two men added a new section to their dialogue where they made predictions about the future and stated what they hoped to see from Mormons and Evangelicals in 20 years. I wasn’t taking notes so forgive me if I don’t pass on their responses with great accuracy. Johnson stated that he liked to see the LDS church clearly teaching salvation by grace alone and not by works (I’m really fuzzy about what he said so I could be totally off). Millet said that he’d like to see groups of Evangelicals and Mormons gathering together for Bible study without compromise of either of our belief systems. He specifically mentioned how great it would be to see Evangelicals and Mormons diving into the book of Romans together.

For four years I’ve been waiting to ask Dr. Millet a question and I finally got my chance in the Q&A portion of the event. I explained that in the Traditional Christian understanding our salvation is by grace alone and our works are counted toward our glorification. I wanted to know if it would be appropriate in Mormon thought to describe salvation by grace alone but exaltation by works. Seth basically asked him the same question two years ago, so I was interested to see how his response might have changed in that time.

Dr. Millet responded that it was an interesting thought but that it’s impossible to separate salvation and exaltation in that way for Mormons. He again affirmed that salvation was an individual affair but exaltation was for the entire family. He made sure to clarify what the New Testament states that works are an essential expression of faith and without them there is an evidence of a lack of faith. But as clearly as I have ever heard a Mormon state it, he said that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. I was pleased to hear him state it so straight forwardly without any nuance.

I followed up by asking him if he were given the opportunity to speak at General Conference this October if he could and would use those same words in his talk. He more than once stated that he could do so and would be happy to do so if ever given the opportunity to speak.

In a subsequent question for Dr. Millet he stated that he had no problem with the Apostles Creed and only minor difficulties with the Nicene Creed (specifically the three persons of the Trinity being one substance). He went on to explain how satisfying the idea of Social Trinitarianism was to him. This prompted a followup question. “If you have so little difficulty with those creeds, why is the word ‘abomination’ applied to them?” He agreed the word was a strong one and said that some of Joseph Smith’s responses to other churches was in light of the way Mormons had felt picked on and the way the creeds were used to divide and exclude. He clarified that the word ‘abomination’ was spoken by God but Smith’s actions and attitudes toward other churches were his own.

I was glad to attend. It wasn’t without cost for me to drive up to Santa Barbara, but it was worth my time. If you’re able to see them make this presentation I would encourage you to make the effort.

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64 thoughts on “The Greg & Bob Show Hits Santa Barbara

  1. Thanks for the write up Tim. I’m glad you were finally able to attend and experience the dialogue first hand. I enjoyed it when I attended a couple of years ago. I’m glad you were able to ask your questions and glad to hear you received a thoughtful response.

  2. First, thanks for the interesting report.

    Second, did you get a feel for who made up the audience, or how they reacted to the presentation?

  3. There were about 100 people in attendance. The majority were Westmont students. If I had to guess I would suppose that every one else were Evangelicals, but I don’t know for sure.

    The audience was interested and attentive but I wouldn’t call it the most responsive audience I’ve been a part of.

  4. I was reminded that in special university lectures that not everyone in attendance is there because they are as interested in the topic as they are the classroom credit.

  5. Thanks for the report, Tim. What Dr. Millet said about our works having nothing to do with our salvation is encouraging. Can Dr. Millet be called an official representative of the LDS?

  6. No more official than I am. The difference, though, is that if he were teaching heresy he could lose his job.

  7. So wait, Tim says “I explained that in the Traditional Christian understanding our salvation is by grace alone and our works are counted toward our glorification.” Mormonism teaches salvation and exaltation (which is just a particular understanding of glorification) and the line between what is a result of grace and what is a result of works is fuzzy. And it’s supposed ot be a big theological problem?

    Once again, that’s a semantic hair split so fine I can’t help but just sit back laugh at all of you.

  8. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland could be seen as an official representative, however. Here‘s what he says:

    I know that there is no other name [referring to Jesus Christ] given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace can we gain eternal life.

    (Emphasis added.) If that’s not saying that we’re saved by grace rather than by relying on our works, I’m not sure what would be.

  9. And so why do we argue about the faith works? I never knew there to be an issue until I was cornered,
    “So you believe you can’t be saved UNLESS you’re baptized then, is that right Isaac?”
    “Well yes I..”
    “Then you believe that you’re saved through your works! Heresy!”

    Dramatic, but not far from truth. I have always been confused by the stance and have been compelled to ‘prove’ that works are essential and vital. I have been able to get the other to admit that works are a reflection of faith, but not that MY ‘works’ are a reflection of ‘saving faith’. It boggles my mind.

    I had a thought years back..that discounting ‘works’ was a theological attempt at undermining LDS’s stance on authority. IF baptism or any other work wasn’t really necessary, then we would never need a ‘proper authority’ to conduct those works. So, to say that the Preisthood was restored and is necessary to effectuate works, the LDS are asserting that faith is unimportant. Not true to our beliefs but doesn’t that sound like a plausible catalyst for this disagreement?

  10. That’s not the first thing I thought of..

    Tim, thanks for the review! Saw these gents when they were at the Mariner’s Church in Irvine. I recognized most as being Mormon’s..we got together afterward for discussion and it was a table of 4-5 LDS to every Evangelical. I was disappointed but doubt thats, or hope thats an uncommon attendance ratio.

    If you jump through all the hoops of the gospel but don’t have faith in Jesus Christ..odds are, you’re screwed. If you miss out on the hoop jumping, but yet have faith in Jesus Christ, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor…if there’s even any place for ‘odds’. It’s true to our doctrine…but we like to focus on the results that faith ought to stimulate…works. If we’re lacking in good choices, then it can very well be reflected as a lack of faith in some area.

  11. Tim,

    But as clearly as I have ever heard a Mormon state it, he said that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. I was pleased to hear him state it so straight forwardly without any nuance.

    He didn’t have to nuance it as he was using doublespeak here, assuming you are reporting this correctly. As you know in Mormon theology salvation is the equivalent of winning the matching washer and dryer at the end of Jeopardy. Sure, you got a prize, but you didn’t get the real prize. Mormons can agree with Evangelicals about every single aspect of salvation because Mormons and Evangelicals are not talking about he same thing when they use the word “salvation.”

    Eric,

    Way to prooftext Holland. Because we all know that citing a single sentence establishes an entire theology of salvation, and that single sentence couldn’t possibly have any riders, qualifications, or be used by Mormons in a way utterly foreign to evangelicals.

  12. “Mormons can agree with Evangelicals about every single aspect of salvation because Mormons and Evangelicals are not talking about he same thing when they use the word “salvation.””

    really?

    Mormons don’t mean saved from death and hell?
    Evangelicals don’t mean saved from death and hell?

    I don’t follow.

    When they talk about things that can’t be pinned down in experience, people will invariably have wide variation in precisely what they mean when they use certain terms, but its seems to me that salvation is used in a very similar way.

  13. Jared,
    I agree with you about 9%.
    But there are some excerpts from JS that describe more to “salvation” than just “saved from death and hell.”

    While it is certainly dishonest and disingenuous of David Clark to insist that all instances of Mormons using the word “salvation” are not matching the Evangelical definition… there are some times when that is true, and it would be good for us to admit that sometimes some people used more specialized definitions of “saved” than most people today use the word “saved”.

    Of course, when a clarification like David’s only confuses everyone, I’m not sure why he would say it, unless David’s got some sort of Ax to grind against the LDS church, faith, and people. Could that ever be possible, that an ex, anti, or disenfranchised Mormon would ever have an ax to grand?

  14. Way to prooftext Holland. Because we all know that citing a single sentence establishes an entire theology of salvation, …

    I wasn’t prooftexting. I wasn’t claiming that Holland’s statement, which I accurately reported and provided a link for so it could be read in context, was the essence of LDS thought on the matter.

    My point was that it would be possible for someone speaking at General Conference to make the kind of statement that Tim reported Millet making. That’s all.

    My own view is that the Mormons and evangelicals (particularly Arminian-oriented evangelicals) aren’t nearly as far apart on the issue of grace vs. works as many have supposed. It’s easy to stereotype LDS views as being that we need to work our way to the Celestial Kingdom (and certainly I could find Mormons who say basically that, and parts of the LDS culture seem to lend support to that perspective), and it’s easy to stereotype evangelical views as being that works don’t have any connection with salvation (and certainly I could find evangelicals who say basically that, and parts of the evangelical culture seem to lend support to that perspective).

    But I have never heard an authoritative LDS leader teach that we aren’t saved by grace. And I have never heard an evangelical pastor preach that works don’t matter. Never, in both instances.

    I’m not saying our views are identical; they aren’t. I am saying that there are other areas where the differences between LDS and evangelicals are more stark, and that there’s more common ground to be found on this issue than is popularly suspected.

    I’d say the same thing about what we mean by “salvation” — our definitions are similar, not identical. A good perspective on what we mean by salvation can be found here: Have You Been Saved?.

  15. Really?

    Mormons don’t mean saved from death and hell?
    Evangelicals don’t mean saved from death and hell?

    I don’t follow.

    Yes, really. And your response indicates one of the many reasons that salvation is not the same thing for Evangelicals as it is for Mormons. Hell is a very different thing for Evangelicals and Mormons. So if salvation means saved from hell, and hell means different thing in the respective belief systems, how could salvation, which depends upon the definition of hell possibly mean the same thing in the two different belief systems? They can’t. Ergo, salvation means something very different in the different belief systems.

  16. Of course, when a clarification like David’s only confuses everyone, I’m not sure why he would say it, unless David’s got some sort of Ax to grind against the LDS church, faith, and people. Could that ever be possible, that an ex, anti, or disenfranchised Mormon would ever have an ax to grand?

    Way to attack the messenger, psychochemiker. That’s what I like about you, you are just a consistent class act.

  17. But I have never heard an authoritative LDS leader teach that we aren’t saved by grace.

    But have you ever heard an authoritative LDS leader teach that we are saved by grace alone? It would help your case if you could provide that quote. Holland’s quote establishes that Mormon theology holds that grace is a necessary condition for exaltation. That is not the same as it being a necessary and sufficient condition, which is the Evangelical position.

    And I have never heard an evangelical pastor preach that works don’t matter. Never, in both instances.

    Hang out with more Calvinists and Lutherans.

  18. I’m aware of ‘doublespeak’ (for lack of a better term). I’ve seen it plenty of times with Mormon missionaries. I was satisfied that Dr. Millet meant the exact same thing as I did.

  19. As a Mormon, I believed that we were saved by grace alone, but that in order to qualify for Jesus Christ’s grace, we are required to have the kind of faith that produces good works, repent of our sins, be paptized, receive the gift of the holy ghost and other necessary ordinances.

  20. Doublespeak is intentionally misusing words in order to distort or deceive. It is not simple misunderstanding.

    Certainly there are incommensurate elements to Evangelical and LDS soteriology but if Mormons don’t quite understand Evangelicals or if Evangelicals don’t quite understand LDS use of a term, that’s not doublespeak.

    But at root, the plain language used by the average believer seems pretty close in meaning. Salvation is being saved from something, and that “something” is generally seen to be pretty close to the same thing. At least as far as I can tell.

    This general agreement does get lost in the propaganda used to either attack or defend the lds by either inflating the differences or eliminating them.

  21. “So if salvation means saved from hell, and hell means different thing in the respective belief systems, how could salvation, which depends upon the definition of hell possibly mean the same thing in the two different belief systems? They can’t. Ergo, salvation means something very different in the different belief systems.”

    Hell is a bad consequence of sin in both belief systems right?

    If you are a convict, whether you think you are facing 10 years or the electric chair, a pardon is a pardon. Just because someone doesn’t believe in they will get the electric chair doesn’t mean that they understand a “pardon” to mean something different than one who does.

  22. Holland’s quote establishes that Mormon theology holds that grace is a necessary condition for exaltation. That is not the same as it being a necessary and sufficient condition, which is the Evangelical position.

    Evangelicals don’t believe in exaltation do they?

  23. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Millet / Johnson show. I attended one of these in Logan, UT around five years ago, just as I was beginning a period of real soul-searching. Millet’s views helped me see that I might be able to believe in grace, after all.

    While I agree that the grace / works argument between Mormons and evangelicals is largely semantic for most people, I maintain that there is a significant minority of Mormons who honestly believe you have to “earn” grace by your worthiness. At least, I know I did.

  24. Katie L. said:

    maintain that there is a significant minority of Mormons who honestly believe you have to “earn” grace by your worthiness.

    I’m not sure it’s a minority.

  25. Jared C,

    Hell is a bad consequence of sin in both belief systems right?

    Not really. Hell is a singular concept in Evangelical theology. Hell is polyvalent in Mormon doctrine/theology. I do think you hit on something by bringing hell into this, perhaps I will write a more lengthy comment or post on this.

    Evangelicals don’t believe in exaltation do they?

    They don’t believe in Mormon exaltation, otherwise they would be Mormon. I was using exaltation in the sense of getting the whole enchilada after you die.

  26. I was satisfied that Dr. Millet meant the exact same thing as I did.

    I wasn’t there, so I’ll take your word for it.

  27. And if it’s not a minority, then I take back what I said about the difference being largely semantic.

    There is a HUGE difference between believing that you are saved by grace through faith (and that works are a manifestation of saving faith), and that you must “qualify” for grace through personal worthiness.

  28. I suspect that the debate between faith vs. works is really the debate between whether salvation is ultimately God’s choice or man’s choice. This is the real crux of the matter. For many, salvation is entirely God’s choice and God’s choice alone and human decisions have no bearing on the matter. Even if a person desires to follow God, that desire was a gift given to her by God in the first instance. On the other side, some see God as making the first move but then waiting for man to step forward and respond to God’s call in some way that cannot be performed by God. In this scenario, man’s decision must, at least at some core level, be his own choice, otherwise man’s existence has no purpose and eternal punishments and rewards for behavior for which we are not even responsible would be unjust.

    Framing the issue as faith vs. works essentially masks this fundamental debate. I should point out that I’ve described the two positions as mutually exclusive, but in reality, I suspect that many people fluctuate between these two views depending on life challenges, because we probably identify with both positions in different times of our lives. Indeed, the way these positions are often understood (as either or) is probably flawed because it assumes man can neatly separate his choices independent from any divine influence. It isn’t clear, however, whether this is possible. Yet, I do feel that getting beyond the traditional faith vs. works framework and considering the issue of God’s choice vs. man’s choice, while not perfect, is a much improved framework by which to discuss these issues.

  29. All Christians believe you must “qualify” for grace somehow.

    Ironically, Protestants are upset with Mormon for two reasons,

    Mormons believe that grace is too easy to come by (many more people will be saved in the LDS scheme of things)

    AND

    Mormons believe that grace is too hard to come by because you have to do things to qualify for grace and we focus too much on what we are doing rather than what God has done fore us.

  30. I suspect that the debate between faith vs. works is really the debate between whether salvation is ultimately God’s choice or man’s choice.

    Interesting perspective. You may be right.

  31. Katie L said:

    Eric, if it’s not a minority, then we’ve got a big, big problem.

    Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a significant minority. I hope so.

    What I do know is that there’s a culture within the Church that seems to focus more on behavior (and often insignificant behaviors) and outward appearances and is extremely uncomfortable with people struggling with meeting various standards. At a psychological level (and this probably has more to do with the human condition than it does with what is taught), it’s not uncommon at all for people to feel unworthy — it’s like their sins are too big for the Atonement, or for whatever reason they don’t believe the slate can be clean.

    When I hear a missionary tell me (and I have) that his father told him he had better complete his mission or he’d be, in effect, disowned — and he was speaking about his father approvingly — then I know there’s a problem somewhere.

    When I personally know of a young unmarried woman who is beautiful in every way and gets pregnant, then feels nobody wants her in church even though she still believes it’s true, then I know there’s a problem somewhere.

    When I hear people assume that the only reason a couple aren’t married in a temple is because they’ve somehow fallen short and are happy to settle for a second-class marriage, then I know there’s a problem somewhere.

    When I read about the new convert who is chastised for coming to church without first covering up her tattoos, I know there’s a problem somewhere.

    I could add to the list but I’d only get discouraged.

    Thankfully, it’s not all like this. These days, I am fortunate to have a stake presidency that believes in grace, practices grace and teaches grace. As a teacher, I’ve been instructed to tie every lesson to the Atonement, the central truth of the Gospel. And, generally speaking, there’s a message of grace (even if that word isn’t used) in most of the talks and testimonies I hear on Sundays.

    But there’s still a big part of the culture that runs contrary to all that.

  32. I think it would be willfully naive to claim that there were not at least two significant competing currents in the Church on the issue. I think a lack of semantic clarity within Mormonism muddies the waters a lot, and I thinkt he lack of semantic clarity is directly due to the Church’s position against debating theology and the Church’s top-down information flow.

  33. I suspect that the debate between faith vs. works is really the debate between whether salvation is ultimately God’s choice or man’s choice.

    I think that certainly is the case in the Calvinism/Arminian debate. While some of that spills over into the faith/works debate (i.e. is having faith in Christ a “work”) I think the real heart of the debate is “who is able to pay the debt?”

  34. I think the real heart of the debate is “who is able to pay the debt?”

    I don’t see any disagreement on this point. Do you? if so, where?

  35. To unpack this idea further, I think Mormons who try to finesse ‘works’ and explain that having faith is a work, or accepting a gift is a work, do so because they think it has explanatory value, but in my view, this kind of explanation confuses more than enlightens, and probably should be substituted for something better. For many Evangelicals, having faith or accepting Christ is still seen as something outside the power of fallen man. It isn’t something possible with an unregenerate heart, and thus, it isn’t really man’s choice. The Mormon who argues that accepting a free gift or having faith is a work tends to miss this point but is gesturing at the fact that man’s choices matter, they have significance, they are not irrelevant. Naturally, Mormons and Evangelicals often talk past each other on this point.

    I think the virtue of exploring the discussion at the level of man’s choice vs. God’s choice is that one first addresses this core issue. Once we talk about “debt” then we move down a level of detail and and then we get into various atonement theories (it isn’t clear whether sin should be regarded as a debt), where people within the same camp may disagree.

  36. Let’s imagine salvation on a scale of integers, with zero being on the point at which you are “saved.”

    In the Penal-Substitution Model, we stand at a negative place on the scale and are thus damned, and in order to get from -x to 0, God’s grace is required. Once at 0, we are able to work to gain glory and move into positive integers, which is glory or exaltation. Only Jesus is able to move the scale at values less than zero, and only an individual can move his own scale at values greater than zero. Thus, our salvation is purely through grace, and our glorification–once we are saved–is purely through our own efforts.

    I think quite few Mormons would accept that model. Including some Mormons here. We might bicker about what has to be done to get Jesus to move the scale up to zero, but we would agree that without Jesus’s intervention, our own efforts to get the scale to budge when it is in the <0 range are futile.

    One possible Mormon model is the Nephi-Literal Model, which holds that by grace we are saved after all we can do. In the Nephi-literal model, we stand at <0, and we have to move the scale as close to 0 as we can. We will not as a practical matter be able to move it to 0, but once we have moved it as far as we can, Jesus steps in and moves it the rest of the way. At values above 0, individual effort, i.e. works, moves the scale (this is exaltation).

    Another possible Mormon model is the Yoke Model, in which the scale can not or will not be moved at any point without some effort from both Jesus and the individual (or possibly this only applies in the <0 range, and above 0 the indidivual works alone). The individual can not move the scale alone, and Jesus will not move the scale alone.

    Another possible Mormon model is the Earned-Salvation Model, which has the individual responsible for moving the scale at all ranges.

    Another possible model is the Infinite-Grace Model, which has Jesus move the scale at all ranges: the indidivual might have to do something in order to motivate Jesus to move the scale, but that is a separate transaction: human effort is not capable of moving the scale at all.

  37. Obviously “debt” is a metaphor, that only goes so far.

    It is an odd sort of “debt” when the person paying the debt is the same person to which it is owed.

    The metaphor might give us the gist of what is happening, and may be helpful in opening up the idea of the atonement and the deal with God and sin and forgiveness, but it falls apart real quick.

    I think the ultimate incoherence of these models is a big factor in making me distrust the standard Christian understanding of sin.

  38. Right? That’s just cancelling a debt, not paying it.

    My Cleon Skousen-influenced Mormon philosophicla understanding of it was that a debt had to be paid so that the universe itself would be satisfied: God id God ebcause of his honor; the universe obeys him because he is perfectly just and thus perfectly reliable. If he could simply cancel our debt, it would be arbitrary and capricious of him, and he would cease to be eprfectly just, and the universe would cease to obey him, and it would all collapse into chaos: God would cease to be god.

    So a debt has to be paid, really paid for the sake of justice itself rather than to any particular person who is owed something.

  39. Right, the debt analogy requires something outside of God requiring the debt to be paid. Otherwise why wouldn’t God just change his own books.

    This is why, in part, Muslims think its strange to believe that God is not just powerful and absolute enough simply to ignore sins when he wants. They wonder why should an absolutely powerful God have to make any sacrifice when others break his rules.

  40. I like your models!
    I may be mistaken, but I believe Jewish scholarship or OT study searches for all facets of truth…in other words, in interpreting the OT they never stick to just one definition but add them all together.
    If you know you are saved then you ought to be humble, and seek to do good, and to always remember Christ. If you’re doing everything right commandment wise, you ought to be humble, always remember Christ and know that He’s channeling good works through you.. for it is only by the grace of Christ that you could to ANYthing good..we being fallen and unable to render any good of ourselves. No matter which ‘principle basket’ you gather your eggs into, you will be lacking in others..gotta spread it out, not be so totalistic.

    Things we know.
    We are saved through belief on Jesus Christ.
    We are saved by Grace.
    There is nothing that we can do that would atone for our own sins..are only recourse is to have faith in the Mercy and Grace of Christ.
    We will be judged by our works..righteous and wicked alike.
    we must have Faith on the Lord Jesus Christ
    Faith without works is dead.
    We must love God
    We must follow Jesus Christ
    We must keep the commandments
    We are to be One with Brothers and Sisters, Apostles, Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Ghost
    We must be baptized to enter into the kingdom of God
    We must RECEIVE the Gift of the Holy Ghost

    All have equal relevance and all fit snuggly together but if you try to make one point grander than the next, you get off balanced. So I don’t think you can ever peg a doctrinal view and declare that its the first and greatest.

    Discipleship is an active engagement. There’s that saying, “the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it”. Does God not want us to do good? To perform righteous acts? To partake in the works of salvation? And righteousness is not just the work, but the attitude and perspective behind the work…having a single mind toward God. God will judge are works justly…for God knows our hearts, and we must hope our hearts are converted to Christ!

  41. David Clarke

    Fire and brimstone…can we not assume that all the descriptions of hell are not literal, but avail us an image, an understanding of what our wicked choices will bring upon us? I could think of little else that would be more painful than bathing in lava and not eventually dieing. A kind analogy to the awful fate of those who will suffer it.

    “Hell is a singular concept in Evangelical theology”. You’re right, it is a concept. The concept describes the Evangelical interpretation of scripture…and thats it. You can try and nail truth down with one nail but it’ll just spin around. Nor, in the end, can we nail ‘hell’ down with just Mormonism…there’s much more to know and understand than what we believe. In regards to our beliefs..they don’t conflict with the Word of God, they conflict with your interpretation of the Word of God. Whatever conflict exists, it ought to be resolved.

  42. I like the first model…except, I wouldn’t know that Christ could move me up to 0 and I wouldn’t know how to move myself to +x if it weren’t for Christ. So knowledge of, or Faith that, he can 0 me and help me to rise above would be essential.

  43. Eric, I thought your last post was brilliant. What an insightful, honest, accurate, and balanced look at Mormon culture! I hope you become one of the Twelve Apostles.

  44. Eric, totally agree with your last post. This element of cultural Mormonism is tragic and frustrating, and I pray that it changes.

    I agree with Kullervo that there are competing currents in the Church on this issue, even among the leadership. How I wish we could just openly acknowledge that there are competing currents and say, “But you know, that’s part of life — we’re all human beings doing our best to comprehend the Incomprehensible!” Unfortunately, the church is so invested in uniformity as a “proof” of its truthfulness that we won’t be able to be honest about that until we repent of our prideful notion that we have “all the answers.”

  45. I should add, I don’t know that before correlation there was such desperate emphasis on uniformity as proof that the church is true. If I recall correctly, in the past there were open, even heated, disagreements among the Brethren — and for the most part, no one freaked out.

    I hate to play the “correlation is EVIL” card, because I believe there are important benefits to correlation as well, but a bit more humility and acknowledgment that it’s possible for human beings to get things wrong sometimes — even prophets, seers, and revelators — would go a long way toward helping someone like me have more confidence in our leadership. I recognize that this would harm that confidence for others, but from where I’m sitting, the truth is always better than an illusion, even if it’s “harder”…or threatens your power.

  46. I think that the fact that Stephen E. Robinson’s book “Believing Christ” is so popular is a pretty good indicator that there is a sizable portion of the Mormon population that struggles with accepting the concept of grace.

    However, I wonder how much the segment of Mormon culture that is so pharasaical about their actions are really concerned about salvation, and how much they are just worried about what others think about them. I don’t deny that there are some who really do think that their actions will purchase grace, but I think there is a significant percentage who simply worry about their outward actions because they are insecure.

  47. Alex I think you’re really onto to something here.

    And instead of recognizing that and actually doing something to help those individuals, most crusaders against Mormonism use that fact as some sort of bludgeon against the LDS church, instead of recognizing what is wrong with the individuals and helping to fix it, our self-proclaimed-ordained-by-Jesus individuals seek to use the insecurities as some as proof of the falseness of the LDS church. Sad really, that the souls of those in suffering come as collateral damage when the intended target is the LDS church.

  48. I don’t deny that there are some who really do think that their actions will purchase grace, but I think there is a significant percentage who simply worry about their outward actions because they are insecure.

    I don’t know that it’s *that much* better to think you have to purchase grace than it is to fear being rejected by your family, friends, and faith community if you don’t toe the line.

    Either way you’ve got a fear-based paradigm that destroys faith in Christ.

  49. Katie – I don’t think it is better at all. It is just a matter of realising that one comes from a view of faith, and one comes from a view of the community. One is theological, the other is cultural.

    I believe that church leaders have made some moves toward recognising these paradigms. In fact, I would not be surprised at all to learn that many of the calls for gentleness and kindness that we hear so often are directly related to this, but I think we need much more straightforward discourse on the matter.

  50. My first reaction is to disagree and over react. I began to take the commentary as negative jabs on the LDS church as a whole. Yet, I simply cannot deny that such wide spread problems exist. They’re big enough to need our attention.
    Grace…I don’t bask in it as much as Evangelicals, I guess. Have I been dumbfounded and made weak in the knees at the awesome gift of the Atonement? Yes..I have. And not just once. Now I believe in Jesus Christ..he IS the Saviour of all Mankind…and now what? What do I do? Skip through the streets giving out flowers because I am saved? That might not be such a bad idea in some instances, but what about the rest of us, and, for the rest of the time? Our works WILL be judged, and the intentions thereof. We must actively choose to follow Christ. If we do not, Christ will not ‘recognize’ us. Christ commanded us to follow him…how can we follow him if we do not diligently seek to obey his commandments? Action, on our part, MUST be taken in order recieve an assurance of salvation. I don’t see it as ‘purchasing’ though…I see it as you would see serving others…as the least I could do. And why does he command us? So that upon obeying the commandments we might learn…spiritually…of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Within the Evangelical theology, if you have faith in Jesus Christ, confess him as your Lord and Saviour, and/or realize that the blood of Christ cleanses you….the effect is eternal. You are saved. Right? Expanding that out…all a person needs to do, in this lifetime, is come to a realization of, and apply, the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Living in obedience to the commandments of God is better..so whats wrong with allowing those to live that way until they fugured it out?
    -Sidenote- I thought I had it figured out on my mission..but I find that, through time, my appreciation and conviction deepens…to say thay I am not the same ‘saved’ person I was 10 yrs ago.

    I ‘ve heard rumor about the Utah Saints…that they’re not very tolerant of ‘less then the (highest)standard’, and it makes me sad. Its a basic teaching method..to give a negative response to discourage anti-social behaviour. It is just to hold someone up to the ‘law’ or ‘standard’…and in that, they are not wrong…in that, WE are not wrong. Its just that there’s a higher law of Love that is being overlooked.

    Don’t think that the Church leaders don’t know about the problems, or are refusing to address them. They are addressing the issues in the way they’ve been instructed to. What is the best way? Charity. Charity may not include an outright condemnation…although it doesn’t always exclude such.

  51. Just to finish that last thought…How do you teach Charity without Charity? Utah’ns need to accept others for who they are and for what they do with a hope that improvement is on the horizon. And so we must accept all those self-righteous ones for who they are and what they do with a single love and hope that improvement is on the horizon.
    And we must do the same between us, of different faiths.

  52. There’s a time for being plasterd up agaisnt the wall by the Word of God (Elder Holland talking to me and fellow missionaries) and a time for pure and precise principles to be avialable to assist those wanting to take the next step (General Conference). Application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ motivates willingness…its not for commanding into submition.

  53. Jared, your link started me on a very informational trail. Thanks.

    This discussion reminds me of the following Bible verses about using fireproof building materials (although I didn’t notice until just now that the verses appropriately start with the phrase “by the grace”!):

    1Cor. 3:10-15
    By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

    I believe LDS leadership is slowly progressing in theological purity. As they continue to progress, they will become more effective at reducing the burnable actions in the lives of their members and increasing the fireproof actions. The fireproof actions are empowered by grace and will bring rewards on the day of judgment.

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