Key Differences Explained

Sean McDowell recently wrote this article for Biola Magazine explaining the key differences between Mormonism and Christianity.

McDowell posits that Mormonism is distinct from Christianity by placing an unnecessarily heavy burden on its followers, offering a different understanding of faith (fideism), the possibility of becoming a god, a rejection of original sin and the idea that God the Father has a physical body.

Because of the length of the article these issues aren’t addressed in a great amount of detail. The comments section was almost immediately filled by Mormons claiming inaccuracies and libel and demanding a retraction. Personally I think the article is accurate of the mainstream Mormon view. I feel like many of the commentors are offended that anyone other than the LDS church is describing Mormon theology rather than from any inaccuracies in the article itself.

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136 thoughts on “Key Differences Explained

  1. My initial reaction is that McDowell cherry-picks the Book of Mormon to get it to say what he thinks it says, and he seems to forget that Mormons believe in the Bible too.

    Otherwise, I agree with Tim that what McDowell describes as LDS beliefs are, even if oversimplified, within the LDS mainstream. But even in Utah (to where I moved last year) there is an incredible diversity in Mormon thought, and I suspect that the range of beliefs within the church is far broader than McDowell would think.

  2. What Eric said. While not necessarily an inaccurate portrayal of one rather immature strain of Mormon thought, the Mormonism he describes would not be very recognizable to lots and lots of Mormons.

  3. Me parece que el mormonismo acepta el pecado original como necesario para la expiaciòn y la remisiòn dentro del plan de redenciòn divina. La muerte es necesaria para la resurrecciòn de la carne.

  4. Could you translate that for me, maroxana!

    Sean McDowell makes one colossal blunder right from the get-go when he indicates that Mormonism is not Christian. His credibility goes south as soon as the starting gun fires.

  5. Here’s my attempt at translation, maroxana:
    “I suppose if the Mormonism accepts the man’s original sin necessary for the explanation of the remission _____ the plan of redemption divine. The ______ is necessary for the resurrection of the dead.”

  6. “It seems to me that Mormonism accepts original sin as necessary for the Atonement and remission within the plan of divine redemption. Death is necessary for the resurrection of the flesh.”

  7. Katie, you said it well. The Mormons who agree with Mr. McDowell are very immature in their Gospel understanding. For instance, the ‘heavy burden’ he writes about is no different than what Jesus commanded to all his followers (See Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”, or John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”) Those who think they have to keep all the commandments every minute of every day or that they have to be perfect in this life do not understand what Christ was saying. We should daily strive to be better people and understand that the gift of Christ’s grace is the only way we will ever become what He has commanded us to be. Simply put: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

  8. What Eric said. While not necessarily an inaccurate portrayal of one rather immature strain of Mormon thought, the Mormonism he describes would not be very recognizable to lots and lots of Mormons.

    Katie, you said it well. The Mormons who agree with Mr. McDowell are very immature in their Gospel understanding.

    Sorry, but this is total BS. Calling the Mormon POV you just don’t happen to subscribe to “immature” is convenient and self-congratulatory, not to mention elitist.

    Also, even the most postmodern/Believing-Christ/nuanced-out-the-wazoo Mormon recognizes that legalism is huge in Mormonism, even if they don’t think it should be or has to be. It may not be the Mormonism you believe or think is correct, but you cannot say with a straight face that it is unrecognizable.

  9. Kullervo, what got you so worked up about our replies? Spiritual immaturity is natural in any Christian community (or any community at all, for that matter). Even Peter had a good bit of maturing to do after Christ left (see Acts 10). I do not consider those who are less mature in their Gospel understanding to be inferior to me in any way. In some ways, they are probably better at following some commandments that are hard for me. Many of them are probably more humble and loving too. I’m also not discounting that there are a good number of Mormons who ascribe to some of the concepts Mr. McDowell pointed out. But, the majority of sincerely practicing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unwilling to accept the validity of his ‘key differences’.

    I come to my conclusions based on my experience as a Mormon in the Army living overseas and various parts of the US. My most recent experience comes from living in the Southeast where Mormons are in the minority. Perhaps in the large Mormon communities in the West, the Gospel misunderstandings are more easily seen, but from my vantage point, the *percentage* of members having the understandings is not any higher there than anywhere else.

  10. That’s why I said it’s not an inaccurate portrayal. It’s there, it exists, and I acknowledge it.

    I meant recognizable in the sense that there are many Mormons wouldn’t claim what McDowell described as reflecting our views. Let’s change the word “recognizable” to “resonant” or something.

    As for the immaturity issue, sorry, but I think legalism is spiritually immature. It just is. People who engage their faith that way aren’t bad or stupid, I care about them and wish them well, but it’s Stage 3 Fowler all the way — the adolescent spiritual stage. It does not reflect a very sophisticated engagement with scripture or spiritual concepts generally.

    Having once been insanely legalistic, I can say that without malice. It is what it is.

  11. My interest took a shot when he referenced John 4:24. What a tired old proof-text…

    Tim, I think EVs/Protestants should stick with the Trinity argument as the only real difference that matters. When people start saying things like, “The view of faith in the Mormon scriptures differs from the Bible”, it shows an unwillingness to see/acknowledge differing views of faith within Protestantism – not to mention the Bible.

  12. People who engage their faith that way aren’t bad or stupid, I care about them and wish them well, but it’s Stage 3 Fowler all the way — the adolescent spiritual stage.

    I think it’s Stage 1 or 2 of Fowler . . . but I’ll get into Fowler in a different post.

  13. In order to accept either of your claims about “spiritual maturity,” I pretty much have to accept on some level or other that Mormonism is true. Which I reject. Mormonism is a made-up religion. Which means while you, an individual, can be possibly more mature with respect to spiritual things (although I am not sure how you would measure or evaluate it, i.e., what the standard of “maturity” is that you are being compared to, but I can accept that you as an individual can grow spiritually in some measure without having to concede the truth of your religion in any way), its meaningless to talk about groups or factions of Mormonism as being spiritually immature, because that presupposes a collective religious “maturity” based on some ideal “true” Mormonism.

  14. Chrisitan J,

    I agree that the nature of God is the most profound difference. But I think legalism/grace is the difference that impacts Mormons the most powerfully in their daily lives.

  15. that presupposes a collective religious “maturity” based on some ideal “true” Mormonism.

    this is pretty much the punch line of my post on the Fowler Stages of Faith.

  16. But Tim,

    There are countless differences of belief and practice when it comes to legalism/grace within Protestantism (regardless of what Luther/Calvin taught). Guys like Matt Chandler (who I really like btw) have built their ministry on that fact.

    Unique differences are what I’m looking for.

  17. Kullervo, you’re like an anarchist at a presidential debate. People start to wonder why you waited in line to get in.

  18. In all seriousness, I am an ex-Mormon grappling with spirituality and questions of faith and trying to somehow personally come to terms with God and, sometimes (often? right now?), with Christianity. I’ve also been commenting here regularly for more than five years, and I reckon many of the other regular commenters here as my friends. So I’m here to stay as long as Tim doesn’t ban me.

  19. Kullervo, I’m somewhat acquainted with your background (having looked at this blog/commented for a few years myself). I’m also well aware of your role as referee. Or, as I like to call it – the Evangelical version of CD-host. :) I have no problem with that. Also, I would never presume to make you feel unwelcome (I’m in no place to do so).

    I’m only commenting on your recent reply – which seems to state that if a premise is dependent on a truth claim, its BS. This, for me , would prevent most of the dialogue at this blog from taking place. Or – what’s the point of it all? Hence my anarchist analogy.

  20. to be clear, I’m not saying you’re an Evangelical, just commonly on that side of the discussion.

  21. I’m only commenting on your recent reply – which seems to state that if a premise is dependent on a truth claim, its BS. This, for me , would prevent most of the dialogue at this blog from taking place. Or – what’s the point of it all? Hence my anarchist analogy.

    I dont think all of the premises here are dependent on truth claims, and I think some of the premises that are dependent on truth claims are perfectly appropriate, especially when it is clear that they are such.

    But Katie’s and David’s talk about immature Mormonism is a relative of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, and as much as I hate dragging logical fallacies into discussions like this*, it’s really applicable. “No True Scotsman” only works if there is such a thing as a true Scotsman. Likewise, the notion that a given group of Mormons’ beliefs are not True Mormonism or Mature Mormonism presupposes that True Mormonism or Mature Mormonism exists in an inherent sense that is only possible if Mormonism’s truth claims are true, i.e., that Mormon God with True Doctrine exists and the Mormon Church is His One True Church that teaches it. And no non-Mormon should grant that premise. Therefore, talk about True Mormonism or Mature Mormonism is only anthropologically interesting to non-Mormons; there’s no such thing as True or Mature Mormonism outside of a bunch of mental constructs held by Mormons, but the way Mormons dissent and relate with each other about these constructs is relevant to outsiders in terms of how Mormons as a group interrelate and function.

    * Because they are often seriously abused when applied outside of the context of formal logical statements, e.g., while Pleading from Authority is a fallacy when you are trying to use it to prove that your position is logically true, authority is certainly relevant evidence of the truth of a position. Most things in the real world can never be proven logically true anyway, and all of the best evidence we have is fallible in one way or another, so dogmatically exclusing all fallible evidence, practically speaking, means excluding all available evidence.

  22. Scene: LDS Missionaries doing a door approach

    Missionary: Hi, we’re missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’d like to share a message with you.

    Investigator: What’s the message?

    Missionary: That you need to join our church because someday you may want to write an article or blog post about our church and you will need to be a member of our church to do this.

    Investigator: Umm, no. It’s a free country, I can write about whatever I want. Besides, I don’t need to be a member of your church to know enough to write about it. I can just research your church and then write about what I have found out.

    Missionary: See, that’s where you are wrong. Mormonism is the most incredibly diverse religion in the world. It’s so amazingly diverse that we have to hire correlators to put forward a single message which is taught uniformly to all members and investigators of Mormonism so that our extreme diversity doesn’t rip a hole in the space-time continuum because of its sheer awesomeness. We’ve done a count and there are at least eleventy billion opinions in the LDS church on what it means for fruit to be in season; Can you imagine the number of opinions we have on atonement, grace, and the like? We’ll answer for you. No, you can’t, you’re just not hip enough to take all of this in.

    Investigator: So if there is so much diversity, why should I join your church. I mean I can get just as much diversity down at the local Catholic church.

    Missionary: Nope, not even close. We’re AMAZINGLY diverse. But that’s beside the point. Like we said, someday you may want to write an article about the LDS church. Unless you are one of us it will be by definition wrong. And, hundreds of angry Mormons will show up with pitchforks demanding retractions, expansions, and your forced sterilization for having had the audacity to think you could write something about Mormons. The only way to prevent that is to join the LDS church. Once you join the LDS church you can then say anything and everything you want about the LDS church or its beliefs, and as long as you identify as a Mormon, the angry hordes will leave you alone.

    Investigator: Wow, forced sterilization doesn’t sound good, I’d like to have kids someday. I don’t have plans to write about Mormonism, but someday I might, and those sound like some severe consequences. But since it sounds like I can believe pretty much whatever I want and be Mormon, I guess I’m pretty much already a Mormon, so maybe a little LDS baptism is good insurance. Can I get baptized now?

    Missionary: No, we will need to you to listen to a series of lessons which have a fixed doctrinal content. Once this is done, you will need to be asked a series of specific doctrinal questions which prove that you understand what we have taught you and that you will behave in the approved Mormon way. You will need to answer these questions correctly in order to proceed.

    Investigator: That sounds awfully rigid and fixed for a church that is so celebratory of diversity.

    Missionary: Yeah, lots of people have that mistaken impression. Don’t worry, it will all make sense after you start paying tithing. Anyway as I was saying, after you are baptized we like to celebrate our diversity by requiring all members to go through a well defined and fixed set of ordinances…

  23. Who knew that Biola had a magazine and certainly wouldn’t have expected it to be so well read by Mormons.

    I don’t know what McDowell’s experience is with Mormonism but the net effect of this article seems to be the reinforcing of the Salt Lake doctrine of persecution. I am afraid he left himself open to the criticisms by trying to explain the differences in Mormon and Christian soteriology, faith, eschatology, anthropology, and the nature of God e in 800 words or less.

  24. Not what I’m saying.

    I believe spiritual maturity can be found in all the faith traditions of the world, and occurs when the fruits of the spirit begin to be manifest in a life: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    Some strains of Mormonism are more conducive to supporting, or creating, spiritual maturity than others. It has nothing to do with some brand of “True Mormonism,” which I don’t believe exists, or the specific truth-claims of Mormonism, about which I am agnostic.

  25. P.S. Christian, I love Kullervo and always appreciate his comments. :) Get to know him — he’s a good dude.

  26. David, I liked your play. :)

    Although, I think it’s pretty clear that Mormons will argue with other Mormons threatening pitchforks and forced sterilization, too. Have you read the Bloggernaccle lately?

    So. Just because your investigator converts doesn’t mean s/he won’t be bombarded with angry hordes if s/he tries to write something about Mormonism.

  27. Kullervo, I see from further posts that you are struggling with your own spirituality. Keep struggling–it’s worth it. As to your thoughts on my immaturity comments–they sound like something the Pharisees would bring up to Christ. Now, before you get mad, I’m not saying you are anything close to being a Pharisee. It’s just that when He walked the Earth–and before that and after that–there was only one true religion. And, of course, there were many who scoffed at Him and put up every argument (and trap) they could think of. One of them, among many others, was that He was a false prophet professing a false religion.

    As you know, those of us belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints testify that the Church we belong to is His restored Church on the Earth today. So, it follows that we would speak of spiritual maturity based on our beliefs that we are striving to become like Him through Priesthood ordinances and living the Gospel principles. The more we understand how to do that, the more spiritually mature we become.

    That process is the same one He asked and continues to ask of all his disciples.

  28. Katie,

    If spiritual maturity can be found in all the faith traditions of the world why is legalism immature?

  29. Legalism generally shrinks, as opposed to enlarges, the human soul. It strains at gnats and misses the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith. It does not produce fruits of love, joy, peace, and so on, but the opposite.

  30. Katie, Because of the long history of doctrinal speculation, the Mormon belief in an open canon and the prioritizing of religious practice over belief, its very easy to see Mormon thought contradict and/or change into (in some cases) something completely different over than it was before. This can put Mormons in the difficult position defending some pretty crazy beliefs that were once taught and (in some cases) still persist. It can also result in an official teaching on any given subject, with varying views within the membership. These facts can be very useful if you’re trying to expose the church as false – or worse. Unless you’re Emerson, this look like a flimsy and sinister to most other people.

    Just don’t attempt to describe it as “diversity”. Don’t feel good about it and certainly don’t celebrate it. If you do, it has to mean that you think every other faith tradition is the opposite of diverse. And besides, its supposed to be a bad thing anyway.

  31. Also Katie, I’m totally cool with Kullervo (and anyone else) sitting in the peanut gallery (as per above comment). I’m in no position to object anyway…

  32. It really is a fine line sometimes, isn’t it, Gundek? Great point.

    I think, for me, the distinction between legalism and covenant keeping is whether or not you’re using the law as a stick to beat yourself or others up with. If you’re keeping covenants out of devotion and joy, I believe God is very pleased with that.

    Like most things in the gospel, it’s a matter of the heart.

  33. Legalism generally shrinks, as opposed to enlarges, the human soul. It strains at gnats and misses the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith. It does not produce fruits of love, joy, peace, and so on, but the opposite.

    But this your [spiritual maturity = "love, joy, peace, and so on"] is just as problematically prescriptive as David’s [spiritual maturity = Faithful Mormonism]. David is dead wrong when he says “…it follows that we would speak of spiritual maturity based on our beliefs that we are striving to become like Him through Priesthood ordinances and living the Gospel principles.” Because he is re-defining “maturity” to mean “faithful Mormonism,” which means he isn;t talking about maturity at all, or at least, he isn;t talking about the things everyone else are talking about when they say “maturity.”

    Your prescriptive definition is a little more bening, but its the same thing: you are substituting your own notions of ideal spirituality for the meaning of “maturity,” and thereby reducing the concept of “maturity” to a non-thing.

    Its just like when Christians define good and evil purely in terms of God’s will. If “good” really just means “whatever God arbitrarily commands,” then that’s not what the rest of us are talking about when we say “good” because it has no separate meaning.

    So I’ll give a shiot at what “spiritual maturity” is by starting with what “maturity” is. When we talk about people becoming mature, we tend to imply things like, experience, wisdom, good judgment, probably patience, adaptability, flexibility, and thoughtfulness. Those are generally the characteristics we associate with “maturity.” So I would call someone “spiritually mature” who demonstrates those characteristics with regards to spiritual things. I don’t think groups can demonstrate those characteristics, and when we talk about groups being mature, we don’t have as good of an idea of what that means. I certianly don;t know what a mature belief would look like.

    But none of this is the kind of maturity you are talking about. Your “spiritual maturity” talk is really more like saying that some people’s spirituality is more developed rather than more mature, with the suggestion being that there is a spectrum of specific religious beliefs, with your own beliefs (naturally) at the Truer/More Developed end and other Mormons at the Falser/Less Developed End. And for that to be the case, there would have to be some kind of normatively true Mormonism, which would mean that Mormonism was normatively tue. I, along with all other non-Mormons, reject that. Ad that’s why your assertion that this portrait of Mormonism illustrates “immature” Mormon belief is basically a non-starter.

  34. Hi everybody – I’m new here.
    I’m a Christian who lives in a relatively LDS-saturated town here in UT (Logan), and I can tell you that as I interact with and watch my LDS friends, the heavy burden McDowell is talking about is something that both exists and doesn’t exist (I know that’s a logical fallacy…) =)

    I know this is probably going to be an unpopular statement for the LDS people reading this… but what I have seen is that it really comes down to how much thought and attention an LDS person actually gives to what his/her church & works of Scripture TEACH and SAY…. versus how much they just cherry-pick Scripture, Gen Conf messages, etc. and hear what they want/need to hear in order to make themselves feel okay in their daily struggle with sin, their unrighteousness, etc.

    To prove what I mean by this – Look at “David’s” comment above, where he ends by quoting from Matt. 24:13. I’ll ask any of the LDS people in this conversation – can you please define for me what “enduring to the end” means?

  35. Kullervo, I think I can see what you’re saying about beliefs not being mature or immature. I like that distinction. Beliefs can be more or less developed, more or less sophisticated, more or less compelling, more or less descriptive of what is true, but they are not capable of developing wisdom, patience, judgment, flexibility, etc. So maturity, in the sense we’re using it, probably shouldn’t be applied to beliefs as a category, but people.

    I grant that and think it’s a very valid point.

    I also think there’s a distinction to be made, that I haven’t been making, between the idea that spiritual maturity is love, joy, peace, etc., and the idea that maturity produces a person through whom the fruits of the Spirit can be manifest (which I believe are evidence of a transformed life, and The Point of a life of faith when all is said in done). Still, I think the two are interrelated: as you mature spiritually, you experience the fruits of the Spirit more regularly, which helps you continue to mature spiritually, and so on.

    Having said that, I still believe there are ways of approaching faith that tend to reflect and produce less (or more) spiritual maturity and good fruits in the lives of their adherents as compared to others. Legalism is one way of approaching faith that I believe, generally speaking, produces few good fruits and reflects less spiritual maturity. (Keep in mind that when I say legalism, I mean using the law as a stick to beat up on yourself or others — not the mere existence of religious rules and regulations, which can be transformative when approached with the right spirit.)

    I also genuinely believe that more conducive ways of relating to faith can be found in basically all the faith traditions of the world, as can less conducive ways of relating to faith. This has nothing to do with some True Brand of Mormonism, which I do not believe exists. I do believe there must be sort of normative Truth, and I personally believe/hope it is Christ, but I recognize that that which is Actually, Eternally True far transcends human categories and attempts to describe it. People should plug in where we can. I believe in a God who honors the attempt to plug in whenever it happens, under whatever context.

  36. I know this is probably going to be an unpopular statement for the LDS people reading this… but what I have seen is that it really comes down to how much thought and attention an LDS person actually gives to what his/her church & works of Scripture TEACH and SAY…. versus how much they just cherry-pick Scripture, Gen Conf messages, etc. and hear what they want/need to hear in order to make themselves feel okay in their daily struggle with sin, their unrighteousness, etc.

    I don’t disagree with that, Jason, but I think once you let go of the need for there to be some sort of unified, binding message across all of scripture, you sort of realize that’s what everyone does — and needs to do.

    P.S. Logan is my hometown. Go Aggies! ;-)

  37. I don’t disagree with that, Jason, but I think once you let go of the need for there to be some sort of unified, binding message across all of scripture, you sort of realize that’s what everyone does — and needs to do.

    Amen, Soror Katie.

  38. Jason, “Enduring to the End” means continuing to strive to be more like Christ. Some Mormons treat it as “Suffering to the End”, I’ll admit, but that is not what it’s about. He wants us to become as He is. And, of course, we know that we cannot achieve that without His atoning sacrifice.

  39. Jason, “Enduring to the End” means continuing to strive to be more like Christ.

    What does it mean specifically.

  40. Kullervo, it all boils down to charity–loving others as Christ loves us. That love is what defines Him. He loved us enough to suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane for all of our sins, pains and infirmities. He loved us enough to die for us on the cross and then resurrect so we can be resurrected. I know you know these things, but until we truly understand the people Christ wants us to become, we don’t really understand how he wants us to act.

    When we truly love God, we strive to keep His commandments. When we truly love others (our, family, our friends, our neighbors), we strive to serve them and help them as much as we can. (“Helping” does not always mean making life easy for them either–but that is a totally different topic.) When we truly love our enemies, we hold no animosity towards them no matter what they do to us. We forgive them because we know that anger and hate only hurt ourselves. (I’m sure you recognize this paragraph as the two great commandments.)

    As Paul said in 1 Cor 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

    In one of his last letters to his son, Moroni, Mormon wrote the following (Moroni 7:47-48):

    47 “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

    48 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

    In short, enduring to the end means continually praying and striving for charity.

  41. Katie L – Would you say that mankind’s sin and the problem(s) that accompany it (separation from God, drastic degree of enmity in our relationship with Him, etc.) is a “unified, binding message across all of Scripture”?

    David – Would say that what God is ultimately looking for is for us to be merely praying and striving (desiring) to be loving…. or does He in fact call us to BE loving? In other words, is He content with me saying in my heart/mind, “Boy, I feel like I really ought to show love to my neighbor right now. That’s how I would like to act…”? Or does His judgement fall upon the basis of whether or not I did in fact ACT lovingly towards my neighbor?

  42. Katie L – Would you say that mankind’s sin and the problem(s) that accompany it (separation from God, drastic degree of enmity in our relationship with Him, etc.) is a “unified, binding message across all of Scripture”?

    Nope.

  43. Jason, as I wrote in an earlier post:

    “He wants us to *become* as He is. And, of course, we know that we cannot achieve that without His atoning sacrifice.”

    Life is all about *becoming* a better person. But first, you have to desire to change so you can start become that better person. That’s the praying & striving part.

    It’s not necessarily about the good deeds we do, as much as it is about the good person we have become.

  44. Katie –
    Would you mind parsing out that “nope” a little bit? Why would you say that mankind’s sin problem is not a unifying theme across Scripture?

  45. David –
    That helps me understand how you are using the “praying and striving” phrase. Sounds like you are saying this attitude that is just the first step of MANY on the road of “enduring”(?)….
    I’d be curious to hear from you, though, on your last sentence. How, in your mind, do you separate out a good person from his good deeds? Is there something APART from our good deeds that inform us about whether or not we are (have “become”) a good person?

  46. I think Christians (when they are at their best) realize that they are not up to it. Not up to loving God and the neighbor as the self.

    A lot of religions preach and teach that we can, with God’s help, attain a level of acceptability before God. This is not Christian. (not that there aren’t many Christians who fall into that trap).

    None of us are up to it. The standard os a straight stick…perfection…and because of the taint of self, we will never come close…not for a day. Not for a minute.

    So, we need a Savior. Not a cosmic butler who’ll boost us into the saddle. But a real Savior who loves and died for the ungodly. People like you and me.

  47. Jason – It’s difficult (if not impossible) for any of us to know if someone else is actually becoming a better person. The actions are a good indicator, but not reliable. We can know if *we* are becoming more Christ-like, though. We have to look inside ourselves and examine how we feel toward others and how we treat them. If we are honest with ourselves, then we’ll know.

    For instance, do we get angry or defensive when others are angry or defensive with us? Do we get angry and say things like, “I could kill that kid” when one of our children misbehaves? Do we take offense when someone else says something disparaging about us? Do we enjoy putting others down or telling everyone all the stupid things our spouse did today? If so, we need to pray for a change of heart that can only come through Christ’s grace. We need to pray for the gift of charity that He possesses and can give to us.

    On the other hand, are we patient when others are not? Do we want the best for those who don’t seem to deserve it? Are we happy when others succeed? Can we forgive those who wronged us (and want the best for them)? Can we look for the good in everyone? Can we begin to love the unloveable? If so, then those are good indications that we are becoming the type of person that Christ wants us to be. (Of course, if we go around telling everyone we know that we are becoming more Christlike, well, we probably don’t have the right attitude after all. Humility plays a big role here.)

    I refer again to I Corinthians 13 for the attributes we should strive for.

    Finally, it’s important to remember that the process of becoming Christlike can only be done by relying on His mercy as we recognize our weaknesses and want to change for the better. We *cannot* do it alone. That is why God provided a Savior for us.

  48. “We have to look inside ourselves and examine how we feel toward others and how we treat them. If we are honest with ourselves, then we’ll know.”

    Looking inside myself to see if I am Christlike points out the fact that I am not. But I don’t have to be. I am not Christ, I am me. But He declares me righteous, for His sake. Forgives me, the ungodly, and works in and through me His gracious will…in spite of myself.

  49. Sean – that is a good way to show folks their inconsisitency. Also makes it obvious they are not being logical. It is identical to Christians who accept evolution and millions of years – the mental gymnastics required to mix those with the Bible are incredible. Sean – how do you jusitify *your* acceptance of millions of years to waht scripture is plainly saying? Becasue you do, I am afraid you do not have a logical foot to stand on as you try to point out someone elses inconsitency. – respectfully – Colin.

  50. Steve – Interesting point. You and I agree in many ways. Without Christ, we cannot become Christlike. (Notice I didn’t say becoming Christ Himself–just as much like Him as possible.) He has asked us to become like Him, eschewing things like anger, dishonesty, and any sinful act. Do we sin? Yes, of course we do. But it’s the desire NOT to sin that’s important.

  51. David –
    First of all, thanks so much for being willing to answer the questions I’m asking. I appreciate you taking the time….

    Second, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the difficulties that accompany trying to interpret & measure other people’s growth towards Christlikeness. I have a hard enough time trying to understand and keep track of myself to be someone else’s final judge and jury! =)

    Third, I love the heart you display towards becoming like Christ yourself. Obviously there’s no one on here (not me, not Steve Martin [loved you in Three Amigos, by the way!]) who’s going to come after you for striving towards that goal.

    I think the question that’s forming for me at this point, though, is this – Based on what you’ve been saying, I’m coming away with the impression that in Mormonism I don’t REALLY have to keep ALL of the commandments… I just have to be showing at least some sort of change for the better. Am I correct in that impression? Is that what the BoM, D&C, etc. teach?

  52. David –
    You posted your comment to Steve Martin while I was writing my last post… so I’ll incorporate what you wrote to him into my question –
    I’m coming away with the impression that in Mormonism I don’t REALLY have to keep ALL of the commandments… I just have to be showing at least some sort of change for the better, and/or showing an increase in my DESIRE to not sin. THAT is what God is looking for – not me actually KEEPING the commandments.
    Is that correct? Is that what the BoM, D&C etc. teach?

  53. I have so far enjoyed the comments above. However, everyone seems to be describing how to be “Christlike.” Should “Christlike” be defined to avoid confusion?

  54. Would you mind parsing out that “nope” a little bit? Why would you say that mankind’s sin problem is not a unifying theme across Scripture?

    Because there is no unifying theme across scripture. You are reading one into scripture because of your a priori theological conclusions. It’s classical confirmation bias at work. Sorry.

    I’m coming away with the impression that in Mormonism I don’t REALLY have to keep ALL of the commandments… I just have to be showing at least some sort of change for the better, and/or showing an increase in my DESIRE to not sin. THAT is what God is looking for – not me actually KEEPING the commandments.
    Is that correct? Is that what the BoM, D&C etc. teach?

    That is what a lot of Mormons teach and believe, but it is emphatically not what the Book of Mormon and D&C teach.

  55. It is identical to Christians who accept evolution and millions of years – the mental gymnastics required to mix those with the Bible are incredible.

    Not really; it just requires you not to treat the Old Testament’s creation narrative as a literal historical account. The inability (or unwillingness) to accept the existence and validity of mythic narratives is a relatively recent phenomenon in human civilization.

    Also, who is this Sean you are addressing?

  56. Sure, but to my knowledge, Sean McDowell is not a part of this conversation. So it’s a little weird to address him as if he were.

  57. Katie –
    Would you mind parsing out that “nope” a little bit? Why would you say that mankind’s sin problem is not a unifying theme across Scripture?

    Jason, I’m just generally skeptical that there are unifying themes across scripture — at least in the sense that you can read scripture and pick out some sort of systematic theology from it. That’s because, in the Bible, you have different people writing in various styles and genres for varied purposes and disparate audiences across thousands of years of cultural evolution and change.

    I think at its core level, if I were to try to devise a meta-narrative from it (which is risky), the Bible is a story of God’s dealings with a group of people, as well as their struggle to come to know God. As with all people, there’s some hit and miss. Concepts of utter depravity, individual salvation, original sin, and so on, came much later and are now read onto the Bible — I seriously doubt that the writers themselves had such concepts in mind.

  58. I think at its core level, if I were to try to devise a meta-narrative from it (which is risky), the Bible is a story of God’s dealings with a group of people, as well as their struggle to come to know God. As with all people, there’s some hit and miss. Concepts of utter depravity, individual salvation, original sin, and so on, came much later and are now read onto the Bible — I seriously doubt that the writers themselves had such concepts in mind.

    I agree 100%.

  59. Jason – Your question is a good one: “Do we have to keep all the commandments or just some of them?” In other words, “How good do I really need to be?” I think a lot of people wonder that. There are certainly Mormons who ask that question, but, again, that is the wrong question. It should be “Who does Christ want us to become?” The answer, of course, is like He is. And, to answer another question on what it means to be like Christ–or Christlike–, I refer again to I Cor. 13–Paul’s discourse on charity. Look at all the attributes that Paul mentions and you will see Christ in them.

    But, to answer your question on what the Book of Mormon teaches on that topic, here is a passage from Alma, chapter 5, in the Book of Mormon:

    26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

    27 Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?

    28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.

    Again, humility is the key to becoming like Christ. And, it’s pretty clear to me that humble people will do their best to keep all the commandments, but that they will fall short. Still, the attitude to become better needs to be there. We certainly can’t pick and choose which commandments to keep.

    I’ll finish with one of my favorite passages from the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi, chapter 31):

    17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

    18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

    19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

    20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

    So, is having a “love of God and of all men” easy to obtain? No, not at all. But, that is what we should strive for. If we are trying, and have “a perfect brightness of hope”, then we know that Christ, through His infinite grace, will make up for what we lack.

  60. Sure, but to my knowledge, Sean McDowell is not a part of this conversation. So it’s a little weird to address him as if he were.

    Wait, you’re surprised that an unfamiliar commenter would leave a message for someone who is not part of the blog or comments section? I don’t know why you’d find that weird. With Google now you can just leave a message for anyone anywhere you want. Google makes sure they read the message.

    For example: Wendy, what is your mom bringing over for lunch? She knows I don’t like mayonnaise right?

  61. Why would you say that mankind’s sin problem is not a unifying theme across Scripture?

    See Book of Job. Job had no problem with sin. He had a problem with what God was doing to him in spite of his righteousness.

  62. “Mankind’s sin problem” is a particular interpretive lens through which one can view, examine and understand scripture. But it’s not somehow inherent to scripture.

  63. Woof… Looks like we’re finding plenty to talk about here!

    Kullervo – Would the claim that “there are no unifying theme across scripture” not come from your own “a priori theological conclusions”???? Why are you able to escape the charge of “confirmation bias”, but I do not?
    “Mankind’s sin problem” is a “particular interpretive lens”… but “the Bible has no over-arching meta-narrative whatsoever” is somehow NOT???

    Katie – Thanks for the interesting reply. I suppose it would be natural to look at any book that way that was written with the dynamics you described (different people writing in various styles and genres for varied purposes and disparate audiences across thousands of years of cultural evolution and change…. the writers of the various books not being fully cognitive of the “grand scheme”… etc.). As you said, at a human-to-human level it would be “risky” to do so….

    But I’m wondering how you might reply to somebody who says, “Yes, but while the Bible may have many “authors”, it ultimately has one true Author…. “All Scripture is God-breathed (literal translation from the Greek)…” (2 Tim 3:16). So if every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the same source (i.e. the mind of God), isn’t it possible that a meta-narrative might exist? Isn’t it even LIKELY?

  64. As always Tim, she knows to make you a PB & J with the crust cut off. Do you want chocolate or strawberry milk today?

  65. But I’m wondering how you might reply to somebody who says, “Yes, but while the Bible may have many “authors”, it ultimately has one true Author…. “All Scripture is God-breathed (literal translation from the Greek)…” (2 Tim 3:16). So if every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the same source (i.e. the mind of God), isn’t it possible that a meta-narrative might exist? Isn’t it even LIKELY?

    If, in fact, “every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the same source (i.e. the mind of God),” then sure. It may have an over-arching meta-narrative.

    But your premise, that “every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the same source (i.e. the mind of God),” is itself a theological conclusion. It is not in any way self-evident from the text.

  66. David –
    You said – “We certainly can’t pick and choose which commandments to keep.”

    This jives well with a quote I found from Ezra Taft Benson – “Our agreement to keep ALL the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy.”(emphasis mine) (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442)

    We can’t pick and choose which commandments to keep because they are commandments coming from a pure and holy God, who cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. They are His standard for us, and He has not given us the permission to alter them, or downplay them, or take them as “suggestions”. Jesus made this point quite clear in Matt. 5:48.

    With this in mind, I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind interacting with me for a sec on your thoughts re: our need to be “trying” to become Christ-like. From my vantage point, you seem to be placing a large portion of your belief/hope in the idea that, rather than judging you on the basis of how much you do (or do not) keep the commandments, God is looking at the condition of your HEART… He’s looking to see if you have an inward disposition that WANTS to keep the commandments (even if you don’t always keep them).

    Do I have that correct? Am I representing your thoughts properly? Don’t feel like you have to give me a long reply, unless you feel like I’m misrepresenting you on something….

  67. So if every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the same source (i.e. the mind of God), isn’t it possible that a meta-narrative might exist? Isn’t it even LIKELY?

    Sure. But I don’t believe that every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the mind of God.

    I think it was written by human beings who got stuff wrong sometimes and wrote things down that came from their minds, not God’s.

    I believe in neither the inerrancy nor the infallibility of scripture. I do believe in the *inspiration* of scripture, but that’s a very, very different standard.

  68. Christ uses us for His purposes. He even uses our sin for His purposes.

    The focus, I believe, should be on His finished work for sinners, and not on ‘what we should, ought, or must be doing’. Inward focus will only bring about despair, or pride.

  69. Jason – You are correct in what you say–God knows the desires of our hearts. As the Lord said to Samuel (1 Sam 16:7):

    “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

    The people living at the time of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon displayed the attitude well (Mosiah 5:1-2):

    1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.

    2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

  70. Kullervo and Katie – Ok, gotcha. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on what you think 2 Tim 3:16 means when it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (KJV – “inspired by God”)? Care to share? =)

  71. There are several different ways you can interpret that scripture without jumping to inerrancy/infallibility. For example…

    1) Inspired = the writers are tapping into something ineffable and indescribable and interpreting it through the lens of their own language, culture, and biases.

    2) The writer of 2 Timothy genuinely believed that what he would call scripture (probably the Hebrew Bible) is God-breathed. It doesn’t mean that it is, or even that he had any idea that his statement would one day be canonized as scripture.

    3) Scripture is that which is God-breathed in some more literal way, but not everything that winds up in the canon is scripture in this sense.

    For the record, I like option 1.

  72. David –
    So it sounds like I’m on the right track here in terms of understanding you.

    I’ve been thinking about what you are arguing a lot lately…. this notion that although there is a very clear expectation from God to keep ALL of the commandments, at the end of the day God is looking at the condition of our HEART (and/or WILL)… He’s looking to see if we have an inward disposition that WANTS to be like Christ, WANTS to keep the commandments [even if you don’t always keep them the way the Scriptures call you to, etc.]). You are actually one of a number of LDS friends I’ve dialogued with lately who seems to gain a great deal of comfort from this train of thought.

    But here’s my thought/question about this –
    How wise is it really for us to run to the HEART as our defense in this matter???

    Here’s what I mean – In the matter of commandment-keeping…. In order for you (or me… or anybody else) to keep the commandments, there are two things that we have to possess:
    (1) Ability
    (2) Willingness

    Now think about it, David…. Since you DON’T keep the commandments, WHICH ONE of these two things do you LACK?

    Unless I’m mistaken, as an LDS person you CANNOT say that you lack the ability to keep the commandments, thanks to Scriptures like I Nephi 3:7. So you’re left with only one option – you don’t actually have the will/heart to keep the commandments!! You do not possess a willingness!

    God IS indeed looking at your heart, David, and not merely observing you from an exterior perspective. But doesn’t the fact that you continue to sin day after day, hour after hour, suggest that in your heart you really do WANT to sin?? That your ‘disposition’ is to do evil, to rebel against God, etc.??? If your heart TRULY had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” – you would always do good! But that’s clearly not what life looks for you (or for me either!). So why are we taking all of this comfort from the idea that God looks at my heart… when that sucker consistently betrays you as rebellious & disobedient when you’re willing to take an honest look at it??

    Am anxious to hear your reply, my friend….

  73. Jason B — I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I think Katie L’s first definition of inspiration is as good as any. And while I do think it’s assumption and supposition that turn Paul’s words to Timothy into a doctrinal statement supporting infallibility, I do agree that Paul here is teaching that the scriptures are authoritative and, above all, useful. I just don’t think you have to have infallibility to have that, nor do all scriptures have to have the “same amount” of inspiration.

    I do see a metatheme in the scriptures, but it’s quite broad and it has to do with God reaching out to humankind. One thing I find interesting is that there’s very little theological treatise in the scriptures outside of the Pauline epistles and some extended passages in the Book of Mormon. Most of the truth in the scriptures is conveyed not in theological statements, but in personal experience and stories, some historical, some not, as well as analogies and similes. I assume that is because God wants us to experience him rather than simply learn about him.

    And I find Paul’s description of scripture being “God-breathed” (that’s a calque from the Greek) as apt. That’s an obvious reference to Adam, whom God breathed into to make him into a living being, not something static and lifeless. In the same way (I’m speaking metaphorically, of course), God breathed life into the words of human beings to give them power. I don’t know how that works, but experience tells me that God is revealed to me as I read the words, apply the words, struggle with the words. Scripture is far from the only source of revelation, but it’s an important one.

  74. Jason – Before I respond to your post, I have a couple of observations:

    First, I’m excited to know that many of your LDS friends have an understanding of what it means to ‘press forward with a perfect brightness of hope’. Remember faith, hope and charity? We talk a lot about faith and a lot about charity, but hope is also very important because we *have* to have hope that because Christ has atoned for our sins, through His mercy, he will forgive us of those sins when we truly repent.

    Second, I was wondering if you’d been leading me along just to try to catch me in a ‘trap’ of sorts. I’ve seen it happen before in discussions like this. But, it didn’t really matter because I know what I know, so I’m willing to share no matter what the end result is.

    So, to respond. There are some basic problems with the binary choice your present (assuming I understand you correctly). In your binary world, no one could return to God. After the first mistake, that would be that. God would say something like, “Well, I can see that you’re not really willing to keep the commandments, so you are damned forever–no second chances.” I hope you realize that’s not the case.

    A passage in Isaiah chapter 5 comes to mind:

    25 Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

    Despite all that we do, God is still beckoning for us to come to Him. And Christ’s mercy is always available to us as we continue to strive to be like Him.

    There is more that I could share, but that’s enough for now.

  75. What would your comments be to an Evangelical who is investigating the Mormon faith and finding a ton of commonality and a lot he really likes? BTW I am quite adept theologically, yet deeply value the experiential aspect of a relationship with Christ. I love the Bible but am offended by its misuse. I feel a bit like Joseph Smith did!

  76. I would say: make sure you “find a ton of commonality and a lot you really like” with the whole package of Mormonism, because when you sign up, you sign up for the whole thing.

  77. That’s funny, because I would say when you sign up, keep in mind that you don’t have to sign up for the whole thing. Hahahaha. :) Just know there will be plenty of cultural pressure to get you to conform.

  78. As a Mormon, I like Katie’s and Kullervo’s replies. Being an ‘active’ Mormon is not merely attending church services, but it is really a way of life.

  79. That is the appeal…I get frustrated when I hear that the “Good News” of Christ is limited to being forgiven of sins so that we can go to heaven when we die…there is/should be so much more!

  80. TJ – In your investigations so far, have you found any aspect of the faith that is a lot different than what you had thought it might be?

  81. David- No, not really. What I find fascinating philosophically is that it is such a different paradigm than simply arguing points of biblical exegesis. As I read my Christian apologetic books, its like trying to apply the rules of baseball while watching a football game.

  82. Hey friends!
    Am on a vacation right now with my family. VERY limited internet access. May not be able to comment for a few more days. But I’ll be back! Feel like there’s a lot still to talk about and ask about….

  83. Back from vacation! Had a wonderful break from the laptop…. but now I’m back in the saddle! =)

    Katie – Thanks for giving your thoughts on the 2 Tim verse. I can tell you’ve done some thinking on this matter. I’ve seldom been able to have a conversation with someone who sees things from your perspective, so I’m wishing to ask a follow up question or two (if you don’t mind)….

    In one of your earlier posts you said to me – “I don’t believe that every word of the OT and NT ultimately finds its origination from the mind of God. I think it was written by human beings who got stuff wrong sometimes and wrote things down that came from their minds, not God’s.” Would be interested in hearing – with this view in mind, how would you say this affects/impacts the way you read the Scriptures? As you’re reading, do you find yourself wondering, “Now is this God speaking… or just some guy?” How do you make the determination about when it’s the former vs. the latter?

  84. David –
    I recognize that one of the weaknesses of an online dialogue like this is that a person’s conversational tone can be completely misread/misunderstood…. The same can be said for a person’s intentions for even participating in a dialogue like this to begin with (obviously, someone who has malicious intentions can keep this hidden…at least for awhile) So I’m choosing to not take any offense at your accusing me of “leading you along” in order to catch you in a “trap”…. But dude, be careful not to assume that you can read right into somebody’s heart so quickly!
    Apparently some of my Christian brothers have made you feel attacked in your past. I truly want to apologize for that, and I want to assure you that I am not coming here with that agenda. You obviously don’t know me well enough to know this, but there are many LDS people in my life right now whom I have a genuine friendship with. Because of this, you gotta know that I’m actually rooting for y’all in this(!), in the sense that I would LOVE to come away from my conversations with you, David, and my other friends believing that y’all are okay… that you’re on solid ground BIBLICALLY-speaking…. I DESIRE to come away from dialogues & conversations like this seeing soundness and sturdiness in the theological foundations that you are resting on as a Mormon (specifically as it relates to what is an all-important question in my book – “How do we get MADE RIGHT with this holy, fully righteous God with whom we have to do?”).
    But so far I am having trouble locating this sturdiness… hence the reason for the line of questioning I’ve been bringing so far. It has been coming (and will continue to come) from a place of concern and care, David… not from malice or from a desire to tear down. And for what it’s worth, I believe that it’s also coming from a humble heart that is legitimately seeking truth – WHEREVER it may be found.

    Now, having said all that – I would like to continue talking with you, continue unpacking how you are looking at & understanding things from your LDS perspective. I would like nothing more than for you to truly demonstrate the sturdiness of your beliefs. I would like to understand more of this HOPE you talk about as an LDS person (where you get it, how it plays out for you in the day to day, etc.)

    In your last post to me, you rightly pointed out that, in what you called my “binary” world, one sin IS enough for us to be a law-breaker who is deserving of God’s judgment (a la James 2:10 – “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all). But you seem to be saying, “Hey we can’t take that TOO literally, or else we’d have no message to bring except gloom and doom”. Your words from the post – “God would say something like, ‘Well, I can see that you’re not really willing to keep the commandments, so you are damned forever–no second chances.’ I hope you realize that’s not the case.”

    Well, rest assured, my friend – I believe that a “second chance” DOES exist. And I would certainly be willing to discuss what I think that is, biblically speaking. But I’m also really interested in understanding your LDS perspective. You speak of a “hope” that you have – a hope that “despite all we do, God is still beckoning for us to come to Him. And Christ’s mercy is always available to us as we continue to strive to be like Him.” To me, this is simply you restating what you have already been saying, that ultimately God is just looking at my HEART to see if I have a willingness to keep the commandments/Be like Christ… even though I don’t actually keep them. I’d love for you to interact more with the actual critique that I offered up for that line of thinking (rather than just jump to the “binary world” objection)… And again, David – know that I personally would LOVE to be able to take your approach and just take comfort in the knowledge that God’s looking at my heart…. if it weren’t for the fact that my daily experience shows me that my heart does not really want to obey God (b/c if it did, I would consistently obey Him!)

  85. Would be interested in hearing – with this view in mind, how would you say this affects/impacts the way you read the Scriptures? As you’re reading, do you find yourself wondering, “Now is this God speaking… or just some guy?” How do you make the determination about when it’s the former vs. the latter?

    False dichotomy.

    Because of this, you gotta know that I’m actually rooting for y’all in this(!), in the sense that I would LOVE to come away from my conversations with you, David, and my other friends believing that y’all are okay… that you’re on solid ground BIBLICALLY-speaking…. I DESIRE to come away from dialogues & conversations like this seeing soundness and sturdiness in the theological foundations that you are resting on as a Mormon (specifically as it relates to what is an all-important question in my book – “How do we get MADE RIGHT with this holy, fully righteous God with whom we have to do?”).

    That’s an awfully specific approach to Christianity and the Bible, and not in any way a self-evident starting point.

  86. David –
    If for some reason you don’t really feel like interacting with the critique I offered…

    I noticed that in your post you also spoke of your “hope” in terms of “a hope that because Christ has atoned for our sins, through His mercy, he will forgive us of those sins WHEN WE TRULY REPENT.” (emphasis added).

    Perhaps you’d be willing to help me understand this hope that you have, that seems to be based on what you are calling “true repentance.” Would you mind explaining what this is, how you live it out in your day to day life, etc.?

  87. Kullervo –
    Could you elaborate on what you mean with the “false dichotomy” comment? Is there some third party involved here? =) I’m guessing that what you mean is that it’s false to think that it’s either ONLY God speaking or ONLY some guy speaking? That it could be a combo of the two in some cases? Am I reading you right?
    In one sense I wouldn’t argue this – obviously when we talk about a man (John, for example) being “inspired by God” to write his gospel about Christ (or his letters), we’re not saying that John sat down with his pen, and suddenly – OOPS, John has left the building!…. Like we’re saying he was in some sort of trance or something, and wasn’t mentally/emotionally present. I believe it’s most logical to believe that “inspired” means something else, some sort of mysterious phenomenon in which John was fully there, writing with his personality, etc…. but that the Holy Spirit was leading him and fully speaking thru him.

    But unless I’m completely misreading Katie, it seems as if for her there are at least portions of Scripture where God is speaking His heart to us (and it’s truly His voice, and not just “some guy”)(??) And there are at least portions of Scripture that are not really “of God” but are just “of guys” who “got things wrong sometimes”(??)

    I guess what I’m wondering is how she comes to understand which one is which….

  88. Kullervo –
    As for my “awfully specific approach”… I’m afraid you’re going to have to just tolerate me. =)

    As I pointed out to you earlier, you’re not exactly coming from some ultra-objective, bird’s-eye-view-of-all-other-views perspective yourself. At least I hope you don’t think you are….

  89. Jason – Good to hear from you again. I was hoping that we could keep the discussion going. I do apologize for assuming that you had ulterior motives, and actually felt bad wording it the way I did. (Should have waited a little while to hit the ‘Post Comment’ button.) But, you are right–many Mormons (including me) have sincerely tried to state our beliefs, only to be ‘dumped’ on by someone who just wanted to make fun of us or put us down. It does make us a little reluctant to share our innermost feelings and beliefs–especially when we know what we are saying is true because of very sacred spiritual experiences. So, I certainly showed one of my weaknesses (that I have been striving all my life to overcome :-) — getting defensive. And now you know that not all Mormons are perfect. ;-)

    Which, actually leads to a concept that I hope will help you understand what I’ve been trying to say (not very well, I guess):

    None of us will ever be perfect in this life. Our journey to perfection continues after we die. It is the direction we are going–the desires of our heart–that will determine how we proceed at that point. Our direction on the path back to God is critical and *so* much more important than where we are on that path.

    Consider this scripture from Alma, chapter 34:

    32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

    33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

    34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

    35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

    The key phrase is at the end of verse 34: “for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”

    The ‘spirit that possesses us’, the ‘desire of our heart’, the ‘condition of our heart’, the ‘willingness to repent’–however we want to phrase it–determines our direction in this life and the next.

    Hope that helps somewhat. Now, I need to read carefully the rest of your post to see what other thoughts I have.

  90. TJ –
    2 Thoughts/questions –
    (1) I’m saddened to hear that “evangelicals” have demonstrated and/or sought to convince you that “the ‘Good News’ of Christ is limited to being forgiven of sins so that we can go to heaven when we die” You are right in desiring that there be more to the story. The reality is that there most certainly is!!
    (2) Could you give me an example of what you meant in your comment about Christian apologetics being like baseball rules applied to a game of football? I’m intrigued by that comment…

  91. Would be interested in hearing – with this view in mind, how would you say this affects/impacts the way you read the Scriptures? As you’re reading, do you find yourself wondering, “Now is this God speaking… or just some guy?” How do you make the determination about when it’s the former vs. the latter?

    I don’t think you can separate them out like that. Except perhaps in VERY rare circumstances, I don’t believe humanity hears God’s actual voice, divorced or detached from ourselves — as some sort of abstract, unfiltered communication. I think it all comes through our own language, culture, psyches, etc. That doesn’t make it uninspired or untrue, but the idea is that what we hear points to the Ultimate Reality; it is not Ultimate Reality itself.

    How do I make the determination about what to believe in scripture and what not to? Very carefully. I take responsibility for my own beliefs, do my best to believe what I genuinely think most accurately reflects God’s truth, and rely on His grace for the places I have it wrong.

  92. I’d agree with Katie, but I’ll add a bit to what she said. Perhaps because of my evangelical background, I put scripture on a very high level. I see scripture as having a status that, while not rising to the level of infallibility, makes it a reliable guide to living my life. While I don’t believe the scriptures are the only inspired writings, from my perspective canonization is a recognition that they are something out of the ordinary.

    But I wouldn’t say all scripture has equal value. More importantly, as a practical matter, I don’t really for myself address the matter of what’s true and what might be in error; my default view is that it’s true, and the real issue is one of interpretation and what I value in those instances where the scriptures don’t provide a cohesive view. In other words, I don’t routinely ask, when I read the Bible or the specifically LDS scriptures, is this true? I ask myself, what is this passage telling me, or what can I learn from it? I don’t have any formula in seeking answers, but two things I look at are how other scriptures may deal with an issue and what the Church teaches about it.

    This is probably a mushier perspective than many people would be comfortable with, but it’s where I am.

  93. In other words, I don’t routinely ask, when I read the Bible or the specifically LDS scriptures, is this true?

    Yeah, to be clear, I’m not scrutinizing every scripture like that.

    There are a few scriptures that I’m like, “Whaaaa? Fer rills?” But there aren’t a ton of those. :)

  94. David –
    Sorry for taking awhile to reply. My excuse is one thirds “busyness”, one thirds waiting to see if you were gonna make any additional comments (as you said you might), and one thirds giving your last post a lot of thought and doing some reading on it.

    I certainly accept your apology. And don’t worry – I wasn’t working with the assumption that any of you LDS folks were perfect. =)

    Your appeal to Alma 34:32-35 was/is very interesting to me, as was your continued stressing of the idea that what God is looking at most is the “desires of our heart”, how “willing” we are to repent, how we’re “progressing” on our path, etc. Please forgive me, David – I’m genuinely NOT trying to be obstinate (I’m trying to understand!)….. As I’ve been stating, I’m continuing to struggle to understand how you, me or anyone else is supposed to be drawing encouragement from this idea that God is looking at our hearts/wills. My heart/willingness is clearly what is keeping me from doing what He wants me to do! As I pointed out earlier, it’s the ONLY place we can go to cast the blame (we certainly can’t blame it on a lack of ability [1 Nephi 3:7]!) I would love it if you would do more than just ignore or pass over what I am saying in this – please interact with it! Again, not trying to trap, mock or pester you – just looking to understand where your hope is coming from, what sort of foundation it has in actual Scripture (the Bible or otherwise), etc.

    Re: Alma 34 – Shortly after I moved here to UT, I was encouraged by a number of friends (including an Institute teacher) to pick up and read Spencer Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness. I was told that it was/is an LDS church “classic”. Interestingly enough, he references Alma 34 at least a couple of times. One of these times is right at the beginning of the book (p. 9-10). Under the subject heading “Only the Valiant Exalted” he has this to say:

    “Dangers of Delay:
    Because men are prone to postpone action and ignore directions, the Lord has repeatedly given strict injunctions and issued solemn warnings…. And the burden of the prophetic warning has been that THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW, IN THIS MORTAL LIFE. One cannot with impunity delay his compliance with God’s commandments.” (the all caps part was in italics in the book)

    Kimball’s next words in the book are, “Note Amulek’s words, especially those forceful statements involving timing… ” and then he proceeds to quote the exact same passage that you quoted to me.

    What stands out to me, David, is this – nowhere in this or any other part of Kimball’s book does he convey idea that God is genuinely MORE concerned with our “progress”, our “desires” or our efforts/striving to obey. In fact, it’s routinely just the opposite. Kimball obviously does bring up Alma 34 and the matter of repentance, but when he does so it’s in conjunction with his strong exhortation about “compliance (or a lack thereof) with God’s COMMANDMENTS”, and how this mortal life is the time to ACT (note: not “feel” or “desire” or “will to act”, but to ACT).

    Later on in the book Kimball DOES have something to say to the Mormon who is hoping that God will be impressed with our progress, desires or with our “trying” to repent –

    (p. 163) “‘There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin… The criterion has been set by the Lord: ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold he will confess them and forsake them.’ (D&C 58:43).
    DESIRE IS NOT SUFFICIENT.
    In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his ways and started on a new path… the saving power does not extend to him who merely WANTS to change his life.”

    (p.164-5) “Trying is Not Sufficient –
    Nor is repentance complete when one merely TRIES to abandon sin. To try with a weakness of attitude and effort is to assure failure in the face of Satan’s strong counteracting efforts. What is needed is resolute action.”
    “It is normal for children to try. They fall and get up numerous times before they can be certain of their footing. But adults who have gone through these learning periods must determine what they will do, then proceed to do it. To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong. We must always do better than we can.”

    I’m curious to hear how you would respond to this, David. Unless you feel like Kimball & or MOF is out to lunch… (which I suppose is possible but not likely) I’m wondering how you feel like this jives with the explanation I’ve been receiving from you so far.

    Look forward to hearing from you, buddy….

  95. Jason B — I won’t pretend to know what David thinks, but I will say that more than one faithful LDS member in conversation on this blog has sharply disagreed with Kimball’s book. At the very least, I wouldn’t considered it definitive LDS doctrine.

  96. Eric –
    I’m very interested to hear that. In light of the dialogue that David and I are having, obviously I’m probably most interested in hearing from David (or from you or anyone else) – IF you feel that Kimball is speaking falsely specifically in any of the quotes I gave above, where is he off? Where is he misrepresenting what the LDS church and/or it’s Scriptures truly & conclusively state to be true?

    You’re statement about MOF not being considered “definitive” LDS doctrine makes me smile… mainly because I’ve had an interesting time these last few years trying to get a concrete answer from my Mormon friends on what is and is not considered “official Church doctrine.” Most get a pretty nervous & pained look on their face, like I’ve just asked them for their social security # or something… =) Any thoughts you have would certainly be appreciated, my friend…

  97. Jason — Since this post is easier for me to answer, I’ll take it on first. (Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the other one.) The easiest way to determine what is official Church doctrine is to look for an official Church publication. Sound like a non-answer? Well, it’s not. If it is published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it contains official Church doctrine. Some examples of official Church publications are: the Standard Works (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price), course manuals for Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women, Priesthood, Relief Society, _Preach My Gospel_ (missionary handbook & study guide), and several more. (BTW, if you really want to study Church doctrine in its clearest and most concise format, _Preach My Gospel_ is it.) Monthly Church magazines have a mix of doctrine and helpful articles–those that are not doctrine always have that disclaimer. As you know, you can find these, and most of the rest of the Church publications on lds.org.

    As for _The Miracle of Forgiveness_, just look at the publication information for your answer.

  98. Jason: Rather than repeat what I’ve written before, I’ll provide you this link where you can see what I (and others) have written. Basically, I think the book comes up short in the grace department.

  99. David –
    Thanks for that clarification. Look forward to hearing your reply.

    Eric –
    Thanks for the link. That was helpful to read thru all the comments. Up until now I’ve primarily been asking questions & trying to understand where y’all are coming from. Could I venture a thought?

    I would wholeheartedly agree with you on your assessment that Kimball is “coming up short grace department”…. seems to me that a really key question is – How does LDS church teaching as a whole not ultimately still fall guilty to the same charge?

    No question the guys you were quoting (Christofferson, Samuelson, Grouw (sp?), etc.) are looking to emphasize God’s grace MORE than Kimball did. And it seems equally obvious to me the longer I study that today’s Mormon as a whole is particularly more “grace-oriented” than he was 25+ years ago. You’re a very clear example of this, as are pretty much all of my friends here in Logan.

    In my opinion, though, y’all still have some significant ground to cover in order for your “grace talk” to truly resemble the real thing. As one follower of Jesus once said, “Grace must be taken straight, or it is not taken at all.” I am not unaware of how controversial that is to say here in this forum, but everything the Lord has taught me up to this point has shown this to be true. And my sense is that until LDS people dive headlong into the grace (instead of just dipping a toe), we children of the GIFT who dialogue with you are going to continue to encounter nothing more than these shaky, unsound, feet-firmly-planted-in-mid-air kinds of explanations for how you have genuine hope of forgiveness/acceptance before God (i.e. how you’re going to acquire the authentic righteousness needed to spend eternity in His presence). We will continue to be offered arguments like David’s which only demonstrate a desire/need to cheapen the law of God for the sake of a clean(er) conscience…

  100. Jason B asked:

    I would wholeheartedly agree with you on your assessment that Kimball is “coming up short grace department”…. seems to me that a really key question is – How does LDS church teaching as a whole not ultimately still fall guilty to the same charge?

    I’m going to answer your question with a question, which is probably the same as not answer at all, but oh well.

    I’d like to know to what extent you agree or disagree with the following article by Billy Graham. Do you think Graham here is coming up short in the grace department? I think your answer will give me a better idea of in what direction you think Mormons should move.

    True Repentance, Real Change

  101. Jason – I’m getting a feeling that I need to gain a better understanding of your view of a few Gospel principles before we delve into some concepts covered in Pres. Kimball’s book. So, I need to ask a couple of questions:

    1- What is your understanding of the principle of repentance and its relationship to Grace?
    2- Since you refer a lot to I Nephi 3:7, can you give me your interpretation of its message?

    I’m really not trying to deflect the discussion from the central topic–I just feel that we may be talking past each other on some of the underlying concepts & principles.

  102. Eric and David –
    All three of your questions are good ones. And don’t worry Eric – in my book, answering a question with a question is not NECESSARILY a non-answer. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt… =)

    I’m unable to give any real time to my answer re: repentance (the subject of 2 of your 3 questions) at this particular moment. But I’ll get a thought or two down here soon.

    I feel like I can answer your second question though, David, fairly succintly –
    I would say that most natural, sensible way to interpret I Nephi 3:7 is to say what YOU actually said earlier in our dialogue – “We don’t get to pick and choose which commandments we are obligated to keep.” Lehi tells Nephi that it is the Lord (and not just him) that is commanding Nephi and his brothers go to the house of Laban and snag the plates of brass. Nephi receives this from his father, and basically says, “Hey, this is a tough deal. I’m fearful just like my brothers. But I’ll go, because God doesn’t give us any commands that we are not able to do. If He commanded it, then He has prepared a way for it to be accomplished (in other words, He can see the way in which I could accomplish it [even if I can't])…. and so He expects me to obey Him and go to Laban’s house.”

    So the message of I Nephi 3:7 is just that – When I encounter a commandment from the Lord, I should understand that if He commanded it, it IS something that can be done…. His EXPECTATION is that I will OBEY Him…. and so I should OBEY! (regardless of how difficult or unreasonable the command may seem… regardless of whether or not I understand why He commanded it…etc.)

    Incidentally, I’m actually inclined to say that I think 1 Nephi 3:7 is a TRUE statement about who God is, what He’s like, etc. And I would say that it is also a TRUE statement about what His expectations are in regards to the commandments He gives. We simply are not permitted to excuse ourselves from ANY commandment that God gives us by arguing that “God expects the impossible”. Whether you’re LDS, Evangelical, Catholic or Muslim, if you have a view of God that He could/would give us commandment X when He knows that there is literally no way that we are capable of actually obeying commandment X… I think you would have a difficulty in then describing God as entirely an JUST or good/righteous being. If you saw me punishing my 2 year old (in any way) for not “obeying” me when I ordered her to do my taxes for the year, you’d obviously be in the right to call me unjust (among other things…). =)

    So let me know, David – would you say my interpretation is correct? Or would you disagree with something I’ve said here?

  103. Jason – I agree with your assessment of the concept in 1 Nephi 3:7. However, I think you left out an important aspect–timing. There are commandments given to us that are impossible to follow perfectly at certain points in our lives and even in this life at all. One of them is Matthew 5:48:

    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    It’s just not possible to be perfect in this life. Even a mistake–no matter how small and no matter our intention when we make it–will keep us from perfection.

    For most people, another one is Luke 6:27-28:

    27 ¶But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

    28 Bless them that curse you, and apray for them which despitefully use you.

    But, our inability to keep them now does not excuse us from striving to keep all the commandments, because that will help us become more like Him as we do. And, that will help us have the desire to continue to improve once we die.

    And, that’s as far as I can take the discussion now until you help me more with the answer to my other question.

  104. Even a mistake–no matter how small and no matter our intention when we make it–will keep us from perfection.

    I don’t think this is what Jesus meant when he said “perfect.”

    I also fundamentally disagree that it’s impossible in this life to love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

    This is why I’m not a huge fan of the “salvation from sin” approach to the gospel. It misses the point. We get caught up in this idea of technical “perfection,” which was never what he meant in the first place, and then excuse our lack of love, which is what he meant, with “Oh well, at least I’m saved by grace.”

    But, our inability to keep them now does not excuse us from striving to keep all the commandments (emphasis mine)

    There is only one commandment. That’s the point.

  105. Sorry, I tried to bold “all” in David’s comment, but it didn’t seem to work — that’s what I meant by “emphasis mine”. :)

  106. Katie – I agree that it *is* possible to love your enemies in this life. That’s why I wrote that for *most* people, they may not be able to do it. Perhaps I should have written for *some* people. I do understand the all other commandments are basically covered in the two great commandments. Is that basically what you meant?

  107. I don’t believe that there is anyone alive who is not able to truly love. I think it’s possible for everyone. I think some choose not to let love penetrate their hearts for whatever reason, but loving our enemies is THE VITAL POINT of the gospel of Jesus and we do not have life in Christ if we are not conduits of his love.

    I do understand the all other commandments are basically covered in the two great commandments. Is that basically what you meant?

    Yep. Though I might not say that the other commandments are “covered” by the Two Great Commandments, but rather swallowed up, absorbed. If we love God and we love others as we love ourselves, all the other commandments take care of themselves. There is no need to focus on anything but that.

  108. Yep. Though I might not say that the other commandments are “covered” by the Two Great Commandments, but rather swallowed up, absorbed. If we love God and we love others as we love ourselves, all the other commandments take care of themselves. There is no need to focus on anything but that.

    Which is basically what I outlined in my post on post-mormon sexual ethics. Sex is not a special case in need of special rules; universal moral principles can be applied just dandily.

  109. David –
    Boy, your comment was amazing to me….

    First of all, are you aware of the slippery slope (and/or swimming-pool-sized can of worms!) you have opened up for yourself by making this claim that we can/should understand I Nephi 3:7 with this kind of “timing” idea in mind? If this claim you are making is true, that we can interpret Matt 5:48 this way (God’s standard isn’t ACTUALLY that we be perfect NOW… just at some point down the road in the afterlife), then on what basis are you rightfully able to object to the guy who’s been enduring a life-long battle with lust without any true lasting victory, and who says, “It’s just not possible for me to actually be lust-free at this certain point in my life…. or even in my life at all…. so I’m going to conclude that when God commands that I ‘flee from (all) sexual immorality’, and/or Jesus tells me not to even look lustfully at (even one) woman in Matthew 5, that’s supposed to be understood with TIMING in mind… and not something God’s expecting of me right NOW”??? Upon what basis are you justified in correcting the individual who takes this perspective on his struggle with pride… or greed…. or propensity for spreading gossip, being ungrateful, etc.? By claiming this “truth” about I Nephi 3:7/Matt 5:48, you have essentially opened the flood gates for people to take the same path of cheapening whatever particular law of God they personally find “impossible” to keep in “this life”!

    I would bet that this is why (to my knowledge) we have yet to see anyone stand up in General Conference and ever give a definitive and “official” interpretation of 1 Nephi 3:7 that resembles what you’re saying, David. They know the results that your kind of talk would produce in their flock should they vocalize them in any sort of a true “thus sayeth the Lord” capacity.

    – And so…. we instead see OFFICIAL church publications like *True to the Faith* saying, “As you ponder your progress on the ‘strait and narrow path’, be assured that eternal life is within your reach. The Lord wants you to return to Him, and He will never require anything of that you cannot fulfill…. When you exercise faith and serve Him with all your might, He gives you strength and provides a way for you to do whatever He commands you (I Nephi 3:7).” (True to the Faith, p. 53) (Note the reference to I Nephi 3:7, and note the complete LACK of reference to “timing” or “INability” or anything else in your interpretation)

    – And so… what we instead see coming out of Salt Lake City are articles in OFFICIAL church publications like *Ensign* magazine like the one from Bruce Carlson (“of the seventy”). Carlson’s message, entitled “When the Lord Commands”, specifically mentions the I Nephi 3:7 story and says “At times we may rationalize that the Lord will understand our disobedience because our special circumstances make adherence to His laws difficult, embarrassing, or even painful. However, faithful obedience, regardless of the apparent size of the task, will bring the Lord’s guidance, assistance, and peace.” The outline of Carlson’s talk is ridiculously clear – We are not permitted to claim that ANY particular commandment of God (1) Does not apply to us; (2) Is not important for us, or (3) Is too difficult to obey. (Dig up and find this article on lds.org, David. It’s in the “Gospel Library” section under “LDS Gems”. And be sure to note the complete LACK of reference to “timing” or “INability” or anything else in your interpretation)

    – And so… we instead see an Ensign article like the one from Jorge Zeballos (“of the seventy”) entitled “Attempting the Impossble”. (Also available on lds.org under “LDS Gems”) Zeballos quotes Jesus in 3 Nephi 12:48 (basically a word for word copy of Matt. 5:48, as I’m sure you’re aware), and then says “From a purely human point of view, at first (the command to be perfect) seems to be an impossible task. However, it begins to appear possible upon understanding that in order to achieve it, we are not alone. The most marvelous and powerful helps for which a human being may seek are always available.”
    Other quotes from the article –
    “The Lord does not expect that we do what we cannot achieve. The command to become perfect, as He is, encourages us to achieve the best of ourselves, to discover and develop the talents and attributes with which we are blessed by a loving Eternal Father, who invites us to realize our potential as children of God. He knows us; He knows of our capacities and our limitations. The invitation and challenge to become perfect, to achieve eternal life is for all mankind.”
    “Even when, from a purely human perspective, perfection can appear an impossible challenge to achieve, I testify that our Father and our Savior have made known to us that it is possible to achieve the impossible. Yes, it is possible to achieve eternal life. Yes, it is possible to be happy now and forever.”
    (Note: I’m fully aware that Zeballos teaches in this article that perfection only comes as an individual does his part to “use” the “help” of the atonement of Jesus. I’m not blind to the fact that that is what y’all believe, and what an important piece to the puzzle that “truth” is for you, David. I’m simply drawing your attention to the fact that, based on quotes such as these, which are given by LDS church authorities in church publications, any unbiased observer would naturally come to the conclusion that your interpretation of I Nephi 3:7 and/or Matthew 5:48 is simply not backed or supported by the teachings of your church)

  110. Now on the flip side – Consider that the book of Matthew (along with the other books of the NT) was written in koine Greek (I’m sure you know this); a language in which, among other things, we are able to look and perceive verb tenses quite clearly. The verb tense of “be perfect” in Matt 5:48 is PRESENT tense – not future. Had Matthew and the other disciples understood Jesus to be saying in the sermon on the mount, “Be striving to one day become perfect” or “The standard is for you to be perfect eventually”, he obviously would have made sure to indicate that in the writing of his gospel by using a tense other than the present (and such descriptive, alternative tenses are most certainly available in koine greek), for this present tense would obviously not suffice. But this is clearly not the case.

    So we’re either led to the conclusion that Matthew, though under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, got it wrong and used an incorrect verb tense… or we understand that Jesus was telling His followers, “The expectation of God – HIS STANDARD for YOU – is that you be morally perfect, just as He is morally perfect.”

    At this point, David, I can almost hear you as you sit in front of your screen – “But how can you say that? How can you believe that to be true?” Your response will be to go where you went earlier in this conversation – to say that I am presenting a hopeless, “binary” world in which no one returns to God. My friend, it is my humble opinion that the fact that you see ONLY this option when confronted with the “high” view of God’s commandments (including Matt. 5:48) that I am presenting speaks volumes about your confusion re: the ULTIMATE purpose of the commandments/laws that God gave in the Scriptures. And it’s leading me to become more and more convinced that the LDS pursuit of God is, at the end of the day, an adventure in missing the point.

    I would be glad to explain more of what I mean in this regard if you are interested in hearing, David. But I gotta stop for now.

  111. Jason – Interesting stuff, but I can see that you and I have a fundamental disagreement about what it means to become like God. And, we also seem to disagree about God’s ability to know our desires (our hearts). Since God knows us all perfectly, I find it strange that you seem to believe that He couldn’t see who we are becoming.

    Also, I’m still waiting for you to answer my question about the relationship of repentance and Grace.

  112. David –

    I would say probably not as “fundamental” as you’re implying, at least not when it comes to what it means to “become like God” in a MORAL sense, which is where our discussion has been centered thus far. When I talk about God (and the idea of someone being like Him) in a moral sense, I’m talking about the subject of His holiness, His full righteousness, etc. As God, He is (and operates out of) moral perfection. He always does what is right. He never does other than what is good.
    So as best as I can see, postulating someone else becoming “like Him” in this moral sense would be presenting an instance of an individual arriving at a similar state of PERFECTION in their morality…. it would be to say that someone has now come to the place where they now are fully and completely RIGHTEOUS, and their capacity to commit sin or do any sort of unrighteous act has vanished.
    All of my interactions with my LDS friends thus far would suggest that y’all see things similarly. Am I incorrect?

    And I don’t think that we probably disagree at ALL about God’s ability to know our desires/hearts. I do believe that God knows us perfectly, and so I do believe (just as you do) that He IS able to see who you and I are becoming. Our difference lies in that you, like the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day, seem to think that He is IMPRESSED. And I would suggest that the Bible tells a different story on the matter.

    “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” – Isaiah 64:6

    Will get you to your repentance & grace question asap, bro. Thanks for continuing to dialogue with me. I appreciate your sincerity.

  113. All of my interactions with my LDS friends thus far would suggest that y’all see things similarly. Am I incorrect?

    Chalk me up as one LDS friend who categorically rejects the idea that becoming like God has anything at all to do with moral perfection.

  114. I think becoming like God has something to do with perfection (BE ye therefore…). I’m not sure what moral perfection is. Isn’t anything God does moral? Does that mean anything He does NOT do immoral?

    What about this thought about the dichotomy of the desires of the heart. The natural man wants sex, a lot! however he can justify it in his own heart. Conversion to Christ says wait,we need some rules here, yes, Kull, your piece did make rules, albeit softer, and fungible.

  115. I’m wondering how this analogy works… Lets say we join a soccer team. Is our goal or reason just to have fun or isn’t it better to try and learn the rules and techniques and actually want to win?

  116. I think Kullervos piece on sexual ethics pretty much sounds like an athiest trying to be responsible. Takes God right out of it.

  117. I think Kullervos piece on sexual ethics pretty much sounds like an athiest trying to be responsible. Takes God right out of it.

    Only if you assume that specific, particular situational rules are more indicative of divine origin than general principles of universal applicability.

    Let’s ask Jesus which he prefers.

  118. I don’t know if I am convinced.

    Anyway, although my Postmormon Sexual Ethics post frames the question in terms of broad versus narrow deontological ethics, I think you get to the same answer with virtue ethics.

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