You are FORGIVEN! – What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t. (Part 1)

Universal sin is, perhaps, the fundamental building block of the Christian Religion.  Without sin, there is no need for the atonement of Jesus, the central focus of both Mormons and Evangelicals.

C.S. Lewis, in accord with other heavy hitters of Christian apologetics, contend that the most incontrovertible tenant of Christianity is original sin.  (However, my favorite exposition of this doctrine is, of course, found here.) Indeed, most all people have an internal moral compass, a conscience, that tells them that they fall short of perfection.  Those people incapable of feeling guilt are considered the most dangerous and potentially monstrous of all humans.  While I am not convinced that universal sin is “proven” by the facts, it is clear that most of the people we call good or conscientious would agree that falling short of internal and external aspirations is a common part of life.  Falling short is part of life not simply because we are defective, it seems to be an ingrained part of being a human to recognize that we do not live up to what our consciences aspire to.  Even those that are often completely blind to their own faults can usually point out the faults of others.   This brings guilt, perhaps one of the most important defenses against barbarism, yet it also one of those things that invariably saps happiness and joy from life.

What Christianity brings to the table is forgiveness. Evangelists tells us: “In Christ you will be saved and forgiven, white as snow.”  Where Evangelicalism and Mormonism diverge is how they dish up the meaty meal of forgiveness to the believer. (To be specific: I am talking about how the forgiveness of is felt and experienced, not about whether or not either approach is justified by scripture, revelation or theology.)

Mormons “eat meat sparingly”, perhaps for fear that not worrying about fault will sap our desire to improve.  For a Mormon, the forgiveness of God is a tool God uses to perfect us, not the whole message.   Mormons grow by striving, knowing that the prize is to be had, but a premium is placed on “enduring to the end” and not sitting back and resting. For the believer, life is about “preparing to meet god” its about being found worthy to be in his presence.  True knowledge, revelation and understanding of what glories God has prepared for us come only by human effort, by doing our part.  This is what was made clear to me by the ultimate passages of what was perhaps Joseph Smiths most bold and astounding revelation: D&C 76.    Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, together saw and conversed with a glorified Jesus who explained to them some of the mysterious of the kingdoms of God that wait for humanity.  The recorded revelation begins by explaining the conditions upon which God grants mercy:

 “(5) For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.”

In the end of the section the prophet explains the conditions of even understanding the mysteries he attested to in the body of the passage:

(114) But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;

(115) Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;

(116) Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;

(117)To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;

(118) That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.

I think this passage highlights up all kinds of complex differences between Evangelicals and Mormons.   But what I want to focus on is that the focus here is that in this section where the afterlife is explained, the focus Joseph ends with is is knowledge, understanding and experience, through conscious self-purification. For Joseph, seeing and experiencing light and knowledge from God was the end of religion and the crowning difference of Mormonism. Eternal life is literally to “know” God in this unspeakable way. In this paradigm, forgiveness is pervasive, practically everybody ends up forgiven and enjoys glory, but it is not the focus, and often comes only after the sinners feel the pain of their sins that they knowingly committed.  Such is Mormonism in practice, Christianity is the plan of God to save ALL from endless torment brought on by universal sin, and the systematic program for obtaining perfection through using the atonement to purify and become worthy.   The feeling of being forgiven is the carrot at the end of a long day of effort. Often the experience of the joy is intentionally kept just out of reach to keep the body spurred along.

Where Mormons dish out the meat of feeling forgiven sparingly, for Evangelicals its whats for dinner. (and breakfast, and lunch, and mid-day snack.)  Evangelicals provide an all-you-can-eat buffet of the joy of essentially unconditional forgiveness.  For Evangelicals the problem is never feeling too forgiven, its forgetting that you are forgiven and denying the love and mercy of God in the process.  I think this also explains a difference in their worship practices.  When you feel completely and unconditionally forgiven in this way you want to throw your hands up and make noise.

When I have attended Evangelical worship services, I always found the vibrant expression of joy and praise to be unsettling and often unseemly.  This comes directly from my Mormon background (I was an active believing Mormon for the first 33 years of my life.)  Mormonism is a daily effort to maintain the spirit, a channel of revelation that keeps you close to God. Its a personal and sober struggle, not without contentment, warmth and happiness, but you don’t get up and jump around about it.   I think this is because few Mormons get what is going on with Evangelicals.  They just don’t feel forgiven like Evangelicals feel forgiven.

Perhaps one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have had in the last few years is feeling forgiven in this way.  I first felt this feeling powerfully late one night as the events of my life were passing through my head as I tried to sleep.  The thought entered my mind that I was forgiven of all of my sins. . . .full stop.  I had the realization that there were no conditions to reach for, no process to go through, no principles to practice, no price to pay, no struggle to undertake.  It was done.  I was no longer on the hook for all the stupid sh*t I had done, the failures, the weaknesses, and the shortcomings.  Nor was I ever going to be on the hook for the stupid sh*t I would yet to do.  Sure the consequences of screwing up cannot be avoided, but God wouldn’t condemn me for them. . . any more . . . ever. Being unconditionally forgiven, all the time, even as we fall and struggle with sin, is something to get up and sing and shout about.     Feeling this, I begin to understand what all the hand raising and foot stomping is about.  Its quite an un-Mormon feeling.  (I say un-Mormon conditionally, this IS the sort of love and forgiveness I feel from my devout Mormon parents. I think they are exceptional in all kinds of ways but their virtues certainly are hand-in-hand with their Mormonism.)

Mormons view this sort of euphoria with the same suspicion that they view intoxication.  They don’t doubt that feeling lit up, tipsy or high may feel great, but this is certainly not something you build a respectable life around.  Unhindered joy is a distraction from the business at hand, and may divert you from the path that leads to purification and perfection.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, such an attitude is bizarre to an Evangelical.  The whole point of being forgiven by God is to embrace it and praise Him for it.  Those feasting on filet mignon pity those who shun such a meal for oatmeal, however wholesome that may be.

I no longer a Mormon by any standard definition of the term nor am I an Evangelical.  (Mormons would definitely consider me lost in the “mists of darkness” and Evangelicals would certainly consider my claim to the joy of forgiveness quite dubious given my understanding of God and Christ (or lack thereof). )  However, I think that this peculiar difference in how forgiveness is felt may be an import key to the complex differences in how these religions work in the lives of believers.  My observation has raised all kinds of questions and I am interested to know what you all think.  There is certainly more to be said.  I plan on posting again to point out what I think is the corollary to this big difference in the two faiths.

Am I off base? Do you think there is a fundamental difference in how forgiveness is felt or emphasized in Mormonism or Evangelicalism?  Is the Mormon de-emphasis or denial of unconditional forgiveness foolish, dangerous or stultifying?  Is the Evangelical focus on feeling forgiven foolish, dangerous or stultifying? Is there a middle ground or is the level of difference essential . . .

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185 thoughts on “You are FORGIVEN! – What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t. (Part 1)

  1. The title of Tim’s post is incorrect. Eric will give us the facts, I’m sure.
    The LDS book “Gospel Principles,” 115, says, “When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized, our sins are forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” The same page quotes Acts 22:16 where Ananias says to Paul, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.”

    Have you ever read “Gospel Principles,” Tim?

    “Do you think there is a fundamental difference in how forgiveness is felt or emphasized in Mormonism or Evangelicalism?”

    I think there is some difference in the way it is felt and emphasized.

    “Is the Mormon de-emphasis or denial of unconditional forgiveness foolish, dangerous or stoltifying?”

    We evangelicals, except for Calvinists, do not teach that forgiveness is unconditional. We teach that people must put their faith in Jesus to be forgiven.

    “Is the Evangelical focus on feeling forgiven foolish, dangerous or stoltifying?”

    No. Romans 5:1 says, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    (Thanks again for this forum, Tim. Your questions are very good.)

  2. I found your observations interesting, and not without some basis and merit, though I would come to a different conclusion perhaps. I’m also a little confused by the premise that only the Mormon side is “lacking”, since obviously if you have an apple, and I have an orange, it would be oxymoronic to presume that only one of is is “missing” something. My confusion is simply based on your presumption that feeling “unconditionally forgiven” is the correct goal in the first place! Is it somewhere written that that “euphoria”, as you put it, is the brass ring of earthly salvation? Why is exuberance, euphoria, mystical joy, the be-all-end-all in the first place? I, frankly, don’t really want to sublimate by brain for my emotions. Why Is an emotional euphoric relationship a mark of true salvation, whereas a grateful debtors relationship or awe, effort and gratitude, is not? Why is an LDS concept of requiring both Justification (Christ’s role) AND Sanctification (Man’s role), –seen by the Mormons as the two co-dependent principles taught in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon–why is that relationship “less than” the evangelical concept? Is it really all just about being joyful? Or could it be about a more mature and complex understanding? I’m not trying to be obstinate, and I actually agree with your description of the net effect of how those “euphoric” vs. “debtor” theologies affect our modes of worship. I guess my confusion lies in trying to figure out why you would see that as something the evangelicals “have” that the Mormons don’t, yet you don’t seem to grant that the Mormons would by logic “have” something the evangelicals don’t. Isn’t that by force of logic unavoidably true? If the Mormon concept of salvation turns out to be closer to the truth, couldn’t it just as easily be said that the evangelicals have replaced the debtors rightful obligation, with a misplaced simplistic euphoria? If I promise my child an allowance, and he misunderstands that I coupled it to “chores”, it’s not my fault if his euphoria for free money turns out to be disappointing when his hand is not filled on payment day. I’d be glad he had joyful expectations, but I’d wished he’d paid attention to the contract a little closer. In a sense that’s the division. Evangelicals view salvation as a gift only with no conditions, and the Mormons view salvation as a contract (covenant). Which of us is “lacking” depends on your theological ideology. And if you can grant that hypothetical on the basis of logic, setting aside your theological constructs, then your title of “What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t”, should really be written as “What Evangelicals and Mormons have, that their counterparts don’t”? It cuts both ways as I see it.

  3. Garth, thanks for taking the time to comment. I am a guest poster at this blog, a Mormon (former Mormon?) who has left Church activity. Tim, the owner of the blog, is an Evangelical Christian. Tim and I have met, but we have no parallel agendas.

    The title was provocative on purpose. It does cut both ways. Differences are arbitrarily described as “lack of [the difference]” rather than “freedom from [the difference]” I only know the Mormon side well, and the lack of the unconditional forgiveness feeling was conspicuous. For all I know, I am getting the forgiveness feeling a bit wrong. I also don’t have a strong position about what is the “correct goal” for theology. I am most interested in the life consequences of believing a certain way. The fact that many Mormons are happy with the absence of the overwhelming feeling of forgiveness is indicative of my point.

    However, I do think Mormons really miss out by not feeling the euphoric feeling of forgiveness. It is a real lack because there is nothing in Mormonism that should prevent believers from feeling the “complete forgiveness” feeling more often. I don’t think its misplaced nor essentially absent from Mormonism, but I could be wrong.

  4. Cal,

    I wrote this post, not Tim.

    We evangelicals, except for Calvinists, do not teach that forgiveness is unconditional. We teach that people must put their faith in Jesus to be forgiven.

    I agree. However, the the feeling I am talking comes from believing that your sins are forgiven regardless of the mechanism or justifying theology. (e.g. paid for by Jesus in full).

  5. Jared; I agree that from a doctrinal standpoint, Mormons should be more comfortable accepting their salvation NOW, as opposed to too often viewing it as a future event. We do need to be more demonstrative probably for the grace of the atonement. LDS have that essential teaching of grace at our core too, but you’re right we don’t emphasize it in the euphoric manner of evangelicals. But, then again, neither do the Catholics, or the Lutherans, or the Episcopalians, or the Presbyterians. At least not in my experience. Maybe they’re all too reserved, or traditional to go all fainty with their swaying and slayed-in-the-spirit evangelical cousins. Is that a shame? Or a plus? Depends on taste I suppose. Your point of observing that same reserve among the LDS is therefore true. You may recall if you studied LDS history, that some of that uber-exuberance was squelched by J.S. when he observed some of the dramatic displays of emotional zeal within the early members. So for example, while Mormons believe in speaking in tongues, we would reject the nonsensical gibberish displays, but accept the purposeful speaking in a known language to evangelize. I cite that as an example of “euphoria” vs. “constraint”. I personally like the logic of a constrained gift of tongues, rather than the unknown-language displays, which frankly creep me out. Not my style. But there is no doubt that a “gift” vs. a “covenant” concept of salvation does indeed divide us from evangelicals and make us less “euphoric” and more “roll-up-the-sleeves”. (Look at LDS hymns: “Put Your Shoulder To the Wheel”, “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today”, “We Are All Enlisted”, etc.) As an active, practicing, and happy Mormon, I have no problem with both acknowledging that difference, and saying I’m fine with that. I expect to be under obligation of living a discipleship-life, as a follower of Jesus, but I’m not aware that makes me less joyful, just because my mode of worship is more cerebral than emotional. Ironically, while the Mormons are not “euphoric” in our mode of worship, I would argue that in general Mormons are darn happy people. They tend to be close-knit, large families, inter-bonded and even cliqueish. They love to laugh. They dance. They sing. Is that not gospel-inspired joy? How many churches put on the level of pageants, roadshows, EFY’s, conferences, etc., at the level of the Mormons? My point is, a sad, burdened, melancholy people is NOT a charge I’ve seen laid at the Mormons feet, and one must admit our theology is a big part of why that joy and exuberance oozes out of most Mormons. They’re just happy people! I submit that joie-de-vivre comes in large measure because they do have confidence in their theology and their understanding of a saving relationship with God and Christ. I visit other churches quite often, and I know the “unconditional salvation” exuberance where worship focuses on 80% praise and 20% doctrinal understanding. (On Sundays, Evangelicals sing for 40 minutes and have a 20 minute sermon. Mormons sing for 10 minutes and have 3 hours of sermons and lessons.) But I’m not seeing that as a less “joyful” outcome necessarily. If some Mormon gets off on self-loathing for sins, trying to live a perfectly disciplined life, then they don’t understand grace. But, if some evangelical gets off on self-excusing sins, living a debauched and undisciplined life, then they don’t understand grace either. Your points are true that we can certainly improve and we need to emphasize “grace” more. But, our doctrinal understanding requires we do indeed see salvation as a two-way covenant, not just a gift without expecting discipleship on our side of the equation.

  6. I think both Mormons and Evangelicals miss out on God’s forgiveness.

    Inasmuch as that forgiveness is complete and total and fully sufficient.

    In a typical Evangelical sermon, the gospel (your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake) does show up, but is eclipsed or taken away when the preacher now starts to add on everything that the believer ‘should, ought, or must be doing’. Then ‘the law’ takes over again and the gospel (and it’s accompanying joy and freedom) just sort of goes away.

    It’s kind of like the cow that gives a good bucket of milk…and then kicks it over.

    And Mormons, it seems to me, are fully on that spirituality/ works project…so much so that the symbol of God’s love and forgiveness isn’t found atop their buildings.

    A lot of God, and a lot or a little of me, does not make the gospel. But. as St. Paul tells us, “another gospel”.

  7. Steve does spout all the talking points for “grace alone, meritless and without obligation” theology. But the point he may be missing is the LDS never claimed to want to believe that interpretation of the Bible teachings, so of course pointing out that Mormons are not believers in what he believes is hardly news. I resist when someone tells me if I don’t believe what they believe, that it is only “my” version that is “another gospel.” The bible is not so monolithic as Steve interprets it, in my opinion. The Mormon theology is fully based on the same New Testament, and even the same Paul, as Steve’s comments would feign claim only for himself. I know this thread was not started to argue doctrine, but Steve is alleging that only the evangelical “free” grace is taught in the Bible, as an accepted fact. Beg to differ.

    Mormons believe in Justification AND Sanctification (both biblical keys) as linked concepts which lead us toward salvation. (Be ye doers of the word not just hearers only…faith without works is dead…etc., etc.) Evangelicals believe sanctification comes as a fruit after accepting Christ, installed by God into our hearts. Mormons believe sanctification is a process that is not installed so much as earned by striving to make the choices that help us put on the image of Christ, and thus become molded into discipleship. God leads and inspires, but only we can make the choices.

    That same St. Paul Steve cites, also warned against the heresy of “easy” salvation without effort and in appearance only, stating over and over that If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,”THEN we shall obtain the reward.” (Heb3:5, 6, 14). Paul taught the fulfillment of the law of Moses, thus freeing his gentile converts of the need to obey THAT old, fulfilled law. Paul did not teach that the new law of Christ required nothing of Christians. Galatians 5 makes it clear that the law of God is a “higher” law than was the law of Moses. But that does not mean there is zero law: Gal 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” If Paul warned us about our actions keeping us out of heaven, then apparently “forgiveness” is not quite as meritless as Steve infers. Not trying to have the old debate again, but just pointing out that Mormons can have full joy, while also accepting that discipleship, to be genuine, requires effort too. It is not intellectually fair to fall back on that old “if you don’t believe what I believe, you’re preaching ‘another’ gospel.” Really? Cuz the gospel of accepting Christ’s atonement means little if it doesn’t also bring change. That requires the sanctifying effect of personal effort, leading to discipleship, leading to salvation. That’s what I read in my Bible, and I don’t find it in the least bit “un-biblical.”

  8. Certainly you can have euphoric rites in a religion without even having forgiveness for example in voodoo possession rites are euphoric but not focused on forgiveness. I don’t think the euphoria comes from the doctrine of grace as much as giving oneself permission to feel euphoria. People who want a euphoric experience are drawn to evangelical Christianity, and evangelicals give themselves permission to experience euphoric worship.

    Don’t get me wrong I think forgiveness rituals are incredibly freeing, I think public confession combined with belief in forgiveness lends itself to euphoria, much more than just a doctrine of forgiveness. But I don’t think Mormonism has to change its doctrine of forgiveness to have euphoric rites. Mormonism just has to decide it wants their services to be joyous and not austere and they can have this. Arguably the temple rituals would be the place to really do this, I suspect the temple rituals when first invented with all the Masonic ritual they were rather emotional and they’ve become bland as they’ve been toned down.

    In practice evangelicals don’t really believe in unconditional forgiveness, or the country with evangelicals in power at all levels wouldn’t have one of the harshest criminal justice systems on the planet.

    Now where I do think there is a real problem in Mormonism is not lack of forgiveness but lack of tolerance. Mormons often feel that once a misdeed is known, there is no way out and no way to meaningfully rejoin the community as full members. That’s a real culture problem but not a doctrinal one. Mormon doctrine doesn’t create this pressure, Mormon culture does.

  9. I’m not so sure that religious euphoria is as characteristic/paradigmatic of Evangelical Christianity as you are making it out to be.

  10. Now where I do think there is a real problem in Mormonism is not lack of forgiveness but lack of tolerance. Mormons often feel that once a misdeed is known, there is no way out and no way to meaningfully rejoin the community as full members. That’s a real culture problem but not a doctrinal one.

    You make some good points CD, however i think the problem is, at least in part, doctrinal. Mormonism thrives on “feeling the spirit” which doesn’t really involve feeling completely forgiven, is certainly powerful and can be euphoric. For Mormons feeling the “love of God” is the fruit of the long struggle to hold the rod and follow the guidance of the spirit.

    The ritual that brings up complete forgiveness in Mormonism is baptism, and this may be the closest to the feeling completely forgiven. I have seen and felt the brief moments of euphoria felt by the recently baptised. Of course being clean from sin is generally described as a brief moment rather than an abiding condition. Conceivably Mormons SHOULD feel completely free of sin when they take the sacrament, but this blessing is generally qualified as well.

    My point is that the euphoria of feeling forgiven shapes practice and attitudes. Evangelicalism is attractive and compelling, in part, because of the open availability of forgiveness. I think there is an interesting connection between the criminal justice system and religion, but I don’t know that heavy earthly penalties has much to do with the doctrine of forgiveness from sin. There are plenty of murderers on death row that become evangelicals after they are locked up, I doubt that there are many that become Mormons.

  11. characteristic/paradigmatic of Evangelical Christianity as you are making it out to be.

    My point is not that Evangelical Christianity begins and ends at the feeling of being absolutely forgiven. . . but that it can commonly be found within their practice and is generally absent from Mormon practice.

  12. Garth,
    You are right, we don’t believe in the same version of the gospel.

    We believe in the gospel that St. Paul lays out in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, the Corinthian letters, etc.

    We believe, as St. Paul said to the Galatians, that if you (anyone) wants to live by the law, then you need to keep it all, and keep it all perfectly.

    And if anyone wishes to play that (religious) game, “then they sever themselves from Christ.”

    Thanks, Garth.

  13. Tim, I am willing to acknowledge my mistake.
    I’ll have to take back my compliment of your good questions. I did think it was somewhat uncharacteristic of you to get right to the crux of the matter like I thought you did. ;-)

  14. Arguably the temple rituals would be the place to really do this, I suspect the temple rituals when first invented with all the Masonic ritual they were rather emotional and they’ve become bland as they’ve been toned down.

    Why do you suspect this?

  15. Steve, you missed that in the Galatians quote you cited, Paul was condemning the need for convert gentiles to live the law of MOSES–not the law of Christ. He was pointing out that it’s pointless to force gentiles to be circumcised, as if living just that “part” of the law of Moses was the entire law of Moses. Hence his comment that if anyone wants to live by the law of Moses, then live the whole law or forget the picking and choosing of mere aspects of it. Since the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ THAT law was done away. At no point, in no verse, in no context does Paul claim that being a Christian requires “nothing” from Christians. Even Ephesians 2 is condemning the law of Moses for gentile converts, NOT the concept of living by Christ’s standards, rules, and expectations, as followers of Christ. The Mormons simply claim that all that Paul taught about how to be a Christian applies as the “sanctification” component of grace, just as Paul so clearly laid it out. But my point is not to prove I’m right or your wrong. I’m just asking that you not throw out that old “another gospel” condescending claim, as if the LDS are forbidden to do exegesis if it doesn’t align with your beliefs. It’s okay to disagree without devaluing one another’s valid biblical understandings.

  16. Steve Martin said:

    We believe in the gospel that St. Paul lays out in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, the Corinthian letters, etc.

    No, we do!

    Kullervo said:

    I’m not so sure that religious euphoria is as characteristic/paradigmatic of Evangelical Christianity as you are making it out to be.

    My observation is that there is a wide range of worship practices in evangelicaldom. I see the differences in worship styles more as a matter of culture and tradition, less as an outgrowth of theology.

    As to whether evangelicals tend to feel “more forgiven” than Mormons do, I suppose to some extent that may be true because of the LDS emphasis on something similar to what non-LDS folks might call sanctification. But I’ve seen plenty of Mormons get all emotional in testimony about how great it is to feel forgiven, and I’ve heard evangelicals wallowing in guilt. So I’d hesitate to make too many generalizations.

  17. My observation is that there is a wide range of worship practices in evangelicaldom. I see the differences in worship styles more as a matter of culture and tradition, less as an outgrowth of theology.

    I wonder what you are including in your category of “evangelical.”

  18. Garth,

    Have you ever read the Book of Concord? I think you would better understand Steve’s position if you took the time to read parts of it. Try the Augsburg Confession through article 20. Glance at the Small Catechism’s exposition of the 10 Commandments.

  19. @Jared —

    Mormons believe in regenerative baptism so I was excluding that because it is an atypical once isn a lifetime blanket forgiveness. I think the forgiveness aspects of baptism are important but so are all the other rituals associated with baptism including being really excited and nervous, being cold(?) and getting wet.

    As for the rest I think you are looking across the fence, grass is greener.

  20. Thanks Gundek. I read through article 20, of which article 20 addresses the topic of faith and works. (Boy, they really didn’t care for the Anabaptists much!) I think I have no problem whatsoever understanding Steve’s evangelical position, as it is quite traditional as to the “grace alone” position. I realize they don’t reject good deeds as,… well, good –but not “adding to” the grace of Christ on the cross. I get that idea of nothing we can do can please a God so superior to us, that even our best efforts are like a cat bringing a dead mouse triumphantly to its master. I totally understand the born-again theology, I believe. I think I could feign a very accurate sermon in any evangelical church to regurgitate the exact theology of “grace” alone and the free gift of Christ’s salvation and they would never hear a word of error, were I to preach that sermon to meet evangelical expectations. I have no problem with understanding that version of biblical interpretation. It’s the accepting it that I can’t fully do.

    Rather, I suggest that Steve is perhaps not quite understanding the LDS theology. (Nor does he have to.) I detect instead, for example, that perhaps he has extrapolated article 20’s comment; “Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” …and mistakenly applies that as if it is what the Mormons teach. It is not. An informed Mormon should not believe that by their works (temple, word of wisdom, callings, missions, eternal marriage, baptism) that they therefore merit grace of their own achievement. Any LDS who believes that has missed the mark, IMO.

    My theology as a Mormon is simply that I am convicted to become a true disciple–and sanctified as best I can–by walking the disciples road. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the suffering are character building practice. It is by making righteous choices that I live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I become the accumulation of my free will choices. Likewise, temple rites, word of wisdom, callings, missions, etc., are merely teaching aids and sign posts that help me keep my feet on the path. Nothing more. I feel salvation is a covenant relationship to the LDS. God and man make promises, like a marriage, and then need to fulfill that covenant with each other. Christ already fulfilled his part in the tomb. He has bought us with His blood, and now his followers must fulfill ours to obey his commandments as best we can. (Boyd Packer’s classic “Parable of the debtor and the mediator”) It’s not therefore a checklist of “works”, but rather the molding of our character that fulfills our part of the sanctification contract.

    I think therefore that clause 27 of article 20 gets it very nearly right when it states: “Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God.” I think the LDS would agree, and state that “meriting grace by them” has never been our goal either. As a Mormon, I would alter however the statement that doing good works is just because “it is the will of God”. God is all powerful and could make us do good works if that was his sole will and purpose. But it is because God designed life as a school, and only we can take the test for us or overlook a failing grade due to our willful disobedience. God cannot force any man to heaven or he would cease to be “just”. (Mercy cannot rob justice.) The prodigal son, in spite of his Father’s will and love, could not be “saved” by his father until he repented and chose to return home and submit himself in humility. Our will therefore and our own choices are far more important than mere technicalities God can choose to overlook or ignore. Rather we do good so goodness becomes an ingrained part of our very nature and we become our own prodigals, turning to God. That to me is the essential concept of sanctification–which must largely come from our own efforts and will or it loses its entire purpose as a catalyst of “changing” our very characters toward God.

    Our theologies are not so far apart in my opinion, but our concepts of “why” our righteousness is important is an important nuance, though we arrive near the same destination. Sorry for the length and somewhat tangential curve from the topic of “euphoria” in worship.

  21. Eric,

    We really read those books differently.

    We read them as Christ has done it ALL. There is absolutely nothing else needed on our part. And the word is NOTHING.

    And that begets Christian freedom. Not some slavish law, obedience project that was blown before it even began.

  22. Kullervo asked me:

    I wonder what you are including in your category of “evangelical.”

    I’m using the term doctrinally, referring in general to churches that belong to the National Association of Evangelicals or have compatible beliefs (such as Southern Baptists).

  23. When I thought about how Mormons demonstrate our euphoria at being forgiven, a portion of a talk by James E. Faust, late of the First Presidency of the Church, came to mind.

    “I recently recalled a historic meeting in Jerusalem about 17 years ago. It was regarding the lease for the land on which the Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. You might wonder why we agreed not to proselyte. We were required to do so in order to get the building permit to build that magnificent building which stands in the historic city of Jerusalem. To our knowledge the Church and BYU have scrupulously and honorably kept that nonproselyting commitment. After the lease had been signed, one of our friends insightfully remarked, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?” He was referring to our students who were studying in Israel.”

    The positive change in the countenance of new converts to the Church is often so remarkable, that people who haven’t seen them for a while notice it immediately.

  24. Eric said, “My observation is that there is a wide range of worship practices in evangelicaldom. I see the differences in worship styles more as a matter of culture and tradition, less as an outgrowth of theology.”

    You’re probably right. However, I know from experience that if you spend much time speaking in tongues (to yourself) as some charismatics do, the Spirit fires you up. Also, we find raising our hands or dancing a natural outgrowth of the grace operating in our spirits, and that exuberant actions also help our spirits shift up a gear, much like an athlete pumping his or her fist in triumph. That’s theological stuff.

    ———-
    I appreciate your comments, David.

    ———-
    Garth said, “Our theologies are not so far apart in my opinion, but our concepts of “why” our righteousness is important is an important nuance, though we arrive near the same destination.”

    I agree.

  25. I’m using the term doctrinally, referring in general to churches that belong to the National Association of Evangelicals or have compatible beliefs (such as Southern Baptists).

    I just know that there’s often a tendency to sort of lump all Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Baptists, assorted non-denominationals, and basically every other non-Mainline Protestant Christian (and even some of the mainlines) together and call them all “Evangelicals,” when they really are a pretty diverse bunch.

    I’m not accusing you of doing that; just checking.

  26. Gundek said, “Charitable as always Cal.”

    Oh, you and Tim have a quite a way of drawing charity out of me. :-)

    I have a suggestion for Tim: Why not let Eric do a post on miracles in the LDS—historically and currently?

  27. As for the rest I think you are looking across the fence, grass is greener.

    I don’t think the grass is greener in the Evangelical field in all aspects. I just see a lack in Mormonism that appeared to be present in the few Evangelical churches I have attended and the sermons I have heard. I experienced something that seems to be similar to the understanding of forgiveness represented there. I am not quite sure that it is identical, but the feeling does seem to be quite un-Mormon.

    Ritual certainly matters, and the euphoria may be a part of what i am talking about, but I think there is a certain way of looking at life and living it that comes from truly believing that sin is washed away and has no hold on you anymore. I doubt that all Evangelicals believe that.

  28. I think the illustration of my point is the marked difference in what Garth is preaching to what Steve Martin is preaching. Garth is giving a spot-on TBM understanding of forgiveness. Steve Martin may not be giving an “Evangelical” understanding of forgiveness, but his view seems to be the model of the belief I am talking about.

  29. Thanks for the post Jared.

    Eric said:

    I see the differences in worship styles more as a matter of culture and tradition, less as an outgrowth of theology.

    Yes and no. If you don’t understand how theology impacts worship style, you may not understand how theology and worship impact one another. The Pentecostal culture of worship has for certain had a large impact on its theology as Catholic theology has had a large impact on its form of worship.

  30. Garth said:

    You may recall if you studied LDS history, that some of that uber-exuberance was squelched by J.S. when he observed some of the dramatic displays of emotional zeal within the early members.

    It wasn’t so much their exuberance as their prophetic gifts. There are plenty of descriptions of exuberance later on that Joseph had more than a hand in encouraging (some by the Spirit and some by spirits).

    How many churches put on the level of pageants, roadshows, EFY’s, conferences, etc., at the level of the Mormons?

    I think you may be expressing your cultural insulation here. Regardless, programs and youth conferences aren’t really a sign of celebration of forgiveness as they are a method of cultural programming.

    if some evangelical gets off on self-excusing sins, living a debauched and undisciplined life, then they don’t understand grace either.

    Totally agree, but I don’t think I’ve ever met an Evangelical who fits that description. If I ever do meet this Evangelical-Boogey Man I’ll be really excited to finally meet his acquaintance and then correct his worldview.

  31. The positive change in the countenance of new converts to the Church is often so remarkable, that people who haven’t seen them for a while notice it immediately.

    Bollocks.

  32. Cal said:

    I have a suggestion for Tim: Why not let Eric do a post on miracles in the LDS—historically and currently?

    I’m not in the practice of handing out assignments, but Eric is free to write any guest post he’s interested in writing.

    Since you seem to already have the content of that article in mind, you might try writing it and posting it to your own blog.

  33. Bollocks.

    It’s remarkable how often that story gets retold. The cynic inside of me thinks the government official just knew how to butter bread.

  34. Tim, Tim, Tim…have you really never heard of very successful evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart? Jim Bakker? Robert Tilton? Peter Popoff? Benny Hinn? Just to name a few. I think even Bill Clinton may feel he’s an evangelical Christian. I suspect you doubt their sincerity, (uh-oh, are we allowed to judge them by their works vs. their professions of faith?), but you can hardly claim they’re not evangelical icons. Don’t they fit my description of: “if some evangelical gets off on self-excusing sins, living a debauched and undisciplined life, then they don’t understand grace either.”?

  35. no, I don’t think any of them claimed they could live a life of sin because they were saved by grace. They most definitely sinned, but none of them claimed that their sin was of no consequence. None of them publicly glorified their sin like a pig in slop.

  36. There’s a world of difference between (1) an Evangelical who fails to live up to his beliefs about morality and righteousness (Romans 3:23) but nevertheless asserts that his sins are forgiven and (2) an Evangelical who cites his beliefs about grace and forgiveness as a license to flaunt his beliefs about morality and righteousness and a justification to commit whatever sins he wants.

    Example 2 is antinomianism, and I have never encountered it in real life outside of Mormon caricatures of Protestant belief.

  37. Tim, my point had nothing to do with whether some professing Christian openly claims a right to publicly live a life of sin. Not sure where you get that. Of course a charlatan hides his sin, such as the men I named. They don’t want it known. So I’m not following why you’d interpret my comment to mean that to qualify as misunderstanding grace a wrong-headed evangelist would first have to claim “that their sin was of no consequence” in their estimation. I think you’re following where I didn’t lead. The point was that grace is misunderstood whether it’s built upon self-perfection or upon hypocrisy. I suspect some of the men I named for you as examples rationalized their bad behavior while perhaps over-relying on eternal security but who knows. I don’t doubt they knew it was wrong so of course “publicly glorifying their sin like a pig in slop” has nothing to do with the issue of understanding and accessing grace. The evangelists I cited showed one public face, while secretly living aspects of debauchery and sin, which was the allegory I was making. Whether they felt guilt or not isn’t the issue. The point was that the “grace pendulum” is on neither extreme of personal behavior–self-righteousness nor blatant unrighteousness. I cited a hypothetical up-tight self-flagellating Mormon to represent the legalistic side, and a hypothetical “once-save-always-saved” willfully sinning evangelical on the hypocritical side simply to demonstrate how both extremes miss the truth of grace, which is that salvation requires both justification and sanctification (Christ’s part/Man’s part). No need to defend a hypothetical evangelical, as it’s just an allegory trying to show how both legalism and hypocrisy both offend the true doctrine of grace. Claiming that the bad evangelists/charismatics that I cited “don’t really count” because they probably felt bad about it secretly and never claimed that their actions were okay, is missing the point. You’re the one who said you’d never met an evangelical who “self-excuses their sins, living a debauched and undisciplined life”, so I gave you a few. You’re perhaps focusing too much on the phrase “self-excusing”, if you’re thinking these men technically, once caught, didn’t try to justify their actions. (Though Tilton and Hinn certainly did and do.) I think that’s being too defensive since all religions have their bad actors. I’m not criticizing evangelism. I’m criticizing people on both extremes of how they behave while expecting grace to accommodate their personal wrong-headed codes of behavior. Hope that clarifies lest you think I’m picking on evangelicals.

  38. Tim & Kullervo,

    I suppose it’s good to have cynics on this forum to keep us honest. :-)

    You can dispute my claim about the positive change in countenance of new Mormon converts as much as you want, but I’ve seen the change first hand dozens of times. Two of the most striking examples are teenagers currently attending our LDS Ward in Georgia. One is a young woman who has been living with a Mormon couple as a foster child for 3 years. She was certainly much happier with them than with her single mother who was not able to care for her, but when she finally decided to accept Christ’s Gospel and be baptized a month ago, the change in her was even more striking–especially to her mother who came to her baptismal service. The other is a young man who was taken in by another Mormon couple just because they love him. Where he was sullen and introverted before, he is now outgoing, always smiling and beginning to think about what he can do to help others instead of how he will survive from day to day. He was baptized 3 years ago, but didn’t really understand what Christ did for him until just these past few months. That is when we really saw the change in his countenance.

    It’s no secret that some of us life-long Mormons do not understand Christ’s gift to us until later in life. I know, because I am one of them. And, it doesn’t really matter to me whether others noticed it or not, because I certainly did. I’m just one of those whose euphoria at being forgiven is demonstrated by tears of joy most of the time.

  39. Hi Garth, I understood your point and already registered my agreement.

    I made special note of your “self-excusing” character because my experience has taught me that Mormons believe such a character exists as frequently as “legalistic Mormons.”

    If you wish to back away from that caricature, I’m happy to oblige the gesture. If you merely intended to point out that some Evangelicals continue to sin despite having been forgiven, I’ll provide a long list of people who fit the description. My own name will be first on the list. But that doesn’t really differentiate Mormons from Evangelicals in any meaningful way based on our concepts of grace. I’m confident that Mormons continue to sin as hypocrites as frequently as Evangelicals. Neither rate of hypocrisy is caused by the joy or lack of joy expressed in forgiveness.

    I’m well aware of Evangelicals who fail to acknowledge their own sin. I am one. That is far different than someone who intentionally goes on sinning so that grace may abound.

  40. Great stories David. I don’t doubt that people’s countenance changes after coming into a relationship with Jesus. I wholeheartedly believe it. I just have skepticism about that particular Israeli official.

  41. Just for clarification

    Evangelist = someone who shares the gospel

    Evangelism = the act of sharing the gospel

    Evangelicalism = the belief that the gospel should be actively shared (among other distinctive approaches toward Christianity)

    Evangelical = someone who practices evangelicalism

  42. (1) It’s perfectly normal for someone who has experienced a religious conversion to feel happier and more upbeat (newfound meaning and purpose in life, new friends and social acceptance, trying harder to be a good person and feeling good about it, etc.), but Mormonism (and Christianity even) does not have anything like a monopoly on this. I’m not disputing that converting to Mormonism makes people happy. I am hotly disputing that it has anything to do with Mormonism specifically.

    (2) People see what they want to see.

    (3) Nobody in the whole world uses the word “countenance” except when Mormons talk about how someone’s countenance has changed (for the better or for the worse).

  43. Points clarified and certainly continuing in imperfection and sin is unavoidable, though thankfully with most of us, not with as much style and panache as the evangelists I cited. But I would just add that after years of counseling members, I somewhat wish they were more “legalistic” on occasion. Rationalization of sin is far more a universal human defense mechanism than is self-flaggelation. The former avoids pain and the latter affords pain, and since most humans want to avoid pain, non-legalism is far more common. Since guilt hurts, hypocrisy and avoidance are easier to live with. It’s the human condition and has nothing to do with denominations.

    You mention that perhaps I delusionally think the “self-excusing” Christian is as common as the “legalistic” Mormon. Hmmmm…to tell the truth, yes, I do. I actually know very few truly over-the-top-legalistic Mormons. Let’s call them Mormon Pharisees. But they pale in comparison to Christians who excuse sin as not really all that big a deal. How can there not be an unavoidable effect to being taught that “nothing you can do can please God”, and the white throne judgment will not apply to you if you were saved and have eternal security. (I know not all evangelicals teach this, but some do with one judgement for the unsaved and another judgement to reward the saved.) Add to that the predestination believers, and yes, I’ve met many immature Christians who rely on those assurances to not worry too much about their actions. How can they not think that way if they don’t go on to learn about discipleship and sanctification? Granted, it’s not intentionally expressed as a license to sin “that God’s grace may abound.” And I stipulate that a grounded, informed Christian who has matured in the Born Again theology has no risk of falling pray to that kind of “self-excusing.” But so many Christians don’t take their doctrine to that next level of study, and instead rely on the assurances that judgment day will not apply, really, to them. Only to the “un-saved”. I don’t blame mature born-again theology which once better schooled, usually avoids that trap of easy salvation. But I frankly know far more so-called “saved” Christians who probably never got to the higher understanding, and treat even great sins with only a vague uneasiness. Sadly, once they heard they were saved and eternally secure, with no judgment, and absolutely nothing required of them to receive their “free” salvation, they settled for that “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Do I know some Mormon Pharisees? Yeah. A few. But far, far fewer than I know “self-excusing” Christians (and I’m including some Mormons in that term too.) And I’d agree that some LDS think that their membership and temple recommend also is their ticket back to heaven, but fewer since we do emphasize behavior and righteous actions in so many ways that it’s harder to miss the point of needing to work on yourself. You might point out that these “so-called” saved are likely NOT saved, which comes dangerously close to works and fruits, BTW. But in the context of your inference that there REALLY ARE tons of legalistic Mormons, but VERY FEW self-excusing Christians, I would also just say–Bollocks!

  44. Hi Garth,
    Can you tell me what you mean by “self-excusing Christian” and if you think you’ve been using a consistent definition in these comments. Thanks!

  45. That is an awkward phrase. I struggled to find a way to express it, and never did find the right word…hypocrite is too harsh because they don’t intend hypocrisy. Uncommitted? Immature? Vacillating? Double-minded? Un-sanctified? I recall the verse (don’t remember where in the OT) where God chastises the “luke-warm” by saying He wishes they were either hot or cold, but because they are neither He will spew them out of his mouth. Try putting that in a word. But my intention is to express someone who claims an allegiance while abandoning or showing apathy to that commitment. It is certainly not just attributable to religion, but in my context I’m describing someone who wants and expects the benefits of being a disciple, without the effort inherent in discipleship. The application of my awkward wording by allegory would be someone who enters a race, refuses to run (or even runs backwards, i.e. willful sin), and then expects the medal of victory anyway. Christ told the parable of the father with two sons–the first who agreed to labor in the field but never went, and the second who said he would not labor but repented and labored after all. Christ pointed out that the latter did the will of his father, Christ also talked often about those who DO receiving heaven verses those who only talk the talk. (Matt 7 and 25) If Christ warned so often about false discipleship and fair-weather obedience, I think it means more than rhetoric. That’s as close to my meaning as I can come.

  46. May I also add that I’m not talking about trying to be a disciple of Christ and failing in some ways due to our human frailty. That’s a given for all of us. My comments have nothing to do with perfectly accomplishing a righteous life, which is impossible. My reference to self-excusing would be those who don’t really care about discipleship or righteous effort, because they would view it as not a big deal. Optional. Almost an “entitlement” mentality, if you will. And yes, I do know lots of Christians who embody that attitude.

  47. I’m not sure how you expect to be able to communicate effectively if you are unable to explain what you mean. As long as this “self-excusing Christian” you are talking about is a vague, hazy concept in your mind, I’m going to feel comfortable assuming that’s all it is.

  48. Garth, I think it might help to understand how Mormons look to the outside world. You seem to suggest that some mormons are not “legalistic”. I don’t think that makes any sense. Mormonism, across the board, is the paradigm of legalism. The entire concept of sin is distilled into law, rather than a nature. Mormons don’t believe that people are naturally sinful, thus the only sin they have comes by their specific, willful disobedience of a particular law.

    To the evangelical theology, this is foreign. From their point of view, Mormons are the ultimate in self-excusing Christians because Mormons have, from the outset, excused themselves of all original sin and consider them selves on-the-way-to-godhood from birth. Sin is described as individual violations of particular laws which vary in importance. Baptism brings forgiveness, until the moment after baptism when you feel proud that you were baptized, which puts you down a notch. For Mormons, sin is directly equivalent to the criminal law here on earth. The most distinctive characteristics of Mormonism are when the legalism is the most bare. Indeed the entire authority concept within Mormonism, is nearly always explained by missionaries in legalistic terms. Ordinances and covenants are lifted straight out of the law. Having spent the last two years focused on criminal appeals has made this ever more clear. Mormons don’t believe in punishment or even harsh temporal punishment for breaches of the law, but the severity of sins is often tied directly to the degree the action breaks the actual law.

    Adultery vs. Fornication is the classic example. Mormons will discuss and compare the relative severity of these two sins (whose severity is tied directly to the earthly law). Temple worthiness is about ticking off certain criteria, some of which are completely arbitrary and essentially unscriptural. If you take a spoonful of coffee everyday you are not temple worthy, unless your physician has prescribed the coffee, which would mitigate the otherwise unworthy conduct.

    Mormon forgiveness is equally legalistic. Certain sins are set aside and arbitrarily and legalistically determined to require certain deep and involved confession, steps, time and processes to prove they are really repented of. Other, unquestionably heinous sins, (Pride, Lust, Gluttony, etc. etc. ) are essentially ignored and left out of these rituals. The point of view you have been setting forth is absolutely indicative of the legalism. The idea of “self-excusing Christian” seems to spring directly from an absolutely legalistic view of sin and salvation. Mormons simply cannot accept that a death row inmate has fully confessed and has been forgiven by Jesus, not because they don’t believe Jesus has the power to do so, but because the death row inmates have not gone through the appropriate process of forgiveness. They will have to fulfill the proper temporal ordinances in the afterlife if they are going to get the reward that is due them pursuant to contract (i.e. covenant). (The ever popular “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say” is nearly bizarre to an Evangelical point of view. )

    Even the “liberal” mormons are very legalistic. Their rationalizations of unorthodox behavior are almost always couched in legalistic terminology. New Order Mormons take advantage of the legalism of Mormonism to justify evasive answers to temple interview questions.

    I say all of this not to put Mormonism down, necessarily. But it seems you don’t seem to get what the charge of “legalism” means.

  49. Kullervo — Nowhere in any of my comments did I say Mormonism has a “monopoly” on the happiness or joy or euphoria of forgiveness. You inferred something where there was no implication on my part. I merely stated that it is there. Remember that the whole premise of Jared’s initial post is that the euphoria of forgiveness is lacking in Mormons.

    You also seem to consider that I am ignoring the fact that I might be seeing only what I want to see. The changes I’ve related have been noted (without prompting) by people who are not members of the Church and who couldn’t care less. That said, I’m sure you will believe what you want to believe no matter what I say anyway. :-)

    And lastly, you seem to be telling me that using the word “countenance” in that way is one example of something Mormons have that Evangelicals don’t. I really didn’t know that. The word and concept of a “change of countenance” occurs several times in the Bible–at least the King James version.

  50. Tim told me:

    If you don’t understand how theology impacts worship style, you may not understand how theology and worship impact one another. The Pentecostal culture of worship has for certain had a large impact on its theology as Catholic theology has had a large impact on its form of worship.

    I don’t disagree with you. And, actually, I haven’t thought much about how worship style affects theology, but undoubtedly it does. Perhaps, our (referring to LDS) use of distancing language and such affects our theology in that we see God less like a loving and forgiving Father than our theology would indicate. And perhaps the worship approach of some evangelicals helps cause them to think that God’s purpose to make people feel good more than to sanctify them. (I’m speaking in generalities here, of course.) It’s definitely an interesting concept.

  51. Kullervo said, “It’s perfectly normal for someone who has experienced a religious conversion to feel happier and more upbeat (newfound meaning and purpose in life, new friends and social acceptance, trying harder to be a good person and feeling good about it, etc.), but Mormonism (and Christianity even) does not have anything like a monopoly on this.”

    First off, Mormonism is included in Christianity. (I just needed to say that for the benefit of someone who doesn’t know I know that.)

    Secondly, the positive change in countenance experienced in non-Christian religions does not last. When Jesus (i.e., the gift of the Holy Ghost) comes into a heart and stays, it’s a lasting change. The pleasures of sin last only a short time (Hebrews 11:25).
    Have a good day, Kullervo.

    ———-
    Just for the record, Benny Hinn and his wife are back together, and Benny has admitted that he had put his ministry before his family.

  52. Secondly, the positive change in countenance experienced in non-Christian religions does not last. When Jesus (i.e., the gift of the Holy Ghost) comes into a heart and stays, it’s a lasting change. The pleasures of sin last only a short time (Hebrews 11:25).

    I defy you to demonstrate that there is actually a distinction in real life.

  53. Compare a random sample of the countenances of those in a Christian fellowship to those in a non-Christian one.

  54. Wow thought this got posted. This should have gone up earlier:

    ___

    Jared —

    I agree with your comments to Garth. But let me for a moment try and make a slightly alternate comment. The notion of legalism makes sense in a Evangelical framework. I’m going to use reductionistic language to emphasize the distinction:

    a) There is a system of salvation based on either saying the proper incantation with a possible prerequisite of winning at bingo.
    b) There is a system of desired behaviors that have some vague indirect relationship to salvation.
    c) There is an absolute assertion that any attempt to conflate the behaviors with the bingo / incantation is legalism. (lets call this legalism-1)

    Conversely for Mormons:

    i) There is a notion of being in the process of exaltation based on saying the correct incantation.
    ii) Actual achievement is exaltation is based on eventual perfection with respect to all those behaviors both before and after death.

    The conflation required for legalism simply isn’t possible for Mormons. Mormons are not legalists in the legalism-1 sense, they just wholesale reject the Protestant paradigm on which the definition of legalism-1 is based. I’d argue this paradigm developed into its modern form after Mormonism split with Protestantism. So it makes no more sense to accuse a Mormon of being a legalist than it would to accuse of Muslim of being a legalist. And legalism-1 is generally how Protestants use the term today.

    In the same way I can call another American a “Tea Party nut job” or “Europhile liberal” but if I try and apply those labels outside Americans they don’t work, the context has changed too much.

    ____

    There is a second sense in which legalism is used. The belief that one’s relationship with God is ultimately defined by these behaviors and the purpose of a religion is to assist you in working through God’s desired behaviors (call this legalism-2). Both Islam and Judaism would absolutely fall into legalism-2. Muslims and Jews view divine law as not intrinsically that much different than traffic law, and I think that was your point above. Catholics would fall into legalism-2 though with a much stronger belief in divine mercy. And Mormons would be between Catholics and Muslims, though closer to Catholics. In this sort of a system human law and divine law are closely related… “the law is the first teacher or righteousness”.

    This was often the dominant paradigm for Protestant Christianity until the 19th century, and undermined as Baptist theology gained influence.

    So anyway IMHO I don’t think it is reasonable to call Mormons “legalist” in the modern sense of the term.

  55. You’re the one making the extrordinary claim, Cal. It’s not my job to do a study to prove your claim is wrong. It’s your job to do (or find) a study to prove your claim right. So, you “compare a random sample of the countenances of those in a Christian fellowship to those in a non-Christian one.” Until you are willing to back up your nonsense claim with some kind of evidence, we’re all pretty much free to disregard it entirely.

    Also, compare countenances? That’s hilarious.

  56. Tim —

    Or more accurately:

    Evangelism = an idealogical movement within Christianity that has arisen out of the Great Awakenings.

    Evangelical = A Protestant adhering to Great Awakening philosophies over and above those common in traditional Protestantism.

    Evangelicalism = the religion of evangelicals.

    etc…

    The gospel is not unique to your sect. They all lay claim to it.

  57. Garth

    He wishes they were either hot or cold, but because they are neither He will spew them out of his mouth.

    Just a side note; did you know that Laodecia was on the edge of a desert and was known for it’s cool refreshing springs of water? It was also known for its hot springs and medicinal clinics where salve and white cloths were wrapped around your body. The letter to Laodecia is saying “you’re city is known for all these great things but you’re nothing like it. I wish you were hot (healing) or cold (refreshing) but you’re neither. Because you’re useless I’ll spit you out.”

    Christ told the parable of the father with two sons–the first who agreed to labor in the field but never went, and the second who said he would not labor but repented and labored after all. Christ pointed out that the latter did the will of his father,

    Can you provide a reference?

    If Christ warned so often about false discipleship and fair-weather obedience, I think it means more than rhetoric.

    I don’t disagree at all. What percentage of the 14 Million Mormons do you suppose are temple-worthy?

    How can there not be an unavoidable effect to being taught that “nothing you can do can please God”, and the white throne judgment will not apply to you if you were saved and have eternal security. . . . Add to that the predestination believers. . .

    In my experience those who believe in eternal security and predestination had to be convinced of it. Those are rarely doctrines people latch on to early on in their conversion. They are not something immature, unrepentant Christians naturally conclude or use to justify their immaturity.

    I’m not quite sure who might be teaching “nothing you can do can please God” I think the only place that might be stated is in some hard line fundamentalist church like Westboro Baptist. “You can’t earn or deserve grace” is a far different teaching than “nothing you can do can please God.”

  58. Fair enough CD-host, I wasn’t really trying to define the term in the context of church history though. I was mostly just trying to differentiate evangelist and evangelical.

  59. CD-Host, I suspect your explanation of legalism-1 is a caricature of Evangelical Protestant belief rather than an accurate representation. I would like to see an Evangelical define legalism without reference to people in other religions. As in, what beliefs/actions would make an Evangelical call a fellow Evangelical “legalist.”

  60. @Tim

    evangelist and evangelical.

    OK for that one I’d say evangelist is a positive term for someone who proselytizes for Christianity regardless of sect, while evangelical is sectarian. And evangelist may even be becoming so generic that is isn’t even Christian, i.e. “Apple evangelists” or “Republican evangelists”.

  61. Kullervo —

    CD-Host, I suspect your explanation of legalism-1 is a caricature of Evangelical Protestant belief rather than an accurate representation

    And so will they. Obviously they aren’t going to like seeing their entire doctrine of election reduce to “winning at bingo”. But when all is said and done, the problem they have is there is no difference between bingo and election other than a bunch of hand waving.

    One of things that I think is fantastic about Mormonism (up until the 1980s at least) was a willingness to approach the traditional doctrine of salvation from an outsider’s perspective. See for example the terrific dialogue in the Manti miracle pageant with Mary and Robert Hanshaw. This reductionism is part of the Mormon critique.

    I’m not the one who created a doctrine of election that doesn’t differ meaningfully from winning at bingo. This criticism has been leveled at Calvin for 500 years, and never successfully addressed. I’m willing to say it hasn’t been successfully addressed because it is true.

  62. CD-

    a) There is a system of salvation based on either saying the proper incantation with a possible prerequisite of winning at bingo.
    b) There is a system of desired behaviors that have some vague indirect relationship to salvation.
    c) There is an absolute assertion that any attempt to conflate the behaviors with the bingo / incantation is legalism. (lets call this legalism-1)

    Conversely for Mormons:

    i) There is a notion of being in the process of exaltation based on saying the correct incantation.
    ii) Actual achievement is exaltation is based on eventual perfection with respect to all those behaviors both before and after death.

    To be clear, here is how I am using legalism in the context of the discussion of the “feeling of complete forgiveness.”

    Legalism in the sense I am using makes human relationship with God generally/primarily dictated by laws. i.e. compliance to certain rules, laws, ordinances, contracts. Forgiveness is not to be had for “free” but doled out according to law and contract/covenant. Mormonism, as generally practiced, is very focused on law. Other religions may be more or less legalistic in their practice (certain forms of Judaism may be one extreme, i.e. the modern progeny of the Pharisees), and the feeling of complete freedom from the law may also be hard to find in those, I am not sure.

    Likewise, there are plenty of Evangelicals and Protestants that are legalistic, but their legalism is isolated. There is one law to be obeyed (i.e. the incantation/bingo you mention) and so long as that is obeyed, you are completely free from other law, i.e. unconditionally forgiven. They are highly technical and legalistic about what the proper incantation is, but once you are there, legalism is emphatically de-emphasized. Hence the practice and preaching i have seen is generally about surrendering yourself to the Good, rather than complying with the law. The compliance is a by-product of the surrender/incantation/bingo. People are told to “lay their sins on Jesus” and this process will lift you to goodness rather than, obey the law and reap the benefits of the contract you have with God.

    For Mormons a system of law somewhat similar to secular law is THE mechanism of salvation and exaltation. (D&C 88)

    So. . . Evangelicalism may be legalistic in some conceptual sense, but there is a provision in their legal framework for a way of abandoning the hold the law has on us seems to be what facilitates the “feeling of complete forgiveness” I am talking about. Mormons don’t have this.

    Of course, there are other, less legalistic ways of feeling the “complete forgiveness” I am talking about. One is to reject the entire concept of law and punishment. . . atheists may feel the same sort of feeling as they abandon the notion that they should feel guilty for their sins against heaven.

  63. Also, to be clear, I am not really knocking the Mormon legal framework, in practice it can yield lots of great results that Evangelicalism may not. Also, it could be argued, as Garth does, that it is foolish and dangerous to ever feel completely forgiven until, at long last, the law-keeper is exalted. . . which is down the road for everybody. I think the falling away of the second endowment in Mormonism may also be indicative of the shift toward legalism and away from confidence in salvation.

  64. I said Calvin not Calvinism. As for Evangelicals coming from Calvinism, of course they did. There is no Protestantism that exists today that was not heavily influenced by Calvinism. Evangelicals today mainly branch off the Methodists and the Baptists.

    The issue is not whether or not Evangelicalism has roots in Calvinism or has historically been influenced by Calvin. The issue is whether Evangelicals are Calvinists, and therefore believe in predestination. I’m sure some are and do, but “Evangelical” is not a synonym for “Calvinist.” Evangelicals are not necessarily Calvinists, and do not necessarily believe in predestination, which you seem to insist that they do in yout legalism-1 definition.

  65. Tim said: In my experience those who believe in eternal security and predestination had to be convinced of it. Those are rarely doctrines people latch on to early on in their conversion. They are not something immature, unrepentant Christians naturally conclude or use to justify their immaturity.

    I have to agree. The feeling that you are completely forgiven is not at all intuitive. Guilt and self condemnation and/or the feeling that you cannot escape your sins/faults are far more common.

    The most common and conceptually easier way to justify sin is to simply say “God made us this way” or “I’m only human” rather than, “God allows me to sin because Jesus died for me”.

    Mormons generally have a lot of distrust for this sort of doctrine. I did as a Mormon. Mainly because it is counter-intuitive and is not as straightforward as the more legalistic framework.

    to Garth I would suggest reading the various commentaries to 2 Peter 1:9, which seem to explain this concept of “embracing complete forgiveness = righteousness”. http://bible.cc/2_peter/1-9.htm

  66. CD-host loses a lot of credibility when he insists that all Evangelicals believe in predestination. I don’t think it’s even close to half of Evangelicals who accept Calvinism. Influenced by Calvin, sure; Calvinist, no way.

  67. Tim, the parable reference is Matt 21. And I already agreed that lack-luster disciples are in all religions. My point was not trying to parse out who can lay claim to the least committed members, but only to respond to your rebuttal. I was steering more towards “willful disobedience” to answer your question about defining “self-excusing” saved Christians. Apathetic members was less my concern. I am not saying that Christian theology knowingly urges its adherents to sin, only that the “penalty phase” of the verdict is perhaps too often viewed as going to be just a slap on the wrist for born-againers who believe in eternal security. Mormons may tend to think their life choices will carry more weight when called to account. It is that divergent “wages of sin” dichotomy in our two theologies that may make an evangelical less likely to sweat their behavior since they view the outcome as already fixed. Mormons have the concept of lots of different kingdoms and degrees within those kingdoms. This is why I doubt that you can accurately say Mormon Pharisees are rampant, but double-minded Christians are few. Our theologies might unavoidably swing our pendulum to “obedience” and yours to “laissez-faire.” I can’t cite a study to prove that, but logic seems to support that hypothesis.

    And BTW, if you mean to say that novice Christians may be less likely to know and rely upon “easy-salvation”, do you mean that brochure I picked up in the truck stop diner or left on my windshield that told me if I’d just pray the “sinners prayer”, I would from that very moment forward be forever saved, was somehow wrong? I also talk to pentecostal friends who often state with pride that “13 people accepted Jesus and were saved last Sunday!” (Past tense as the job is apparently done.) The concept of confess Christ and be saved is endemic in evangelical and charismatic theology. You and those on this blog might know better, but frankly, the proclamation of quick and easy, “sound-bite salvation” is far too common to pretend that it’s a rarity. It was the bread and butter of tent revivalism. I know that’s the far end of the born-again spectrum, and what I would call “Immature Christianity”, but it goes to my comment that there may be more sin-excusing, or minimizing Christians than you’d care to acknowledge.

  68. How is that different from saying “13 new members were baptized for the remission of their sins last Saturday in our ward!”

  69. Kullervo said, “You’re the one making the extrordinary claim, Cal. It’s not my job to do a study to prove your claim is wrong. It’s your job to do (or find) a study to prove your claim right. So, YOU “compare a random sample of the countenances of those in a Christian fellowship to those in a non-Christian one.” Until you are willing to back up your nonsense claim with some kind of evidence, we’re all pretty much free to disregard it entirely.

    Since we’re off topic, this is my last comment to you on this.

    I did a random sampling of countenances about 30 years ago and consequently found Jesus. It’s impossible for me to put that evidence on this blog—you know that, silliness. On second thought, you can see Garth’s nice countenance. Tim’s countenance looks cartoonish, so I won’t blame you for not taking his seriously. Here’s mine: :-) Now that oughta convince you (ha, ha, ha).

    Seriously, it’s in your best interest to look for Jesus. If you look for him, you will find him (Matt. 7:7). God’s waiting for YOU to look. In this life, the passive lose.

  70. I’m really not interested in coming down on whether there are more “Mormon Pharisees” than “self-excusing Evangelicals”. I don’t think that would really move any of us forward. But I am interested in this idea that Evangelicals are more prone toward “willful disobedience”.

    I am for sure disheartened by Evangelicals who are more interested in making converts rather than disciples. But I will side with your Pentecostal friends that salvation is a one time event. It’s found not earned so it can properly called a past event. I’d prefer that they find excitement in disciple-making but I think their salvation theology is spot on.

    I don’t know that this is really something Mormons can blamelessly critique Evangelicals on. There seems to be as much emphasis in Mormon missions for number generation as there might be in tent revivals. Stories of baseball/soccer baptisms and Japanese baths are well known. Then there is also the story of the 900,000 disappearing Brazilian Mormons. Boasting a 20% activity rate but still claiming 14 million members doesn’t seem like a great place to condemn Evangelicals from. I don’t think merely submerging someone in water is any more effective for salvation than getting someone to merely recite a prayer. But your church teaches that those 14 million people are saved by the church’s ordinance.

    There is a plank sticking out of your eye on that issue.

  71. Did you do a random sampling? A real random sampling? How did you measure their countenances? How did you track how long their change in countenance lasted?

    If Jesus really does change people in a unique and perceptible way, which is what you are asserting, then yes, you should be able to “put that on a blog.”

    -It’s fine for you to claim that Jesus has redeemed you. I can’t really argue with that. It’s a matter of your faith.
    -It’s fine for you to claim that Jesus has a unique power to save that everyone needs, whether they know it or not. I can argue with that, but it’s a matter of theology so we’d be arguing in the world of ideas.
    -It’s even fine for you to claim that you have seen the power of Jesus change people’s “countenance.” That’s an observable phenomenon, sure, but it’s one or at most a few data points. It’s relevant, but anecdotal. I have no problem accepting the possibility that Christianity does in fact demonstrably change some people’s appearance, demeanor and bearing, and that you have personally witnessed it on one or more occasions. That doesn’t establish a general rule, but it’s something.

    But it’s a totally different thing to claim, as a rule, that Jesus has a unique and observable effect on the appearance, demeanor and bearing of his followers that other religions do not demonstrate. If Jesus, as a rule, causes a change to people that you can see, then it’s something we can measure and compare. By claiming as a rule that Jesus uniquely changes peoples’ appearance, demeanor and bearing, you are making a claim about observable phenomena that can be tested. That takes us out of the world of faith and into the world of science.

  72. I think it might be helpful to think of we Christians as having two accounts with God. The first account records our justification (pardon, forgiveness, acceptance with God). It’s filled immediately and completely upon our repentance to faith in Jesus—a faith that causes us to start following him. That justification account, which is filled by grace, is steadily and dependably full unless we completely turn our backs on Jesus.

    The second account records the good deeds that God’s Spirit inspires us to do after we received the Holy Spirit, which we were able to receive after the first account was filled. This second account is also filled by grace—the Spirit came by grace. On judgment day, the greater our good deeds (works, actions) are, the greater our rewards will be. Those actions done with wrong motives, no matter how good they may look, will be burnt up on judgment day according to 1 Cor. 3:11-15. Do you agree with that, Garth?

    (None of us have the fine lines defined perfectly. Rest easy in your forgiveness, like Jared suggests, but know it’s in your best interest to pursue God’s glory with everything you have in you.)

  73. Garth, I still think your notion of the “‘self-excusing’ saved Christian” and how that Christian feels (or how you assume they should feel) about the wages and seriousness of sin and his obligation to act righteously is based entirely on a vague preconception you have in your mind, not on the actual behavior or beliefs of any significant number of real Christians.

  74. Kullervo: You ask “How is that different from saying “13 new members were baptized for the remission of their sins last Saturday in our ward!”

    Because we view the baptism as the START, not the finish. It is only a gate, not a destination to the LDS.

  75. Because we view the baptism as the START, not the finish. It is only a gate, not a destination to the LDS.Because we view the baptism as the START, not the finish. It is only a gate, not a destination to the LDS.

    You clearly misunderstand Evangelicalism if you think they are any different on this point.

  76. CD-host loses a lot of credibility when he insists that all Evangelicals believe in predestination. I don’t think it’s even close to half of Evangelicals who accept Calvinism. Influenced by Calvin, sure; Calvinist, no way.

    Good thing I never said that.

  77. Jared; you’re talking about what should be the discipleship road AFTER baptism or “being saved”, which should be the same. You are correct. But that’s not the topic in question. The topic in question was the actual singular event of “salvation”. Not, what should our commitment lead us to do in the aftermath of accepting Christ/being baptized. I agree committed LDS or Evangelicals should have roughly the same post-commitment outcome. But I was talking about the actual “saving” event. And, if you missed it, Tim concurred that our views are quite different on this point when he said; “But I will side with your Pentecostal friends that salvation is a one time event. It’s found not earned so it can properly called a past event. I’d prefer that they find excitement in disciple-making but I think their salvation theology is spot on.” I think you’re talking on a different aspect, and my understanding of that “salvatory event” difference is accurate.

  78. The issue is not whether or not Evangelicalism has roots in Calvinism or has historically been influenced by Calvin. The issue is whether Evangelicals are Calvinists, and therefore believe in predestination. I’m sure some are and do, but “Evangelical” is not a synonym for “Calvinist.” Evangelicals are not necessarily Calvinists, and do not necessarily believe in predestination, which you seem to insist that they do in yout legalism-1 definition.

    My definition was pretty clear that it did not mandate predestination:
    here is a system of salvation based on either saying the proper incantation with a possible prerequisite of winning at bingo.

    I’m not sure how “possible” can be mistaken for mandatory.

  79. Tim: Did you really mean? “But your church teaches that those 14 million people are saved by the church’s ordinance (of baptism).” Not true. We don’t even believe that temple ordinances “save” you or punch your ticket for heaven, so baptism certainly can’t do that either. We grant that they are necessary or “saving ordinances”, but that is understood to mean they open potential doors only. They don’t carry you through by virtue of existing in and of themselves.

  80. Cal: You are really defining the two conjoined key principles that I mentioned from I think my very first post in this thread: Justification (Christ’s role of Grace by his atonement) and Sanctification (Man’s role of committed discipleship). So in all that you describe of the two accounts, yes, I do agree. That is a good way to phrase it. Perhaps the only skew of difference, would be that the Sanctification half of the equation is not just to assign rewards, in my opinion. I would view it as more integral to our feeling comfortable in the presence of God. Are we “just men” who Christ then makes perfect? Did we fight the good fight? Run the good race? Endure to the end? that 2nd bar we measure up to of sanctification is not just a benefits package. It is rather have we become his sons and daughters by the cumulative effect of choosing to follow the concept of “what would Jesus do?” Not perfectly certainly, but at least staying on that path that the Lord has defined. Christ’s parables apply here where the servant who had 5 talents and brought back 10, and the servant who had 2 talents and brought back 4 both got exactly the same reward. Only the wicked servant who had 1 and did nothing but return it was condemned. A similar parable is the laborers who worked for different hours with different levels of effort, but yet all got the same pay. I therefore would say that the 2nd account (sanctification) is not a tally list of how many fruits you have “earned”, since we all have varying abilities. Rather, that account is did we try our best? It doesn’t matter how MUCH that effort achieved, since the best to the least will get the same reward (salvation), but only that we did what we could with what we were given.

  81. The topic in question was the actual singular event of “salvation”.

    Garth, I think you should realized that the actual singular event of salvation within Mormonism was indeed a past event. Jesus was “slain from foundation of the world”. Salvation from hell (which is what Evangelicals are talking about), for nearly all of God’s god’s children was complete before time began. Mormons, in principle, should feel far more comfortable in sin than Evangelicals. Choosing a life of sin may be evidence that they were never saved in the first place, i.e. they are bound for eternal and endless hell by rejecting Jesus. Choosing a life of sin for one believing Mormon theology may lead to pain and torment because of the sins but God, in his mercy will not leave any of these sinners in hell. So I don’t think the logic you use applies here.

  82. @Jared —

    Agree with everything you wrote in your response to me except for one point. Other than that, yep I agree. But again I think that’s Mormon culture not Mormon doctrine. And I think the conflation comes in part here:

    Legalism in the sense I am using makes human relationship with God generally/primarily dictated by laws. i.e. compliance to certain rules, laws, ordinances, contracts. Forgiveness is not to be had for “free” but doled out according to law and contract/covenant.

    You are using those two concepts as identical when they aren’t. On\e can have a religion dictated primary by laws and rites and that being the primary or sole means of relationship with God. One can also have a notion that forgiveness requires effort rather than being given for free.

    Examples:
    Forgiveness is free, relationship depends on rites — Voodoo. Gods / spirits in voodoo have little interest in your behavior outside of the rites. Their relationship with you is transactional. (I’m oversimplifying a bit)

    Forgiveness is a work, relationship depends on rites — Judaism.

    Forgiveness is free, relationship depends on desire — Protestant Christianity.

    Forgiveness is a work, relationship depends on desire — Catholicism.

    For Mormonism:
    relationship depends on rites
    forgiveness is supposedly free but in practice a work (sort of between Judaism and Protestants).

    ______

    There are plenty of Protestant churches which are miserable, legalistic and completely unforgiving. There are plenty of Protestant churches which are semi-forgiving, where people who have slips ups are forever in second class status, and everyone spends all there time lying and deceiving the other people in their church about what’s really going on in their life. There are plenty of Protestant churches where the gospel amounts to, “by the virtue of Christ I’m saved from being like those people over there”. And there are Protestant churches where people experience joy in their salvation. But they are more or less unified on the doctrine. It isn’t doctrine that creates the joy.

    And there are religions and sects which have the Mormon attitude towards forgiveness which are joyful.

  83. To Kullervo: Good question about what then for the LDS saves you if it’s not our “ordinances”.

    A calculating Mormon could clean up his act long enough to get baptized, or even for one year, to go to the temple, and then consider himself “done”, since all future temple work is done for the dead, not himself. But that would certainly miss the mark and be ultimately useless, since the ordinance itself is not what saves us. It’s no different than someone who cleans up their life enough to get baptized, and then returns to their former life of sin. It would all be useless, since the ordinance does not save us. Peter said someone once tasting of the heavenly gift, having put his hand to the plow, and then wholly turning away from it, it would be like a dog returning to its vomit or a pig to the mire. Likewise, the entire purpose of living worthy of baptism or the temple is what it “molds” us into over time, not a mere 2 hour ceremony that is done once and finished. Life is not an event, but a journey. Salvation is the crown at the end of the journey.

    Here is the key that those who think they understand Mormonism often miss: Commandments like tithing, word of wisdom, modesty, etc., are NOT what gets you into God’s kingdom. Baptism and endowments and eternal marriage don’t get you into heaven. Thinking there is a checklist of commandments and ordinances is a red herring. If it were truly a checklist, then how could we teach that children who die before 8 are inheritors of the celestial kingdom? They have no baptism. They have no endowment. They have lived no commandments. We don’t baptize or endow for dead children under 8. How then, if they have no ordinances are they saved? They haven’t lived a “check-list” life. The reason is because all these earthly steps are only the vehicle that leads to the destination. They are not the destination themselves. They are sign posts helping us mark that we’re on the road. They are tools that we use as we build our personalities, our character, and our discipleship in Jesus’s pattern. There is no single commandment that lived perfectly “earns” you salvation. There is no aggregate of commandments which “earns” you salvation. All the ordinances in the world are only gates along the path, but they are neither the path nor the destination of where the path leads. God says that at NO time, since the time of Adam has he EVER given to mankind a carnal or physical commandment. (D&C 29:34-35) All commandments are given only for a spiritual purpose. And that purpose is to help us in the sanctification process, which is the cumulative result of ALL those myriad of things that eventually create our character. It is WHAT you have molded yourself into that helps us know Christ so he can say we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited Him in prison. Paul says that when Christ comes we shall know him “for we shall be like him.” Not in our role, but because we have chosen goodness, when the world made it easier to often choose wickedness. We have become “good”, through his grace AND through our own free will. Justification AND Sanctification together.

    Tithing then is not about money, but about self-sacrifice and dedication. Word of wisdom is then not about health, but about avoiding addiction. Callings then are not about administration, but about service. In the sense that willful disobedience can impede us from what we need to become, then of course our righteous choices have an effect because they are tools we should have learned to use along our road to learning sacrifice, obedience, and self-mastery. But frankly, coffee and tobacco, are no more or less important that going to church regularly, reading the scriptures, meaningful prayer, developing our relationship with Christ. It’s all the same. In conclusion, if you’ve ever seen the original movie “The Karate Kid” you may recall that Mr. Miyagi made Daniel repeat menial tasks till he was ready to drop. Remember? Wax on–wax off–right hand–left hand. Hundreds of hours. Daniel saw no purpose and was ready to quit. Then Mr. Miyagi revealed to him, in the most dramatic moment of the film in my opinion, that all of that had been training. He didn’t even know that he’d been “molded” into a fighter. It had become ingrained in the boy. THAT is what tithing, or abstinence, or modesty, or attendance do for us. God justifies us before his father. But we sanctify ourselves by the process of obedience, choice, and godly discipleship. Both are required in biblical teaching. That “marriage” between Christ and us is what brings us to salvation, in my opinion. We can’t save ourselves without Christ’s justification. Christ cannot save us if we don’t humble ourselves and do our part through sanctification.

  84. Thanks for the clarification CD, I agree that the theory behind Mormon forgiveness may diverge from its culture and practice, and I like the way you lay out the way these various religions work.

    Also, to clarify, i am not speaking of joy, happiness, or euphoria generally. Mormons are happy, I experienced tremendous feelings of joy and euphoria as a Mormon. What I am specifically referring to is the feeling that one’s sins are no longer an issue, or cause for concern, at least as far as God is concerned, ever again. I think that feeling is generally absent from Mormonism, even though they are quite happy and joyful. The worship practice of jumping for joy, singing praising and and being euphoric is not necessarily connected to the feeling of forgiveness, but. . . I think it is indicative of the difference. The Mormon reluctance to engage in that sort of praise/demonstration of joy is also indicative of the difference, but its not the difference itself.

  85. To Jared: In an earlier post, I expressed what you’re pointing out, I think: “Christ already fulfilled his part in the tomb. He has bought us with His blood, and now his followers must fulfill ours to obey his commandments as best we can.” I agree that the literal and ultimate act of “salvation” occurred in the past, when Christ atoned for our sins. That’s why we call it an infinite atonement. But I thought we were talking about when a specific mortal human becomes saved. At least that’s what I was talking about. And that salvation moment for that particular human is current and on-going. Hope that clarifies and my logic, frankly, is impeccable. (he said humbly.)

  86. Garth,

    Part of the problem in our communication is that Mormons mean multiple things by the word “salvation” and don’t always recognize that they are using the different meanings interchangeably. This is why I think it would be helpful for Mormons to talk about salvation and exaltation separately.

    Mormons are quasi-universalist, you believe very few people will actually go to hell. Jesus “saves” 99% of the human population from the death that is a consequence of sin. Mormons also believe that the form of baptism that is used to “save” us from Hell is very particular and very specific. So specific and particular that having one’s name removed from Church membership is more important to eventual “salvation” than anything else the average person might do. This baptism is so important that it MUST be preformed on behalf of everyone. Mormon baptism is every bit the same kind of “checked box” that saying a sinner’s prayer might be.

    The second form of “salvation” that Mormons talk about involves striving for celestial glory. What a person might be “saved” from in this sense is unclear. What is clear is that Mormons are taught to perform in order to secure this second form of “salvation” for themselves.

  87. Garth,
    Christ cannot save us if we don’t humble ourselves and do our part through sanctification.

    I think a reasonable Protestant retort to this claim is “Why not?” – the Mormon answer would invariably lead back to D&C section 88 and a discussion of law.

  88. Jared: you are right, as we kinda feel even God has some laws he will not violate. I suppose in the theoretical sense, being omnipotent he “could”, but if doing so destroys his attributes (like doing something evil) then it would be a logical absurdity. My personal opinion is among those rules he can’t (won’t) violate is saving us if we don’t want to be saved. (A willful, purposeful state of defiant rebellion and rejection of his saving grace.) Rather he saves us “from” our sins, predicated on our repentance so his atonement can then apply. He can’t force the atonement upon us if we reject it.

  89. Also, to clarify, i am not speaking of joy, happiness, or euphoria generally. Mormons are happy, I experienced tremendous feelings of joy and euphoria as a Mormon. What I am specifically referring to is the feeling that one’s sins are no longer an issue, or cause for concern, at least as far as God is concerned, ever again. I think that feeling is generally absent from Mormonism, even though they are quite happy and joyful.

    OK in that sense I agree completely. For a Mormon one’s sins that have not been overcome are still an important issue, the sins, not yet being perfects, are what prevents them from becoming fully exalted. That I agree 100% Mormonism can’t have this sort of blanket freedom. The emotional response though to progress can be anything. It could be joy in the progress they’ve made this year as contrasted with last, or despair in how far they have yet to go. There is no reason to join the Mormon doctrines of grace with any sort of negative emotions.

    Conversely for Protestants one’s sins that are not fully overcome end up acting exactly the same way. Because of the doctrine that by God’s grace they can resist temptation failure to resist temptation means they lack God’s grace. The contrapositive is quite often implied.

    Hindus aren’t embarrassed that achieving perfection for them means: study, personal effort, and God’s help that all 3 are required. What Garth is saying as well in this thread though a bit more blunt. I’ve always considered Joseph Smith’s rejection of Luther / Calvin to be one of the strengths of Mormonism. It allows the religion to be consistent with how we perceive human agency.

  90. Tim —

    I agree with you on the problem but I actually think there are 3 uses of salvation:

    1) Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected / immortality.

    2) exaltation (full salvation)

    But also:

    3) Conditional or individual salvation which is grace plus obedience which is to gain eventual entry into the Celestial Kingdom though usually as a ministering servant.

    I agree 100% it makes things difficult to talk about “salvation” with Mormons as a single concept.

  91. Brother Garth, your comment to me and the others are all very good! You’ve really stirred us up here at ldstalk—in a good way. I need the grace of patience as you have it!

    I’m eager to hear your response to the following comment of Tim’s: “Mormons also believe that the form of baptism that is used to “save” us from Hell is very particular and very specific. So specific and particular that having one’s name removed from Church membership is more important to eventual “salvation” than anything else the average person might do.”
    Although I recognize that Joseph was very prophetically gifted, and that the Book of Mormon is as powerful, or nearly so, as the Bible itself, my experience and revelation tells me that Joseph made a unfortunate mistake when he taught that people have to be baptized, as Tim indicated, by Mormon officials. (Obviously, I don’t believe a Restoration was needed—some reform and many great awakenings, yes, but not a Restoration as the LDS espouses.)

    Would you consider asking the Lord specifically about each and every teaching of Joseph’s—whether they are true?

  92. May I ask a question, open to all commentators here, because I genuinely don’t think I understand one aspect in this thread that keeps coming up. I’m not being trite, but I truly am confused by it. And that is, why does there seem to be such an emphasis among evangelicals and some other denominations to have to “know” that they are saved? Now. This day. I’m not talking about the “doctrine” of salvation, as Mormons hold those covenants as an iron-clad guarantee since the Lord cannot lie, and not a jot or a tittle of his words shall not be fulfilled. I take that as an iron-clad guarantee–but I see no biblical doctrine that is audacious enough to tell me I can demand more than that. I accept firmly that God’s promise of my salvation is assured, but I don’t accept that it is less real just because I haven’t seen his face TODAY.

    If life is a test, (as I view it) are we really suppose to have the final grade posted before we finish the test anyway? I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a guaranteed, already paid for, return ticket in their pocket, rather than just the promise of a ticket when we’re ready to board the plane. Or an A+ on the first day of the semester. That would be nice I suppose. But in what other aspect of life do we expect such an iron-clad manifestation of the reward, prior to finishing any task? And I don’t mean why should we not want confidence in the word of the Lord, because that of course is a given. Of course the promise of God is valid and Mormons expect the future reward of salvation/exaltation just as really as any evangelical. But we don’t expect some token, like a medal around our necks till we’ve finished the race. Yet we’re told sometimes that we’re suppose to demand the payment now, or we’re not “free”. That confuses me. I don’t expect or want to be free of my obligations in mid journey! We don’t get a paycheck till we do the work. We don’t get the presidency till after the election. So I’m talking about individual assurance that we are “saved” today–now–and with nothing else ever to be required on our part? (And frankly, evangelicals get no such token other than their collective insistence that it’s true.) If we trust in the Lord to do what he says, why must we claim more than that faithful promise? It almost seems to me like insecurity in God’s word. Or even an entitlement mentality to demand what you’ve not yet fully earned. I don’t get the born-again need for an assurance beyond just trusting in God to work it out when the time comes. But nothing in the scriptures tell me the time is during the mortal probation. In fact, the scriptures say just the opposite, because the nature of mortality is a probationary state. Feeling some euphoric achievement on earth that “I was saved when I walked up in that revival meeting on April 5th 2001″ just seems looking beyond the mark to me, as literally as evangelicals insist on taking this notion. That seems to me to rather defeat the purpose of Gods asking us to grow in our discipleship. Yes we should continue our discipleship after April 5th 2001 from an ethical standpoint, but frankly, from merely a logical standpoint, why bother if I’ve already got the prize? And with eternal security I literally can’t even give it back or throw it away!

    As CD-Host mentions a few entries above; “Mormonism can’t have this sort of blanket freedom.” My quandry is sorta “yeah. what’s your point? Don’t I have Gods promise without needing a blanket too?” Isn’t this why the Lord purposefully won’t tell us the exact date of the 2nd coming? Because he wants us to watch, and always be prepared? Isn’t that the purpose of the parable of the 10 virgins? Isn’t that why Christ said that if the house holder knew the day and hour when the thief would break in, he would be prepared, but since we can’t know when the thief or our “trial” will finish, we must always be alert and prepared? I guess, as a believing Mormon, I’ve just never felt a need to have some placebo assurance, beyond that which comes from simply feeling I’m striving and that gives me the faith and hope that I will return to God. I’ve never expected to have some “blanket assurance”, since if there’s any one lesson in life, it is that life doesn’t work that way. It even seems counter-productive to me to ask for more than the doctrine of faith and enduring to the end. And age 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 is NOT the end. Help me understand the logic of what appears to me an obsession with requiring God to give a guarantee that seems antithetical to how He deals with his children since the book of Genesis to today. Thanks.

  93. Garth,

    I don’t think you will find a “life is a test” paradigm in evangelicalism. Assurance of salvation would be based on the covenant promises and the person and work of Christ. This would be the same for our motivations in sanctification.

  94. But in what other aspect of life do we expect such an iron-clad manifestation of the reward, prior to finishing any task?

    Every single time Mormon missionaries insist that one can have an iron-clad manifestation of the truthfulness of the LDS church prior to learning practically anything about it (i.e. having some spiritual manifestation while knowing nothing about the LDS church).

    If life is a test, (as I view it) are we really suppose to have the final grade posted before we finish the test anyway?

    You do realize that the Mormon version of this is knowing that you have all the important answers before you do anything?

    But we don’t expect some token, like a medal around our necks till we’ve finished the race.

    B.S. Mormons expect absolute knowledge of the truth prior to knowing anything about it. Otherwise why be so impressed by converts who can profess to know the truthfulness of the LDS church when they know almost nothing about it?

    I’ve never expected to have some “blanket assurance”

    B.S. You expect your blanket assurance via a testimony to override any knowledge of polyandry, marriage to teenage girls, post-manifesto polygamy escapades, the entire litany of issues surrounding the Book of Abraham.

    Help me understand the logic of what appears to me an obsession with requiring God to give a guarantee that seems antithetical to how He deals with his children since the book of Genesis to today.

    You already experience it so many fundamental ways in Mormonism that you only avoid realizing it because it’s so second nature to you. It just as if a fish exclaimed that water doesn’t exist because he had never experienced it.

  95. @ Cal: I admit I was trying to follow Tim’s point and found it a bit confusing, which is why I didn’t respond to it yet. He also opined earlier that: “But your church teaches that those 14 million people (current Mormons) are saved by the church’s ordinance (of baptism)”. As you may have seen, I disagreed and think Tim misstates that concept, as we actually have no such teaching. Baptism is a gate only, not a guarantee or destination. Ordinances are only outward symbols of inner commitments. It’s the commitment that counts, so baptism’s performance is not the critical element of the covenant, as Tim seems to believe. Joseph Smith once said “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499) That emphasis on the spirit of God as the prime goal is not very different from evangelical theology. So, I personally view baptism as only the formal commitment-act of a christian disciple. It is a voluntary dedication, and as such the first ordinance of the church.

    So if Tim’s a little off base (my opinion, though he’s got great overall depth on Mormonism) in his view of the salvational aspect of baptism for the LDS in general, I suspect he may be carrying that same misunderstanding into his comment you asked me about when he wrote; “having one’s name removed from Church membership is more important to eventual “salvation” than anything else the average person might do.” I disagree in the sense that it’s not having your name removed alone, since people are free to change their minds or be honestly persuaded against a former decision. I think God is far more understanding of our earthly choices, than we give Him credit for. A good person, in my view, is still a good person, even if they reject what I believe was a wonderful gift they were offered. Perhaps, only if they knowingly rebel against God would Tim’s dire warning apply in LDS theology, and most folks who leave the church don’t do it out of malice or Korihor’s attempt to fight against God. They’re simply underimpressed, or overwhelmed and make their decision without evil or rebellion in their hearts. As a believing Mormon I’m sad when that happens, but that hardly makes them a demonic damned soul. I have a very dear daughter who has left the church after embracing atheism and is quite anti-religion of all stripes. She lists her religion as “feminism.” It is a tragedy to me personally, yet I know she is a good person and God loves her. I trust He will consider the earthly influence that led her down a path I personally do not feel will be to her betterment. But she’s certainly not a lost soul or a damned soul in my theology. God is gracious and I trust He loves her even more than I do, and will reach out to her with compassion and understanding. I turn it over to Him.

    You might ask why baptism, as opposed to spinning around 3 times and barking like a dog? I know you know the symbolism of the immersion, the white clothing, the cleansing effect of water, etc. But the deeper question of “why” require any symbol at all, verses just an inner and unexpressed choice, I can’t fully answer. God seems to like covenants. He seems to like symbolism. It means something to Him, I presume, since building altars, offering blood sacrifices with amazing minute requirements, all just seems to be part of the program. I can of course see many reasons why these things help us focus ourselves, but is it really the minutia that God is looking for? I think the minutia is just to focus us on the deeper meaning and inner commitment. I don’t think I can get inside God’s head, so I kinda just take it for truth on faith. In the sense that any good Christian of any denomination, who makes that commitment of discipleship, and spends their life in Christ-like effort, I submit they indeed have all they need for salvation and exaltation. So in that sense, the play Les Miserables shows how Jean Valjean was molded into a Christ-like figure by his repentance and choices. Though fictional, any person who achieves that type of real character will have God’s love and approval. If he wants us to perform baptisms, which then give the official gate substance on earth or in the after-life, I take that by faith as well. Who knows, it may be more a way to teach us mortals devotion and obedience, than needing a Jean Valjean to officially accept the ordinance since he’s already achieved the purpose of the baptism long before the ordinance was officially performed. I accept that a restoration of priesthood authority is a part of God’s plan. But, whether it was a “mistake”, or part of how God works, is not an issue that one can prove either way.

  96. May I ask a question, open to all commentators here, because I genuinely don’t think I understand one aspect in this thread that keeps coming up. I’m not being trite, but I truly am confused by it. And that is, why does there seem to be such an emphasis among evangelicals and some other denominations to have to “know” that they are saved?

    You have a good point, the focus is mainly a historical artifact and perhaps it would be good for Protestants to revisit this. The idea is that Hope (Catholic) vs. Assurance (Protestant) of Salvation was one of the main doctrines which drove the reformation. Fear of damnation both for yourself and your loved ones was an important component in the marketing for the sales of indulgences which was how the church was raising extra money. Theologically its unclear there was ever much real disagreement rather this was a minor difference being blown way out of proportion at the time:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/04/persevering-most-assuredly-one-reason-to-prefer-luther-over-calvin/

  97. Thank you Gundek. That is a very valid point and one I likely make a flawed presumption as the “school” and “probationary state” are definitely part of my LDS core, not necessarily shared by other denominations.

    Wow @ David Clark, I don’t think I could disagree with you more. Were you offended by some Mormon missionary somewhere in your life or what? First of all, asking an investigator to be prayerful and open to inspiration to confirm the truthfulness of what they’re hearing, is quite biblical and hardly a “Mormon” concept. Nor is it equivalent to expecting salvation as a tangible achievement on a certain date in time.

    You’re impugning a basic biblical principle just because you apparently don’t like the Mormons daring to use it without your permission. “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and…etc.” The new testament is replete with invitations to seek God’s will and inspiration. You’re being a bit snarky to claim that Mormon’s aren’t allowed to invite people to do what the Bible tells them to do, just because you apparently feel angry about Mormon beliefs. Asking for inspiration is not even on the same page with my question about expecting salvation in an instant. Perhaps you should re-read the question with a gentler perspective. By the way, I don’t know what B.S. means, having only lived among gentle Mormon folk all my life. Could you clarify please?

  98. Garth,

    You keep using the word salvation as if it were a once and over event. Despite differences in
    theologies in the Protestant world “saved” is typically used as shorthand for either regeneration, coming to faith/repentance or justification. After “saved” there are other promises; adoption, sanctification, and the over arching union with Christ culminating in glorification that makes up salvation.

  99. Garth,

    Just a little FYI, I was a Mormon missionary. And congratulations on going straight to asking if I was offended, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect response.

    And B.S. on not knowing what B.S. means. And if you really are that ignorant, ask Kullervo, he’ll let you know.

  100. DC, Back off, I know why you’re perturbed but it’s not going to be won here.

    Garth, from an Evangelical perspective; if life is a test, we all fail. Only Jesus can pass the test. So we like assurance not because of what it says about us but rather because what it says about Jesus. That he defeated death and sin and he offers grace (something free) simply because he loves us in full knowledge of how we fail.

    So we insist on assurance because the Bible most definitely declares that Jesus has power over death. The test is over.

    I no longer attend school but I continue to learn. In fact my best learning has come after my graduations. I learn well because I love to learn. I don’t need tests to motivate me.

    In the same way, I serve God because I’m free to serve him because I love him. My best service has come after I stopped trying to prove myself to God. The freedom from performance has made me passionate for service rather than obligated.

    Would you rather have an employee who does the work because she loves it, or one who does it because she wants the paycheck?

    See the link I provided above for more.

  101. I’m also curious why Mormons have this doctrine of personal revelation? It seems that it obviously opens the door for individuals to decide the rules don’t apply to them.

    Hopefully the analogy is obvious.

  102. Thanks Tim. Agree with all your points, which is the same reliance on salvation I would share with your expressions. I agree that motivation out of obligation or fear alone misses the mark. I feel the same way and don’t think anything I have expressed would lead to presuming I, or hopefully most Mormons are less motivated by love of Christ than you or other Christians. That would be a flawed presumption. Discipleship is best when motivated by love. I did appreciate your smoothie allegory. Of course, no analogy is perfect because in a loving, covenant relationship, it shouldn’t be just about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. All we can do for Christ is follow his example as best we can, obey Him, not because we’re trying to “prove” ourselves, but because we owe Him everything.

  103. “Because we owe him everything” is a much better way of expressing it than “to prove I deserve it.”

  104. And B.S. on not knowing what B.S. means. And if you really are that ignorant, ask Kullervo, he’ll let you know.

    Unlike CD-Host, I am not allowed to say those kinds of words here anymore.

  105. I really appreciate all of the comments. What prompted me to post this was the realization that Mormons would really benefit from feeling the sort of forgiveness that Evangelicals feel. This is not because joy is not available to Mormons, but because there is a lot of benefit and peace that comes from realizing the mercy God, as they define him, is undoubtedly greater than what they allow for. Mormon theology has slowly stripped away assurance in Mercy for fear that it will not lead to self-improvement or sap the work ethic of the disciple. The one glaring example of this is the all-but-disappearance of the second endowment in Mormon practice.

    When I was a boy I was taught that members of the church, later in life, would have the opportunity to have their “calling and election made sure” and receive a second endowment, where all of the blessings of the first endowment are irrevocably confirmed. This entire concept has been all but purged from church doctrine. Most Mormons don’t know anything about it. I have heard that the second endowment is actually still practiced, but it is ultra-secret and ultra-selective. But these may just be rumors. The second endowment may have been the last trace of the feeling of assured forgiveness.

    By de-emphasizing assurance and mercy Mormons do indeed rely on themselves more than needed, even by their own theology. God is available to change us, and give us the answers to the “test” of life, and the best part is that these answers come with absolution of all of our wrong answers. Although I don’t have a theology that justifies and explains why I believe this (I am no longer a Mormon), I believe that it is a reality available to both Mormons and Evangelicals through their own theology and doctrine. Mormons just don’t take advantage.

    Garth, I couldn’t have selected a more paradigmatic representative of mainstream believing Mormonism. You lay out the defense against the dangers of “cheap” salvation exactly like I would expected most of the articulate leaders of the church to do. However, I would suggest that your defense against evangelical theology shuts down a stream of spiritual power that God is ready and willing to give to Mormons.

    I think one side effect of the failure to recognize/accept/believe in this sort of mercy/forgiveness is the unrealistic view Mormons have of their leadership. Prophets, apostles, mission presidents, etc. are considered holier and more “righteous” than they ever could be. The man Joseph Smith is replaced by an iconic caricature of a holy hero rather than a redeemed failure. Mormons don’t have a good way of explaining how he could be a base sinner AND a prophet.

  106. What prompted me to post this was the realization that Mormons would really benefit from feeling the sort of forgiveness that Evangelicals feel. This is not because joy is not available to Mormons, but because there is a lot of benefit and peace that comes from realizing the mercy God, as they define him, is undoubtedly greater than what they allow for. Mormon theology has slowly stripped away assurance in Mercy for fear that it will not lead to self-improvement or sap the work ethic of the disciple.

    Amen. Even though there is no real evidence that this actually happens, despite the straw-man “‘self-excusing’ saved Christians” that Garth (and others like him, i.e., most faithful, believing Mormons) insist will result from a present assurance of salvation.

    This is, by the way, very similar to Mormon ideas about paid, professional clergy, or the ability to choose the congregation where you worship instead of being required to go to the one you are zoned for.

  107. Jared, I will take that as a compliment. For all the advantages that you might see for evangelical-based salvation, it still carries just as many disadvantages, in my opinion. If Mormons have to live with a “debtor-mediator” paradigm with its potential risk of legalism, Evangelicals in my opinion have to live with an “entitlement” paradigm with its potential risk of lazy or minimal discipleship. But the one thing that really surprises me in your last comment was that you somehow go from alleging Mormons are too tough on themselves and see themselves as never good enough, to alleging we see our leaders as demi-gods, elevating them far above their fallible station. Hmmmm… not sure how to reconcile that, though I suspect you’re simply confusing our respect for the “office” with our revering of the man “in-the-office.” I will grant the qualification for the actual quorum of the 12 and prophets, past and present, as–though still quite human and fallible, we do believe that IN THEIR CALLING CONTEXT, they have a mantle to lead the church through Godly inspiration. I will bet you a dollar that the original Saints felt the same way about their 12 apostles too, so I’m not apologizing for it. In fact if evangelicals don’t feel similar feelings for Paul, then something is amiss with their testimony. We see our leaders as mere mortals, fallible, sinners, weak, but carrying an endorsement when they function in their given authority. Guilty, and might I add that IF you accepted the church narrative as true and valid, you would be force of logic have to come to the same conclusion. Since you don’t believe the background, how can you believe the foreground? We accept different equations so of course our math will come out differently.

    And Kullervo, I’m not sure I grasp the parallel motive you seem to see for your statement below, unless you’re just trying to say that emphasizing discipleship means we structure our wards to ask our members to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Is that what you meant when you said; “This is, by the way, very similar to Mormon ideas about paid, professional clergy, or the ability to choose the congregation where you worship instead of being reuired to go to the one you are zoned for.” I actually admire that aspect of church governance because 1. We don’t find a need for a paid, professional clergy. 2. Members grow more when serving than being served 3. Units get stronger when people are asked to grow where they’re planted. Is that what you meant? And if so, are you seeing that as a good thing, or a bad thing. I couldn’t tell. Just curious.

  108. Mormons don’t have a good way of explaining how he could be a base sinner AND a prophet.

    Ever read Bushman? The Bible is also a good resource on deeply flawed servants of God. Mormons have it – but most don’t want to employ it and some don’t even think its necessary.

  109. Jared, I will admit that your post in general makes me defensive – because my most powerful past experiences with the grace, mercy and forgiveness through Jesus happened in a Mormon context. The steps look different, but believe me when I say I felt it complete. I didn’t raise my hands in praise, but I did weep on more than one occasion – especially while taking the bread and water. I think the difference for me was my focus on the standard works of the Church (and my own interpretation of them) – which paint for me a clear picture of God’s endless mercy.

    SO – with that caveat I will also say that I agree that the leaders of the Church seem to be afraid of a narrative of compete grace and are teaching people away from it – and that its a big problem.

  110. Ever read Bushman? The Bible is also a good resource on deeply flawed servants of God. Mormons have it – but most don’t want to employ it and some don’t even think its necessary.

    Bushman’s work is the first effort to give an accurate history of Joseph Smith that has had any sanction by church leadership. And he does not squarely address the issue in his published works.

  111. And Kullervo, I’m not sure I grasp the parallel motive you seem to see for your statement below, unless you’re just trying to say that emphasizing discipleship means we structure our wards to ask our members to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Is that what you meant when you said; “This is, by the way, very similar to Mormon ideas about paid, professional clergy, or the ability to choose the congregation where you worship instead of being reuired to go to the one you are zoned for.” I actually admire that aspect of church governance because 1. We don’t find a need for a paid, professional clergy. 2. Members grow more when serving than being served 3. Units get stronger when people are asked to grow where they’re planted. Is that what you meant? And if so, are you seeing that as a good thing, or a bad thing. I couldn’t tell. Just curious.

    Garth, I will give you a hint: in my comment, the antecedent of “this” was the immediately preceding paragraph. What do you think I meant?

  112. Garth Said:
    We see our leaders as mere mortals, fallible, sinners, weak, but carrying an endorsement when they function in their given authority.

    I never said that Mormons view their leaders as anything but human, and imperfect however they do generally see them as “worthy” of the blessings of the Celestial Kingdom. As such they are the model of behavior for the Saints for how to achieve Celestial Glory. If they aren’t, who is?

  113. Gundek said, “I don’t think you will find a ‘life is a test’ paradigm in evangelicalism.”

    My God! I think when people are in the midst of an argument, they sometimes misrepresent themselves. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Evangelicals believe life is a test.

    Then Tim said, “I’m also curious why Mormons have this doctrine of personal revelation? It seems that it obviously opens the door for individuals to decide the rules don’t apply to them.”

    Oh, my God double! If you don’t have personal revelation, you’re not a Christian. Second Corinthians 3:15-16 says, “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their [the Israelites'] hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

    Garth, I didn’t want you to think evangelicalism was so off the mark. No wonder you want to stay in the Mormon Church!

  114. Cal if I was convinced you had an understanding of what Mormons meant by “life is a test” and “personal revelation” I might feel the sting of your “gotcha”.

  115. I’m not trying to “get you,” Tim.
    Okay, straighten me out. When I think of Mormon “personal revelation,” I think of asking the Father if the Book of Mormon, etc., is true, and also the revelation that prophets get for the LDS. Were you thinking of something else?

    Your idea of what Mormons mean by “life is a test,” may be different than mine because you think they’re trying to earn their salvation without any help from the Holy Spirit. I don’t think that.

    ———-
    Christian J said, “I didn’t raise my hands in praise, but I did weep on more than one occasion.”

    That brings up a good point. I have noticed during Mormon testimony times that tears are a common manifestation of the Spirit. Tears are no less of a legitimate manifestation of the Spirit than any other kind of manifestation of the Spirit.

  116. Kullervo, that’s good advice for both Mormons and Evangelicals. But, I wouldn’t presume to know how God communicates to his children individually and across time and place. Also, in my experience with various religious traditions, strong emotions are the result of a powerful feeling of revelation from God – not the revelation itself.

  117. But, I wouldn’t presume to know how God communicates to his children individually and across time and place.

    Mormons and Evangelicals presume to know this to the extent that they believe that certain people can write scripture and others can’t.

  118. Here’s the problem with the “life is a test” approach as it relates to the true discipleship you seem to advocate for, Garth.

    True discipleship is grounded in love. When life is a test, obedience rises from a fear of failing. But love and fear are antithetical. You are no better off spiritually when you obey out of fear than when you disobey out of weakness or will — and, in fact, you might be worse off. For while the disobedient often see that what they’re doing is wrong, the fearfully obedient genuinely believe that they are on the right path, when, in fact, they are far from it.

    The joy of grace, that moment of “knowing” that you are forgiven, is the only thing that makes true discipleship possible. It is what opens the heart to the radical love that Christ offers so that it can be extended to the rest of the world. It is what empowers us to create the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

    When we’re looking over our shoulders “waiting” for some future redemptive day, we reject divine love in the here and now. We miss the opportunity to build Zion.

    Redemption is present tense. Forgiveness is eternal. God is much, much better than a strict schoolmarm.

  119. I’ll add: even a “desire to pass” or a “desire to excel” is an inferior motivation for discipleship. These sorts of desires come from deeply-embedded beliefs that we are not enough as we are. “I want to get there so that I’ll be okay” is the thought process behind a life of striving. The implication is that I’m not okay now. This, too, is fear.

    C.S. Lewis said, “So much of what we call love is really the craving to be loved.” This is what is behind a life of “testing” — yearning for the validation of the passing grade, the gold star. But love does not require things to be other than they are. I am loved as I am. I am whole as I am. It is only from this place of wholeness that I can do real good in the world, good that is invested in goodness for its own sake, as opposed to works of righteousness, what Paul called “filthy rags,” probably because of the impure motivation to have them validate my existence or help me feel like I belong.

    It makes a mockery of God. I already belong. That’s the point.

  120. Thanks Katie. You always bring a sweetness and kindness into all you add. And I agree with you about love being the best motivator for true discipleship. I’ve said that too. Don’t you think though that life IS a school, full of tests? For everyone. Some with illness, or poverty, or physical impairment, or personal tragedy. Yet not everyone (in fact, likely no one) parses out how they will deal with whatever trial they’re facing based on a “love” or an “obedience” criteria before they act. They simply look at trial X, and deal with it with either courage, endurance, patience, frustration, or whatever their inner character provides. Do you think Mormons wold be an exception to that rule? So, when I as a Mormon say “the purpose of life is a school”–(which was actually my original comment)–it really isn’t saying that “oh–I as a Mormon must face every test in life applying my fear of failing, or measuring up to commandment “X””. Of course not. Nor does a “saved” evangelical face every test by saying “la la,–Christ saved me so I must face every test in life with love and freedom from consequences.” Nah. So, if you mean when you say that in LDS theology; “When life is a test, obedience rises from a fear of failing.”, I honestly think that’s not true in the context you’re implying, or at least is a gross over simplification.

    How about this model: When I went to college to get my degree I was motivated by a “goal”. My goal was to accomplish the mission and task I had accepted and committed to. If I feared failing some particular test, it was only because it would impede by goal. Isn’t that a normal motivation? So if I love God, my “goal” is to do what I believe God would like me to do–like be a good father, serve in a calling, love my wife, honor my priesthood–do you really think I do it out of “fear”? I doubt you honestly believe that. That would be an uncharitable characterization of our response to Christ’s admonition of “if you love me keep my commandments.” Don’t your actions show love? I honestly think those who portray Mormons as living under some umbrella of “fear” and manic “legalism to obey”, don’t know what they’re talking about. Do they know any Mormons? Several in this thread have commented about joy Mormons have in life. Their bon vivance. Quick to laugh, and play, and yet, after all that, out come the analysts couch to dissect what these poor Mormons REALLY feel. Poppycock. Sure there are a few Mormon Pharisees. But that is NOT the motivation for LDS theology. “Man is that he might have joy.” We have a divine Father of our spirits. God purpose is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” How can one say Mormons have these fundamental driving core euphoric beliefs, and then in the next breath assert that they’re motivated by menial fear and trepidation.

    Of course every normal human wants to succeed. We’re goal oriented. If you want to insist on finding a difference between a Mormon and an Evangelicals motivation for life, I don’t think it lies in Mormons being motivated by “fear”, and evangelicals being motivated by “love.” Not the Mormons I know. Unless you’re talking about teenagers motivated by fear to have to go to early morning seminary or their parents won’t let them go to the movie with their friends.

  121. There is a huge difference between these claims:

    (1) Life can be thought of as a school full of tests where we learn from our successes and falures and through which we are able to constantly improve ourselves.

    (2) The purpose of life is for us to be tested, to learn from our successes and falures and to constantly improve ourselves.

  122. Garth, thank you for your kind words and response.

    Don’t you think though that life IS a school, full of tests? For everyone. Some with illness, or poverty, or physical impairment, or personal tragedy. Yet not everyone (in fact, likely no one) parses out how they will deal with whatever trial they’re facing based on a “love” or an “obedience” criteria before they act.

    I believe that life is a journey of individual and corporate transformation toward godliness. I don’t find the “test” analogy, with its implications of reward and approval (or lack thereof), particularly useful in this context. I believe that adversity is an important part of life and provides fuel for transformation that we either utilize or don’t. If we choose not to take the transformative lessons from our hardships I do not believe we’ve “failed,” though we may not experience God and others as deeply or intimately as we could, which is something to lament. I believe God will keep pursuing us.

    I don’t know that the second part of your statement is true. I do believe there are people who confront trials with a very conscious and deliberate criterion of love in mind. In fact, I try to do this to the very best of my ability by asking myself as often as I can in the middle of difficulty, “What is the most loving way to respond right now?” I try to make that question the basis of my entire life.

    Goal-setting, self-improvement, these are all fine and good, as long as we acknowledge that our worth is not contingent upon them. We are precious because we are God’s children, and nothing we do or don’t do can change that. In the journey toward godliness, it’s not the doing that matters but the being. Doing that is at odds with being is deceptive and soul-destroying. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He spoke of the dangers of cleansing the outer cup while neglecting the inward vessel.

    That would be an uncharitable characterization of our response to Christ’s admonition of “if you love me keep my commandments.” … I honestly think those who portray Mormons as living under some umbrella of “fear” and manic “legalism to obey”, don’t know what they’re talking about. Do they know any Mormons?

    Garth, I don’t believe it’s uncharitable of me to acknowledge the truth that most people act from fear. It’s simply what is. I act from fear all the time. In fact, if there’s one thing I’m intimately acquainted with, it’s acting from fear. I am the very fearful, manic, Pharisaical Mormon I’ve been talking about. It’s not a condemnation.

    “Man is that he might have joy.” We have a divine Father of our spirits. God purpose is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” How can one say Mormons have these fundamental driving core euphoric beliefs, and then in the next breath assert that they’re motivated by menial fear and trepidation.

    I agree that there is a soaring theology of grace and love and divine potential in Mormonism. It’s why I am a Mormon. These teachings are some of the most satisfying and inspiring I’ve ever encountered.

    So how can I say that Mormons have these fundamental driving core euphoric beliefs, and then in the next breath assert that they’re motivated by menial fear and trepidation?

    Simple. I experience that reality every day. May God continue to root the fearful instincts out of my heart, and out of the collective heart of our people.

  123. There is a huge difference between these claims:

    (1) Life can be thought of as a school full of tests where we learn from our successes and falures and through which we are able to constantly improve ourselves.

    (2) The purpose of life is for us to be tested, to learn from our successes and falures and to constantly improve ourselves.

    Yup.

  124. We’re sympatico Katie! I agree with every word you said. As one of my favorite lds authors, Stephen Robinson says, (paraphrasing) “I ask my students to raise their hands if they hope God is fair with them on judgement day and many raise their hands. if you want God to be fair on judgement day, you’re a fool. You should hope instead He’s merciful!” We definitely will not get far, even the best of us, if it weren’t for justice AND mercy.

    ____________________
    @ Kullervo; Can’t I believe both simultaneously? I would just stick the word “AND” between your two statements.

  125. Cal,

    I generally expect you to reflexively disagree with everything I write, so don’t worry about being harsh.

    There is no doubt that the trails of life test faith as the first chapter of James points out. The question would be, are these tests part of our life for the purpose of achieving a grade or meeting a goal? Or are these trials a part of life, a means for us to exercise our faith, growing in the grace that the Lord shows us? Stated another way, do we have something to prove to God in these tests or is God proving something to us? I believe that a solid case can be made for the latter.

    Katie, since we so regularly agree, I want to say I appreciate your comments.

  126. @ Kullervo; Can’t I believe both simultaneously? I would just stick the word “AND” between your two statements.

    If option number two is correct, then option number one must also be correct. The reverse is not true, however. That’s my point. The claim that “life can be thought of in school/test terms” is a fairly modest claim. All it says is, “one way to look at life is as if life is a test.” That’s merely drawing an analogy.

    The claim that “the purpose of life is to test us” is a massively bigger claim. Of course if you think the purpose of life is to be tested, then it follows that life can be thought of as a test. If life is a test, then life can be thought of as a test. That’s pretty much tautologically true.

    My point is, you’re throwing around awfully big claims when you insist on what the purpose of life is. Life can be like a test in many ways without life literally being an actual test. So it’s not a big claim to say that life is like a test. But to claim that life is literally a test that God is making us take is a strong and specific claim. I realize that it is a claim that it well-supported by Mormon teaching, but you can’t waive it around to people who reject Mormon teaching as if it’s somehow self-evident. The fact that life can be viewed as kind of like a test does not get anywhere near establishing that life is literally a test administered to us by God.

  127. We’re sympatico Katie! I agree with every word you said.

    Even where she says she emphatically disagrees with the things you said before?

  128. We definitely will not get far, even the best of us, if it weren’t for justice AND mercy.

    Hmmm. I’m not sure I said anything at all about justice and mercy, but if that’s how you understood it, I’m cool. :)

  129. Kullervo; Thanks for the distinction, though I think you’re working too hard. LIfe is a school and I don’t care if it’s “like” a school or it “is” a school. What are you, a lawyer? (That’s a joke.) And no, Katie didn’t say anything disagreeing nor contrary as I see it. She explained her earlier comments to clarify within the same scope I’m talking about too.

    Example: Katie clarified; “I do believe there are people who confront trials with a very conscious and deliberate criterion of love in mind.” Totally agree. I never meant otherwise. People have personalities and certainly can choose to act with love. My comment was that ones personality and character reflect how you deal with trials, not some formula you read off a cue card. Mormons therefore don’t pull out a slide rule to calculate their next move in context with scriptural exegesis. That was my point and Katies I perceive.

    Katie said; “Goal-setting, self-improvement, these are all fine and good, as long as we acknowledge that our worth is not contingent upon them.” Totally agree. I never said otherwise. The cumulative effect of our choices form our character, which is indisputable, but our “worth” is eternal and divine.

    Katie said; “…most people act from fear.” Totally agree, in the context she’s using. Not presumably from “fear” of God giving them leprosy, or striking them down with a lightning bolt, but I believe she meant more from fear of failure, rejection, embarrassment, etc., as she put it in the context of how she’s often affected likewise. Human nature. Likewise, overcoming our human frailties–such as fear as a motivator–is right on-line with my point.

    If I misspeak for Katie she can correct me. But I agree as I understood her.

  130. LIfe is a school and I don’t care if it’s “like” a school or it “is” a school.

    No s**t. That’s because you think life is literally a school. That was my point.

  131. Kullervo, I’m not sure it’s profitable or necessary to take your issue about why I’m not allowed to agree with Katie further, but I have read her comments multiple times and still don’t see what statements of mine she “explicitly refutes.” Maybe she’s just so nice and diplomatic it went over my head. But, since we’re talking about MY ability to agree with her comments, AS I UNDERSTOOD THEM, I doubt that you can define how my mind understood her comments. She’s a big girl. If I should “un”-agree with her, or offended her by thinking we are pretty close in the main gist, let her correct me. You didn’t provide a single example, so I’m not sure what more I can add to satisfy your point. This feels like you’re beating a dead horse to me.

  132. :)

    The test/school paradigm is the main place I can think of where my perspective seems to be different from where you’re coming from, Garth. Because of that, I think the implications of what I’ve said play out a little differently. For example, the justice v. mercy thing you mentioned. Because I don’t believe life is a test with a pass/fail grade at the end, I tend not to think about “getting justice” or “getting mercy” at some future judgment day. More, I think about how well I embody justice and mercy so that my unity with God and the redeemed can become more and more complete, STARTING NOW.

    But I realize how difficult it is to talk in concrete terms about transcendent principles, so I don’t mind that you internalized my comments within your own worldview. :)

  133. Thanks Katie. Let’s put this to bed for Kullervo’s sake. I was not specifically using the Robinson reference @ justice and mercy to summarize your comments, but rather because I was trying to point out that I certainly agree that we don’t “merit” salvation based on our actions (justice) as if that supplants grace and mercy. We require grace more than justice was my point. Tests of life, though important in moulding our character, tend to address the justice side of life, not the mercy side of grace. So obviously your points about “life is a journey of individual and corporate transformation toward godliness” was EXACTLY what I’d been saying all along. I somewhat presumed that you had perhaps followed other things I’d said earlier in this very long thread. (As if you have no life.) In prior comments I’d hoped I’d expressed my view that our salvation with God is not based on how we pass/fail specific tests or commandments of life as if it’s a checklist or some quantitative, but rather do we allow those life tests to build our discipleship IN Christ. I have been arguing this whole time that God cares what we become in the aggregate, not the minutia of “check-list” commandments. I used the example earlier of Jean Valjean from Les Miserables, and Christ’s parables of good people earning salvation regardless of their “productivity.” So in my mind, your comments jive with what I’ve been saying. Of course salvation starts now. I’d spent several commentaries discussing how the promises of God are assured for our salvation NOW, even if we don’t actually see his face till later. Okay? Are we good? You’re great, BTW.

  134. Hi Gundek,

    You said, “I generally expect you to reflexively disagree with everything I write, so don’t worry about being harsh.”

    Thanks. I’m sorry I come across disagreeably. I am working on that. . . . I have a chance to show progress right now actually because I understand your following statement, and I agree with your implication—believe it or not! Here’s the statement:

    “do we have something to prove to God in these tests or is God proving something to us?”

    We can’t prove anything to God because he already knows everything about us and everything we’re going to do. We also can’t amount to a hill of beans without him. But God does prove his faithfulness to us through every trial. I think that’s what you’re saying.
    Good job, my friend.

  135. Jared, I want to say that I realize now that I misunderstood the title of your post. I don’t think you were saying Mormons aren’t forgiven, you were just saying Mormons in general don’t seem to be as excited about having their sins forgiven as evangelicals are.

    Could it be that sin is not as horrible to them as it is to us? That’s purely a question, not a suggestion.

  136. Could it be that sin is not as horrible to them as it is to us? That’s purely a question, not a suggestion.

    Garth seems to be saying the exact opposite: that only Mormons take sin as seriously as they should.

  137. Cal, I disagree LDS are “less” excited about having their sins forgiven. By the token of “excited” are you saying then that Westboro Baptists are heading the list? Or Pentecostals? This kinda goes back to the false brass-ring of “euphoria” as the ultimate approved mode of worship that started this thread. Frankly, if one measures devotion by man hours spent in service to their God, i.e. sacrifice to practice what you preach, would Mormons lead the pack per capita–missions, callings, temple work, welfare farms, lay leadership, etc.? Isn’t devotion and action a better measure of love than any other indicator? Nor did I say that ONLY Mormons take sin as seriously as they should. I said there is an inherent consequence–even if unintended–to preaching instant salvation with nothing required to add to the prize of being “saved” immediately. At least to some immature Christians who stop at that point thinking they’re “done”. I said for THOSE immature christians, who may view even great sins with only vague uneasiness since it doesn’t affect their salvation, that THEY may take sin less seriously. I think that’s called deductive reasoning. Ironically, some folks here have no problem accepting that the unintended consequence of Mormon “debtor-mediator” theology leads to a risk of “legalism”. Yet, they can’t bring themselves to admit the flip side of that same coin. Asking for intellectual honesty that both our doctrines have unavoidable effects should not require obfuscation. Some Muslims believe in rewards through martyrdom so–surprise–they have more martyrs. Religious ideology has unavoidable consequences. I’m just admitting it and some here cannot. If I am asked to believe that Benny Hinn, slaying people at a revival is a better sign of salvation, than a life time of service that a Mormon offers out of love, without a moment of earthly reward, I think I’ll go stick my hand over a flame to make sure I’m in the real world.

  138. Maybe then you don’t see a correlation between the Muslim suicide bombers and their theology? Really? Or does religious theology only affect the actions of jihadists but not Christians? I kinda think Christian ideology affects our behavioral attitudes too. I never said it was the ONLY predictor, but as cerebral as you can be, I would have thought you could admit it as at least “a” factor. One Christian web site pastor says this: “But then there are just as many people who abuse the grace of God and think that His abundant grace is an excuse to sin and to continue in sin. This is a line of thinking that has become increasingly popular over the past 30 years. Many preachers have distorted the message of grace because they are more interested in increasing the size of their congregations than in rightly dividing the Word of truth. People in these churches feel that it does not matter how they live since the Lord will always forgive. This has given rise to a generation of “christians” who deny every principle in the Bible except that of grace.” He goes on to rebuke that attitude, as Paul also did in Romans 6. But apparently I’m not the only one who admits the theological linkage for immature Christians. http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch115.htm

  139. Don’t just show us someone who says other pastors are preaching that you can continue to sin. Show us a pastor who actually says that. Lots of religious speakers are great at setting up straw men.

    I’m telling you I have never heard any one actually say that.

  140. Tim, I’m sure no pastor would ever say, literally, that you can sin all you want. Rather they say that your are saved and assured heaven after a 30 second moment of saying a sinners prayer. Voila. Done. Case in point–if you were a non-scholar, among the great unwashed masses attending the revival linked below, what would be your honest impression, if you left that auditorium believing what this pastor assured you? Please be honest. When one only emphasizes grace (justification) without the linkage of discipleship (sanctification), people are harmed with a false sense of pseudo-salvation. It is not that they are told to keep sinning. Rather they are told that it doesn’t matter if they do. That was the point of the quote above, when he said “This has given rise to a generation of “christians” who deny every principle in the Bible except that of grace.”

  141. I have heard many evangelical preachers in my life, and along with Tim I’d have to say that I’ve never heard one preach antinomianism. On the other hand, I have heard parents of wayward adult children say they aren’t concerned, because they (the adult children) gave their heart to Jesus when they were three years old so their salvation is assured. And I have heard a fair number of LDS missionaries serving in the Bible Belt come back and say they were told more than once by people that it doesn’t matter what they do because they’re already saved. So there’s definitely a message of cheap grace that’s out there somewhere.

    Mostly, I’d say, to use Tim’s words, that there’s a lot of shallow teaching out there. And we Mormons aren’t immune from shallow teaching either, but it’s of a different sort.

  142. So there’s definitely a message of cheap grace that’s out there somewhere.

    I don’t know, Eric. Is there really a *message* of cheap grace out there, or are there, perhaps, idolatrous human beings who love what they’re doing more than God and use snippets of theology to justify their actions?

    Haven’t you heard that same sort of flippancy from Mormons? “I’ll just repent later.” Or one I used a lot when I was younger: “Eh, God doesn’t actually care all that much when I gossip. He thinks it’s funny.”

    We make up all kinds of stuff to justify and excuse bad behavior.

  143. Rationalization is sure a lot less painful than repentance. That’s why I said earlier that while accused of legalism, human nature is no different for Mormons than Evangelicals and maybe both sides could use an occasional healthy dose of “convicted by sin”.

  144. I just put this on my Facebook page, where I linked to the post and am having a little side-discussion.

    For the record, my view is that while forgiveness is extremely important (who hasn’t messed up royally?), I am actually more concerned about the premise of the entire conversation. That’s because it identifies *sin* as humanity’s primary problem, and salvation from sin, in order to avoid some sort of cosmic punishment or to attain some sort of cosmic reward, humanity’s most important mission. I think *that* is sin (in the classical sense of it being an archery term that means “missing the mark”).

    When we spend all this time and energy focusing on sin, we become legalistic and completely sidestep the inner work of sanctification: “Say THIS PRAYER and you’ll be forgiven from sin.” “Do THESE STEPS and you’ll be forgiven from sin.” “DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE because it’s a sin and you’ll have to go through a ‘repentance process.'” “Oh, look, she’s wearing a sleeveless dress, and that is a sin.” “He hasn’t accepted the Lord into his heart, so he is damned to hell for his sins.” Etc.

    The grace of God is such, I think, that even our most terrible mistakes and deepest pain can be used as transformative fuel if we let them. I believe that sin is a necessary part of life, and while we want to learn to be more open to God’s love and therefore avoid it more and more, I’m kind of with Eve when she rejoiced in her own sin and said: “Were it not for our transgression we never would have known good and evil and the joy of our redemption.”

  145. To be clear by what I meant up there, the last three paragraphs of my comment above are a copy-and-paste from a comment I made on FB.

  146. Garth said, “Cal, I disagree LDS are ‘less’ excited about having their sins forgiven. By the token of ‘excited’ are you saying then that Westboro Baptists are heading the list? Or Pentecostals?”

    Hi Garth,
    I know very little about Westboro Baptists. What I know makes me think they’re a bunch of nut-heads. Pentecostals heading the list? Now that’s a real possibility.

    The rest of your comments to me might be summed up with, “By their fruit you will know them” (Matt. 7:20). I wholeheartedly agree. That principle, among others, is what God used to open my eyes to the fact that you LDS folks DO love the same Jesus we love. Prior to my revelation, Satan had blinders over my spiritual eyes.

    Going back to, “Are evangelicals more excited?,” Katie’s comments yesterday made me think of a list that is well-known in charismatic circles. A PDF of the list is here: http://www.prayertoday.org/2004/PDF/Guides/Who-I-Am.PDF . You can view it online at http://gospelcentric.org/2011/10/06/who-i-am-in-christ/ .

    We find that if we meditate (think about, maybe memorize) the verses on the list, our appreciation of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross increases, our faith to overcome sin increases—that sort of thing.
    The reason why I think the list applies to our discussion is that it has little or anything to do with our future salvation. I don’t think—tell me if I’m wrong—that the LDS majors on what we already have/are in Christ.

    I admit that charismatics generally under-emphasize the complete, future salvation that God has in store for us.

    It’s nice to talk to you. God bless. . . .

  147. I agree with what Tim, Eric, Katie, & Garth are saying about shallow teaching and shallow living in the body of Christ.

  148. Good list Cal. Very impressive to see them all laid out in one place like that. To your question, I would opine that Mormons see salvation in several planes of time
    1. Past: The infinite atonement was accomplished at Christs ordeal and triumph in Jerusalem. (If you go back even farther, it was ordained before the world was created and Christ’s mission was known before the fall of Adam & Eve. LDS believe we chose to follow Christ in heaven, or what we call “Kept our first estate” and agreed to come to earth knowing Christ would come to provide the atonement.)
    2. Present: To each individual born who is given free will and makes their choice to accept Christ in their mortality. Also, as departed souls who never had their first chance on earth choose to accept Christ in the spirit world. This is an on-going, individual process.
    3. Future: The “official” judgement day and Resurrections are also components of what I would call the “investiture” part of salvation. That will not occur till the winding up scene and the earth will be renewed.

    But applying those 3 planes of time–we believe we ALL already accepted Christ in the pre-existence. Now in mortality, we are unable to remember that first choice, so we now walk by faith in the “school” of mortality with the need to again choose Christ but also now apply that belief through our choices in discipleship. Only this earth phase can give us the “sanctification” phase of salvation as it is the only time our sure knowledge of God is withheld so the test can be completely voluntary. No one will be perfect, but Christ asks us to become “good” and gives us commandments and a model of righteousness to follow. Therefore, when we accept Christ as mortals, we have the sure promise that he will fulfill what He promised in the pre-existence when he came to take upon him our sins. His part is already done. Only our part remains. Our salvation is sure at that moment, from Christ’s point of view. Only we can throw it away by our choices at that point. This is where we place sanctification as an equally important part of the salvation equation, to the disagreement of our evangelical friends who acknowledge it but view it more as only the “rewards-package” to salvation. We see it as more integral than that and we do NOT believe in eternal security. We believe free agency doesn’t end in a revival meeting or after a 30-second sinners-prayer. Life was not designed for Christ’s justification only, and truth be told, it was more designed for our sanctification. What we are asked to become is disciples–“JUST” MEN–whom Christ then makes perfect. We cannot do it alone. Likewise, Christ cannot/will not save us without our active and voluntary participation. That is the LDS view as I understand and try to live it.

    To us, he didn’t so much come to “clean-up” Adam and Eve’s mess, but rather the entire plan hinged on both the fall AND the atonement. Eden was not a mistake, since God as omniscient knew what would happen, and as omnipotent could have kept Satan out of the garden if He didn’t want him there. It was necessary so the school of life could begin. We revere and worship Christ in our theology as the architect of the creation, the sacrifice for our sins, our advocate with the Father, our elder brother, divine from the beginning. All we ever have, even our very existence on the earth all begin and end with the role of Jesus Christ. So in that context, our allegiance and dependence upon Christ are no different in their scope than any fundamentalist Christian’s. We have a different view of the “purpose” of earth’s creation, the Godhead vs. Trinity, and the purposeful need for the fall. But no real difference as to Christ’s role. Salvation to the LDS is both past, present and future. We can therefore say NOW that we are saved, since 2 of the 3 time planes are already accomplished. We accept also that salvation/exaltation are a guarantee on Christ’s end of the covenant. Only we can break that covenant. I hope that’s clear enough.

  149. Garth — I don’t know if I’ve seen your earlier in this forum (or elsewhere, for that matter). Thanks for joining the conversation!

    Katie L asked me:

    Is there really a *message* of cheap grace out there, or are there, perhaps, idolatrous human beings who love what they’re doing more than God and use snippets of theology to justify their actions?

    Probably more than a bit of both. I do think, though, that many of us (and I’m not excluding myself) tend to hear what we want to hear and what makes us comfortable, so cheap grace may be heard even if it isn’t what’s being promoted.

    Also:

    Haven’t you heard that same sort of flippancy from Mormons? “I’ll just repent later.” Or one I used a lot when I was younger: “Eh, God doesn’t actually care all that much when I gossip. He thinks it’s funny.”

    I’ve heard the former, but not the latter. I think one big area where we fall short is that while we seldom preach cheap grace, we often give the impression that meeting the basic requirements for a temple recommend is what saves us. I think, however, that what God expects of us is much more profound than that.

  150. Katie L said:

    The grace of God is such, I think, that even our most terrible mistakes and deepest pain can be used as transformative fuel if we let them. I believe that sin is a necessary part of life, and while we want to learn to be more open to God’s love and therefore avoid it more and more, I’m kind of with Eve when she rejoiced in her own sin and said: “Were it not for our transgression we never would have known good and evil and the joy of our redemption.”

    Yes!

    That reminds me of this book I recommended to you once upon a time. Back in the days when I was considering joining the LDS church, I couldn’t make sense of the LDS spin on the Fall. Then while rereading this book (written by an evangelical), it fell into place. To super-summarize, the author, after his own crisis of faith and much study, came to the conclusion that sin is a necessary part of life, and just as children do not learn without making mistakes (and thus it behooves parents to let their kids make mistakes), so we cannot become spiritual adults except by learning through actually falling short. Such is only in that way that our weaknesses can become strengths.

    Such an interpretation of the Eve story is a bold one. I have come to think that we (meaning Mormons) do each other a disfavor when we water down the story by saying that Eve committed a supposedly mild transgression rather than a sin, or that she had to pick between two conflicting divine commandments. Eve sinned, period. The fact is that she acted contrary to a direct command of God, yet, according to LDS teaching, she got back onto the path to godhood as a result.

    I’m not suggesting for a second that we should deliberately sin. What I am saying is that God has turned the tables on Satan in that the Atonement provides the way to turn our sin into something good and wonderful if we’re willing to accept what Jesus has to offer us.

  151. @ Eric. you said: “…we (LDS) often give the impression that meeting the basic requirements for a temple recommend is what saves us. I think, however, that what God expects of us is much more profound than that.” Bingo. I personally don’t know too many Mormons who really believe that, but I think we do look to the temple as if it is the final sanctification “step” too often. A step is not a journey! Sanctification is not a 2 hour ceremony, a 2 minute baptism, or a 30 second recitation of the “sinner’s prayer.”

    Christs part of salvation is done once and all we can do is accept or reject his justification. But our part of salvation is a free-will process of choices to literally transform us into disciples of Christ. The saying “you are what you eat” is a parallel to “you are what you do.” If we accept and live the covenant of discipleship, we then become “just” men (not perfect men), to whom Christ can then say of us; “Well DONE, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt 25:23) Notice Christ won’t say “Well baptized”, or “Well eternally married”, or “Well enunciated sinner’s prayer”. He will say well “DONE.” Actions, not just words count. What have we “become” is the critical issue, by voluntarily letting Him charter our mortal course. No matter how I read the bible, I cannot come to any other conclusion, which is one of the main reasons that the “grace alone” interpretations of evangelicalism I find incomplete and ultimately shallow. Sin is a necessary evil (pun intended) just as a test is a necessary evil when advancing in any school. If God wanted sycophantic robots, none of this messy mortality would have been necessary. But that his not his purpose for his beloved children. Mortality is the garden. We are the fruit.

  152. I’ve heard the former, but not the latter.

    I think that was my own little justification-seeking brain doing its thang. ;-)

    I forgot you’d recommended that book to me, Eric! I’ll need to read it.

    Such an interpretation of the Eve story is a bold one. I have come to think that we (meaning Mormons) do each other a disfavor when we water down the story by saying that Eve committed a supposedly mild transgression rather than a sin, or that she had to pick between two conflicting divine commandments. Eve sinned, period. The fact is that she acted contrary to a direct command of God, yet, according to LDS teaching, she got back onto the path to godhood as a result.

    YES!!! I think that ALL the time. We’re so sin-phobic as legalistic, perfectionistic Mormons (sorry, Garth, but we are), that we go out of our way to make excuses for our heroes. Instead of saying, “Yep, they messed up, and look how awesome God is to use them anyway,” we’re like, “Oh, they didn’t really mess up. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

    That needs to stop for us to be healthier spiritually as a whole.

  153. I think this discussion has turned into one of the best discussions I’ve ever read on ldstalk.

    I think Eric’s spin on the Fall is RIGHT ON! And I love Katie’s next-to-last paragraph as well.

    David, you made me LOL with your, “No blog hath greater purpose than this, that Garth and Cal may agree and be friends.” The making of such unconventional friendships is for your benefit, my man. See John 17:20-23.

    Garth, I think your last two comments are also very good. I’m undecided on the pre-mortal life idea but still lean toward the non-Mormon view since I can’t find it explicit taught in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. Jeremiah said God appointed him before he was born or something like that, but God knows everything from beginning to end as if it were in the present.
    There are a few respectable charismatic leaders who claim to have seen people in a pre-mortal existence in an elaborate vision from God!
    In any case, it seems to me to be of little consequence. (I’m off topic.)

    Garth, concerning the grace message, I’ve never heard any non-Mormon minister suggest that sanctification is an easy, quick event. I think we’ve been misunderstood on that topic.

    In any case, and in all cases, thanks for being a bridge-builder. God will bless you for it. He’s a faithful God!

  154. And I MOST definitely think that ideas have consequences.

    Of course they do. The problem is not with the mere notion that ideas have consequences (which is almost tautologically true). The problem is that the person saying that invariably follows it up by telling you about an idea he disagrees with (and probably does not actually understand) and telling you its “logical consequence,” which invariably bears no relation to reality.

    When you say that a given phenomenon (like an idea) has a generalized, observable consequence (like behavior), you are not making a religious claim. You are making a scientific claim. Which means that your hypothesis has to match the observable data or it has to be discarded.

    When Garth claims that Evangelical soteriology leads to antonomianism, he is basing that not on actual observed and recorded data. He is basing it on what he thinks Evangelical soteriology ought to lead to, based on his own religious beliefs. This is no different, really, than making religiously-derived claims about the physical universe that do not match observable data.

    Religion does a good job at a lot of things, but it does a super bad job at science.

  155. Too many big words for a little country boy like me Kullervo. Look–I always gave it as my personal OPINION, and even said up above; “Our theologies might unavoidably swing our (LDS) pendulum to “obedience” and yours to “laissez-faire.” I can’t cite a study to prove that, but logic seems to support that hypothesis.” Blogs are 99% opinion and I thought i used pretty good logic and deductive reasoning to support my hypothesis. AND, I supplied beaucoup examples of “simplistic-salvation” evangelicals, from bad pastors in the pulpits, to Bill Clinton, to even a video clip of 30 second salvation preaching, and a quote admitting the problem from evangelical pastor Bosch. That’s hardly what I’d call alleging that “my hypothesis provided no observable data so it should be discarded.” That’s wishful thinking Kullervo. It should be okay to admit that “easy-salvation” is a potential problem for immature evangelicals. It doesn’t negate the entire theology to just admit it’s poorly taught and too often left out of the big picture in your theology. Just as sometimes some Mormons miss the big picture of Grace in LDS theology by over-focusing on sanctification.

    And…I never claimed evangelicals teach antinomianism. That was a distinction clarified by Tim, with which I totally agreed by saying of course evangelicals don’t teach an absence of any law. (Just the absence of any consequences of law.) I also made very clear qualifications between “immature” vs. “mature” evangelicals. A reciprocal qualification that only Cal seems to also grant for immature vs. mature Mormons, since in my experience, only a small minority of Mormons are really in the “Mormon Pharisee’s Camp” too. (Katie may disagree.) For that matter, if you say I’m not allowed to apply logical constructs without citing a “scientific” study, where is the scientific study to prove that Mormons are pharisitical? I didn’t even demand proof of your hypothesis but granted it as a potential derivative of our theology of “covenant.” It’s logical. I’ve never seen someone so determined to accept the presumption that Mormons are legalistic, while denying the obvious flip-side of that presumption as it would apply to his own religion. But I think I’ll bow out at this point as I feel I’m chewing the same food. It’s been a good thread and given me at least some mind-grist to contemplate. And Cal and I are buds now! Blessings to all and to all a good night.

  156. For that matter, if you say I’m not allowed to apply logical constructs without citing a “scientific” study, where is the scientific study to prove that Mormons are pharisitical? I didn’t even demand proof of your hypothesis but granted it as a potential derivative of our theology of “covenant.” It’s logical. I’ve never seen someone so determined to accept the presumption that Mormons are legalistic, while denying the obvious flip-side of that presumption as it would apply to his own religion.

    1) I didn’t say you had to cite a “scientific study.” I said, claims about the physical and observable world should be made based on evidence. Yours are based on straw men.

    2) I never, ever said that Mormons were legalistic.

    3) I am not an Evangelical.

  157. In fact, I think I have been clear that I think that the Evangelical construct of the legalistic Mormon is just as much of a mythical beast as the Mormon construct of the antinomian Evangelical.

  158. Thanks for the clarification Kullervo. Sorry if I mixed up your theology with others. Hard to keep track of which nuance of belief one contributor has from another.

  159. I do not think that my beliefs are relevant to my participation in this particular thread, except to the extent that as a non-Mormon and non-Evangelical, I am not inclined to view either side’s rhetoric with an uncritical eye.

  160. Garth, Thanks for your participation. As I said, I could not have asked for a better example of a typical Mormon response. As you indicated, that is not a slam, it could be just as easily taken as a compliment.

    My purpose of pointing out this difference which I see a key between Evangelicalism and Mormonism is not to demonstrate any superiority of either faith. Nor am I making much of a statement about the life consequences of a person feeling that they are completely forgiven (on one or many occasions). I have no idea if feeling completely forgiven leads to more or less law-breaking.

  161. Also. . . I wanted to point out why it is a hard task to get Mormons to become Evangelical-like in their view of salvation. Mormons probably won’t accept the Evangelical concept of grace, not because of their theology, but because of how it mixes with their history, culture and practice.

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