A Place Without God

The first time my wife and I attended an LDS baptism a man stood up to speak and he told the young woman being baptized that the following day they would lay hands on her and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost. He counseled her to avoid all evil afterwards and to never enter a place in which the Holy Ghost could not follow. My wife and I were stunned. This might have been the thing that stunned and offended our sensibilities more than anything we had heard in Mormonism to that point.

As we discussed it later we couldn’t imagine living a faith where the possibility existed that the Holy Spirit could not bear his presence. Our own journeys and the faith we had grown up in taught us that even in the deepest darkest places the Holy Spirit was at work convicting, counseling and comforting. Though the distractions around us may make it difficult to hear him, we believed that he always had to power to reveal himself. As God, He could always overcome the situations or atmosphere of those he wished to guide.

Jared recently directed me to an article written by Boyd K Packer on “the light of Christ” and I was encouraged to see that this concept was not absent in Mormonism, it was just renamed and attributed to the “light of Christ” rather than the Holy Spirit. The article states:

The Light of Christ existed in you before you were born (see D&C 93:23, 29–30), and it will be with you every moment that you live and will not perish when the mortal part of you has turned to dust. It is ever there.

Every man, woman, and child of every nation, creed, or color—everyone, no matter where they live or what they believe or what they do—has within them the imperishable Light of Christ. In this respect, all men are created equally. The Light of Christ in everyone is a testimony that God is no respecter of persons (see D&C 1:35). He treats everyone equally in that endowment with the Light of Christ.

and then later:

President Joseph Fielding Smith spoke of the teachings of the Holy Ghost and of the Spirit of Christ: “Every man can receive a manifestation of the Holy Ghost, even when he is out of the Church, if he is earnestly seeking for the light and for the truth. The Holy Ghost will come and give the man the testimony he is seeking, and then withdraw; and the man does not have a claim upon another visit or constant visits and manifestations from him. He may have the constant guidance of that other Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.”

The Spirit of Christ is always there. It never leaves. It cannot leave.

I’m a bit baffled how I was unaware of this teaching within Mormonism for so long. I notice that Elder Packer refer to the Spirit of Christ as an “it” rather than a “he”, as if it is something different than Christ himself. It doesn’t seem to be described as a “personage” the same way the Holy Ghost is described but it is some sort of entity.

It seems to be akin to what Paul describes in Romans 1 and 2 as the qualities of God that are written on every heart.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

. . .

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

The New Testament appears to teach that it is the Holy Spirit that calls people into faith, but it appears that in Mormonism it is the Light of Christ that calls people to faith. Do I have that right? How prevalent is this teaching within Mormonism? Am I missing any major details?

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134 thoughts on “A Place Without God

  1. In the spirit of ecuminism the Roman Catholic Catechism says, “When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.”

  2. D&C 88 describes the Light of Christ:

    4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

    5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

    6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

    8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

    9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

    10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

    11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

    12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

    13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

  3. My observation has been that this teaching to which Tim refers is quite prevalent in Mormonism.

    It seems to me that the LDS muddies the waters somewhat when they distinguish the light of Christ from the gift of the Holy Ghost (also called the gift of the Holy Spirit). For one, it brings confusion, especially to we evangelicals since we’re trying to get a handle on both the biblical view and the LDS view.

    As I understand biblical truth and terminology, the light of Christ is exactly the same as the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is exactly the same as the Holy Spirit, which is exactly the same as the eternal life that lives in every reborn believer in Christ.

    Unbelievers (those not in Christ, that is, those who do not have the light of Christ, that is, those who do not have the gift of the Holy Ghost) do have a conscience, as Romans 2:14-15 makes clear. And they do experience the outward care of the Lord to some extent—God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45). And unbelievers are held together with the natural forces of Christ, such as the operation of our bodily organs.

    In one sense, I don’t think the LDS is very far from evangelicals on this issue but I would get confused if I were to try to interpret the Bible with the definitions they use.

    “True to the Faith” (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004, p. 96) says, “In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life.” That’s true, but then it goes on to say, “The Light of Christ should not be confused with the Holy Ghost. It [note the word “it,” as Tim pointed out] is not a personage, as the Holy Ghost is.” This is one LDS doctrine that needs to be cleaned up. It helps to keep their elitism intact—they’ve got the personage while we’re stuck with just the “it.”

    I look forward to Eric’s take.

  4. I suppose the point I was trying to make by bringing up the light of Christ is that I have experienced what the LDS call the Gift of the Holy Ghost, but this was different than the “light” that I saw when I considered the possibility of an immediate salvation from guilt.

    I am still trying to get a handle on that experience and what it means, and the arguments in my head that brought that about, but it was different than what I experienced in the Church and described as the Holy Ghost. Because my experience pointed directly to what Christ was saying, it seems that it would fall squarely within the expansive concept known to the LDS as the “light of Christ.”

    The interesting thing about the light of Christ is that Evangelicals and Mormons are basically on the same footing when they talk about their experience in this area. Evangelicals may explain their religion in any way they want, but the LDS are always going to classify the good in it as stemming from the light of Christ.

  5. Also, to be clear, Mormons would consider what Paul is talking about to be the light of Christ. All people, believers and non believers are blessed with the gift of the light of Christ.

  6. People inherently (genetically) tend to believe in a God. I think we are born with that trait which has certainly something to do with the light of Christ.

  7. The Sunday School discussion of the light of Christ generally refers to it as the conscience, but it actually encompasses the good in all other religions. This is why Mormons say: “keep all the light you have and we will show you more.”

  8. Jared, are you saying you experienced something better as a Mormon than what you experienced recently? How are the two experiences different?

    Jesus made it simple. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

  9. We are born dead. We are born spiritually dead. There is NO light of Christ in us.

    But, in Baptism, and the hearing of the Gospel…the Holy Spirit creates faith…when and where He will.

  10. See, I don’t think everything good is the light of Christ. I don’t think everyone has it. It is available to everyone, but only through Christ himself in that an acceptance of Jesus as savior shines it upon the believer.

    I am reminded of John 1: 1-10. Vs. 7 reads: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.”

    Now, these verses state that Jesus was the light who came for all, but vs. 7 seems to infer that the light only affects those who believe. Its clear that Jesus himself is the light, but we have to ask if his goodness is found in every good thing in the world?

    I don’t think that is the case.

  11. Jared, are you saying you experienced something better as a Mormon than what you experienced recently? How are the two experiences different?

    What I experienced recently was different that what I experienced as a Mormon, I don’t consider what i experienced recently to be an experience with the Holy Ghost. It was not a “spiritual experience” or a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. The phenomena was different than the conversion experiences I witnessed when I was LDS.

  12. Now, these verses state that Jesus was the light who came for all, but vs. 7 seems to infer that the light only affects those who believe. Its clear that Jesus himself is the light, but we have to ask if his goodness is found in every good thing in the world?

    I think the light analogy is critical to understand what the LDS think, they believe that the light shines from God through Christ to all things in the world. This is the explanation for all of the good in the world, not an explanation that everything in the world is good. The light of Christ is what the LDS will call the source of good in other religions, even if they are somewhat blinded by the “foolish traditions of their fathers”.

    Keep in mind, my goal is simply to allow you to see things and talk about things in an LDS paradigm without getting any argument from them.

  13. If you want to have any positive influence over the LDS you might have to talk to them within their cultural understanding of God and spirituality.

  14. “Keep in mind, my goal is simply to allow you to see things and talk about things in an LDS paradigm without getting any argument from them.”

    Fair enough, and I will remember that. Sometimes I have gotten the feeling you are defending the position, not just explain it.

    I also attempted to suggest that, to Mormons, God is the source of all good things in the world. If I was not clear, my mistake. Also, that comment wherein I use John 1 was directed to everyone, not just you. It was not meant to be a direct refutation of what you have presented, but rather my opinion on the light of Christ. Sorry if I was not clear.

  15. Sometimes I have gotten the feeling you are defending the position, not just explain it.

    I am a lawyer that writes arguments for a living, what can I say. I might be this way because, most of the time, non-Mormons are not seeking to understand the LDS position, only denounce it.

  16. I get that. Fully. Da*m those lawyers.

    And in all honesty, I appreciate the reasonable attempts to explain Mormonism. I think an accurate understanding of what they believe is key to any discussion with them.

  17. If the light of Christ in the LDS sense is a point of contact how does the Protestant or the Catholic get around the “foolish traditions of their fathers”?

  18. I think Mormons should see traditional Christian theology like scientific theory, i.e. an incomplete oversimplification that may still point to the facts.

    I think Mormons believe that Catholics and Protestants get round the “foolish traditions of their fathers,” in the same way that traditional Christians might think Mormons do.

  19. Touching on the theme I’ve mentioned is the Light of Christ is something we are all born with and is not a direct communication with the Spirit as in a bearing witness during a spiritual experience.

    Is the Light of Christ seperate than an experience with the Spirit? My experience says yes as does Paul when he mentioned the two in Romans 9: 1. His ‘conscience bore witness of the Holy Ghost’. This is an important point. The two are seperate.

    When Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me” (John 10:27) there is more here than meets the eye. Actual sheep know their leader because they are already familiar with him. When we first hear about Deity, most of the time, we readily accept it. This is so because we inherently already know him via that which has been encoded to mankind.
    The same with other basic truth. When people do good who are not religious, they feel it via the light of Christ and not necessarily the Spirit. I, for one, instinctively knew, that people will not burn in hell simply because they never heard of Jesus. When I heard about salvation for the dead, I knew it was a true principal. The Spirit didn’t bear witness about this until I did some actual work for the dead. So, the feeling was quite different between the Light of Christ and the witness of the Spirit.
    The Light of Christ is not as strong as a Spiritual witness of something. It can be masked over with ‘reason’, doctrines which are contrary to the truth and just plain unsaintly living. When we stay humble and open minded the Light comes through, clearing the path for the Spirit to come in.

  20. Mr. Jared, you didn’t really answer my question. Let me ask it a little differently, though.
    Please describe your experience with the Holy Ghost when you were a Mormon. I want to make the point that there are probably Christians engaged in this conversation—I’m one of them—who will swear up and down that they have been experiencing the peace and the power of the gift of the Holy Ghost (the modern term is Spirit) on a constant, minute-by-minute basis for many years even though they have never believed in the LDS Restoration.

    Whatever you describe, we’ve experienced it, too.

  21. Jared said, “most of the time, non-Mormons are not seeking to understand the LDS position, only denounce it.”

    Unfortunately, that’s true.

  22. Ray, you’re saying the light of Christ is the conscience? Is there any place in the Bible—or in the Book of Mormon, for that matter—that says the light of Christ is the conscience? I know we’re just talking definitions here, but I think there is some value in defining words the way the Bible does.

  23. Cal,

    I have thought quite a lot about how to explain the difference between what I think now and what I thought as a Mormon. But I think the heart of your question is about how the terms the LDS use to describe specific types of experiences.

    I would guess that you don’t see any substantive difference between the experiences with the Holy Spirit you have, and those that the LDS have. As a matter of phenomenology, I don’t doubt that this is true. I can see why you apply the term “Christian” to the LDS experience.

    But you probably also know that LDS focus on a particular kind of spiritual experience over others, i.e. the ability of the Holy Spirit to testify of truth and provide the comfort of the love of God. I think you also recognize that the LDS have not explained the workings of the Holy Spirit in a scientific way, some leaders have tried to explain the scriptures that talk about the Spirit, and try to classify the differences, but for the average LDS, grasping the spirit is a feeling process, not a thinking process. I will try to post on this also.

    I can say that coming to see the light that I have was not a feeling process, that is the main difference. The phenomena I experienced was not like the visitation of the Holy Spirit, there was no testimony of truth. It was more like figuring out on paper that the sun existed, and then looking up to discover that it was always there shining on me.

  24. Thanks for your gracious answer.
    I think the thinking and the illumination of the Spirit overlap in a way that some of the ideas we come up with are put there by the Spirit even though we may think they’re our own thoughts. In any case, may your investigations continue to yield fruit.
    Have a nice day.

  25. Hi Cal,
    There is no place in those two books which say the “light of Christ” is “conscience”. However, it is deeply implied in Moroni 7: 19 and 1 Cor. 8: 7 &12, however, LDS leaders have made the connection.
    Notice in Corinthians Paul indicates their conscience became defiled due to their belief in things contrary to God. This supports what I said regarding the light of Christ. That 1) it is inherent and 2) it can be masked so we can not recognize the Master’s “voice” (truth). 3) And that conscience is not simply “this is right and this is wrong” inner voice developed in us during our childhood years. So, 4) it must be something God has bestowed to man and we call it the “Light of Christ” in reference to the deity from which conscience came.

    From my viewpoint, people who are strongly anti-LDS or atheists feel this desire to promote their agenda because they are fighting their conscience or the Light of Christ within. They want to feel good about the beliefs they have embraced and must crush others to convince themselves in the over ride of the “Light of Christ” within themselves.

  26. “They want to feel good about the beliefs they have embraced and must crush others to convince themselves in the over ride of the “Light of Christ” within themselves.”

    Just curious, Ray, do you think this argument can be applied to Mormons who wish to defend, at all costs, their faith? Specifically I am looking at the desire to feel good about the beliefs they have embraced…

    If you don’t think the argument can be used to Mormons, what specific, tangible evidence can you provide us to show that it cannot be used in such a way.

  27. John 1: 1-9 gives a very good explanation of the Light of Christ.
    “4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
    7 [John the Baptist] came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
    “9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

    Notice that all men are lighted by this light, even though it later says that those of the worldly (or those who have chosen the darker things of life) comprehend not the light.

    The best explanation I have heard is to compare this to a light bulb. When it shines it fills all corners of the room (even in the shadows it is made lighter than it otherwise was). Christ is the source of the light, and that light fills all space. If there is any light it comes from Christ, and from nowhere else.
    The Holy Ghost, on the hand, is a being, a personage of spirit. He does not simply shine forth to fill all space, but comes personally to each person to communicate truth to them. The gift of the Holy Ghost is like having a personal guide in the journey of life. You can ask him any question with the assurance of getting the right answer. Something he even tell you without needing to be asked.

    So, the light of Christ is what illuminates life, but it is the Holy Ghost that guides us through it.

    Oh, and just to go back to the beginning, the idea that the Holy Ghost can’t go to some places needs to be more fully explained. It must be understood by first understanding that somethings are inherently evil, and thus are things that God cannot be a party to. Such is the case with murder or adultery. The Holy Ghost, being is subjection to the Father, cannot be party to anything that would violate the laws given by the Father through Christ. So, the counsel to avoid places that the Holy Ghost cannot go is more speaking to not being party to things that the Holy Ghost cannot be a party to. For the LDS we believe this would include going to bars or inappropriate movies. To willing engage in such activities is to violate the Lord’s law and so the Holy Ghost cannot go with you, but will withdraw. Now, if a person had a good reason for entering such a place then the Holy Ghost could enter with them and remain, as long as they remained faithful to the laws of God.

  28. Hey Cowboy!
    Clearly, the whole topic then would change to: reasons people do things. “Defending” is a matter of pride (in a negative way) or a matter of taking a stand for what is right (in a good way). “Attacking” is an altogether different thing. Atheists attack. So do anti-Christians and anti-LDS. When one makes a concerted effort to crush some one’s beliefs that is attacking.

    I normally just defend. I seldom attack. If some one is just being obnoxious, I will counter attack to give them a taste of their own medicine. Sometimes it’s the only way they can see what they are doing.

  29. So, the counsel to avoid places that the Holy Ghost cannot go is more speaking to not being party to things that the Holy Ghost cannot be a party to. For the LDS we believe this would include going to bars or inappropriate movies. To willing engage in such activities is to violate the Lord’s law and so the Holy Ghost cannot go with you, but will withdraw.

    This is what we understood the speaker to be saying. We feel the Holy Spirit could enter these sorts of situations to rebuke and convict.

  30. Ray, OK, but this is a dodge. You know full well what my comment meant. And yes, it certainly seems LDS offer certain arguments, whether attacking or defending, to make themselves feel better.

    Now, do you deny this is a possibility, and if so, please provide the evidence that it is so beyond your testimony. Sorry, but your testimony cannot be universally shared or experienced, any more than can mine, so that is why I ask for specific, tangible evidence that LDS do not offer the arguments that do not make themselves feel better.

    Here’s the point: such blanket accusations like you made above serve no real tangible purpose but to put the onus on the other party to show they do not act to make themselves feel better, whereas you very likely use the very same underlying rationale in your arguments. This is ultimately a no win game that only divides.

    To have a real and fruitful discussion, lets not make these broad, unverifiable statements.

    OK?

  31. Cowboy, not OK. Can no one state their opinion on this thread? It must be verifiable fact?

    My opinion is atheists in particular, at least the ones who are vocal, must by scriptural definition, overirde the light of Christ that is in them to maintain their anti-God position. This is a logical conclusion, if one believes the statement made by two different prophets of the past and those living today.
    I proposed the reason they do so is to feel better, because the reason they think which is they have correct information about God, is simply not correct in my view. Now, for evidence on this, I reference the hundreds of millions of people on earth living today who feel God has communicated to them in one way or another.

    And specifically you said, “do you think this argument can be applied to Mormons who wish to defend, at all costs, their faith? Specifically I am looking at the desire to feel good about the beliefs they have embraced…If you don’t think the argument can be used to Mormons…”

    There may be LDS out there who thrive on debate for the feeling of ‘winning’. I have never run across any of these either in person or on the web. But defending is quite different than attacking, as I already mentioned. There is good and bad in every thing we can do in mortality.
    The way I and every one I know who ‘feels good’ about the beliefs they’ve embraced is by sharing those beliefs with other people which in turn makes us feel good especially when they are well received. I certainly don’t need to crush some one elses’ beliefs in order to ‘feel good’.

    You mentioned “defend”. Has some latter day saint attempted to “attack” your beliefs in defense?

  32. Shem,

    No Christian doubts that Christ is the light of the world, the question is can that light be properly likened unto a “guardian angel”?

  33. Ray,

    as a matter of fact, yes LDS have attacked my beliefs. In fact, your god has called my faith an abomination.

    And if its OK to give opinion, then it is in my estimated opinion that LDS make the arguments you have, including why members leave your church, is to make you feel better. It is my opinion that LDS gloss over very real problems in their doctrine and history.

    So, naturally you disagree, and thats fine, but the reality is that if i were to make these accusations without the context of your invitation on opinion, you would dig in your heels and no fruitful discussion would be possible. There’s no way verify these opposite and mutually exclusive positions.

    You are certainly free to express your opinion, but understand that unless you are prepared to give more, its just you puffing smoke, and yes, in my opinion, making yourself feel better.

    The moral: sometimes expressing our opinion alone doesn’t help. One of those times is making blanjet accusations that could aldo apply to you.

  34. Ray, thanks for helping me understand the LDS light of Christ concept. All in all I don’t think it’s drastically different than the evangelical view. I think one difference is that evangelicals see a difference between the conscience and the light of Christ, whereas you apparently put conscience under the umbrella of the light of Christ—you include the conscience as one operation of the light of Christ.
    One similarity—going by what you said—between evangelicals and LDS is that the LDS recognizes, as evangelicals do, that the conscience comes from Christ. I’d say another similarity is that both parties believe the light of Christ draws people toward Christ.

    You make a good point about anti-LDS people fighting their conscience. Certainly, it does work both ways.
    I think there are people on both sides of the aisle that have a genuine desire to help the person on the other side. My observance—and personal experience—is most people’s motives swing this way and that, from bad to good and good to bad.

  35. >>>as a matter of fact, yes LDS have attacked my beliefs. In fact, your god has called my faith an abomination.

    This is a topic for another day. I only wish to say that the parable of the ten virgins implies that only half the church will enter the Heavenly Kingdom. In other words, half of the LDS church is also an abomination from the Lord’s point of view.

    >>>And if its OK to give opinion, then it is in my estimated opinion that LDS make the arguments you have, including why members leave your church, is to make you feel better. It is my opinion that LDS gloss over very real problems in their doctrine and history.

    If I was an outsider looking in, I might agree with your opinion. But being on the inside, and having spent many years in leadership positions, I have shared my direct observations about what is going on inside the LDS Church. However, I could make the same claims about why Protestant/ Evangelical have been losing ground and membership in a bigger way than the LDS. But, I am observant enough to know that I don’t know what is actually going on the inside. Maybe some one will fill me in on this thread or is that taboo?

    >>>So, naturally you disagree, and thats fine, but the reality is that if i were to make these accusations without the context of your invitation on opinion, you would dig in your heels and no fruitful discussion would be possible. There’s no way verify these opposite and mutually exclusive positions.

    People form opinions based on information and wisdom they obtain and life experience. That is certainly worth a lot. The idea of discussing things is to gather more information and maybe we both can re-evaluate what we think about certain issues. I have learned a lot from non-LDS and it’s a good thing. As you have noticed, I’ve been asking questions as we go along here.

    >>>You are certainly free to express your opinion, but understand that unless you are prepared to give more, its just you puffing smoke, and yes, in my opinion, making yourself feel better.

    >>>The moral: sometimes expressing our opinion alone doesn’t help. One of those times is making blanjet accusations that could aldo apply to you.

    And I basically agree but I don’t put up posts to feel better about my religion.
    And I have already cited information to back up most of what I say here. I reference the Bible, since I know most Christians regard it as the highest authority. I’ve experience lengthy exchanges with atheists through the years, so what I say about them are my own direct observations coupled with what the scriptures say about certain topics. It’s difficult to back up your own research with other people’s research.

  36. Hi Gundek,

    You almost missed me. I had decided all my conversations were finished and wasn’t coming back until I thought of a question for Ray (or anyone who wants to take a crack at it). When I wrote “conscience comes from Christ” I was just thinking of the fact that Christ created everything. Do you have any thoughts on it?

    My question for Ray is, “If everyone has the light of Christ, does that mean there is no difference between a non-Mormon Christian and a non-Mormon non-Christian?”

  37. Cal,

    No, I don’t have any thoughts on it, I have usually think of the conscience comes from being made in the image of God that’s all.

  38. Hi Cal, you seem like a great Christian.

    I look out at mankind and see how we on the one hand are all different but in the other hand we are all the same.

    >>>“If everyone has the light of Christ, does that mean there is no difference between a non-Mormon Christian and a non-Mormon non-Christian?”

    I think we are all born with equal footing when it comes to the Light of Christ. In that regard, none of us are different. When it comes to natural gifts and talents, we are all different.

    When a non-Christian has a brilliant idea which betters mankind, I think that comes to him through the Light of Christ rather than a visitation of the Spirit. It’s still inspiration from God but comes through another channel which is not easy for most people to recognize. Many of these people attribute these inspirations to their own brillance. I think they will be rudely surprised when they get to the other side. I think part of the reason others rather than Christians get a lot these ideas is to keep us beliers humble, and help us recognize that other people are God’s children as well. Otherwise, we would likely become very arrogant and dismissive of non-believers, more so than we already are.

    Those of us who have authentic spiritual experiences, like I did during the time I was attending a Evangelical Church, can easily identify the difference between the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.
    I think people who never have had a spiritual experience with a member of the Godhead, believe when hearing the Gospel is due to the light of Christ and not just the Gospel but the existence of God period. When Jesus said, ‘my sheep know my voice…’, it’s because we were already connected to him on a certain level that level being called the gift of conscience or Light of Christ. The term “Light of Christ” is a more accurate description of the Paul’s usage of “conscience”.

    There is a stark difference between the Light of Christ and a witness or visitation by the Spirit. I know that many non-LDS Christians have received a witness of the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness to truth every where and there is an enormous amount of truth taught in the Christian world at large. Just to hear the words, ‘Jesus rose from the dead as part of his effort to save mankind’ goes right to center of a humble heart. We recognize this is the truth via conscience and then the Spirit will often bear witness to validate the truthfulness of those words.

  39. Thanks, Ray.
    The old-timers of this blog think I sound like a broken record when I say God revealed to me that a true Mormon is a true Christian but it bears repeating, don’t you think? You’re obviously one of them. I believe God wants to build a bridge between the LDS and non-Mormon Christians.

  40. Cowboy
    John 1: 7
    “The same came for a witness”
    This refers to John the Baptist who came to prepare the world for Christ.

    “to bear witness of the Light”
    This refers both to Christ as a personage, as well as to the light of Christ that shines from him. Remember that in Genesis chapter one God creates the great lights, one to rule the day and the other the night. He does not call them the sun and moon, but simply lights, which he set in the Firmament to give light. Thus Christ is the Light of the World, as is stated in John 8:12, John 9:5, Alma 38:9, D&C 10:70, and D&C 11:28. Pay special attention to John 8: 12, where he says ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ In this instance the Light of Life refers to eternal life, or the Light of Salvation if you will.

    “that all men through him might believe.”
    This is a direct reference to Christ as member of the Godhead and the savior of the world. Through the light that comes from Christ all men might believe.

    Gundeck

    I did not know anyone had compared the Light of Christ to a Guardian Angel. I did some research and I found that President Joseph Fielding Smith did say that “the true “guardian angel” for each individual on the earth is the power and direction available through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.” https://www.lds.org/liahona/1988/09/questions-and-answers?lang=eng

    As I said before, I see the Light of Christ as the power that illuminates life. As such it can be compared to a guardian angel, as it shows us the more obvious hazards of life. However, I would say the Holy Ghost is more the guardian angel, as it is that personage that acts as guide and directs us through the more subtle dangers of life.

    Cal

    If you don’t mind I would like to answer the question you asked.

    “If everyone has the light of Christ, does that mean there is no difference between a non-Mormon Christian and a non-Mormon non-Christian?”
    At birth this is true, and it would also be true to say there is no difference between a Mormon and a non-Mormon. Because of the Light of Christ and his atonement all people are born innocent, and if they die in that innocence they receive all the blessings of the gospel. So, a Mormon child is equally as innocent as a Baptist child, a Catholic child, a Muslim child, a Hindu child, an Atheist child, or a pagan child. No matter what their circumstances at birth they are equal. In this sense all are truly created equal.
    It is later in life that things begin to become skewed. As God told Adam “Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts” Once this sin enters our hearts we are no longer innocent. This also destroys that original equality, as not all sins are the same, and thus some are guilty of the greater sin, placing themselves on a different playing field than others.

  41. “The Spirit of Christ can be likened unto a “guardian angel” for every person.” Boyd K Packer

    I have always though of the Holy Spirit as God, not a guardian angel.

  42. Packer is distinguishing the Light of Christ from the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. The guardian angel analogy doesn’t really work. As a Mormon I would think that was Packer’s opinion rather than doctrine.

    The light of Christ creates the conscience, but also shows reveals that there is a Christ to save people from their sins.

    The concept of the light of Christ is not explained very well by Packer, but it is rarely discussed except in passing. .

  43. Interesting, This is also prevalent among the LDS. The leadership is deemed inspired, but members test and adopt teachings through their own reason, conscience, and spirituality.

    If you read Packer’s discussion of the light of Christ, it is conceptually all over the place. The LDS believe the light of Christ is what is lies behind all the good in other Christian churches. I think this unsettledness of the doctrine makes it fertile ground to plant the seeds to expand the common LDS view of the Gospel, and provide common ground in the LDS/Evangelical discussion.

  44. So is the light of salvation the same thing as the light of everything good?

    I think the light of Christ goes beyond showing good and evil, it also enlightens us to the inevitable salvation from the consequences of the evil within us.

  45. Personally, I don’t know what salvation is, but I accept it as a fact.

    Here is the common LDS view:

    To be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death. People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him.

    To be exalted—or to gain exaltation—refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm. These blessings can come to us after we leave this frail and mortal existence. The time to prepare for our eventual salvation and exaltation is now.
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/salvation-and-exaltation?lang=eng

  46. So, are salvation and exaltation synonymous? Further, and it has been mentioned in the other thread today, what is the goal of the Mormon? Salvation or Exaltation? If a Mormon casually uses the term ‘salvation’ to what is he speaking?

  47. Most Mormons, especially children, do not have a clear idea of what they mean when they use the term “salvation,” other than exaltation in the celestial kingdom, that is generally all they talk about.

  48. “So, are salvation and exaltation synonymous?…If a Mormon casually uses the term ‘salvation’ to what is he speaking?”

    I think of “salvation” as a broad definition of being saved. “Exhaltation” is the highest level of Salvation.

    I’ve asked Christians what do they expect from God in the after life. The answer I usually get is, ‘I want to be with Jesus forever.’ Then, I think to myself, that is exactly what they will get, at least according to section 76. Me personally, I want to get all that God wants to offer.

    So, I have a question. Suppose the judgment comes and goes. Then we all recieve our rewards. What is the Christian view of how we will spend the next say 10 billion years? In other words, what will we do?

  49. There is a lot of equivocation regarding the term “salvation” within the church. I think the ambiguity creates a hesitance to use the term. Also, I think personal salvation is a private matter within the church. Talking about it a lot during church almost appears like bragging, most of the time it is almost a sign of weakness to profess salvation from sin.

  50. What is the Christian view of how we will spend the next say 10 billion years? In other words, what will we do?

    I think the most rational view is: How can you possibly explain heaven but in terms of joy? Other than joy, heaven must be a completely foreign experience, beyond words for those who have not experienced it.

  51. Okay Gun, I was looking for a serious answer.
    Yep, Jared, I agree. In fact, I can’t remember anyone using the term “I’m saved” or anything remotely similar. As Paul said, ‘we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’ (“Work out” means continue in the faith, praying, repenting, living the commandments to the best or our ability and so on. This is all part of “enduring to the end” as Jesus commanded.)

    At death there is a separation, those who go to “Hell” or what we call Spirit Prison. This is for basically ‘bad’ people. And the basically ‘good’ people go to “Paradise”. Those in Hell can not cross the divide and enter Paradise. Both groups will suffer from what I call “lack of body withdrawals”. Those in Paradise, who accept the Gospel, only have to wait until the Second Coming or relatively shortly there after, before being resurrected, while those in Hell will have to wait until Judgment Day.

    Since eventually, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus is the Christ”, the entire human family is ultimately “saved” from physical death and eternal annihilation. However, judgment is based on works, so evil people, those who loved evil and those who did not accept Christ until the very end of time, will inherit the lowest heaven.This will include a large percentage of mankind. Mostly, those who were in Hell before Judgment Day will end up in the lowest heaven.

    Those who are not in Hell but in Paradise will come forth at various times starting with the Second Coming and through out the Millennium. Once the Millennium is over, to my knowledge, no one comes forth from death until the Judgment Day.

  52. The idea of breakfast of fish and bread with the risen Lord was serious enough for John to tell us about it. I don’t see a reason to believe we shouldn’t look forward to the same in the new heavens and the new Earth.

  53. Gundek,

    I suppose you are right, its not unreasonable, that is essentially the LDS view as well. The same basic sociality will exist as it is on earth. I think many devout orthodox, with the LDS, see heaven as a multi-staged affair with measured rewards depending not works below.

    Understanding the character of heaven, though, is different than understanding and acknowledging the facts of salvation here and now. This is where the LDS could learn more from the Evangelical.

  54. Yes, Gun, it was serious enough to ingrain into the heads of the Apostles that Jesus came back with an immortal physical body. When I was at the Evangelical church there was never discussion on this aspect of Jesus. I thought most Evangelicals didn’t believe Jesus to possess a physical body. I am mistaken?

  55. There seems to be some diverging from the original topic.

    Cowboy

    The Light of Life, as spoken of in John 8: 12 refers to salvation, or exaltation. This is different than the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.
    The light of Christ all men are born wife, as it is the source of life, knowledge, and all good things. It emanates from Christ, filling all creation, and by its influence God is made omnipresent.
    The Holy Ghost is a member of Godhead. He is not a power, but a personage possessing power. Through that power he testifies to all truth and teaches men, clarifying the basic knowledge that comes from the Light of Christ. It is by His power that we are purified and sanctified. To have the gift of the Holy Ghost is to have this God always with you, to be able to call on His power when you have need, and to be able to trust that He will tell you when you do stand in need.
    The Light of Life refers to the change that comes over the faithful. As they obey the laws of God light grows within them and they are made like unto Christ. This light comes from the Light of Christ (kind of like lighting one torch with another).

    As to salvation and Exaltation, they are not the same. Salvation is a common English word that means to be saved, or rescued, from a negative or uncomfortable situation or event. So, when prisoners are set free they have been given salvation from prison. When John Smith saved the Virginia Colony in the Early 1600’s he became their salvation. When we speak of Eternity and God Salvation does not change its meaning, it is simply applied to these things. Thus salvation from Physical death is granted to all men, as all will be resurrected with perfect physical bodies. Salvation from Spiritual death will come to all except the truly evil. To be saved from all negative situations that it is possible to be saved from is only achieved by entering the Celestial Kingdom and being Exalted.
    Exaltation is not salvation, however. To be exalted is to be raised up and placed over other things. In the church we speak of Exaltation as the highest degree of Glory that one can attain, and it is reserved for only the most faithful and obedient. This is to be exalted as a god in heaven; to enjoy the same kind of life as our Heavenly Father, to have all the powers and knowledge that He possesses.
    When prophets speak of Salvation they are most frequently referring to Exaltation, as it is the ultimate salvation, being saved from eternal stagnation.

    Gundeck

    I have always thought of the Holy Ghost as God, and I always will. But just because He is God does not mean He cannot act in the capacity of a Guardian Angel.

  56. “What is the Christian view of how we will spend the next say 10 billion years? In other words, what will we do?”

    My view is that I don’t care what we do. I don’t need stuff to warrant my motivation to follow and accept Christ. I just want to be in His perfect love. I am not sure if you statement that you want all God has to offer is indicative of something, but it is an interesting comment. I just want to be with Him, and what I do is not even a secondary concern.

    I think Jared was accurate to say that the experience is beyond anything we may know here on Earth.

  57. Shem, but are salvation and exaltation used interchangeably within the LDS church? Better yet, are they really used at all within the church? Also, when explaining what salvation means, are LDS careful to distinguish the two terms? For example, does a Mormon Missionary explain the difference to potential converts?

    I am not insinuating ulterior motives; rather I want to explore how we use the same words to mean vastly different things, creating a false impression of what the other actually believes.

  58. Within the LDS faith, salvation is not used consistently as a theological term, it generally takes on only its ordinary meaning as the state of being saved from something. Exaltation is salvation from all imperfection and weakness, Resurrection is salvation from death, being granted access to any kingdom of heaven is salvation from spiritual death and sin.

  59. Ok, what I am trying to figure out is how LDS use the term as applied against how traditional Christians use the term. It is one that is used in vastly different ways, given that LDS view escape from outer Darkness even as being saved, but not achieving the fullness God promised. Christians use the term to mean salvation from eternal torment and eternity with Christ. There is no wiggle room there: your saved or you are not. There’s no higher glories or attainment of anything beyond salvation from death. This is achieved in Christianity by merely accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. Exaltation, which appears to be the closest thing to Christian salvation, requires much more.

    This is why I think it is important to be very clear what salvation means and how it becomes a point of contention when Christians object to the casual use of the word salvation by Mormons. Its not clear what Mormons mean when they use it without defining it.

  60. Hi Cowboy!
    On my Dec 17th post, I think I laid out a fairly comprehensive explanation of salvation, when and who it effects and so on.
    I’m taking your post and going line by line to explain your investigation:

    “Ok, what I am trying to figure out is how LDS use the term as applied against how traditional Christians use the term.”

    Good. Nothing wrong with a comparision of views.

    “It is one that is used in vastly different ways, given that LDS view escape from outer Darkness even as being saved, but not achieving the fullness God promised.”

    I did not discuss “Outer Darkeness” as a place because so few people will end up there. Once put in O.D. there is no escape. And yes, all of humanity will be saved from certain things such as physical death but not every one will be saved for Celestial Glory.

    “Christians use the term to mean salvation from eternal torment and eternity with Christ. There is no wiggle room there: your saved or you are not. There’s no higher glories or attainment of anything beyond salvation from death.”

    And this is the real difference between our theologies. The idea of one heaven and one hell and you end up in one or the other verses a more complex senario, which in my view is referenced heavily within the New Testament and made clear in the D & C. Again, I did a brief over view on my Dec 17th post.”

    “This is achieved in Christianity by merely accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.”

    This ia also a major fundamental difference. There are many verses which suggest “accept Christ and you are saved”. And that is true at that moment. If you die right then, after you accept Christ, then you will be saved.
    But then, there are more scriptures which say “accept Christ and be baptized and then you are saved” and then “accept Christ, repent and endure to the end and you will be saved.” And there are many verses which clearly state we will be judged by our works whether they be good or evil. Accepting Christ is a good work but then committing Adultery ten years later is an evil work. Christ said, “no man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In other words, if you accept Christ but continue or later on turn back to the ways of the world in sin without repenting, you will not be saved.

    All these are right out of the New Testament (and if you want a scriptural reference I will always give them upon request). From the LDS view, merely accepting Christ as Lord is just the beginning of what needs to be done to be saved, though if you die at any point along the process, you are saved for as the Apostle Paul calls it, “the third heaven”. We call the “third heaven” the Celestial Kingdom or the New Earth after it has been transformed into the Celestial Kingdom after the final judgment.

    “Exaltation, which appears to be the closest thing to Christian salvation, requires much more.”

    Evangelical “Salvation” sounds a lot like the LDS view of the Terrestrial Kingdom.
    Exaltation is an entirely different and a far more glorious level of our Father in Heaven’s “many mansions” within “his house” (as Jesus pointed out).

    “This is why I think it is important to be very clear what salvation means and how it becomes a point of contention when Christians object to the casual use of the word salvation by Mormons.”

    Setting aside the fact that everyone will be raised from the dead, physically, but not everyone will be raised from spiritual death (which is being cut off from the presense of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ).
    In the ‘second heaven’ we will be with Christ. In the ‘third heaven’ we will be with both Christ and his Father.

    “Its not clear what Mormons mean when they use it without defining it.”

    And that is because, “salvation” covers a large spectrum, not just an either heaven or hell situation. The NT for simplification purposes very often uses “either” and “or”, but careful reading shows salvation is more complicated that just that.

    Hope this helps you see the differences and similarities.

  61. Ray, that’s all fine and dandy, but does not really address my main point: the need for LDS to be that specific to those who do not know. It is that lack of explanation that causes confusion. I happen to know these differences, but most people do not.

    Traditional Christianity has a very black and white view of salvation but Mormons don’t. Fine. But when discussing it Mormons need to understand what we mean and Christians need to understand what Mormons mean. Potential converts absolutely need to know what is meant.

    Failure to so expand can be seen as some sort of manipulation, intentional or not.

    And I ask you to please really consider what I am saying and not take it as a commentary against anyone’s faith. The issue is not specifically what salvation is, its how it is presented.

  62. Okay Cowboy! I think I follow you now.

    When I was coming in the missionaries simple explained that salvation was part of eternal progression. Step one was hearing the Gospel, then set two was believing, then step 3 was repenting, then baptism and so on. The different heavens were explained to me. I mean, how long did it take you to read what I said? Five minutes, maybe ten? That’s about how long it took them to explain it to me. My questioning the details added more time, but it’s not that big of a process.

    Gundek, says Christ still has his body. What do you say on the subject?

    Also, I’ve brought up some things which I haven’t heard addressed. I have proposed that continuing in sin can cause some one to lose their salvation. Do you agree or do you think once saved always saved?
    What does “endure to the end” mean to you?

  63. Ray,

    I am always reticent to use the word heresy because it is such a loaded term.

    Denial of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is a heresy. There is no other way to put it.

  64. Cowboy

    I think the confusion doesn’t come from the use of the term Salvation by either side, but by the expectation of its use. By this I mean that many people, and yes, I include you in this, expect the LDS to use the term differently than they would. After all, to many the LDS are not even Christian, so how could they have the same meaning to the word?
    Of course the LDS belief in varying degrees is a large contributor to this confusion. Many Christians think that because they use salvation to refer to only one heaven than the LDS must use it the same way, so they wonder which degree. Many others seem to understand that we can use the term to refer to all degrees of glory, but then get confused as to these degrees.
    So lets make it as simple as possible.

    This is from the book “Preach My Gospel,” which is the new missionary manual.
    “Salvation: To be saved from physical and spiritual death. All people will be saved from physical death by the grace of God, through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ.”
    Then you would ask, what is Spiritual Death? This is also given in “Preach My Gospel.”
    “Spiritual death: Separation from God and His influences; to die as to things pertaining to righteousness. Spiritual death was introduced into the world by the Fall of Adam (see Alma 42:6–7). Mortals with evil thoughts, words, and works are spiritually dead while still alive on earth (see 2 Nephi 9:39). Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel, men and women can become clean from sin and overcome spiritual death.”

    The term God refers to the Godhead, meaning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Thus, to be in the presence of any one of these beings is to gain salvation. When you look at the three degrees of glory, the Father is in the Highest, the Son the second, and the Holy Ghost the third. Thus, in its most basic sense in LDS doctrine Salvation is to be saved from eternal torment and spend eternity with God. This is the way it is used by the missionaries, and how it is generally thought of by most of the members. It is to be saved from Hell and brought into the glory of God.

    Exaltation, which is also mentioned in the same chapter of “Preach My Gospel,” is “Eternal life…a gift of God given only to those who obey His gospel. It is the highest state that we can achieve. It comes to those who are freed from sin and suffering through the Atonement of Christ. It is exaltation, which means living with God forever in eternal families. It is to know God and Jesus Christ and to experience the life they enjoy.”

    This is explained in Lesson 2 of the manual (https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/lesson-2-the-plan-of-salvation?lang=eng) and anyone who is taking the lessons from the Missionaries should understand this very early on.

  65. Gundek (and others), are you Methodist? The reason I ask that is some years ago I read a book which compared the beliefs of various Christians sects. In there, the Methodists seemed to be the only group other than the LDS which claimed Jesus still had his body. I remember reading the JW’s said after the resurrection the body was dissolved into gasses. Other groups seemed to think he was physically resurrected but his body after ascension turned back into whatever God is supposed to be made of.

    That’s why I’m asking the other Evangelicals here. What is your take on the resurrection subject?

    And, I’ll repeat:
    I’ve brought up some things which I haven’t heard addressed. I have proposed that continuing in sin can cause some one to lose their salvation. Do you agree or do you think once saved always saved?
    What does “endure to the end” mean to you?

    When I was at the Evangelical church (American Baptist) these things were never discussed.

  66. Cowboy – I haven’t kept up with what the lessons the missionaries use lately. So, thanks for the insight. But it sounds like if you are quoting from their teaching manual then they must be explaining the various Heavens in their discussions. So, I don’t understand why you are so concerned they know these things. Do you think new converts are not being taught what you quoted out of the missionary teaching manual?

    Once some one understands that everyone will eventually be resurrected and live forever, then the topic of salvation clearly becomes much broader than just “I’m saved or I’m not”.

    You asked about LDS “salvation”, so I explained the overhaul picture in some detail. Had you brought up “Eternal Life”, then that is different. Or had you asked, how does one get “saved for Eternal Life”, then that is more specific.

    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” (John 17:3)

    That would be the LDS’s Celestial Kingdom.

  67. No, I am not a Methodist.

    This really isn’t controversial, denial of the physical resurrection is a heresy.

    It doesn’t matter Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Anglican, etc. there is no disagreement between them.

  68. Are you saying Jesus is literally in heaven with a physical body right now?

    And do all the denominations this this also?

  69. Are you saying Jesus is literally in heaven with a physical body right now?

    Yes

    And do all the denominations this this also?

    Yes. At most you could say that Christians haven’t thought about it. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone flat out deny it. Certainly not at the denominational level.

  70. Shem, all due respect, you completely miss the point, and in the process, reinforce the problem. I actually believe traditional Christians need to be careful about ensuring Mormons understand them, too. What you have done, though, is shown an expectation we capitulate to your definition. That is the only possible reason you would accuse us of expecting you to understand our position in the way you have. That is arrogance and just as oppressive as you accuse us of being. Its not productive.

    Now, as to the substance of your post in its description of salvation, I understand your definition of salvation, but through it all you seem to suggest most LDS take a passive/casual point of view when talking about it.

    I am going to emphasize this again: I am far less concerned about the degrees of salvation as I am the way the singular term salvation is used. I suggest it is a problem in discussing Mormon doctrine and traditional Christian doctrine that the terms take such drastically different meanings.

    That’s it. That’s all.

  71. Ray, the point is that the term salvation is not the same within Mormonism as it is in traditional Christianity. I have not seen this disputed.

    My suggestion is that Mormons be careful in describing it to traditional Christians in such discussions as this, and traditional Christians do the same. Its also important for both sides to drop any sort of defensive or argumentative position in favor of knowing what is meant.

    The discussions will much more fruitful.

    Oh, as to your questions: yes, Jesus is a human. Eternal salvation? I think it is eternal, though I am not so set in the idea that if other Christians think you can then they are not Christian. Its one of those side issues that really does not matter when it comes to the plan of salvation, though.

  72. Cowboy

    I was merely pointing out my observation. Take how you want.

    For most LDS the term Salvation is used somewhat more casually, and, to my experience, most frequently used merely to describe salvation from Hell and entrance into one of the degrees of Glory.
    You have shown an expectation that our definition would be different than yours, when there isn’t really that much of a difference until you start picking the doctrine apart; which then gets into things that the neither the LDS nor other Christians commonly use the term to discuss anyway.

    Do a direct comparison. You said the following.
    “Christians use the term to mean salvation from eternal torment and eternity with Christ. ”
    We would use the term to mean salvation from eternal torment and eternity with God (meaning at least one member of the Godhead).
    So, given these two different statements, please explain the great difference in the way the terms are used.

    Yes, I believe the confusion comes, not from actual differences, but in expected differences. That expectation comes, primarily, from our very definite and clear doctrine of the degrees of glory. Because we do not talk about a didactic eternity people have a hard time accepting that we would actually use terms in the same way they do.

    I have not accused anyone of anything, except as I have just described.

  73. Because we do not talk about a didactic eternity people have a hard time accepting that we would actually use terms in the same way they do.

    What do you mean by “didactic eternity”?

  74. Shem,

    “So, given these two different statements, please explain the great difference in the way the terms are used.”

    Gladly. You had to add the proviso: “meaning at least one member of the Godhead”. This is no small difference. Further, you leave out the vast numbers of people who will be spared eternal darkness in your definition, as compared with traditional Christianity, not to mention how one gets to salvation in the two. It is also misleading to say that an eternity with Christ is the aim of the Mormon afterlife.

    You can claim similarities here all day and night, but they really are not all that similar. You can further deny these differences, but you minimize very real differences that affect a person’s eternal destiny. These differences also reflect who God is and what He does.

    The question of salvation is no small matter, and your injecting the argument that it is merely about expectations is demonstrative of a desire to minimize the differences. Minimizing the differences works to your benefit, because its easier to put your position in a positive light when contrasted against traditional Christianity.

    I’ll end by suggesting that your position seems not to care one iota for what traditional Christianity believes. You are not interested in learning about the differences and why they are significant. You only wish to present the LDS position here, and to defend it. Yes, I find that arrogant and closed minded. Its not about expectations. Its about honesty, and injecting expectations into anything is not honest. Injecting expectations is to inject bias, and you appear unwilling or unable to leave the bias behind and see the differences for what they are: very significant.

  75. Of course Cowboy, the differences are significant.

    You know the old expression, the “devil is in the details.” But as an over view, from say a non-believers point of view, it’s basically the same thing. If you are bad, you live forever and are punished, if you are good, you live forever with a reward.

    So, I have been interested in some details and it’s been hard for most of you to talk about them. I asked if Jesus still has a physical body today and I got some firm answers: finally. But I have a hard time understanding those answers because of what I have read and over heard other Christians whisper about on the subject. For now, I will take this group of Evangelicals at their word. If you guys say that is what you believe, that Jesus still has his physical body, then I believe you.

    Often the LDS are mocked because of references to God residing on a celestial planet near a star called Kolob.

    Question # 1
    Where do Evangelicals say is this physical body of Jesus residing? I realize you may not know the answer, but based on your theology, what is your best guess or understanding.

    Question #2, 3, 4, 5
    Tim thinks the “Trinity” is the reason the LDS are ‘Not Christians”. Maybe I don’t understand your version of the Trinity.
    If Jesus has a body and his Spirit is in it, then where is the rest of the Trinity? Is God the Father inside the body of Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit in this body as well?
    Or there really isn’t a God the Father and it’s just really Jesus?

    Question # 6, 7
    When I was at the Baptist Church, they seldom addressed “Our Father in Heaven” but prayed directly to “Jesus” or just “Lord” and then they would close their prayers with something like, “And we say this in Your name.” They always prayed in “Your name” and never said “in the name of Christ”.

    So today, when Evangelicals pray, who do they address?
    And how do they close their prayers?

    With Christmas upon us, I don’t expect immediate answers, but I hope that a few of you will take the time to answer my questions.

  76. Ray,

    I am not an evangelical but,

    1 Christ is “seated at the right hand of the Father”.

    2. Tim is right, if you want to understand Christian doctrine you should start with the Trinity

    3. Jesus is “perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh” in his human nature and Fully God one in essence equal with the Father and the Spirit in His divine nature.

    4. God is infinite. Neither the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit is subsumed in the human nature of Jesus Christ.

    5. There is a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.”

    6 and 7. Christians address God in their prayers and usually end them with amen.

  77. Cowboy

    You continually fail to understand what I say, and, as far as I can tell, that is because you expect me to mean something other than what I actually mean.

    “You had to add the proviso: “meaning at least one member of the Godhead”. This is no small difference.”
    Then maybe you should clarify. When you say Christ are you referring to the Trinity? To your understanding can you be with Christ and not be with the Father or the Holy Ghost?
    I added that proviso because everyone I have ever talked to speaks of Salvation as being with God or the Trinity, without attempting to separate the three.

    “Further, you leave out the vast numbers of people who will be spared eternal darkness in your definition, as compared with traditional Christianity,”
    I left out no one. Again, this is your expectation of my meaning, not what I actually said. There are those who are cast out with Satan to suffer torment. Anyone who is not so cast out has gained salvation. That is how the term is used. So, please explain who I have left out.

    “not to mention how one gets to salvation in the two.”
    You never once asked what we teach concerning how to gain Salvation. You asked how the term is used, and I explained how it is used. Now you are trying to mix additional concepts and doctrines into the discussion in an attempt to prove yourself right. Salvation as a thing (a noun), is used the same basic was by LDS and other Christians. How we achieve it is vastly different, and I never denied it, but what it is is not how it is achieved.

    “It is also misleading to say that an eternity with Christ is the aim of the Mormon afterlife.”
    Did I once say that this was the goal or the aim? I don’t recall ever saying that. I recall explaining how the term salvation is commonly used among the LDS. That was the question asked. You never asked what the aim is or anything of that nature. This is again you bringing extra things into the discussion in order to prove yourself right.

    In LDS doctrine there is a definite Hell, and that is where Satan and all his fallen angels will spend eternity after the last judgement. Anyone who is not cast out with Satan will spend eternity in the presence of the Godhead and will be spared from the suffering and torment of Hell. This is salvation, and this is what is most commonly meant by the members of the LDS church. If you can find something in this statement that you disagree with please let me know. However, if it is not in this statement than it is not pertinent to the discussion at hand.

    (You would have a better chance arguing we use Heaven in a different way than the rest of Christianity than you would arguing that we use Salvation differently.)

    Jared

    I am sorry, I used the wrong word. What I meant was an eternity having only two parts; Heaven and Hell (a dichotomic eternity). We believe in many degrees and levels of eternity, not just two, and because of this people have difficulty accepting that we can use terms in the same way they do.
    In truth, despite our varying levels, we do believe in essential a dichotomic eternity. Either you are cast into Outer Darkness with Satan or you are saved for Glory.

  78. Shem,

    I am making the argument, and my point is being proven out by the very fact of this discussion:

    Salvation means very different things to LDS and traditional Christians.

    It is not about expectations. It is about reality. Expectations or not, they mean vastly different things. Again, the very fact that you ask me to clarify demonstrates the differences. The fact that of the numbers is demonstrative of the differences.The same with the mode of salvation and the aim of salvation.

    that you are frustrated with my presenting these as important differences shows just how far apart the terms are between our two faiths.

    You accuse me of bringing extra things into the discussion to prove myself right. I bring them into the discussion because each and everyone of those items is deeply important to our concept of salvation. They apparently are not to you, and that is fine. However, given that they are important to us and maybe not important to you is absolutely why the chasm exists.

    You do use salvation in a much more casual way that is far more encompassing than we do. Again, that’s fine. There’s no problem with that, but we need to be aware of the deep and profound differences.

    Perhaps you do not fully grasp our beliefs, and that’s OK. That is something I am trying to do, too: explain, not necessarily convince, our beliefs. I feel like you are trying to make this into something it is not. It is not a right doctrine/wrong doctrine thing. I am merely suggesting that LDS and Christians view salvation very differently, along with a host of other terms.

    These differences matter, and to recognize the differences, you have to be open to really seeing what the other side says and why. I am telling you directly that salvation encompasses all of the above and more within the traditional Christian framework. Few get saved, and when saved, we spend eternity with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one. If you are not saved, you are sent to hell, and there is no other option or anything further than spending eternity with God.

    You need to understand that, and stop making it about expectations. That sounds like you are making it a right/wrong thing and that you don’t want to have to capitulate to what the other side says. No one is asking you to capitulate, I only ask that you recognize the differences for what they are. If you continue to make it about expectations, you are the only one in this discussion doing so.

  79. Ray,

    1) In heaven, at the right hand of God, the Father. Does he have a human body walking around there like some scene out of an old Roman god movie? I don’t know, but Jesus is human and a person just like you and I. When he returns to Earth, that is the form we will find.

    2) I’ll answer #2 with a question in and of itself: must God be in a certain/static place? God is all around us always, though. How it works, I won’t pretend to understand, but I suggest you read up on the Trinity.

    3/4/5) God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are always manifest in each other, though they reach us in different ways. They are indeed fully united and fully separate. The Trinity is a difficult concept, I grant. After all, how can God be three separate beings yet fully united in every way? I don’t know, but I know that he is. I also know that God is God, not us, and that full comprehension is beyond us. Having said that, the Trinity, does a much better job of explaining all the attributes of God than any other description. To start, consider that there is only one God.

    6/7) We pray to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and I end prayers in the same way. This is very common in my church, and in all the churches I have attended.

  80. Tim, I look forward to what you have to say.

    Gundek, the video was cute but not very clear in explanantion.

    Cowboy – when you say Jesus is on the right hand of God, how do you mean that?

    While being stoned Stephen said he saw God and Jesus “standing” at his right hand (Act 7:55, 56). (I think it can be safely said the author of Luke and Acts presents his testimony in a quite literal tone). If Jesus has a body and is visually recognizable and in the same vein said he saw God next to Jesus, what do you think Stephen was looking at?

    Also, nearly all the Christians I know still pray to “Jesus” or “Lord” or “Lord Jesus” and not their Father in Heaven and they close with “in Your name, Amen”?
    Now, is this not common through out Evangelicalism? Or is my group of friends an isolated case?

  81. Ray, the Stephen saw the glory of God, with Jesus on his right. I am not sure that is as helpful to you as you would think. If it is indeed to be taken 100% literally, what does ‘glory’ look like?

    As to prayer, consider Matt 6 and Luke 11. This is the model we are to use for prayer. However, bear in mind John 14:14 wherein Jesus tells us he will answer anything asked in his name. The logic of the Trinity further dictates that prayer to one of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is prayer to the other two.

    I usually pray to the Father, but it is not unusual for me to begin with a plea to Jesus. I know there is variety in the church family on how this is done, but it is a meaningless variety. God, as a 3-in-1 God, loves it when you talk to him.

    Perhaps to understand this answer, you need to consider further the nature of God and the Trinity. If you separate God into 3 separate beings, my answer may not make much sense. I would also broaden your exposure to other Christians to at least see what I am saying in action.

  82. Thanks Cowboy,
    I ask these questions to better understand others.

    I have the ability to see “the other side” in just about every situation almost to a fault, whether it be relationships, religion, work etc…though I have my own views as well.

    I believe this helps me see the strength and weakness of two opposing views. I know, for instance, the weakness of the LDS views on many topics, but they are not the views expressed by so many anti-Mormon books or web sites.

    Thanks for your comments about prayer. Prayer is very important, and I agree a sincere heart is far more important than what name we call upon, however, if some one were to call upon Zeus, I think that would be an insult to the God we know, especially if the individual is fully aware of the Christian story and doctrine.

  83. Ray, you hit upon one of the biggest differences between Mormons and traditional Christians. I happen to agree that someone calling upon Zeus would displease God. And that is where the biggest difference occurs: we do not worship or believe in the same God. Sure, we call them Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (or Ghost), but the very identity of these are far, far different. The differences come to the point where one of us is calling out to Zeus when compared with the other. I raise this not to criticize, but to bring out the importance of the differences in our faiths.

    I hope you do have an open mind as to these discussions and don’t view them as criticisms in and of themselves.

    But God is God, and I cannot put him in a box or force a specific form upon him. That would be limiting God, something I cannot do. I trust he reveals himself in ways that will get the hearer’s attention, but he is far superior than I can ever be in every way. God is God, I am not. Prayer is very important, but who we pray to matters in the sense that if you pray to something not God, you pray to an idol. I think you would agree with that general statement.

    However, who is God?

  84. Cowboy

    “when saved, we spend eternity with God… If you are not saved, you are sent to hell, and there is no other option or anything further than spending eternity with God.”

    This is exactly what we mean, at least in my experience, when we speak of salvation. Now, we do differ on how many people will be saved, and we differ on our understanding of God. But, again, these are not the same as salvation. Are they important to it? Of course they are, as all doctrine is connected and woven together. There is not a single doctrine that is not important to salvation. But to say that salvation encompasses all of them is make the term practically useless.

    I am not striving to a discussion of correct doctrine. Simply an accurate portrayal of the doctrine. I took the definition you provided of what salvation is and showed how the LDS would agree with it. I explained, I thought very clearly, how the term is used by us and how that use is not drastically different than how you use it, because it isn’t. But you seem to be so insistent on there being a difference that you are demanding that we go outside the very definition you gave. Then, because I try to keep the discussion confined to the original definition you complain and try to tell me we don’t find these other things important.

    It is like saying that two people use the term Height differently because one measures in inches and the other in centimeters.

    I find all the doctrine extremely important, but I separate one doctrine from other. I will discuss for hours how they relate to each other, but I will never accept any claim that one doctrine is part of another because of those relations. Salvation is salvation, just as height is height; changing methods or goals does not change the basic definition, just as changing from inches to centimeters does not change the definition of height.

  85. “But to say that salvation encompasses all of them is make the term practically useless.”

    OK, then who we worship is a worthless discussion in terms of salvation. You do realize that the primacy of God is at the heart of who is saved in our faith, right?

    What you don’t seem to understand is that salvation cannot be separated from the identity of God. This difference in our doctrine is at the very heart of salvation. You use the term so loosely, and now admit that you separate out salvation from the other doctrines.

    This is precisely the problem. Your tendency to separate cheapens the very thing that makes salvation possible and what limits who is saved. Your tendency to separate allows you to simply say that, “Oh, our views of salvation are the same”. They are not the same, not by a long shot. You cannot discuss salvation without discussing the mode and source of salvation, yet you are intent on doing exactly that.

    But to understand the inescapable link in salvation to the mode and source requires a better understanding of our faith. I would wager you lack in that understanding. Who gets saved and why is at the very heart of our faith, and are what Christians are all about.

    The simple concept of separation from God as a result of failing to accept Christ is an idea that cannot exist without knowing more. Its a non-starter to simply leave salvation as you quote me “when saved, we spend eternity with God… If you are not saved, you are sent to hell, and there is no other option or anything further than spending eternity with God,” as it is so shallow that virtually any faith can accept it. It means so little as to be laughable.

    I have to note what you leave out of my quote, which is reprinted here:

    “Few get saved, and when saved, we spend eternity with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one. If you are not saved, you are sent to hell, and there is no other option or anything further than spending eternity with God.”

    You had to take out a couple of important phrases. First, few will be saved, and then, the definition of God as 3-in-1. Who we spend eternity with is also indispensable, though I almost left it out.

    Yet you wish to leave the definition as simply being heaven and hell, and spending eternity with God. Do you really fail to see the importance of these attributes of salvation? If so, you really do need to come to a better understanding of the Christian faith. Put some meat to it and move off the milk.

  86. “we do not worship or believe in the same God. Sure, we call them Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (or Ghost), but the very identity of these are far, far different.”

    “Prayer is very important, but who we pray to matters in the sense that if you pray to something not God, you pray to an idol.”

    More than 80% of humanity believes in God. They may not understand him, they may not know about Jesus and they may have what we view as a twisted idea of the nature of God.
    This can not be simple childhood indoctrination. I think we believe in God because we are hard wired through the light of Christ to believe in deity.

    The God I believe in sacrificed for all of humanity, all of those from the past present and future. Yet, I have never seen God and neither have you. But we can both agree, I think, the sincerity of prayer is important and that is what counts most with God.

    The most simple minded people have no clue what God is or how he behaves. Most Christians even, have never read their Bible, yet, you would consider them saved if they confessed Jesus. Yet, when I have asked other Christians about the Trinity. I’ve heard three or four different versions. They don’t understand God among themselves but that doesn’t matter entirely. What they do matters in conjunction with what they know. If God wanted his identity clearly defined in the past, he would have done so. He would have said it outright instead of leaving us to bicker over this scrip and that one.

    All of mankind is on a growth path. Some are fortunate to hear about Christ in this life and most are not. Eventually, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Christ”. This bowing will not be at the point of a sword, it will be in acceptance.

    I would not degrade any one’s faith and say they are actually praying to an idol. They have some faith because what God has given them, that is why unbelievers will be judged by their conscience (Paul says) if they don’t have the Gospel standard.

  87. Ray, the one who sincerely prays to his cat named Jesus, or to the great spaghetti monster, or to Buddha, or to Allah, or the Yankees for that matter, cannot claim to know Christ. And I am happy to say so. Why? Because it is truth. And the Bible is crystal clear on who God is, and for that matter that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ or 100% adherence to the law (which is impossible, by the way).

    In this post, you take a universal/relativistic approach to the Gospel. Sincerity is not important here, and its interesting to hear you say that because for those that sincerely reject the Book of Mormon surely are set apart in God’s eyes from those that do within your own faith. Sincerity has nothing to do with truth. We can all be sincere in any number of things, and not all of those things are productive or positive.

    God is a jealous God, is he not? And Christ clearly states that belief in Him and Him alone is what matters. And the bowing to those who do not believe will be in shock and horror. People who do not believe have a difficult future.

    You seem to do what many Mormons do: look at differences in how Christian doctrine is described and conclude it must be wrong. I hope you recognize a) Mormons are all over the place and b) getting different people to describe the same concept will inevitably result in different descriptions. Why don’t you dig in and do some serious research on what the Trinity is within Christianity. Don’t take the word of people here or those you meet on the street.

    The Bible is crystal clear on God’s identity. I can only pray you open your eyes to see it.

  88. OK, Shem, I put some additional thought last night into our little discussion on salvation and how it is used. Let me, for the sake of argument, grant that salvation is simply the concept of being spared from eternal torment. Do you mean to suggest that how we are spared from eternal torment and who does the saving are separable questions?

    Think about it. If we conclude we agree on salvation is being spared eternal torment, are we being complete by leaving this discussion right there? No! The questions of how and who are inevitably going to follow. If someone says to you “OK, so salvation is being spared outer darkness, how do I ensure I am spared outer darkness?” would you be surprised if they asked this? No, you would expect it. And you would naturally explain the Mormon concept of how one is spared outer darkness.

    To expect otherwise is naive or dishonest. We simply cannot separate the issues of the mode and person of salvation when discussing salvation. If we try to separate out the issue, as you clearly have done, one has to wonder why and what the person is hiding. My bet is that you are very sincere, but want to make something fit that simply does not fit. You want the similarity to exist, and at best it exists at the very basic level of being spared eternal torment.

    But that level is where any similarity ends. All of the questions that are inescapably tied to salvation lead us in different directions. We cannot ignore these questions or their answers. I ask that you acknowledge this truth.

    And that is what I have been saying through this discussion, and what led me down this path: the same words have drastically different conclusions in Mormonism and Christianity. To ever have any fruitful discussion, we need to recognize this and not go through what you and I just did. It is important to be absolutely clear on what is meant by even the word salvation. Is this work? Yup, but it is vital to get a clear understanding of what the other side means. Without it, neither side will ever learn about the other.

  89. Cowboy

    “Do you mean to suggest that how we are spared from eternal torment and who does the saving are separable questions?”

    That is exactly what I am saying. You asked how the term is used. That is a question of linguistics, and I answered in linguistic terms. We use the same definition.

    “We simply cannot separate the issues of the mode and person of salvation when discussing salvation.”

    You want to discuss salvation I am all for it. Yes these questions are natural, and should follow in any good conversation. But they should not be confused with the original question. They are separate questions.
    You asked how the term salvation was used, and then refused to accept my answer because it did not involve all the other questions, which you did not ask. You claimed that they were part of the same question, and they are not.

    Go back to my illustration of Height. Let us use that term in this discussion.
    “We mean different things when we use the term height.”
    “Not really.”
    “How do you used the term height?”
    “It is a description of the vertical distance from the bottom of an object to its top.”
    “Yeah, but you measure that distance in inches and we measure it in centimeters. That is a huge difference.”
    “Yes, but we are still measuring the same distance.”
    “But you use inches.”
    “I never said we didn’t.”

    And so on. You want to discuss the other things involved that is fine, but I was answering the question of how we use the term, not all the implications of it.

    None of this means I cheapen anything or use the terms casually or any other accusation you have made. It means that I am a very little person when it comes to language and I will answer the exact question posed, without bringing anything else into the discussion unless it is necessary for clarity.

  90. Shem, I call BS. You cannot have a discussion on how the term salvation is used without discussing more. I did not ask the simple definition. Using the term involves much more than a simple definition. You know that full and well. If I had wanted a simple definition, I would have asked for it, but I asked for how the term is used.

    And yes, you cheapen it when you separate it.

  91. Cowboy, I’m going to focus on the other thread for now, but I want to make clear, I was talking about people who recognize that there is a God, not some one praying to their cat. Yes, salvation comes under the name of Jesus, I thought I pointed that out when I mentioned everyone will eventually accept him as their Savior.

    What I was getting at is your doctrine that if someone doesn’t believe the way you do then they are practically worshipping idols is wrong. Billions of people are sincere in their belief in God and I know God will recognize this at judgment since if they didn’t get a chance to even hear about Jesus they will be judged on what Jesus gave them, their conscience and what they did with that conscience.

  92. Cowboy

    I went back through the posts and have collected those questions and comment to which I was responding. You said you were asking for more than a simple definition, and yet you asked the following;

    1. “What is salvation?”
    What is this but asking for a definition? If a person asked what a chair was, or what a dog was you would expect a simple definition. So why are you complaining that I gave a definition of salvation.

    2. “If a Mormon casually uses the term ‘salvation’ to what is he speaking?”
    Again, this is asking for a basic definition. It may be asking for a slightly higher degree of detail, but it is not asking for analysis of the doctrine.

    3. “Do, in your opinion, traditional Christians and Mormons have a different understanding of the word “salvation”?”
    This is, once again, asking for the definition of the word, though asking for the definition that is used by the LDS church.

    To answer these questions again;
    1. A dictionary definition is to be saved from a negative or uncomfortable event or situation. In terms of LDS doctrine it is most commonly used to refer to salvation from eternal torment in Hell.)

    2. Most often he is speaking of Salvation from hell and eternal torment.

    3. No, at least not significantly. This is a myth created by a false understanding of the doctrine of either side. On the part of other Christians this confusion comes largely from a misunderstanding of the LDS doctrine of the degrees of glory. On the LDS side of it this confusion generally comes from an assumption that other Christians are simply wrong, and thus they couldn’t have the same understanding of the term.
    Actually, you made this assumption when you said “It is one that is used in vastly different ways, given that LDS view escape from outer Darkness even as being saved, but not achieving the fullness God promised.” Thus you make the assumption that because of the doctrine of the degrees of glory there has to be a substantial difference in how we understand and use the term.

    You don’t like my analogy of height, what about a chair? There are two chairs in a room. One is a simple wooden chair without arms. The other is a soft, velvet lined, armchair. A man comes and says to “sit in the chair” and pulls the wooden one. Another man later comes in and says to “sit in the chair” and pulls the armchair over.
    So, did the two men use the term chair in different ways with different meanings?

    Honestly, I still don’t think you are understanding what I am saying. You are insisting on a religious discussion and I have been answering linguistically because that is how you phrased the questions. As I said, I am very literal when it comes to language (mistyped above). You want to discuss the doctrine, or, more appropriately, the doctrines of salvation, I am more than happy to. But when you asked what salvation is, or what we mean when we use the term you will get the same answer I have given several times now, because that is the answer to that question.

  93. Shem,

    We distinctly disagree on the importance of the differences. You even correctly understand me as asking for more detail, yet you won’t give any more. You insist on staying at the shallow end of the pool when you know I am in the deep end.

    In a way, you prove a sense of Mormons I have gleaned, and even part of the point in asking my questionable begin with: Mormons aren’t forthright in discussing their doctrine. By continuing to to argue with me about my intent you completely ignore what you know is my direction. You continue to obfuscate and ignore the real issue.

    This is dishonest, and while I am sure you feel completely justified, it is intentionally ignoring what you know I am getting at. I have been crystal clear in my discussion that more than dictionary definition is required. Even my questions, which you admit, lead to greater discussion if honestly addressed.

    You know full well our faiths have drastically different views of many, many different concepts. Why can’t this be something to just accept? Why is it a problem to have different views?

  94. Shem,

    I’ll simply add here that due to your intransigence in failing to see how I explained how salvation is inseparable from Christ, you still fail to see the difference in our faiths and how we use the term. The answer to my inquiry is right there, then. If I cannot separate our salvation from Christ, and you can, this is an important revelation.

    Deny it all you want, but its right there for you to see.

  95. Cowboy

    You are still refusing to understand what I am saying and continually throw out baseless accusations.
    I answered your question, and you refused to accept my answer because you did not like it. As I said, I am perfectly willing to discuss anything with you, if you ask questions regarding it. But if you refuse to accept my answers than what is the point?
    In other words, until you accept that I answered the question you asked there is no reason for me to take the discussion any further. If you want a discussion on salvation than lest have it; but first accept what I have said reflects our doctrine, or at least my understanding of it.

  96. Shem, yet you are clueless as to what I am saying. Actually, I don’t think you are clueless at all. You know full well what I am saying.

    Look, my point was to suggest Mormons and traditional Christians use terms differently. I used salvation as an example. I asked how Mormons use the term. You answered very mechanically saying salvation means separation from hell.

    I have said that even accepting that answer or positions are very different. I have said that Christianity includes a lot more than that. You continue to insist that it’s just that separation from hell.

    Fine. I doubt your answer is complete but granting that that’s all of it, we are still world’s apart.

    I honestly feel like are really striving to make our beliefs mesh by stripping Them of all meaning. I have told you Christianity cannot separate Christ from salvation. You don’t seem to accept that answer.

    In doing so, you reveal quite a bit about your own views. The proposition I made was quite simple, and it’s ok that we view things differently. There does not need to be similarity, but it is important we are honest about the differences. If you can’t recognize that you are native and ignorant on the subject or dishonestly forcing b something that is not there.

  97. “I have told you Christianity cannot separate Christ from salvation.”

    If you think I am separating Christ from salvation than you have not understood my intention. Yes, the two terms have different meanings, and they always will. Without different meanings than at least one of the terms because useless. We talked about being saved, not about being Christed, because being saved in not Christ. Are they connected? Yes. Can you be saved without Christ? No. But do the two words have the same meaning? Of course not.
    Again, this is a linguistic point, not a doctrinal one; but without understanding the language one cannot understand the doctrine.

    “There does not need to be similarity, but it is important we are honest about the differences.”

    There also does not need to be differences and it is important that we are honest about the similarities. You are so caught up in proving differences that you refuse to see any similarities, or acknowledge them in any way.
    I have not yet failed to acknowledge a single difference, and I never will. The differences are very important, but they do not reduce the importance of the similarities. We must acknowledge both, yet you only want to acknowledge the differences. That is my point. Truly, one cannot fully understand and appreciate the differences without also understanding the similarities.

    So, let us acknowledge and accept the similarities and then let us discuss the differences.
    1. In the eternities there are two basic divisions.
    2. One of those divisions is to be with Satan in a state of continual and endless torment.
    3. The other division is to be in the presence of God.
    4. To be saved means that you are spared the eternal torment and in the presence of God.

    Is there anyone who would say that any one of these four points is not part of either Christian or LDS doctrine?

  98. Ah, Shem.

    To answer your last question: sure, on a superficial level, there is probably agreement.

    But you’ll notice that there are in fact more than two divisions in Mormonism. There are at least 3, and being merely with God is not the highest level.

    You’ll also notice that most everyone gets to be with God in Mormonism. All one has to do is live a good life and not flip God off to avoid being with Satan. One does not even need to know God to be saved. Even if Christ has mercy on those people, they don’t need to know him.

    Contrast that with what I am saying: Christ = Salvation. One must recognize God to be saved. Christ is God, and so you cannot remove Christ from salvation. Failure to recognize God means eternal torment.

    So, the similarities are superficial, at best. Your attempt to create similarities helps nothing, because it does not address serious issues stemming from your similarities.

    I have to wonder why you find it so important to stress similarities that are not really that similar to begin with. I see the importance in the differences, not the similarities. The similarities get us no where in understanding each other when just below the surface of these similarities are glaring differences.

    OK?

  99. Cowboy

    “The similarities get us no where in understanding each other when just below the surface of these similarities are glaring differences.”
    They get us nowhere because you refuse to accept and acknowledge them. They would be the basis of a profitable discussion, but you refuse to allow it.

    “But you’ll notice that there are in fact more than two divisions in Mormonism.”
    Which is why I said basic divisions. Pay attention to the language used. I am always very careful in my choice of words, and wish others would be more careful in the way they read it.

    “There are at least 3, and being merely with God is not the highest level.”
    Again, you contribute to the confusion by your assumption that this cancels all similarities. Also, just note that I have spoken to many other Christians who believe in a dividing of heaven. They speak of it all as one place, but within it people get varying degrees of rewards. So, for these people even this is not as different as you want to make it.

    “One does not even need to know God to be saved.”
    If you think this is true that you really don’t know LDS doctrine. No one can be saved in ignorance. Everyone will know God before they are saved in any degree. The difference here is that we believe some will come to know him after they die rather than in this life.
    Once again your insistence on stressing the differences is leading to misunderstanding and confusion.

  100. 1) OK, I am curious, what does discussing the similarity gain us?

    2) I know full well the definitions you used. Why do you assume I don’t know what you wrote? We will never get out of the circle until you get it out of your head that I am not listening. I am.

    3) You do not understand the concept of Christian rewards, and inject your own interpretation of it here. (Doncha hate it when Christians do that to you? So stop doing it to us. (By the way, I am not bothered that you do it, only pointing out the double standard)).

    4) https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-46-the-final-judgment?lang=eng

    See the above article, directly from LDS.org. It clearly states that only those who deny the Holy Ghost after receiving it go to outer darkness. Everyone else gets at least to the Telestial, where they do get to see the Holy Ghost, and according to the article. The Holy Ghost is a God, one of the members of the Godhead, and these people are thus considered saved as I understand it, even if they suffer in their own sins until the Millennium. They are not necessarily damned until eternity, which is what happens in Christianity to those who have not heard of Christ or recognized God.

    Going back to one of, if not the first, definitions you gave concerning salvation, you basically said that salvation comes to all those who do not experience spiritual death. The people in the Telestial Kingdom are not dead, and would be saved.

    5) In honesty, to emphasize, why I continue: I really do fail to see a) how our concepts are similar beyond the basic definition and b) how it is constructive to end the discussion there. The meat is beyond that point. Anyone can develop a concept of salvation from hell. Its who goes to heaven or hell, who decides, and on what basis that matters, not that there is a similar concept of heaven and hell. I see the basic, superficial definition as a given. The meat of the concept of heaven and hell is where people live or die.

    6) Now, back to your court: the wisdom to be gleaned from looking at the similarities? Note that I am expressly concerned with your thoughts on what can be gleaned to move the discussion forward by focusing on similarities. Please provide more than giddy, feel-good notions of cooperation. I am being very practical here; make it useful. What meat is found in recognizing that some people go to heaven and some people go to hell when we all know that?

  101. Shem, I’ll note that I did see in LDS.org, that the tel. kingdom can be seen as hell, though this is more akin to the Christian concept of purgatory. Its not something I agree with, but some do. The concept appears to have an idea of becoming pure and perfectly clean before entering heaven. (see this: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/purgatory.) Even if you look to perceived similarities in the Tel. K. and purgatory, there are still important differences.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I did notice that the Tel. K. is sometimes referred to as hell in LDS circles. How often I don’t know. But it is not eternal hell, which is an eternal destination in traditional Christianity.

  102. From the Protestant perspective, the benefit of understanding their similarities with the LDS is that it will help them develop more effective ways evangelize the LDS into a better understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Focusing on differences does nothing to endear the LDS to Protestantism, and generally causes contention rather than a desire for understanding.

  103. Jared, fair enough, but when similarities have been established, where do you go from there?

    Here: we have established a basic definition of salvation. Now what? As I see it, Shem does not want to go beyond that. He apparently wants me to say something like: “Yes, Shem our concepts of salvation really are similar after all.”

    Beyond the superficial level of having a heaven and a hell has been admitted. He does not seem to accept my admittance of that. I know I continue to talk about the differences, because my original questioning on this was to get to how LDS use the term “salvation”. I honestly don’t feel I have gotten a straightforward answer from Shem on this one, as stating that “there is a heaven and hell, and saved people don’t go to hell” clearly does not adequately address the question.

    It might on a very basic level, but you have to admit salvation is far more than that. Even in the link I provided above from LDS.org, we see a very complicated layering of salvation. Focusing on the tel k and outer darkness, some who are not initially ‘saved’ will be saved later. And only a few don’t get saved initially. (That’s if we define those in the tel k. as unsaved to begin with.)

    I don’t view my discussion here as about endearing anyone to anything. Its about truth. If we have to couch truth in ways that are endearing, we lose the truth. This is not meant to be disrespectful, or to suggest rudeness is the better option, because I definitely agree we should always be respectful. However, first, where have I been disrespectful; second, honesty goes both ways (Shem knows my argument); and third, the Mormon rarely goes off his own turf, meaning that the discussion has to be had under his parameters, which gets us back into discussions you and I have had before.

    How does one address a Mormon is these discussions? It is my opinion the Mormon is generally patently close minded on these issues, and I see Shem’s reluctance to move the discussion forward as this concept in action. Its as if there is a line around them that will not allow themselves to cross. On the other side of that wall is a discomfort they cannot allow.

    Anyway, my conversation with Shematwater concerning salvation is ultimately how Christians and Mormons use the term “salvation”. That we have spend so much time on it is strong evidence on how we really do use it very differently, which is my contention. I am happy to admit where we have similarities, but all that has been shown in similarities is that we believe some go to heaven, and some go to hell. That’s pretty shallow, though, and we would be remiss to leave the discussion there. I have actually written this several times now, and the only response is that I don’t get what has been written. I get it, I just recognize that there is more, and I don’t see that Shem is willing to go to where there is more concerning a comparison in our concepts of salvation.

  104. “I know full well the definitions you used. Why do you assume I don’t know what you wrote?”
    I never said you didn’t. I said your refused to accept or acknowledge them. There is a difference, and one that I very carefully made.

    “You do not understand the concept of Christian rewards, and inject your own interpretation of it here.”
    I never claimed to have a full understanding of anything. I said that, based on some conversations I had with others there are those whose professed beliefs have some striking similarities to ours. I did not claim that it is your beliefs, nor did I claim that it was common to all Christians. I said that I had had discussion with many Christians who voiced these opinions. I didn’t even say what those opinions were, exactly, so you have no idea as to what my understanding it. Again, you are assuming things.

    “See the above article, directly from LDS.org.”
    What does this article have to do with anything. Are you claiming that it proves the LDS teach that you don’t have to know Christ? That is the only purpose I can see for it, and for that purpose it fails. All people will learn the Gospel and have the opportunity to receive or reject the gospel. All will come to know Christ, either in this mortal life or in the world of spirit.

    “the wisdom to be gleaned from looking at the similarities?”
    First of all, common ground. It is always easier to understand something if you start with what is familiar about it. For a person wishing to discuss the doctrine of another church, it is always helpful to first establish what they both agree on, and then go forward. If you start with the differences than you have the higher risk of not recognizing the similarities and thus not fully understanding the other’s doctrine.
    For example: You want to focus on the differences regarding or doctrine on the degrees of glory. That is fine, but in so doing you have made the claim that we do not believe in the basic divisions of heaven and hell. Now, you say you see this as a given. However, not everybody does. Actually, in my experience few people do. Because we believe in the degrees of glory most people assume that we do not believe in the basic division of heaven and hell. Thus they do not understand our doctrine, and they cannot understand it until they are made to realize that this similarity exists.
    Now, you may claim this to be superficial all you want. To me it is very important. Many things are superficial, but without them the deeper things cannot be understood. Let me toss out another analogy: it would be like saying you don’t need to understand the skin in order to understand the anatomy of the body; after all that is superficial.
    If one does not comprehend the surface they will never fully understand the inner-workings.

  105. Cowboy

    I am perfectly willing to take the conversation farther and I always have been, when the questions are asked. Now, I have never asked you say “Yes, Shem our concepts of salvation really are similar after all.” What I have asked for would be more “Yes, Shem, you answered the question and your answer is valid. So, now let us discuss this.”
    As I have said before, until you accept that I answered the question you asked there is no reason for me to take the discussion any further. If you want a discussion on salvation than let’s have it; but first accept what I have said reflects our doctrine, or at least my understanding of it. Don’t accuse me of being dishonest because what I say does not reflect your understanding of our doctrine, or because I do not address everything you wanted me to.

    In everything you have said I have seen a refusal to accept the answer I gave because it was not the one you wanted. You have never shown a willingness to acknowledge any similarity. When you have acknowledged anything it was very grudgingly. The first time you did so was only “for the sake of argument” which is not acknowledging anything. It merely trying to divert the discussion. More recently you acknowledged similarities but only through a claim that any similarities are worthless to the discussion. This is not being “happy to admit where we have similarities.” It is trying to force me away from what I am saying so that you can control the discuss without actually accepting anything I have said.

  106. Shem, when I first admitted that the similarity was there, though shallow and superficial, and you object and want more, you started to define the discussion on your terms. You will never get a perfect answer. The similarity you provide falls apart so quickly in a discussion of how salvation is used in our two faiths its useless as far as i can see. You have failed to convince me why it is important to really give it more attention than I have, and that is for me to say, yes it exists, but its really shallow and superficial.

    You are free to disagree, and you can think it is very important. I don’t. What don’t you get about that?

    Admitting something for the sake of argument is admitting that something is at best superficial. This one small sliver of the discussion in our faiths of salvation does not address the entire concept of salvation.

    You evidently feel I am forcing you in one direction, while I feel you are pushing me in another is more evidence that Mormons and Christians generally cannot have productive discussions.

    My entire point in this thread is that Mormons and Christians mean different things when we use the same words. If all you can say is that the basic, superficial definitions are the same, you prove my point.

    Common ground is not always helpful. You say this: “If you start with the differences than you have the higher risk of not recognizing the similarities and thus not fully understanding the other’s doctrine.” You claim to strive for similarities but how well do you understand my faith? From what I have seen, not very. You grossly put into your own words conclusions regarding rewards in heaven just today. Yes, Christians generally do believe in rewards in heaven, but you put your own spin on that such that you distort the idea to something incorrect. Common ground and common understanding does not help there.

    You need to pay attention to what you are told and focus on what is presented to you. In one of your last posts you said this: “Now, you say you see this as a given. However, not everybody does. Actually, in my experience few people do.” I am me. You are discussing with me, not other people. Don’t bring your assumptions from others to me. All along I have said that Mormons and Christians view things differently, even the same words. You bringing in other assumptions about other people is not helpful.

    Now, I’ll say it again: if you can provide more evidence that we view salvation in the same way, I am willing to listen, but if you continue to harp on how I am not accepting what you say, you continue to prove my point. Why? Because I have made my point and you have done nothing to disprove it. You’ve said nothing to indicate a similar use of salvation beyond some get saved and others don’t. What you’ve left out is the meat, you know, the stuff that makes salvation possible and how it works. The stuff that cannot be taken out of any discussion of salvation.

    I’ll end by saying that “salvation” is but one term out of many that are shared between Mormons and Christians. It does not prove my over all point on different uses between the faiths on most terms, but it is evidence of it. Why this can’t be admitted you is intriguing.

  107. Again, you fail to understand me.
    I will not admit that we use the term differently because to do so is to destroy the language. You say definitions are superficial, but that is the very core of language. Without definitions of words people can take any word they want, give it any definition they want, and then communication breaks down.
    I have repeated many times that I am making a linguistic point, not a doctrinal one. Yes, I am very stubborn on this point. I look at the language we use and I see that we use the same definition of salvation. This means that in any given sentence that contains that word it has the same definition, and by that definition we are able to clarify the meaning of other words in the sentence.
    To say that we use the term differently is to imply that we use different definitions and thus alter the meaning of any given sentence that contains the word. This is what my point has been, and it is at the very foundation of communication. You can rail against me all you want, but this is simply how it is.

    “when I first admitted that the similarity was there, though shallow and superficial, and you object and want more, you started to define the discussion on your terms”
    No, I defined my answer on my terms, which I have every right to do. Your responses have been to say that my answer is meaningless and pointless, and that is trying to define the discussion. It is not up to you to decide what is important in any conversation. You decide what is important to you, and that is it. To have a productive conversation you must then respect what the other person finds important in the discussion. If you cannot respect that than you are trying to force the discussion to be only about what you want it to be about, and nothing else.

    “You have failed to convince me why it is important to really give it more attention than I have, and that is for me to say, yes it exists, but its really shallow and superficial.”
    And if you can treat that which I find important so lightly that you give me very little reason to take the conversation any farther.

    “You are free to disagree, and you can think it is very important. I don’t. What don’t you get about that?”
    I get all this very well. Honestly, I wouldn’t have cared if you had thought it important or not, if you have respect my answers; but I have felt very little respect, as I have noted. If you had simply said “Okay, so we use the same definition, but what about the doctrine?” I would have gladly continued the discussion. But you didn’t. For several posts you simply refused to acknowledge it, and then when you did you did so is a dismissive way.

    “if you can provide more evidence that we view salvation in the same way”
    Once again you altered the question. Now, this may have been the original intent of your questions, but it is not the question you asked, nor is it the question I answered. We view salvation in vastly different ways, and I am glad of it and will always be happy to admit that. However, even in this sentence we are using the term salvation in the same way; in reference to being spared eternal torment in Hell.

    ” In one of your last posts you said…I am me. You are discussing with me, not other people. Don’t bring your assumptions from others to me.”
    I didn’t. I replied to you based on what you said with no reference to anyone else. You seem to want me to assume that you know everything about LDS doctrine, and that is an assumption I will never make. I prefer to approach every conversation with the assumption that the person I am talking too does not know, because then I will not leave out anything important. If, in the course of the discussion it becomes apparent that they do know something I then change what I am saying based on that new information. So, I gave my answer because I didn’t know whether you understood it or not. Your claim that it is a given came only after many attempts to deny or dismiss it. Even if I take your word now, you gave me no indication before. If you are continually arguing that “Mormons and Christians view things differently, even the same words” then why would I assume that you recognize the similarities?

    ” You claim to strive for similarities but how well do you understand my faith?”
    I have never claimed to strive for anything. Again you seem to be putting words in my mouth. As I said, I choose my words carefully and I mean only what I say and nothing more. I don’t strive for similarities or differences. If I strive for anything it is understanding, and understanding can only be achieved when we acknowledge both similarities and differences.

    And no, I do not have a deep understanding of your faith, and I never claimed to. When I first answered your questions I tried to use only what you posted here. I never made any claim to anything else, and never tried to use anything else. I referenced the definition you gave for salvation. I referenced back to your words many times. Based on the words you used I see strong similarities.

    “You grossly put into your own words conclusions regarding rewards in heaven just today…you put your own spin on that such that you distort the idea to something incorrect.”
    What I said may be incorrect as regards your beliefs, but then I never claimed that you believe it. I said many Christians that I have spoken to profess a belief that bears striking similarities to what the LDS teach. Yes, I described this as a kind of divided heaven, because that is how it was explained to me. I also very clearly stated that it was still one place. To clarify more, the people I talked to explained their belief that while all in heaven will be in the presence of God some will be given more rewards or glory and thus will be separated; not in space but standing. In the discussion I got the idea that it would be very similar to a caste system, with the higher and lower ranks of society, but still all one society.
    Again, I never once claimed that you believed this, or even that it was a general belief. I said that I have spoken to those who do believe it, and that it has striking similarities to LDS doctrine (which one person I talked to agreed with). Am I putting a spin on it? No; I am simply restating what I was told in the best words I know.

  108. I just glossed through your post. I got a kick out of this line:

    “To have a productive conversation you must then respect what the other person finds important in the discussion. ”

    Perhaps you should consider those words carefully when discussing other matters with Christians who stand up against your faith. It was clear very early on what my point was, but you refused to acknowledge it, focusing like a laser on the basic, linguistic definition of salvation. However, you refuse to acknowledge the larger, theological definition that encompasses so much more.

    I’m sorry, and I really hate saying this, but it is not me who ignored what was important. Your admitted stubbornness created a much larger discussion. This could have been done in about four or five posts. See the following:

    Me: I am curious how Mormons use the term “salvation”. Any thoughts, as it seems to me we use the term very differently?
    You: Yes, there are differences, but there are similarities, too. For example, we both believe in a heaven and a hell. Now, how do we use the term? We generally [fill in answer here] when talking about salvation in Mormonism.
    Me: OK, but even if we admit a heaven and a hell, heaven is a much different concept in your faith than mine, as is hell. Its also important to note the mode of who gets to heaven and hell, and why, and who decides. I see great differences on these matters, and think it we would be remiss to gloss over them.
    You: This is true. But while I respect your position, I choose to focus on the similarity rather than the differences. I see more power in focusing there than on the differences. The similarity creates a basis for mutual understanding that I think needs to be built.
    Me: Fair enough. While I do seek mutual understanding, I disagree. And that’s OK, though. I understand your position better now.

    Perhaps I could have been more accommodating early on, however you were very quick to assume so much about me that just was not true. I do want a productive conversation, but I am not going to roll over and play dead while you lecture me on something that is dear to my heart: salvation.

    You have to understand that Christians put great emphasis on Christ in salvation. Honestly, leaving it as a simple matter of division takes Christ out of it. That won’t do in our faith. Granting the simple definition does not cover it. Christ is in the center of it, and we cannot take Him out without creating an empty concept.

    Here is a good article on the subject from the Christian’s perspective:

    http://carm.org/what-is-salvation

    Another couple are here:

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-doctrine-salvation.html
    http://christianity.about.com/od/conversion/p/salvation.htm
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/salvation/
    (In the Bib Study Tools link, you’ll notice this quote: “Broadly speaking, one might say that salvation is the overriding theme of the entire Bible. But since it is a multidimensional theme with a wide range of meaning, simple definitions are impossible.”
    http://www.compellingtruth.org/what-is-salvation.html
    (Here, note this quote, too: “Salvation is about being delivered from that which can injure or destroy. When someone is in danger and gets rescued, or is suffering and gets relief, it is said that he has been saved. But Christian salvation is about far more. It is victory in Jesus, spiritual wellness, and the gift of eternal life.”
    And finally, can’t forget wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvation

    These were all gleaned from a simple search on bing “what is salvation”. There are far more in the results that I did not post.

    I do hope to have productive conversations with Mormons about their faith and about sharing mine. However, as I quoted you above, you have to respect what the other person says. That is a two way street, and your insistence on a very narrow definition when I am clearly speaking about more is not very respectful.

    In Christ,

    MJP

  109. I don’t think it is questionable that Evangelicals and Mormons explain God very differently and define terms very differently, but can an incorrect explanation of the facts change them?

    It seems the more pressing questions are: Do Mormons and Evangelicals agree about the path to follow on earth, even if they disagree about the description of the realities that make this true path possible? Do they have the same Father? The same potential for joy? Do they have equal access to the Holy Spirit? Are they equally free from sin in Christ?

  110. Jared, think of it this way: if the goal is to go to God, whether to become quite literally like him or to forever be in his presence, we have to be headed to the correct God. The destination is terribly important, and will define the path. The destination is found in the explanation and definition of God. The path is defined through terms like salvation.

    Truth matters. The true identity of God matters. This is why I think it is important to ensure terms are clearly defined in these discussions: the same terms can be used to distort the truth.

  111. Cowboy

    I am saying that you need to wood your argument differently. Rather than saying that the terms need to be clearly defined you should be saying that the doctrine needs to be clearly explained. These are two very different things, and they need to be understood and separated.
    It is like the difference between a dictionary and an Encyclopedia. One defines, the other explains.
    I will always say that the dictionaries of the LDS and other Christians are very similar. However, we use very different encyclopedias.

    And yes, this is linguistic and may seem a bit nit-picky, but I do believe it is important. As I have said, language is the foundation of communication, and if it is not used properly communication can never be successful.

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