A free ride to heaven?

In a facebook exchange related to my last post,  I stated that, in “The Gift of Grace” President Uchtdorf “teaches explicitly that we get a free ride to heaven.”

One LDS disagreed and responded:

“If by “free ride” you mean free of repentance, obedience, good works, or somehow contradictory to what other prophets and apostles have taught, you’ve clearly completely misunderstood his point.”

Another LDS agreed and stated:

That “free” gift of sanctification, however, is itself conditioned upon repentance, personal righteousness, and “enduring to the end.” Grace assists us in these tasks as well, but DOES NOT override our agency, free will, or the power of Satan to tempt and deceive.

It is after “all we can do” moment by moment, that we are purged and made “new creatures in Christ.”

I totally disagree with these very common mis-interpretations of Mormonism. When I was a Mormon I might have been an outlier in that I based my faith on what it said in the scriptures over any other teachings.  Based on the Doctrine and Covenants section 76, Joseph Smith’s revelation concerning the afterlife, these commentators have Mormonism fully bass-ackwards.

In their vision of heaven Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon affirm that Christ himself appeared to them defined the Gospel:

 40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

 41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucifiedfor the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and tosanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

 42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

 43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.”

It sticks in my craw that Mormons continue to deny even their own scriptural account of the Gospel, to hold onto the dream that eternal joy is not the fate of all who accept the power of God in their lives.

I have always understood that authentic scripture-based Mormonism teaches that all are guaranteed eternal joy in Christ.  What the Church has been missing are witnesses to this reality.  Without the witnesses, and without the evidence in the countenances of the saved, Mormon children simply won’t get what Jesus — or Joseph Smith — was talking about.

Joseph Smith clearly believed he, and every man, woman and child that was created, was saved from hell and his life was an attempt to glorify God.  Only those who rejected God’s grace would not wind up in heaven.  What Latter-Day Saints should be teaching is that the ONLY free ride in this world is the ride to Heaven. Instead, they often teach that everything in this world is guaranteed if we obey, EXCEPT our place in heaven.

German Technology: Making the LDS Church Even Truer

I have to admit, President Dieter Uchtdorf’s talk “The Gift of Grace” surprised me. But as I think about it, it was the logical move. When I was converted to a grace-based Gospel, I had the idea myself that the LDS church could vastly improve its teaching by simply adding Evangelical-style grace to the formula, and as Tim has proven, it barely produced a ripple. If the Church leadership doesn’t jump on this opportunity to make the church a more powerful force in the world by moving toward orthodoxy, I will know they have no hope.  If they do preach grace and salvation, they just might make themselves the true Church they claim to be.

If Uchtdorf pushed his neo-Mormon-Lutheranism down the throats of the correlation committee, the church will be in a great position to boost its power to spread to the third world.  Given how theologically wacky Brigham Young was, there should be no objection at all from the membership if the First Presidency started transforming into a full-blown Evangelical mega-megachurch. It has the media resources to put the pseudo-Christians at TBN to shame, and the organizational resources and financial support that should inflict most megachurches with a heathen lust. Whether or not move toward orthodoxy was accepted by the rest of the body of Christ, the LDS church could actually adopt the cutting edge of Protestant theologies, whatever would propagate faster in each individual culture.

Mormonism already has a competitive advantage over many Christian churches because its religious structure is much more akin to post-Christian paganism than Protestant churches.  They have the catholic capacity to mint new authoritative doctrine and tradition, and the nimble doctrine of modern-day prophecy to maximize their theological impact. This has got to play better in tribal societies that need a strong church structure within unstable nation-states.  For example, the Congo needs Mormonism badly, for social reasons as much as religious ones.  If Evangelicals got serious about teaching the Apostles how the preach the Gospel better, the Church could be a powerful force to spread hope to Africa.

The reason why Uchtdorf’s talk didn’t raise eyebrows is because grace-based theology is simply superior religious technology. From a religious perspective was as if this German airline pilot showed up with an iPhone 8 in a room full of flip phones.  Uchtdorf and other right-thinking church leaders could revise the entire church curriculum, most of the membership who has heard of the Evangelical gospel are all-too-happy to jump ship on Brigham Young and Co.’s archaic theology. Because the King Follet discourse has been kept from the canon, there is almost no need to even minimize it, simply allow people to believe what they want and preach the real McCoy in the correlated literature.  Any rift within the church could be countered with a form of Gamaliel’s counsel coming from the First Presidency.   The missionaries can integrate a grace-based message into the first discussion, and you will immediately dramatically increase the conversion rate.

The reason I think this is a good idea, is that the semi-pagan structure of the church, and allowance for further prophecy is a very important step toward bringing the Gospel to Islamic countries and pagan Europe.  The only evidence I have is a curious up-tick in Iranian-American baptisms in Southern California. (Muslims becoming anything like Christians is a very important phenomena in my book.)  By coming out with the truth behind Joseph Smith’s sex life, the church could distance itself from his later teachings yet maintain the “secret sauce” that is the Book of Mormon. Thus it could maintain its well-ordered authoritarian structure and true-church status all while moving to a more orthodox — and therefore more appealing — Gospel without jeopardizing unity.  I think they could become a force to be reckoned with in spreading the actual Gospel if they went this route.

I propose the Christian world act like Alma the Elder and push toward this new path in policy and doctrine.

Counting the Cost of Discipleship (notes from my underground)

I was looking through my journal and saw some thoughts I wrote down three years ago, I wrote these before sinking into a very dim atheism, this entry was part of my last effort to hang on to the Christianity I had when I was LDS. I think I was grasping at whether it made sense at all to consider ourselves Christian disciples.  Now I realize that it does not make sense to even to attempt Christian discipleship without more than a mere belief that you believe in Christ – a state of grace is necessary. I open them up for discussion to reveal something about how many faithful Mormons see the task of discipleship:


My Journal, September 1, 2012:  Pascal mentions that things are different for Christians now because primitive Christians had to devote themselves to the kingdom of heaven, to forsake all safety and security, in essence, to throw their lives away.  Becoming a Christian was about throwing your life away. It would destroy your career prospects, make you an enemy of the state, risk all of your life and property. It meant a hell of a lot.  What this tells me is that Christianity is simply not for everybody.  We simply cannot expect people to be Christians like this. It’s a very difficult task. But its always marvelous when we do see people approach life with this sort of abandon. Continue reading

The Message of Sin to a Mormon Missionary

I spent quite a bit of time as a missionary seeking out Evangelicals to talk with.  (I spent 8 months of my mission within a mile of Azusa Pacific University, and I would tract through the student housing for fun.)  Most of the Evangelicals that I met approached me with one of two attitudes: (1) ridicule, and (2 ) fear. I have never felt anyone fear me like I have felt in the presence of some true-believing Evangelicals when I was a missionary. I can chalk some of this up to pure physical presence (I was 6″2, and built a sort of like a skinny orangutan) but I am not a particularly hostile person, and I had made it clear that I was there to learn from them if they were.

It seemed that most of the fear came when I expressed my faith with both confidence and demonstrated knowledge of the Bible.  I seemed to be able to explain my faith better than they could, and in a more confident spirit. Because they “knew” I was wrong, this made them fear that they did not have the prowess or ability to correct me, so they simply wanted escape.  They saw me as a representative of the devil, when I knew I was a representative of God. I knew I was not from the devil, I knew I was there to save them, and they seemed to fear the salvation on offer.  Their fear made me think that the Gospel they believed in must be deeply confused.

Continue reading

Teaching the Gospel to Monkeys

My conversion from philosophical atheism to whatever-sort-of-Christian-I-am-now came over the course of a couple of weeks, after having a series of epiphanies about what it is to be human.

The first of these epiphanies came after watching a video where the animal behavior researcher, Frans De Waal, explains the ongoing project to “discover” the rules of human morality based on a detailed study of animal and human behavior.  He conducted experiments showing moral behavior in elephants, dogs, monkeys.  What intrigued me most was the experiment that proved that monkeys (and even birds and dogs) show a consciousness of fairness:

In the experiment the monkeys are trained to perform a simple task for a reward.  The two monkeys were accustomed to getting one cucumber slice for each task.  During the stream of tasks the monkeys performed the researchers gave one of the monkeys a grape for their task instead of a cucumber.  When the second monkey received only a cucumber slice for his task, he immediately threw the cucumber back at the researcher, screamed, and shook his cage in protest.  The dramatic emotional response from the monkey was eye-opening.

Continue reading

I’m looking for a hard-headed Mormon.

I want to see if there is a way to explain the Evangelical view of salvation in terms that a Mormon would both agree with and adopt as their own.  I want a hard-headed mormon because i want to make it clear that I am not trying to convert anybody from Mormonism. I want somebody who has no fear of being converted away from the Church. (Being hard-headed myself, I don’t yet see why conversion from the LDS Church is necessary to be saved in the Evangelical sense.)

Ultimately my goal is to clearly and simply explain the Evangelical view of salvation in terms that Mormons would feel comfortable teaching their children. So, obviously,  I expect it to be more of a cooperative exercise than antagonistic to the Church in any way. It may involve vetting whatever we come up with in this forum for Evangelical feedback.  I am happy to protect the anonymity of anybody who is willing to contribute their opinions in a public way.

If you are such a hard-headed Mormon, and are at all interested, text or call me at at 8 5 8- 2 1 2-8 0 5 8. or email me at jaredcoleman100@gmail.com

Just a Little Atonement

A link to an article on Feminist Mormon Housewives popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. Though not the point of the article, the author briefly said something about the Atonement that stood out to me.

Second, know that it is NOT within your ability to save anyone. You can’t even save yourself. No matter how many good deeds you do, or how many times you attend the temple, you will fall short of perfect. We all do. All of us. We are all in need of the Atonement and God’s mercy and grace to save us. Even if someone only needs “a little” of the Atonement, it still covers us all equally.

I’m curious about the phrase “Even if someone only needs ‘a little’ of the Atonement”. Is this a common view of the Atonement within Mormonism that someone might only need “a little” of it?

The common Evangelical view is that “only” the Atonement can save us. There is no such thing as “a little” of the Atonement. If this view is of the Atonement is representative of Mormonism I think we may have yet another example of a common word that both Mormons and Evangelicals use with radically different definitions.

For an even more radical view on the Atonement, check out Louis Farrakhan’s sermon.