Common Scriptures in Review: “Come Unto Me”

July 29, 2008
By

While pondering the concept of spiritual poverty earlier this year, something struck me that I hadn’t considered previously quite in that way. I have believed the central principle for some time, but considering how salvation (being saved from something) applies to this life is something I have not put into words previously. Here is what struck me:

Those who crucified Jesus did so because they could not accept Him as the one who had paid (Jehovah) and would pay (the Christ, their Messiah) for their sins. In Matthew 3:9, they said, in essence, “We don’t need you. We are children of Abraham. We are fine. We’ll do it on our own.

We decry deathbed repentance, particularly for those who consciously choose to procrastinate repentance until the end – to do what they want to do until they are facing death and the possibility of judgment. At the same time, too many members view grace, faith and works as follows:

“I must do everything I possibly can do; I must give my all; I must wear out myself trying to do what He has asked me to do – THEN He will accept my effort and help me do more.”

That might not be the exact same mentality as “deathbed” repentance, but it is at least “hospital bed” repentance. In very real terms, it is saying, “I will let you know when I need you,” which really is the same mentality as the one who procrastinates the request for help until his deathbed. It also means that I will not receive the help He can give AS I struggle – which means I will not experience His freedom and joy until my frustration nearly (or completely) breaks me. Yes, I will then be blessed, but I will have missed SO much in the meantime.

Hillary Weeks has a song entitled “Unwritten”. The central message is, in my own words:

“As I review the pages of the book of my life, I am grateful for what I read (what I have experienced), but I am most grateful for what has remained unwritten – those things from which the grace of God has shielded me – those things I have not had to experience – those things from which I have been saved – in this life.” (Yeah, I know it’s Mormon religious pop, but it’s a great message.)

Jesus, as the Christ, offers salvation for us from the effects of our actions in the next life, but Jesus, as the exemplary man, showed us a way to be saved from much of the effect of our fallen existence in this life. In a very real way, not accepting what He paid so dearly to provide until we have exhausted ourselves is no different than not accepting that His offer was ever made in the first place, since they both tell Him to get lost until we get a handle on it on our own or when we finally need Him – implying we don’t need Him now.

His plea, however, is different:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

That is worth pondering, since there is no indication in the record itself that this promise is intended to be fulfilled solely in the hereafter.

Truly, I am grateful for both the pages in the Book of (My) Life that I read and the pages left unwritten – for the things from which He has saved me in this life.

48 Responses to Common Scriptures in Review: “Come Unto Me”

  1. Valoel
    July 29, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Thanks for the beautiful thought Ray. It took me half of an average lifetime to start to understand and really internalize this part of the Atonement. I found immense peace in feeling loved and fully accepted *as is* by my Savior. It opened up a whole new level of love, spirit and appreciation for me. All the stress, shame and guilt of never being able to accomplish it all, to live up to every minute detail of perfection, to get everything done on the checklist right now, it all just evaporated. I know what some people will say. No, it isn’t an excuse to sin. It is however an excuse to enjoy a wonderful communion with the Savior, and enjoy many blessings while we learn to walk on our own. We are good enough wherever we are. He does love us as is.

    The atonement isn’t just a gift for the afterlife, for the end, for our deathbed when we realize we can’t actually do anything else. It’s for right now! We need it now. We don’t need it when we are already perfect, or not when we are 99.99999% perfect and just need that last little nudge. Don’t wait until you get to the bottom of the hill to jump on the skateboard.

    “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

  2. SteveS
    July 29, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for this post, Ray. It lifted my spirits today.

  3. July 29, 2008 at 11:34 am

    This is more of an important message than we realize. Mormonism Research Ministry has portion of their campaign they call “The Impossible Gospel.” They emphasize the futility of the Mormon gospel, that “all you can do” is a no-end-in-sight, depressing, travel through a dark tunnel where the believer can only hope that what they’ve done is enough for grace at some unforeseen, unknowable point in the future.

    The more we recognize that the Atonement is as applicable here-and-now as it will be there-and-then, 1) the more fulfilling our lives will be now and of secondary importance, 2) the more we can respond to evangelical denominations who would have us be a bunch of perfectionists who simply see Christ as the icing on the cake.

    Great post.

  4. Michael
    July 29, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Ray–

    Starting to sound like an evangelical, lol.

    Christ’s work was done for us so that we do not need to do anything. Nothing we can do can cover the price he paid, and this is supported in your argument above.

    We do need it now, and no matter what we try or how hard, it will be in vain. Our hope rests in him and him alone, and anyone who thinks they can add it are deceiving themselves.

    I liked the article, Ray. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Hawkgrrrl
    July 29, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Ray – this is a very nice thought. “it is saying, “I will let you know when I need you,” which really is the same mentality as the one who procrastinates the request for help until his deathbed.” It reminded me of three things:

    1 – the scene at the end of The End (1970s suicide movie with Burt Reynolds where he’s going to drown, so he says he’ll give it all to the Lord if the Lord will help him not drown, but by the time he gets to the shore, he’s pretty much talked himself out of doing anything differently).

    2 – the joke that Dennis Miller made that people in prison keep finding Jesus because no one else on earth will talk to them anymore.

    3 – the upcoming Teachings of JS lesson (on death of all things) in which JS is quoted as saying that consolation comes in learning how to live and in how to die. So, it’s about both the destination and the journey.

    Inspiring as always, Ray.

  6. July 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Ray said: “… there is no indication in the record itself that this promise is intended to be fulfilled in the hereafter.”

    As a member in good standing, and as one who has experienced the power of the atonement, to some degree, I’m counting on the continuing redemptive power of Christ in this life and in the hereafter. To be a joint-heir with Christ, in my opinion, means that I will be brought back into the presence of the Father because of the atonement, in spite of all I did in this life in the way of keeping the commandments.

    The reward of receiving all that the Father hath (D&C 84:38) can only be realized by a God–Jesus Christ, and those who are joint-heirs with Him. In my mind it like a savings account. If I save some amount of money, say one-million dollars over a life time, and the Lord makes up the difference for me by adding a quintillion dollars, if that were the actual price required for entrance to the Father’s presence. Some may achieve saving a 100 billion, but the price is way out of their reach too. Others, may have only achieved a dollar in savings, but because of repentance are still joint-heirs (Matt 20:1-16).

    Death bed repentance is still repentance. Granted it appears to be less than best, but may still be counted as repentance by the Savior who is the judge.

    I believe the Book of Mormon contains a detailed account of the conversion of the Lamanites to help those in our day to understand that none are beyond the redemptive power of Christ.

    I had a missionary companion who had the attitude he was unintentionally condemning people to hell when they didn’t accept his invitation to read the Book of Mormon. The only way we put ourselves in that position is when we deny the Lord’s Spirit intentionally, with plan and thought. I note that Amulek (Alma 10:6) resisted the Lord’s Spirit but was still the man the Lord chose to send an angel to.

    Alma the older and younger, the sons of Mosiah, the apostle Paul, the Lamanities, and Aminadab are a few examples of those who were once on the high road to hell, but responded to the workings of the Spirit and turned around, in an instance, in some cases, to become holy prophets of God.

    We should NEVER, EVER, under estimate the power of repentance and the love of the Father and the Son.

    Ray–great post–sorry for the long winded comment.

  7. Ray
    July 29, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks, everyone.

    I really have been struck by how little the LIFE of Jesus is emphasized in much of Christianity – and, unfortunately, even in the Church. I have been thinking of writing a separate post on a more complete understanding of the word “Atonement” – but I simply will say here that I believe we miss MUCH of what that concept means by focusing so narrowly on the death and resurrection. Those events obviously are critical, but when they become the sole focus of religion, I believe we miss much of the “power of godliness”.

    Valoel: “Don’t wait until you get to the bottom of the hill to jump on the skateboard.” I love that image.

    SteveS: You’re welcome. That makes my day.

    Russell: I agree completely that this is something that is easy to misunderstand as we strive to “correct” the “easy grace” idea of many. I think we have gone overboard a bit, so I really like the course correction I see happening recently from the apostles.

    Michael: Thank you, but I’m not sure I agree 100% – since I’m not quite sure exactly how far you mean one statement to be taken.

    “Christ’s work was done for us so that we do not need to do anything.” I believe strongly that we have been “saved” to a degree of glory in the hereafter strictly through the Atonement of Christ, but I also believe just as strongly that He has asked us to do certain things as a token of our acceptance of Him. There simply are too many “Keep my commandments” variations in the Bible for me to believe otherwise. Mormonism’s delineation of degrees of glory beyond baseline salvation is the best framing of the tension that exists in orthodox Christianity I have encountered. All other constructs have to fight the internal inconsistencies of those “If ye love me, keep my commandments” statements and the “we don’t have to do anything” extreme.

    Having said that: “Our hope rests in him and him alone, and anyone who thinks they can add it are deceiving themselves.” I agree with that completely. I like the analogy to a joint checking account – where we are required to have an infinite balance. No matter what we earn, our balance will never be infinite – unless it is joined to His already infinite balance. The flip-side, however, is that He does require that we add ALL of our meager balance to His – that we not hold anything back as our own.

    Iow, He saves us despite our unworthiness, but He does require everything we have and can give. It’s just that He will walk with us (through the Comforter He promised to send in His stead) as we give it, not wait until after we have given it to join us. It is a joint account **right from the moment we deposit all of our capital into His account**.

    Hawk: “it’s about both the destination and the journey.” AMEN!!

    Jared: I probably should have written the part you quoted as “… there is no indication in the record itself that this promise is intended to be fulfilled SOLELY in the hereafter.” In fact, I am going to edit the post to make that change. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    Also, I did not mean to reject either deathbed or hospital bed repentance. If there truly is a change of heart (true repentance), it truly is repentance. After all, Jesus himself said that the 11th hour laborer would be paid equally with the laborer who had worked hard all day. However, I do believe strongly that deathbed repentance is VERY different than deathbed remorse – and, unfortunately, too many people define repentance merely as remorse.

  8. JustforQuix
    July 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Well put Ray. It does hearken to differences of general perspective between Evangelicalism or Mormonism. I think the here-and-now perspective of salvation/justification is not only hopeful, empowering and a beneficial outlook for living in discipleship for Christ, but seeing Jesus’ Kingdom/Reign of God teachings as primarily a call to living a transformed life NOW rather than later (not that the hereafter is de facto bad, mind you) informs interpretation and nuance in other distinctive ways. For example, John 3 and the traditional LDS perspective on baptism doesn’t look quite the same.

    It is not uncommon to see people struggle with the message of the parable of the Workers in the Field (Matthew 20). When the reward of those who worked for the Lord all day or at the 11th hour is the same, then believers get all worked up about “deathbed repentance”. I think a here-and-now salvation perspective helps us see the Kingdom, our labors for the Lord, different. If we haven’t been transformed and find no joy in His labor, then we are working for an unfair and unjust Master, it would seem.

    Ephesians 2:10 (NASB) — For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. No matter what Bible translation, the work is His, not ours. He redeems us. He pursues those who are His. When we see that we are totally separated from God and totally dependent upon Him for our salvation it should inspire us to gratitude for our own salvation and charity toward others, no matter when, how or what it looks like for them. The work is His. He calls us to labor in His field at different times in each of our “day” of life.

  9. July 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Ray, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. I particularly enjoyed your interpretation of the song “Unwritten”. I have always enjoyed the song. Our daughter used it as her theme for her dance recital – focusing on the message of our divine potential and our hope for the future. I had not thought of it as also a way to be grateful for what has NOT been written (in terms of anguish or sin) – but of course, that is also something to ponder. During our life journey, we learn to have gratitude for the sins we have been able to repent of and the trials we have learned from, balanced with an equal portion of gratitude for the burdens that we have been protected and spared from having to carry.

    We never know what we are going to have to face in mortality. The true gift of Jesus Christ, to me personally, is knowing that He is walking my journey right along side of me. He has suffered it all beforehand. He knows how I am feeling and thinking and at what point in my maturity I am. When I turn to Him, I don’t have to have the burden any more. I don’t know how to carry it, but He does. Meanwhile, I serve and I do good and I strive to keep His commandments and create good work and beauty in order to honor His name. I do good to honor the sacrifice that He has made for me – not in order to try to earn what He has already freely given. The only thing that I can ever offer is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I have nothing else to give, except my turning my will over to Him, and letting Him lead me along. I believe the greatest challenge of all, is learning how to live with a continual and overwhelming sense of Gratitude. When we are truly grateful, and we remember all that we have been given – we are instantly humbled, and find peace with ourselves and the world.

  10. Ray
    July 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    JfQ: I think you touched on one of the core concepts of Mormonism that gets overlooked far too often – the idea that the parable of the workers in Matthew 20 can be applied just as easily to those who accept the Gospel **in the hereafter** (the ultimate 11th hour by human calculations) as it can be to those who are born in the Church and search faithfully all the days of their lives. In view of the eternities, just as with our meager contribution to our joint Atonement account, however long we work in the field is inconsequential. What counts is that we found the field and sank our shovel in the sod.

    Mormon Soprano: “I believe the greatest challenge of all, is learning how to live with a continual and overwhelming sense of Gratitude. When we are truly grateful, and we remember all that we have been given – we are instantly humbled, and find peace with ourselves and the world.”

    That simply is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  11. July 29, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I have long sought to better understand just what the Lord meant when He said: “Come unto me.” The phrase shows up in many places in the scriptures. Here are some of my favorites:

    “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
    Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
    And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” D&C 10:67-89

    The doctrine of Christ states that His church contains those who repent and come unto Him, no more, no less. As I read this I understand that by repenting and coming unto Him, we ‘join’ His church. We then are called upon to ‘endure to the end.’ In Moroni 6:1-4, we find that we mush show sincere repentance, enter the waters of baptism, and then be cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost before we are numbered with those of the church.

    In my mind, I have consolidated the two messages. Following repentance, we come unto Christ in order to be sanctified by the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 27:20). This sanctification is achieved by receiving a remission of sins by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are then on the strait and narrow path to eternal life (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

    In 3 Nephi 12:1, we find that it is Christ himself that will baptize us with fire and the Holy Ghost – WHEN we come unto Him.

  12. July 29, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing something uplifting about the savior. It is great to find people of faith who love Jesus Christ. I recently posted a list on my blog of the different names that Christ is known by, and it surprised me as to just how many wonderful and distinguished names are found in the scriptures… And He Shall Be Called. Thanks again!

  13. Ray
    July 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Spektator, that is a fascinating topic all by itself.

    Bob, it is amazing to contemplate the titles we use to describe the Prince of Peace. That is perhaps my favorite title of all.

  14. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Ray, I know you disagree, and that you believe as you described, but based on what you wrote here, you have taken a step to understanding the idea of salvation by grace alone. See, really, and I’ll be brief, its got to be one or the other. Either Christ does it alone, or we do it all. There really is no middle ground, and I view this piece as a step in you getting to this understanding, because if deathbed repentance means anything, grace has to be a part and works cannot, by their very nature.

    Now, you may say they will have a chance in the afterlife to do this, but keep in mind Luke 16′s story of the rich man and Lazarus.

    Truly, I do not seek contention, but reather discussion.

  15. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Michael, the part of Mormon doctrine that I think you are missing is that we (Mormons) DO teach that Jesus “saved” us entirely on His own – influenced by NOTHING we do in this life. That happened before we were born, when we chose to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. In a very real way, we “confessed His name” there and were promised salvation from death and sin before we came to this earth as mortals. It is our view of the difference between that salvation (which is given freely) and exaltation (which is given to those who truly love and serve Him) that is the missing piece in your responses, I believe.

    Frankly, I believe that this distinction is most explicit in the New Testament – particularly in the Gospels and the words that are attributed to Jesus Himself. I will write a post specifically about that at some point in the future, so I will stop with just that broad outline for now.

  16. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Perhaps, but isn’t anyone given that first salvation who lives a good life whether or not they believe in Jesus? I fail to see a distinction there. From my understanding, the only ones who truly go to hell are those who completely reject not just Jesus, but the Mormon doctrine as proposed through Joseph Smith– Sandra Tanner as a possible example.

    As such, I think there is still room for my interpretation of being saved: that being achieving the CT. Anything less than that is not truly salvation as I have had it described as torment to see those who have made it while you may be stuck in the lesser heaven.

  17. Jeff Spector
    July 30, 2008 at 9:28 am

    The salvation of which LDS speak is given to all regardless because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. We do not teach of hell for those who do not embrace or reject the true gospel, but of a lesser degree of glory in heaven. The doctrine of salvation of the dead allows everyone the opportunity to hear and accept the true gospel and to receive a glory. For those truly bad folks who are true enemies of God, there is outer darkness. I doubt that Sandra Tanner would qualify for that.

  18. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    “I have had it described as torment to see those who have made it while you may be stuck in the lesser heaven.”

    Michael, I know there are members (and even leaders) who have said it that way, but WAY more frame it as a true degree of glory. Joseph Smith said that if we realized how glorious the Telestial Kingdom is we would commit suicide to get there. I’m sure that was hyperbole, but the point is relevant. I personally can’t envision or describe a kingdom of glory as “torment”; I much prefer the idea that we will recognize the mercy of God’s judgment and praise Him for it wherever we end up – excepting the Sons of Perdition who wind up without glory in Outer Darkness.

    “Isn’t anyone given that first salvation who lives a good life whether or not they believe in Jesus?”

    It is important to remember that Mormonism teaches that those who “believed in Jesus” and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior **in the pre-mortal life** already have expressed AND acted on faith in His grace – and been rewarded by salvation at least in the Telestial Kingdom. Accepting Him in THIS life can provide a higher degree of glory in the next life (Terrestrial or Celestial), but “basic salvation” has been covered already – again, due explicitly to their “confession/acceptance” of Him in the past.

    I know that view doesn’t fit for those who don’t believe in a pre-mortal life like we teach, but it’s perfectly accurate to say that we believe in (almost) universal “salvation” through faith in Jesus but also more limited “salvation” for those who accept Him in this life – and even more limited “salvation” for those who actually attempt to live as He commanded them to live. Ultimately, Mormonism teaches that “salvation” (eternal reward) is very much an individual judgment – ironically, even more so than most Protestant constructs.

    Finally, it’s also important to remember that terminology often gets in the way – since “salvation” often means different things as used in the Bible and in Mormonism. It’s fascinating to see that term used without condition AND with condition in the Bible, and Mormon leaders often have not made the distinction any better than the Bible does.

  19. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Michael,

    In conversation with an Evangelical friend, I once mentioned to him that I felt Evangelical’s believe in salvation by their works (or “work” in this case) while Mormons believed in salvation by grace alone. He asked me to explain and I mentioned how often I’ve seen the more fundamentalist Evangelicals, particularly the Calvinistic ones, preach that they were saved because of an act they performed: “getting saved”.

    I didn’t tell me friend that I thought his beliefs had some of the same issues. For example, he once explained to me that when you ‘get saved’ (i.e. declare that you have faith in the atoning power of Jesus’ sacrifice) that a transaction takes place and from that point forward you are saved and your sins are forever after paid for. To a Mormon such as myself, this sounds exactly like what Paul said was salvation by works. I just really don’t see a difference between this point of view he was expressing and Paul’s condemnation of believing circumcision saves a person. Pauls’ whole point was that we can’t perform an act to be saved.

    My friend’s counter argument seemed to be that because this particular work was a choice to believe something that somehow that made it not a work. A point I still don’t understand. He seemed to have a dichotomy of sorts where a work isn’t a work if that work happens to be a choice to believe Jesus died for you. In that one case, it doesn’t count as a work.

    Now you may feel I’m being unfair to his point of view, and perhaps I am. It’s really hard to put oneself into an entirely different vocabularly and mind set. Perhaps if I jumped into his skin, just for a moment, and really understood the way he understood things rather than the way he said them to me, perhaps I’d see that I’m just spliting hairs with him. I honestly don’t know. But I do know that I am biased and so it’s unlikely I’m ever going to know for sure.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, it sort of depends on your point of view. Yes, you can, as a biased Evangelical, decide that because Mormon’s believe that choices we make affect the amount reward that was freely given out of grace equates somehow to works giving salvation. I really do see your point because given certain definitions, you are correct. But of course I completely disagree with you that you are using the correct and Biblical definitions.

    And yes, you can decide, as a biased Evangelical, that the common Mormon saying that if they failed to come to know God completely it would be “hellish” for themselves secretly means that they think grace is limited to only the highest reward.

    But such interpretations are just your private interpretations and private defintions and don’t mean much to me as a Mormon.

  20. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Jeff and Ray, I appreciate the input. Ray, through all of your response, you never really addressed those who do not accept Christ. What happens to them? And this is why I say pretty much all are saved in Mormonism. Only a few get tossed to the outer darkness, whether or not Tanner is in that group.

    Most other Christians believe very few will make it to the singular heaven, and the only way there is to accept Christ.

    You are right to bring out the different usage of the word salvation, but lets remember what you wrote in your main article: that a death bed repentance is just as valid as one done early on and both will be given the same emphasis. This is largely because what happens at that point is we realize how much we need God in our lives. This is really the importance of relying on Christ, and knowing we cannot do anything more for him. Yet, you strive to add to what Christ did by, using your analogy, adding to the joint checking account. If I were to use a bank account, I would say we are not to worry about our own but rather Christ’s account, and give all we have to him and use a cent for our own. The balance doesn’t matter– its that we give all we have to him.

    Finally, you never really addressed Luke in that. I am curious your thoughts on that exchange between the rich man and Abraham.

  21. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    “The balance doesn’t matter – its that we give all we have to him.”

    Michael, that’s exactly what I said. Our deposits don’t make a bit of difference to the total balance, since His balance is what makes it infinite.

    “Yet, you strive to add to what Christ did.”

    Not in the slightest. I strive to do what he asked / commanded me to do. I can’t see ANY logical way to read the Bible without admitting that He asked us to do certain things. The Sermon on the Mount alone includes the Beatitudes (8 characteristics for which we will be blessed) and 20 specific calls to act (like the “You have heard . . . But I say unto you . . .” statements). Over and over and over, He said things that are variations on, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” There are numerous cases in the Gospels where Jesus put conditions on his disciples, including multiple parables that included references to things that must be done to receive approbation. (The Good Samaritan and “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my breathren, ye have done it unto me” are perhaps the most obvious examples, but The Parable of the Sower is brutally frank in this regard.)

    My effort to become like Him and model His characteristics and follow His counsel and obey His commandments isn’t “adding to what he does” – not in the slightest. It’s simply my effort to acknowledge His right as my Lord and Master and Savior and Redeemer to tell me what to do – which is one of the points of this post. We need to live as He requested we live, and He will walk with us as we do so.

    On a personal note, and stated in TOTAL sincerity, I really appreciate the tone of your comments. They have been respectful and quite insightful, but insisting that my effort to emulate my Lord somehow is a denial of His grace just doesn’t make any sense to me. I have discussed this with non-Mormon-Christians friends for decades, and, frankly, some of them have been so convinced that Mormons deny Jesus’ divinity that they can’t understand that what I have written is mainstream Mormon doctrine. They talk with me and assume I’m some kind of liberal Mormon who is a doctrinal rebel of some sort.

    I’m not. I’m as active and believing and “mainstream” Mormon as you will find anywhere. Nobody who knows me personally doubts that in the slightest. I only mention that here to say that I’m not “learning” something that Mormons don’t teach; I’m writing what I have believed as an active Mormon for decades.

    I don’t know if what I have just written makes any sense to you personally, but suffice it to say that Mormon theology is much more complex than many people realize in many ways, but it is surprisingly simple in this area. I will answer the Luke story you mention, if you first will address 1 Corinthians 15 – especially verses 19-22. It doesn’t get any more explicit that ALL will be resurrected through Jesus’ grace, and that is the most basic definition of salvation used within Mormonism to illustrate those things (physical death) from which Jesus saves all who ever have lived – again, with very few exceptions that prove the rule.

  22. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Having said all of that, Michael, I am bowing out of this particular discussion, since the point of my post was to focus on those things from which He can and does save us IN THIS LIFE. I’d really like to have the conversation return to that focus. I will take up salvation in the next life as a separate post in the future.

  23. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Ray,

    Thank you, and I hope to keep the tone civil. I have seen these things get way out of hand really quick. Never a good situation. As to the topic at hand, what is the difference between being saved in this life and the next? The way I see it, and we get back to defintions, salvation in this life is salvation in the next. This is really the crux of the matter to us “evangelicals”. Once we accept Christ, we are saved now and forever. This is why I saw your post as leaning toward evangelical thought.

    We can do nothing now, just as we can do nothing in the afterlife. The two are really the same in our eyes. So, if you choose, could you explain the difference between being saved now and being saved later? If you wish not to pursue, fair enough.

    God bless!

  24. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I did want to clarify one thing. When I said that I believe Mormons believe in salvation by grace alone, I am obivously not using the phrase (“grace alone”) in the way it is normally used. The phrase is a religiously charged phrase so it’s difficult to separate the common protestant connotations from what the words themselves say.

  25. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Michael, I am addressing the idea that we are saved from many things in this life as a result of our acceptance of the Atonement (that He can and will shield us from much that we otherwise would experience without His guidance in this life) – even as we continue to strive to give Him our all. I’m addressing the idea that our works should be true “fruits of the vine” – produced by a connection in this life and NOT divorced or considered as separate from our faith. I was most interested in perspectives on specifically what things we recognized as being removed from our paths – things we realize now we have not experienced due to His having shielded us from them.

    I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, but I would have liked to hear others thoughts on how they have been protected in this life.

  26. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Bruce– If you want to define the acceptance of Christ into your life as an act, so be it. This is getting too picky, I feel and is a bit of a red-herring if you ask me. Its not really worth discussing much because the single choice, a work or not, defines your eternity right then and there. No more work is necessary, unlike what it is you believe. Sure, you believe faith is what starts it, and sure, you believe that nothing matters outside if you don’t believe, but it is the works that follow that get you exalted (saved). Without them, you cannot achieve exaltation, no matter how much you believe.

  27. JustforQuix
    July 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I think it is quite funny to treat universalism as a self-evident truth and a contest for measuring whomever “has” the most fair and correct gospel. The Gospel is our Lord’s. His church, His work, His bride is His, not ours. The universalism debate reminds me of saying a birth control pill regimin is 99% effective when followed according to instructions. That doesn’t mean it works 99% of the time. What that means is that it is 100% effective for 99% of women who use it. For 1% of women it is 0% effective.

    There are plenty of scriptures that could lead one to believe that salvation should not be seen through a universalist lens. (Matt 7: Gate is small and the way narrow and few will find it; not all who think they serve God will find themselves within the Kingdom, etc.) On the other hand, we have scriptural testament that Christ came for all sinners (1 Tim 1), and Acts abounds with examples of those who come to know Him through diverse means: as a testament through nature; by conviction through preaching or missionary work; by living pure religion and serving others; by studying the scriptures steadfastly, etc. We can look throughout the world and find abundant reasons to hope in the glory, strength and vitality of His work. We can also find reasons to despair in the wickedness of humankind.

    One thing is clear: God has the power, the Will, and the plan to save and redeem His own. It is universally, 100% effective for all who accept his redemption in faith. We can argue about the percentage of those for whom it is “0% effective,” and by what means they reject Him, but there is a percentage of those who are not His. I try to temper my certainty in predicting what the ratio is to sheep and goats, to wheat and chaff. We can debate about how much of a “work” the profession of faith is for those who are saved, and whether once saved, if someone choose to fall from grace. The point is that it is God’s mighty work to save all who are His. It is our vainglory to take pride in metering His saving work by our standards of justice, fairness, and measurement — be those sacraments, membership records, ordinance records, or altar calls. The opportunity is for us to be transformed in gratitude for our salvation, to hold fast to our faith, seek for the rewards of His Kingdom, and do all we can to be part of His work in reaching His own. His work will not fail.

    Personally, I see in the New Testament a preponderance of hope that leads me to confidence that He will save all who will have Him. I think the ratio of those who are saved is probably much higher than many traditional Evangelicals often think, but would likely seem unfair and restrictive by traditional LDS “universalist” interpretations. For that reason I am an optimist and “univeralist”: God’s redemption is 100% effective for all who will accept Him.

  28. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    >>> This is getting too picky, I feel and is a bit of a red-herring if you ask me.

    This is actually what I said, I thought. Or at least I was open to this possiblity. I was hoping you would realize you were doing the same.

    For example: “but it is the works that follow that get you exalted (saved). Without them, you cannot achieve exaltation, no matter how much you believe.” This to is a red heiring and is getting too picky in my opinion.

    You had to redefine “saved” to be “exalation only” to get any mileage out of your analogy at all and this seems rather unfair to me.

    But even if I assumd salvation was equivalent to exalation in Mormon theology, you’d still be misrepresenting Mormon beliefs because one does not do works to merrit Exalation in the Mormon religion. Exalation *is* the type of character that does those works. So you have the cause and effect backwards.

    That’s why saying something like “it is the works that follow that get you exalted” is not representative of what Mormons teach and believe.

  29. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Michael said: “No more work is necessary, unlike what it is you believe”

    Okay, I have a question about this. I have been told by many many Evangelicals that there is no such thing as a person that is “saved” if they don’t bring forth good works. Now they are always careful to clarify the cause and effect. The works do not ‘earn’ salvation or cause it in any way. But they are very clear that if you don’t have works you weren’t really born again and thus weren’t really saved.

    Now I don’t know if you believe like this or not personally, but for those Evangelicals (whom I assume you would consider brothers in the gospel), I think your statement above is inaccurate.

  30. Bud Fox
    July 30, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you, Ray. Great post.

    Over time, my definition and understanding of “endure to the end” has changed. I used to think it meant “Go, and sin no more.” So everytime I would sin, I would view myself as having failed to endure to the end. Then it changed to “keep going and try your best,” meaning you don’t have to be perfect.

    Lately, I’ve come to view “endure to the end” as meaning “don’t get discouraged.” The cycle of coming unto Christ through faith and repentance is continual. Ideally, I should get better at it as I go. But that’s not necessarily my job, that’s the Savior’s job. My job is to stay involved in the process and not stop it altogether.

  31. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Well, Bruce, perhaps you could be clear on what salvation is to Mormons. Is being saved the terror of the outer darkness or is it exaltation? I called it exaltation because that, correct me if I am wrong, is the ultimate salvation. I would like a simple and straight forward response to what is it to be saved in Mormonism? Is a Mormon who never leaves but just does not tithe saved? What about the one who believes but cannot tithe, for whatever reason? What about a Mormon who believes but cheats on his wife and who still does all he can in the temple etc? What is defined as salvation? Are all of these saved? Why or why not?

    As to the fruits of one who has said he believes in Christ? The work we do is outward evidence of belief, but as much as it is outward evidence, that person could be going through the motions. We cannot know, thus the works do not prove anything. Only God knows our hearts and minds. As to these being requirements, I cannot call them requirements in the sense that our damnation rests on whether we are physically baptized or not. For those that are able, they really ought to do it, but it is not required. Why ought they? Well, the Bible says that is the outward way to express our belief. Why is not a requirement? If one is not able (a deathbed conversion for instance), or if one is not near one who can baptize, or because they are going through the motions and their heart is not in it.

    My personal opinion of that matter is that I would doubt one who says they believe but do nothing and do not turn away from their sins. But I also grant them the possibility they are truly struggling with whatever issue is before them and help to see them through it.

    Remember, we cannot know anothers heart the way God can, and this is where we hold our judgment.

    Also, the red herring of works. I don’t see it that way at all. The way I see it is that it is 100% one way or 100% the other. Either we achieve salvation (exaltation or whatever word you wish to use) through our faith, or through our works. Look at it this way: if we are saved by our faith (or grace) alone, then upon our faith, we are saved. Nothing we do can add to what is done. However, if it is based on our works, then no matter how much faith we have matters– its what we do. I know you put these together with the line saved by grace after all you can do. But think about this: when is it all you can do and when does faith come into it? Either you keep working harder and harder to make sure you can do all you can do or it is simply your faith that matters. The work, then, means nothing.

  32. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Michael says: “I know you put these together with the line saved by grace after all you can do. But think about this: when is it all you can do and when does faith come into it?”

    You misunderstand how I read this verse, which is 2 Ne. 25: 23. Alma 24:22 says “all I can do” is repent, which I interpret contextually to mean be penitent (or at least sincerely desire to change). The original statement that I am saved by grace after all I can do means simultaneously that it is not my works that save me (i.e. even after all I do, it’s actually grace that saves me, not my works) while admitting that if I’m not actually a penitent person I didn’t really have faith. The idea that I’m going to “do things” because I have accepted Jesus as my savior is an assumption implicit in this verse. It never says “you have to go do a bunch of works and then you can be saved.” But this verse does rule out the idea that one can actually have accepted Jesus if they have no change of heart, and this is a common use of this verse. You were open to that possibility that someone could be saved without a real change of heart (though it seemed unlikely to you.) I am not open to this possibility due to this verse.

    Michael asks: “I would like a simple and straight forward response to what is it to be saved in Mormonism?”

    Well, of course it’s not simple, so I can’t give you a “simple” answer. But then neither can you give me a simple answer in exchange. I have been told by some Christians that there is only one salvation: forgiveness of sins. These Christians tell me that salvation is not sanctification. They tell me that salvation is not going to heaven. Those just come from being saved.

    I’ve had other Christians tell me about the three kinds of salvation: justification, sanctification, glorification.

    I hope you see what I mean here. The word “saved” can have many meanings, even in your religion. There is no “simple” answer to give.

    In Mormonism, we tend to use the word ‘saved’ to mean you are ‘saved from something’ and we’re pretty open about how we use that term.

    That is why Ray asked about how Jesus saves us in this life and you got confused. It was hard for you to imagine the word ‘saved’ being used in this way and you immediately assumed he meant it in an Evangelical sense of receiving remission of sins. But he actually meant “how does Jesus’ atonement save you from difficulties or sins in your life right now!” This is not the way Evangelical’s use the word “saved” but it is the way Mormons often do.

    Likewise, it’s hard for me to answer your question. After all, from a Mormon point of view, we are all born saved because the atonement removed the stain of Adam from us. This is universal, guaranteed, and we do absolutely nothing to receive it. This means we will all die, but all be resurrected. But it also means that we all will become separated from God, but also all return to his presence (at least long enough to be judged.)

    In addition, we believe that due to the atonement of Jesus Christ, people can change. By utilizing the atonement, we over come our sins (sanctification) and this is how Mormons primarily think of ‘salvation’ – as sanctification. The end result of overcoming sin via the atonement is that we come to know God so completely we become like He is. This is exaltation which is really just a natural extension of sanctification and the parenthood of God. Mormons feel that the Evangelical view of “salvation” is deficient because it places a permanent barrier between you and God and how completely you can know Him.

    Is exaltation the “ultimate” form of salvation because of this? Yes, it is. But one does not “work to be exalted” as you said but instead they “work because it brings them joy to come to know God so completely” and this just happens to be the definition of exaltation. As I said, you have the cause and effect backwards.

    Let me know if I need to clarify any of this. Due to the differences in how Mormons and Evangelical’s use the same words, I’ve found this communication difficult in the past. Also, many Christians have as part of their “orthodoxy” that Mormons believe X and Y and so they aren’t ready to accept that this part of their religion is wrong when it turns out we actually believe A and B. This also hinders communication severely.

  33. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Michael asked: “Is being saved the terror of the outer darkness or is it exaltation?”

    In case this wasn’t clear in the last post… the answer to this question is ‘both.’

  34. Michael
    July 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Bruce, actually, the Christian you spoke of giving three definitions of salvation I would disagree with, as would most Christians I know. Salvation is an eternal idea that comes upon acceptance of Christ as our savior. Salvation is permanent and it is a one time thing. It is quite simple, really.

    The words justification, sanctification, and glorification are a part of salvation but are not salvation. To be justified, we need Christ’s cover for our sins. To be set apart, we need to be separated from our sins, which Christ accomplishes at justification, and to be glorified is to be a part of Christ. All three happen when we allow Christ into our hearts– the one instance, not three. We are justified because we have Christ as our lawyer, so to speak, and we are sanctified because we have Christ to separate those who do not believe, and we are glorified because of these. Again, all this happens at salvation. Salvation is easy.

    As to your explanation, I am not sure any of it makes any sense. I am sure you are aware of the concept of that which is most simple is usually the correct path. I think this is likely the case here.

    Salvation in this life is also easy, and I understand what he means, but this is covered in our view of salvation as well, which I do not think you understand. Salvation occurs now, from our past sins and from our future sins. I am sure you will agree that no matter how much we try, we will still sin. I say this with the assumtion that the believer sincerely has turned away from sin, and strives to avoid it. Truth of the matter is, we will all fall short. But regardless, following Christ makes it easier to not sin.

    You also assume that I think if a person does not have a true change of heart that person may still be saved. This is not my intent or my belief. Rather, I argue that we cannot truly know whether or not a person has changed their heart. For example, the person may secretly give all his mone or spend all his time at the homeless shelter. This person may write books that others can learn from, and they may not be known to me. I cannot know the persons heart. However, if that same person goes to bars every night, comes home drunk and with another girl (or man) each night, then I can assume that person has not had a change of heart and is not saved.

    Saved by grace after all you can do. I am not sure I buy your explanation, because it is pretty clear in language: after I work, I am saved by grace. Don’t get me wrong, I understand your sentiment. I see the logic you present, but the emphasis is on the works. Why would it read “after all I do” if it were otherwise? And we cannot have this discussion without at least pointing out that there are very specific things you must do in order to be exalted. Exalted is not a matter of belief, but of obedience, right? And obedience is shown by accomplishing the various temple rites. So lets get back to that verse: after all you can do, you are saved by grace. It seems clear that an emphasis is on works.

    And to finish out this post, as I have argued before, it is either 100% grace, or it is 100% works. In Mormonism, you cannot be exalted (the ultimate salvation) if you do not do these specific things.

    And as a truly final note in this post, I am aware that this topic can go on, and on, and on. It is not my goal that we discuss this without end. At some point, we will need to agree to disagree.

  35. DavidH
    July 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I have been reading, and enjoying Hans Hillerbrand’s new book The Division of Christianity: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century, which among other things recounts some of the issues, factors, conditions, disputes associated with the Reformation. The debates then seem similar to the debates today and on this blog (except the Book of Mormon is not cited!) The dispute regarding works and grace is not purely a Mormon/evangelical dispute (see http://www.deoomnisgloria.com/archives/2004/02/sola_fides_2_un.html ), and in fact the dispute antedates the Reformation. Indeed Luther thought the Book of James should be deleted from the New Testament, referring to it as the “Epistle of Straw”, because of its emphasis on “works.” I suspect if Paul and James were in the same room, there might be a knock down/drag out fight on the matter.

    Personally, I (like many other Mormons and many other evangelical and certainly mainline Protestant Christians) lean toward the Arminian view of grace and works and election. If salvation were 100% grace, this would leave no role for agency on the part of the saved. I do think Arminius is right that it is our decision whether to accept Jesus and His saving grace. God will not save us against our will. And I think the “all we can do” in the Book of Mormon is our acceptance of Jesus and His gospel and grace, as much as we are able, whether with the grain of a mustard seed or just a molecule of faith. Once we allow Jesus into our hearts, He will change us and our hearts, one strand at a time (as we allow Him to do so).

  36. Bruce Nielson
    July 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Michael: “Salvation is permanent and it is a one time thing”

    I happen to know that many of your Arminianist brethren disagree with you. (C.S. Lewis included here. Anyone that believes in the reality of a fall from grace will disagree with you. Mormons are not the odd man out here, Evangelicals are.)

    Michael says: “I am sure you are aware of the concept of that which is most simple is usually the correct path.”

    This is “simply” a false statement. It’s a misunderstanding of Occam’s razor. Is the simple view of physics the most correct? C.S. Lewis uses this very point right here to explain why Christianity is complex:

    There is no good complaining that these statements are difficult [i.e. hard to understand.] Christianity claims to be telling us about another world, about something behind the world we can touch and hear and see. You may think the claim false; but if it were true, what it tells us would be bound to be difficult — at least as difficult as modern Physics, and for the same reason.

    On the other hand, I don’t think my explanation was all that complex as you are making it out. It was only “complex” in the sense that I had to give multiple ways in which Mormon use a word. Go look up any word in the dictionary. It’s prety common for words to have multiple meanings, multiple uses, etc.

    And I’m not sure your explanation isn’t complex. I just pointed out that your view of salvation is exactly equivalent getting circumcised and being forever saved. (Or being born of Abraham and being forever saved.) Please explain the difference “simply” for me, because, as I said, I don’t see any. I believe you might be falling into the very error Paul and John were trying to get people to avoid. I doubt there is a “simple” explanation of the difference available to you. I suspect you would really have to break down words for me and help me understand where you are coming from. In other words, it’s complicated.

    Michael says: “You also assume that I think if a person does not have a true change of heart that person may still be saved. This is not my intent or my belief”

    Well, I think I just said that you were open to the possibility. But I will accept your correction if this is not true. I too believe we simply cannot tell and we have to leave judgment to God.

    Michael says: “I see the logic you present, but the emphasis is on the works”

    Let me quote the verse in question:

    For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

    And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—

    Michael, I honestly feel you are misquoting and misrepresenting these statements. Was the emphasis really on works? Or was it on God’s forgiveness or Grace? But how *you* interpret this verse really is besides the point as we are talking about *my* beliefs. You really don’t have a right to tell me how I, as a Mormon, *should* have interpreted this verse and believed different then I do.

    Michael I have to agree we should discontinue this discussion. You’ve said several thing now that tell me that you are not seeking understanding at this time because you often seem bent on defining my beliefs for me.

    Example: “you believe that nothing matters outside if you don’t believe, but it is the works that follow that get you exalted (saved).”

    Example: “I am not sure I buy your explanation…” Excuse me? Did I miss something? You don’t buy my explanation of how I personally interpret a verse? Sure you can argue with me what you think the original intent of the verse is and how the original intent may differ from my interpretation. But since I’m explaining how I understand it, there was nothing for you to buy about my explanation but to accept it. And the rest of what you said was literally besides the point.

    Another example: “In Mormonism, you cannot be exalted (the ultimate salvation) if you do not do these specific things…”

    Right after I told you that we have more than one definition of salvation (and we believe the Bible does too) and that works you do as part of exaltation are for the joy of knowing God and not to earn salvation, you immediately ignore me and explain to me what I *really* believe.

    Yes, to receive exaltation — one form of salvation: the highest — you will choose to go to the temple and be sealed there, etc. since that is part of the very definition of that form of salvation. And yes, I do not believe people that choose not to do this, in this life or the life to come, will receive it — because they literally chose not to. Everyone that wants it will have the opportunity, period. There is simply no such thing as not having a temple sealing for someone that really wanted a celestial marriage. Thus this is an inappropriate argument based on what I already explained my beliefs were.

    What you said was also problematic because I happen to know that a good many Christians of many faiths also believe in the idea that our works affect our level of rewards in heaven — and surely this is what we are talking about when we speak of “exaltation” in a Mormon context.

    Thus this belief of Mormons is only problematic to you if you condemn all of those other Christians who believe this on the same grounds. I do not wish to put words in your mouth, but I suspect that you don’t. I suspect you are just repeating something you heard. (i.e. a standard anti-Mormonism)

    I would enjoy having further dialog in the future but only if you will avoid telling me what I believe and instead ask me what I believe. I don’t know of any other way for dialog to exist. If you do have further questions (and you’re not going to tell me what I believe) my bio has a way to reach me.

    Anyhow, I think we’re done here. Let’s let this thread return to its regularly scheduled topic. Sorry Ray.

  37. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Ironically, I’ve been unable to contribute for the past few hours due to my stake missionary correlation meetings.

    It’s ok, Bruce and Michael, but I would appreciate a cessation of this particular discussion. It has run its course and further solidified my conviction that people often read into things whatever they expect those things to say – not what those things actually say.

    Michael, my last comment for you directly:

    I believe you would be astounded – absolutely floored – if you were able to realize exactly how we (you and Mormons) disagree and exactly how we agree. We do disagree on some key things, but we agree in some ways that I believe would blow your mind. The “saved by grace, after all we can do” verse is a great example – but until you accept that not all Mormons interpret that verse how you seem to think we do, you will continue to be unable to understand Mormons and Mormonism anywhere close to fully. We really don’t believe what you have been told we believe – at least not even close to unanimously. There is a TON of room within Mormonism for individual understanding of many, many things – and that baffles many outside our religion who assume there is a black and white, easy answer to everything and that Mormons are all brainwashed, programmed robots who all believe the exact same thing. I don’t know what you believe in that regard, Michael, but it is obvious you think we believe what we actually do not believe. I’m fine with that, but, as you said, it’s time to agree to disagree – and, from my perspective, to stop trying to help you see that we don’t disagree in some ways you assume we do.

    As the author of this post, I am going to exercise my right to stop this particular discussion at this point. If anyone wants to address the concept of “being saved” including sheltering us from things that we would experience otherwise, please feel free to do so.

  38. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    In the spirit of my last statement, I believe strongly that my understanding of the Atonement and my responsibilities within it have kept me from MANY results of my natural tendency toward addictive activities. For example, without my acceptance of the Word of Wisdom (as one of the weakest of the weak in that regard) I am convinced I would have struggled with chemical dependency – and I’m not sure I would have the strength of will to break free. Likewise, without my acceptance of the Law of Chastity I am convinced I would have a very different family life than that with which I now am blessed.

    I believe these are examples of things from which I have been saved in this life – things from which I have been sheltered.

  39. Meg
    July 30, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Ray, thank you for your post.
    I’m new to this so please forgive me if I am not completely on subject: it’s what I was thinking as I read your words.

    This subject has been resonating with me lately, because I have stumbled, out of desperation, onto something that I should have known all along.
    “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden…” I find myself in need of his saving grace and atonement every day as I struggle with -and often fail- at being a good mother. I am learning -I have to keep remembering- that the only way to get through some moments is to fall on my knees in mighty prayer. And what blows my mind is that His hand is always extended in some form or other. Sometimes it just means that the prayer alone is the only thing that gets me through the moment. Other times it is an impression of what to say or NOT say, what to do or NOT do. And when I have to repent, I am awed that He gives me criticism of what specifically I need to change.

    As I read your post, I thought again of this conversation I read of between Pres. Kimball and a young man who was stuggling with prayer but didn’t know why he was struggling. He asked the young man, “Why don’t you pray anymore?”
    “I am not sure anymore.”
    “Why aren’t you sure anymore? Because you have cut all the communication lines? You have lost his address? You do not have his telephone number even, and you do not have any address? The communication lines have been severed? How do you expect to know whether he is living or dead? If you went for two years withoutever hearing from your parents and they were in the opposite end of the world, how would you know if they were alive or dead? How do you know whether God is alive or dead if you have lost communication? Now, you get on your knees, my boy. If you want to be happy, get on your knees and crawl on your knees to the city of happiness. Only there is peace.” (The Teachings of Spenser W. Kimball, 127)

    I did not grow up in a praying family. So when I heard this, it hit me like a bolt of lightening. And in the short time I have put this advice for fervent, frequent prayer to use, it has changed my life so dramatically that it’s quite embarrassing to admit. I have been saved from so many mistakes by praying first.

  40. Ray
    July 30, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Thanks, Meg. That is perfectly on topic, and I love the reminder about specific, fervent prayer. I am pretty good at having a prayer in my heart always, but I am less good at fervent prayer in the moment. I appreciate the focus on being kept from mistakes through answers to prayer.

  41. Michael
    July 31, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I’ll agree to stop the conversation, but be careful not to define my beliefs for me, either. Also, be careful to avoid grouping all Christians together. You have on more than one occasion mentioned that other Christians say this or that. Come on, now, Ray, you know better than to do that, especially when you don’t want us telling you what you believe.

    While I would like to go into more detail, given the nature of the request to stop, I will.

    God bless.

  42. Bruce Nielson
    July 31, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Michael said: “I’ll agree to stop the conversation, but be careful not to define my beliefs for me, either. Also, be careful to avoid grouping all Christians together. You have on more than one occasion mentioned that other Christians say this or that.”

    I wasn’t clear if you said this to me Michael. In case it was…

    I am trying to be very careful to not group all Christians together. I thought every time I mentioned a specific group or person so that I was avoiding generalizations. Examples:

    “In conversation with an Evangelical friend…”

    “I have been told by some Christians that…”

    “I happen to know that many of your Arminianist brethren…”

    “I mentioned how often I’ve seen the more fundamentalist Evangelicals, particularly the Calvinistic ones…”

    “Now I don’t know if you believe like this or not personally, but for those Evangelicals (whom I assume you would consider brothers in the gospel)…”

    “I happen to know that a good many Christians of many faiths also believe in the idea that our works affect our level of rewards in heaven…”

    All of these are provably true statements that avoid any generalizations of Christians as a whole.

    If I accidently missed an instance, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I fully realize how much difference there can be doctrinally between various “mainstream Christians.”

    I also went to a lot of lengths to avoid defining your personal beliefs:

    i.e. “Now I don’t know if you believe like this or not personally…” etc.

    Even in the case where I was interpreting the common Evangelical belief of “getting saved” as a work, I made a point of explaining what I understood but then added that I might misunderstand or be splitting hairs. I even went so far as to explain that it depended on how you interpeted the words so we could both be right depending on how the words were understood.

    There was a lot of effort I was putting in to not put words into your mouth and to not generalize.

    Anyhow, I really tried not to put words into your mouth. So forgive me if you felt I did. (Feel free to write to me off line and explain your concerns further if you’d like.)

    Thanks for taking time to have a discussion.

    Ray, I hope you’ll let this post stay. I didn’t take the threadjack any further. I just wanted to make sure I was ending with Michael on a good note on our disagreement.

    Michael, you are a even tempered person, by the way.

  43. July 31, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I believe that the majority of mankind will “Come Unto” him in the end. I just believe that a perfect being would create a plan where the majority of people are saved.

  44. Gerry Spence
    July 31, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    While I was a missionary in Southwestern Virginia, I had the opportunity to sit with a stake president and have one of the most interesting conversations of my life. One of the topics was related to his mission. He served in France with Mitt Romney around the time there was a mass apostasy. Needless to say, he and Mitt were some of the few that didn’t leave the LDS church. At the end of his mission, he realized that he had baptized only 10 people. Notwithstanding this was 10x the volume that other missionaries baptized, he was disappointed that each and everyone had left the church before he even got home.

    Howard Hunter was a general authority that assisted in the ‘reconstruction’ of the mission. The Elder (as he was then) expressed his frustration that all these people had left and would miss out on the CK. Howard W. Hunter offered his opinion that 90% of those that lived on the earth will enjoy the highest degree of the CK. This was in the early 1960s.

  45. Michael
    July 31, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Bruce, no worries. I won’t beat the horse any more dead, but to clarfiy– just as much as you get differing opinion in some areas of Christianity, there exists the same throughout Mormonism. Pointing out what group X believes in this debate and assuming I agree or stating like I am wrong about Christianity’s based on that is grouping me with them and putting words in my mouth.

    It would kind of be like me saying that because FLDS believe in a given doctrine, or taking what a few Mormons have argued to me in the past and saying it is what is unanimously what all Mormons believe.

    I am not offended in the slightest, and hope I have not offended anyone here. I usually enjoy such discussions. Thank you again for allowing me to participate here and I hope my contribution helps rather than distracts.

  46. Bruce Nielson
    August 1, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Michael said: “Pointing out what group X believes in this debate and assuming I agree or stating like I am wrong about Christianity’s based on that is grouping me with them and putting words in my mouth.”

    I am really unaware of where I did anything like this. But I will be careful in the future to double scrub my words. I would not want to in any way group you with group X.

    The only place I can see where you might have thought I did this was: “Now I don’t know if you believe like this or not personally, but for those Evangelicals (whom I assume you would consider brothers in the gospel), I think your statement above is inaccurate.” (in #29)

    My point was simply to ask you to be consistent. That there are Christians that believe the way I was describing is not in doubt. And I was not saying you were one of them. I was simply pointing out that you can’t justly condemn Mormons for holding a belief you don’t condemn other fellow Christians for holding. (A tactic that I have personally seen done by various mainstream Christians on many occaisions.) But this is not a case of grouping you with anyone.

    I also said this: “I happen to know that many of your Arminianist brethren disagree with you. (C.S. Lewis included here. Anyone that believes in the reality of a fall from grace will disagree with you. Mormons are not the odd man out here, Evangelicals are.)”

    But again, this is a verifably true statement. I do not know if you are equally concerned (and express equal concern) over your Arminianist brethren for holding the same beliefs as Mormons on the topic of a fall from grace. But I am not accusing you of this one way or the other. I’m simply stating a fact: that “Christianity” as most people define this term, does not teach what you stated as a universal truth. (i.e. “Salvation is permanent and it is a one time thing.”) There is a lot of debate and room for opinion here.

    If you were narrowing your concept of “Christianity” to exclude such people as C.S. Lewis or all Arminianists, then I suppose your statement would be true but misleading because you didn’t take care to explain how you define the concept of “Christian” in such a narrow way compared to most people.

    Anyhow, I’m sorry we can’t discuss it further. I’d be curious what you thought I specifically said that grouped you with anyone. Specifics would help. Like I said, you can email me off line with the specifics if you want.

  47. Ray
    August 1, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Bruce and Michael,

    Thanks for understanding. I think it is a great idea to continue this via e-mail. That would allow you to pursue this in whatever way you feel would be best.