Thursday, September 4, 2008

More on Faith - It's About HOW You Act

I am excited to approach this subject. I was hoping someday to write something 'comprehensive' about it, but for today my thought is simple.

Grace vs. Works?

This issue is understood best in the eternal context. That context requires a comfort with the doctrines of creation, fall, and man's relationship with God including the nature and character of God.

That's a lot. The issue, fortunately, can also be understood in a more simple context.

This is it: One way or another, many people come to an understanding that they are not as close to their Father in Heaven as they could be. In seeking how to draw closer to Him, they come to find out how.

Coming closer can be called salvation, forgiveness, rebirth, repentance and so forth. These are not all the same, but in a simple sense they represent the repair of a broken relationship with God.

Christians understand, through the Bible, that this atonement comes through the grace of God. What remains controversial, even between 'orthodox' or 'creedal' denominations, is the exact process of grace.

The more ancient traditions of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths seem to rely on the virtue of priesthood and tradition as the vehicles of grace brought to a sinful mankind - incapable on its own of any good. In other words, observe the traditions faithfully and you can receive that grace.

I apologize now if my oversimplifications have offended.

For protestant faiths there is disagreement, but the evangelical view is basically that if you confess belief in Christ, his grace will transform you and by then being 'born-again' spiritually you are saved.

I have to state that I'm not fully concerned with the views of others, I've written them for sake of contrast, but here I write my view.

Grace comes abundantly from God, I believe. I think any human being that seeks God's will and tries to pray will receive at least some grace. I also believe, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that there is a necessity for essential saving ordinances to open up for man the fullness of grace - these, as the name applies, being ordained of God.

However, for the time in between, the time we spend day by day just trying to live our lives, what is the personal process for obtaining grace?

One of the best places to look for an answer is in the writings of Paul. I will try and cite some of what he wrote and demonstrate that grace is found through works... of faith.

Here we begin with a simple statement:
"For by agrace are ye bsaved through cfaith; and that not of yourselves: it is the dgift of God"
Ephesians 2:8

Grace and salvation, the 'repairing' of our relationship with God, comes from God through the atonement of Christ, not from us. The vehicle for receiving the grace is faith. But there's more to it.

"28 Therefore we conclude that a man is ajustified by bfaith cwithout the deeds of the law.
29 Is he the aGod of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the bGentiles also:
30 Seeing it is aone God, which shall justify the bcircumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? aGod forbid: byea, we establish the law."
Romans 3:28-31

First Paul says that a man is not justified - or held worthy of receiving God's grace - through following all the rules of the law. A man's faith justifies him. Paul is mostly trying to explain why even the Gentiles of his day deserved grace even though they didn't observe the law as the Jews did. At the end of this chapter, Paul mentions that despite this argument the law is not void, but established. How?

"2 aFor if Abraham were justified by works, he hath bwhereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham abelieved God, and it was counted unto him for brighteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the areward not breckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
Romans 4:2-5

If works save us, we are grateful to ourselves for our salvation and not to God. This is hardly a reconciliation. However, faith in God who does the healing will be counted as righteousness. This makes sense, only by turning to God can our relationship with God grow better. So why the law at all? Because our works matter.

"20 He astaggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had apromised, he was able also to perform.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for aus also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our aoffences, and was raised again for our bjustification."
Romans 4:20-25

Speaking of Abraham, Paul explains that Abraham's faith in God's promises enabled him to do works. Do works matter? They do to God. He created, he reveals, he heals, and he saves. Drawing closer to the divine must involve works, it involves becoming more like Him and understanding God better. Paul is here beginning to explain that faith is the process that draws us to God, and that works follow. God does not, as a puppet-master, compel Abraham to do righteous acts. Abraham's faith persuaded and enabled him to do so. That faith brought grace, but it would not have been true faith had it not been followed by the acts of righteousness.

"12 Let not sin therefore reign in your amortal body, that ye should obey it in the blusts thereof.
13 Neither ayield ye your bmembers as cinstruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but dyield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of erighteousness unto God.
14 aFor sin shall not have bdominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under agrace? bGod forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves aservants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye bobey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have aobeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made afree from bsin, ye became the servants of righteousness."
Romans 6:12-18

Paul now explains how a faithful man, having received God's grace by having faith, should look to God for guidance in life and not his natural passions. He clearly states that our obligation is to not sin, nor yield to the temptations of sin. This is a work or act, sin is an act, so not sinning is an act. Paul says that sin will have no dominion, but that grace will. He asks if this means that we can therefore still sin since we are not subject to sin because of our faith. He clearly says no. He explains that whether you obey temptation and give into it, or obey God - maybe I can say 'conscience' - will determine who is your master. That means that if you give in to sin, sin is your master.

This needs to be clarified somewhat. When we have faith, we are forgiven and justified by grace. In other words, if we believe God's promise that he will forgive us we are enabled by his grace to obey his spirit over the temptations of sin. However, if we decide to sin anyway, we would not have that same grace because sin is our master now, not God. However, as Paul explains, God's grace means that sin won't rule us. This seems like a contradiction. It's not. Ultimately, even if we sin, faith can return us to grace through repentance. In other words, grace enables us to do good works, but if we don't proceed to do them, we must repent, renew our faith and try again. I will get back to the topic of repentance.

"18 For I know that in me (that is, in my aflesh,) bdwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to cperform that which is good I find not.
19 For the agood that I bwould I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do athat I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is apresent with me.
22 For I adelight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, awarring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into bcaptivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O awretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Romans 7:18-25

Keep in mind the battle Paul described earlier, between 'yielding ourselves to God' vs. 'yielding ourselves to sin'. With God's grace, we receive His spirit and become motivated to do good. Just as much as hunger, fatigue, and other natural instincts can compel us to act, so can God's spirit give us 'holy instincts'. We can feel just as 'compelled' to do good as bad through God's grace. This is what Paul is talking about above, especially in v.23.

Putting it all together, we see how faith in God's promise that He will forgive us enables us to overcome sin. So we could say that we are not save by works, or by faith alone, but by works of faith. Making this absolutely clear is James:

"14 aWhat doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath bfaith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or asister be naked, and destitute of daily bfood,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye agive them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so afaith, if it hath not bworks, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my afaith by my bworks.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the adevils also bbelieve, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that afaith without bworks is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father ajustified by works, when he had boffered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by aworks was faith made bperfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham abelieved God, and it was imputed unto him for brighteousness: and he was called the cFriend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by aworks a man is bjustified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not aRahab the harlot bjustified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the aspirit is bdead, so faith without cworks is dead also."
James 2:14-26

Works of faith. When you believe in God and His promises, and the virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you are first persuaded to do good, enabled to do good, but then you must do good to continue receiving God's grace. In doing works, we shouldn't do them thinking that the works will bring us grace, but that by fulfilling our faith through our works we live with a fullness of faith and receive grace. Our acts fulfill our faith. We must do works, but they don't mean anything if we don't do them with a spirit of belief. That's the key.

When we mess up, we lose grace. However, continued faith and hope can repeat the process, and by means of repentance the grace is restored to us by God. In the end, how do we know if we are saved?

It's easy and complicated. It's easy because if we choose to believe in God and trust in Him through developing faith, and repent, we will always draw closer to Him. If we ignore him, are unbelieving, and persist in unrighteous acts, we will always draw away from Him. This answers the first question about our closeness to God.

However, at what point are we 'saved'? That's a topic for next time. As a summary though, there is a coming judgment. Our faith will be measured against the light we have received, our works will be measured against our faith. We can do nothing except do our best. If we have true faith, we will live our lives as close to God as we are personally capable of, and our faith will be full and alive. That's why faith saves us in the end, because no one is perfect and lives life without sinning. However, without works, our faith is false, and dead.

Again, we do our best to believe, and believing we strive to do works of faith. In the end, God will judge us. However, if we have lived life with the right kind of faith we won't fear His judgment, but welcome it with confidence.

Salvation is available to all, but faith is more than assent or desire, it is the placing of the things of God above all other things in life. If we really believe in Christ - and all that he stands for - we will and must change and our works will and must follow. If we sit back and allow sin in our lives, as long as we have more faith and more strength to lead us to righteousness - and if we really believe in God then what strength we have available to us - we do not have the sort of faith that invites the fullness of God's grace. If we truly believe, we know our goal, and can't help but act.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."
1 Corinthians 9:24

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Marriage is Important

From a comments thread on a website (concerns same-sex marriage and what 'traditional marriage' really is.  The site contended that 'traditional marriage' isn't a good thing anyway.  I have tried to define what marriage is in this context and why it ought not be derided)

Marriage exists for the same reason sexuality exists. The two are linked, and anyone who knows how we define the Law of Chastity would admit this.

Despite sexuality in marriage as a means to enhance the emotional bonds within that marriage, the real purpose of sexuality and ultimately the emotional bonds involved, is the proper and loving upbringing of children.

Being a product of a divorced-parent upbringing, I am absolutely aware of the emotional difficulties such children will face growing up. When you want to maintain and project the divine love and trust that the gospel is meant to instill, it is such an enormous help to have learned that love and trust in a stable family with the possibly imperfect, yet forever committed relationship of service and love between parents as the chief example.

If you believe in God, then you believe that he had some hand in our creation. If you believe that, then the fact that such a divine thing as the creation of new human life requires the biological union between man and woman is clear and incontrovertable evidence of God's intentions for family relationships.

If you don't see the importance of children, can't grasp the central role families play in the plan of the creator, the Father of life, then I can't understand what place the gospel has in your life.

I sympathize with those who are concerned about the history of mistreatment of women. I could also mention the centuries and centuries of use of false religion to maim and abuse - women and men. We live in a blessed age, relatively speaking, it is wonderful that society sticks up for the abused more and more. However, that a woman should take a certain role in a family, that she might not always like it, and might not always appreciate her husband, and might be frustrated at what she has given up in life, that the one thing that is meant to be her blessing - her children - might often seem a burden and annoying, that any number of difficulties in life might discourage her - none of this justifies the argument that true happiness and life's purpose are meant to be found elsewhere.

There are countless men who face challenges perhaps just as daunting in life (as annoyed as you are with him, imagine how that makes him feel about you). I'm not trying to make an equivalence, I'm only saying that, of course, life is hard.

Ultimately, marriage needs to be understood as a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice, and for latter-day saints, it is one that we are constrained to take upon ourselves because of the knowledge we have concerning its blessings.

The hardest part about marriage is that it involves someone else, but the gospel is all about other people.

So to recap. Marriage and sex, inseparable, are inseparably connect to the (eventual) creation and maintaining of families and children. That's where people come from, and that's where society comes from. It's also where society gains the emotional and moral stability that engenders civilized treatment of others. Eventually, if we're all victims, we won't care so much any more about each other.

No-fault divorce is stupid, and in society it might be tolerable, but considering the divine role of marriage in an eternal plan involving eternal families in eternal relationships, such a lack of commitment is troubling.

That's why, despite the good reasons for sustaining clear counsel from a prophet, I think gay marriage shouldn't be allowed. To extend certain rights to two individuals who want to share a life together, despite their genders, is one thing. To redefine marriage so that it no longer applies to the divine institution for family creation is something else entirely.

When sexuality (and marriage) become something besides what the divine intention was, society will fall apart spiritually (not to mention emotionally/psychologically as fewer and fewer new children are born in loving/stable environments). If individuals are compelled to use/express their sexuality in a different way, that's not the business of the state. However, defining a clear place for marriage and families in society is.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Faith as a Choice

Faith means so many things.  It is much more than a passive belief in something (and believe me, I will discuss this further).  It is also more than what our actions show (although that would be a pretty good indicator).

I want to discuss faith, but in particular an understanding of faith that has helped me believe.  When I say believe, I mean in everything.  From an omnipotent creator, to Urim and Thumim.
I haven't always believed.

I feel like others could benefit from this understanding of faith.

And what do I have to say about faith?

In the end, faith is a choice.  

Spiritual manifestations, however significant, remain in the realm of the spiritual.  It is our desire to give credence to those impressions that cause us to act, or make choices in the physical world.  This desire is what faith is, and why choice is a fundamental characteristic of faith.

Faith is both a mental affirmation of things unseen, but felt, as well as the actions and choices that follow such belief.  The bridge that connects the two is choice.  Attitude is important, and what we make of what we see, hear, and feel in the world around us is up to us.  If the Holy Ghost whispers to us, we still must decide whether we like what we are hearing.  This was important for me as I gained a belief in God.  I learned that I couldn't with any physical certainty know if God was real or not.  I had certainly felt things that suggested He was there, but until I realized that I could - that I had to - choose to believe did belief come.  I had to say to myself, "I want God to be real, I want to live in a universe where God is real."  At that point, faith came.

I have to note that that desire to believe wasn't desire alone, but rather a culmination of distinct spiritual impressions and resulting thought.  There was something external,
but it meant nothing to me until I wanted and chose to believe.

For church members, too often we expect to know something's truth absolutely, because we have been promised that the Spirit of God will make it known unto us.  We indeed can know, but I believe that without faith there is no bridge between spiritual confirmation and practical knowledge.  This means that even a clear spiritual impression requires a certain amount of blind trust - if you will - to be acted upon.

This might seem perfectly correct to many, but there are some who concern me.  It seems like some people I have met are held back by a desire to absolutely know the truth of something.  Many have convinced themselves that they know something that they don't know.

Is it bad for a person to feel like they know something for a certainty that they have discerned spiritually?  Absolutely not.  My concern is for those who have not exercised faith, and whose certain knowledge is susceptible to doubt.

We can know things that are spiritual as certainly as we know things that are physical.  It is a personal matter, but faith must be part of the equation.  What I mean is that until we accept that our spiritual knowledge has been made certain because we have made the choices - have had the faith - to believe it, we don't have true spiritual knowledge.

For lack of a better way of describing this, I suppose I mean to say that spiritual knowledge must be accompanied by a certain amount of uncertainty.  If it were not so, we could not exercise faith, and then we would not be making the sort of choices we need to be making to demonstrate our true character.

If a person has spiritual knowledge, but cannot identify a time in which faith was exercised so that that knowledge might become certain in that person's life, then perhaps that knowledge isn't spiritual.

Maybe it came from that person's upbringing.  Maybe the person believes because they feel obligated to believe so.  Maybe strong emotions have been mistaken as spiritual evidence.  

My purpose is only to discuss the importance of faith as a bridge to unite our temporal lives with our spiritual lives.  Specifically, that faith is a choice, and that we must make choices about what we want to believe and how we view the world around us.  We cannot expect someone else to know that God is there on our behalf.  

More specifically, we can choose.  When it comes to belief, we can be active, and given the right promptings, make the choice to believe.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Special Commitment

It takes a special level of commitment to be true to the gospel.

In Revelation 2:4-5, the Lord talks about the saints in Ephesus not doing the 'first works' or forgetting their 'first love'.

I'm not sure if this refers to something in particular, but I'd like to share something that comes to my mind.  

Everyone I know who has cared about the Gospel of Jesus Christ at some point, has experienced this something.  I suppose its when you get the spirit really strong.  I wish I wouldn't say that it can seem rare, or that you get used to it and forget what it was like 'at first'.  I'm still figuring out why I sometimes fee like that, but in any event we can - those of us who have felt this - identify the times when we've felt it.

There's an excitement, a joy, a feeling of conviction that are associated with this.  Maybe this is the 'first love'.  When you are touched by the spirit, especially at first, you know that you are part of something special.  

I don't think most anyone would say that after having felt such, they did not later, at some point, sink into apathy or doubt to some extent.

That's okay.  I only hope to mention in this post that I know that I'd like to put forth some more effort to remember that 'first love', to be committed always like I am at those special times.  I'm talking about a special level of commitment, an endurance.  

I think remembering those times when the spirit was strong helps us keep going.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

We Have Barely Scratched the Surface

“The growth of the Church from its infancy to its present stature is phenomenal, and we have only scratched the surface.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley, “Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 4

I feel like this statement is really important for all members of the church. I’m a convert, so my understanding of what the church really is has been based on an ideological perspective that may not often be as ingrained in the hearts of many lifelong members. There are certainly many lifelong members who believe strongly in the destiny of Christ’s church, who have a vision of the scope of this destiny, however I feel like there is something lacking in the hearts of the average member. I feel like I am lulled into inaction as well.

I want to talk right now about action. I think we are not quite doing enough, as church members. The key word is destiny.

President Hinckley has set forth a vision of the church’s destiny. He is certainly not the first. I think that we won’t reach that destiny until we make certain changes in our lives. Below I list what I feel like are the most important changes we can make. I base this list on what I have observed as a new member, as well as during my mission during which time I had the opportunity to serve in a few leadership roles. I admit that I include my own life in my observations.

1) Greater Obedience

There are basic precepts, commandments, principles that are taught frequently that we don’t obey well enough. This statement doesn’t seem extraordinary, but it describes something that’s a real problem. I’m not talking about abstract ‘greater obedience’ to receive abstract ‘blessings of heaven’. I’m talking about the fact that sometimes: we eat things that are unhealthy, we let inappropriate television have far too great a role in our lives, we don’t hold planned and significant family home evenings, we don’t study or pray like we need to, we don’t follow basic counsel of our leaders i.e.: making a list of talking points according to Elder Ballard’s instruction, we don’t respect the Sabbath day properly, etc.
I think it’s clear that there are simple principles that are easy to follow, but that are also so easy to ignore. The first thing we need to do a put forth just a little more effort and start doing some of these things with greater urgency.

2) More Sincere Prayer

Our savior, in his prayer to Heavenly Father (the Lord’s prayer), is very formal. He establishes a pattern. Prayer is serious business. Our Heavenly Father loves us, but we need to approach Him like He is… God. A certain amount of severe reverence is needed. It wouldn’t be wrong to ponder the topics of a prayer before giving it. I’m talking about secret prayer. I’m not suggesting any unified model of prayer, or condemning casual prayer universally, I’m just saying we need to put more effort into prayer. The key word is effort. We need to really think about God being on the receiving end, we need to feel gratitude and humility in our hearts, to try to feel, when we pray.

3) Studies and the Book of Mormon

Lots of people study. Many people study well. I think that most everyone could study more, but specifically, better. It wouldn’t be wrong to take notes while doing scripture study. These notes might only be impressions recorded in a journal. Simply reading scripture doesn’t provoke thought the way writing and reflecting and planning does. We need to ponder, read, pray, plan, write as we study.
Also, we need to read and apply the principles of the Book of Mormon more. The Book of Mormon represents the Lord’s covenant with this generation. It is the tool of the restoration of Christ’s gospel. It is the voice through which the Lord has chosen to teach His people the gospel in the latter days. This is why the D&C condemns (D&C 88:55-57) the church for not taking it seriously. We need to seriously learn what faith in Christ really means, and apply (implying writing, pondering, planning, etc. during studies) those principles in our lives.

4) Empathy, love, sympathy

I don’t feel like the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ endorse negative words or thoughts from one person towards another in any way. By negative I don’t mean righteous judgment, I refer to unrighteous dislike or cruelty. A person might speak out against the unrighteous actions of another, but they are not permitted to dislike that person.
Our Heavenly Father has shown us, through the example of His son, what manner of men we ought to be. We must strive diligently and unceasingly to think positively about others. We must learn to see the world from their point of view. We musn’t approve of incorrect actions, but we must share the burdens of grief or misunderstanding that cause others to act incorrectly. We must be able to say, “I’m sorry you feel the way you do, I don’t agree, I can’t support those decisions, but I’m here to give you a hug if you want one.”
When others are doing no wrong, we must not only be sensitive if they somehow offend us, we must change our hearts so that the action no longer offends.
Have you ever thought someone was ‘nerdy’? You must learn to love that person for their ‘nerdiness’ by finding the positive aspects of it.
This is very important! Cynicism and dislike are great evils. I partake in them often, but I still stand by my opinion that they are evil.
To move forward, we must open our hearts and our arms. There must be no tolerance for negativity. A smear on one of Heavenly Father’s children is a smear on Him. That is not acceptable!

I think that if these four principles were adopted by church members more fully, we would be able to see many more miracles. I have to think that we will draw closer to our destiny, but we have barely scratched the surface. I know the Lord moves mysteriously, and often tenderly, painfully slow maybe. I still think that this generation will need a spark, and I’m excited for the day when we are thirsting more for righteousness.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Talking Points

I returned from my mission in Romania less than 6 months ago.  I spent 2 years trying to figure out what my 'message' was.  That is, what I basically wanted everyone to know, as a minimum, about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Ballard has asked (nudge nudge) us to create a list of 'talking points'.  These are basic statements that we can have at our disposal so we can speak intelligently and in a prepared manner about our beliefs.  

Side note - I wonder how many people have really done this.  I feel like it's just up my alley, but I've just started.  Isn't it interesting how the prophet urged everyone to do Family Home Evening, but it wasn't until a later prophet mandated it on a specific night of the week that it fell into common practice.  The church is under scriptural condemnation for not taking the Book of Mormon and its principles seriously enough.  I constantly worry and wonder about this.  I think I'm slowly stepping in the right direction here.

These 'talking points' are supposed to be about a variety of topics: doctrinal, historical, general values, facts (numbers, stats, good deeds).  

I will start with what's most easy (for me).  Doctrinal:


1) My church teaches that all human being have a definite spiritual nature, and that there is a God who is supreme.  He isn't just a ruler, He is our literal spiritual father, and we all have a seed of divinity in us.

2) My church teaches that the purpose of life is ultimately to be happy.  Specifically, our lives are only one step - an essential step - in an unending spiritual journey.  The point of this journey is for us to learn and grow spiritually.

3) My church teaches that our happiness - presently, and eternally - will be affected by the extent to which we strive to follow God's teachings concerning our life on earth.  We believe that God has literally spoken to man throughout human history through men called prophets.

4) My church teaches that these prophets have all taught that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to earth to be a sacrifice for our sins.  This means that the burden of our failures and disappointments are swallowed up by the miraculous power of Jesus, and that as we believe in Him and obey His teachings, we can be healed of all ills in our life.

5) My church teaches that God has called and spoken to a prophet in our time - Joseph Smith - to restore to earth basic, essential, yet previously misunderstood teachings about Jesus Christ necessary to achieve salvation.

6) My church teaches that anyone who desires to draw closer to God is invited to learn of the restored gospel truths of Jesus Christ by studying - along with the Bible - the Book of Mormon which was given specifically to clarify key doctrines about Christ's gospel.  Sincere study and prayer, coupled with the power of the Holy Ghost, can convince anyone of the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's a start

The Church of Jesus Christ

People say "The Mormon Church" when they are talking about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many reasons.  I think one big reason is that "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" is too much of a mouthful to keep repeating.

On my mission in Romania, we just said, "The Church of Jesus Christ."  If we tried to say more, people would literally zone out.  However, what we said confused them because they thought that they belonged to the 'Church of Jesus Christ'.  Or, the more thoughtful folks would think that everyone belonged to the 'Church of Jesus Christ'.  We would say, "Maybe so, but this is just our name.  It's just what we're called, so even if you belong to the 'Church of Christ' too, the name of our church just happens to be 'The Church of Jesus Christ'.

Pundits, and many of them have of late named the church - or tried to - on tv or on the radio, tend to say the latter-day saint church.  This is okay, it's better than the "mormon church".  However, I think LDS would be better.  It's an abbreviation, 'The Latter-day Saint' church is no abbreviation - it's like they're trying to rename our church!

So, I propose that in casual conversation if we are discussing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we don't want to say all that all the time, we should just say "For short - the Church of Jesus Christ".

Not, "My church" or "The LDS church" but "The Church of Jesus Christ"

A lot of people won't really like the way that's handled, after all, if they don't personally believe in the tenets of "The Church of Jesus Christ" they might feel like the word choice involved is exclusionary.  It's not, we aren't saying "Christ's Church".  It's just our name!!

So, I, a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( or Church of Jesus Christ for short) would love to discuss the tenets of the church with anyone.

The Church of Jesus Christ has an interesting history, actually, it's fascinating no matter what you believe.  

Mitt Romney, a candidate for president, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Don't you wonder what a member of the Church of Jesus Christ believes?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is.

Are Mormons Christian?

I have written about this before, but I have extracted a comment (rather-long) that I made on a website.  The website was an article by  about whether mormons are christian.  He thought: not really.  This one comment is self-explanatory.  It is not a definitive statement on the subject, but I like what I said here:

"In response to John Smith, 

Mr. Smith wrote the following:

> Acts 6 identifies that when the apostles needed to
> select somebody to handle a worldly issue for
> them, their criteria was to pick somebody full of
> the Spirit. To receive the Holy Spirit you have
> to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and
> his teachings, i.e., salvation throught Grace, the
> inerrancy of the Bible, the Trinity, etc., etc.
> none of which faithful Mormoms accept.

From a political point of view this is significant, because this is one angle of a sentiment shared by many. It is because of this sentiment that this article on which we are commenting was written. The notion that a candidate can be spiritually disqualified for office.

Now, I will transition into the religious aspect of it a bit. I know that Mr. Smith argued his perspective, and I would normally expect a debate about whether or not it's right to use such a spiritual qualifier for a political candidate. However, in this instance - because of the article questioning whether mormons are christian - the debate is more of a theological one.

My rather convoluted post of earlier tried to address the very issue Mr. Smith brings up. Here I think I can restate it a little better.

My issue is with the notion that mormons can't have the spirit, or are disqualified from being disciples of Christ according to qualifiers that are frankly, man-made.

Salvation through grace is a clear teaching of the Bible, as it is a clear teaching of the Book of Mormon, as it is of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter referred to as the Church of Jesus Christ for simplicity). I think Mr. Smith is referring to the Protestant doctrine of salvation through belief alone. The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that salvation comes through the grace of God through faith in Christ. The confusing point is that faith is handled differently. Faith to the Church of Jesus Christ is working with God for personal spiritual progression through Christ, thus the emphasis on striving to keep God's commandments. The key word is strive, faith means trying your hardest. After you fall short, God recognizes your faith and uses it, through Christ's atoning grace, to sanctify the believer.

That's more doctrine than I wanted to share, I just get frustrated by this issue. About the inerrancy of the Bible, this is only an assumption on the part of Protestants who reject the Orthodox priesthood structure that authorizes the Bible as true (I can also mention the revelations given to the Church of Jesus Christ that reaffirm the Bible as the word of God and its message of salvation true). The doctrine of the Trinity is also only a explanation of ideas set forth in the Bible - it works better than the 'heretical' explanations it opposed - but the understanding of the nature of God in the Church of Jesus Christ is completely compatible with the Bible.

I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ. I taught many people, as an example, of the Pentecostal faith. They believed in many things that I thought were just plain wrong. Their church meetings were full of people speaking various tongues that often were never understood by anyone. They shout and yell, and I think (personally) that that sort of behavior drowns out God's true spirit (which the Bible clearly calls a still, small voice). However, when a person told me that they had felt God's spirit, that they sought it, that they felt His love, and even if they said they had received an impression, a dream, or a prophesy, I was not inclined to tell them that they had erred. The Church of Jesus Christ has no monopoly on God or Christ. It's members believe that it is the church "brought forth out of the wilderness", that the Lord speaks to its prophet, that the priesthood authority of the Church was vested by God and that it is the only authority that is true and recognized by God. However, we have no monopoly on God, His spirit, and we know that all mankind are His children.

Like I have stated before, to remove Christ from His sheep is unchristian. I think God grants His spirit to all those who seek Him. He grants it even more to those who exercise faith on the name of His Son. He grants it in special measure to those who serve Him. Mr. Smith's personal views on the Bible's message - to which he is entitled, as I am to mine - are not sufficient to coerce God to remove His spirit from those that believe Him.

True mormons are christian, that is the end of the story, and no man-made qualifiers can coerce God to remove His spirit from they to whom He grants It. Let's look at fruits. That's what Christ told us to do. Do we believe Him"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A New Blog

Elder Ballard has instructed us young people to use new media to be a voice for the church.  I have actually just opened a blog to talk about politics.  I decided to open a second one to discuss the church, doctrine, etc. specifically.  The name "All Wisdom's Children" refers to Jesus' remarks concerning the logic of his adversaries.  Basically, you can use seemingly sound logic to explain or argue against anything.  I think this specifically refers to the logic of those who - like the children of the market in the parable - are anxious to have things their way rather than seek the truth.  They use sophisticated arguments, but in the end ignore sound thought.

This blog takes that name because it seeks to avoid silly arguments and focus on the strait truth of the gospel.  In other words, in the midst of confusing disagreements about gospel truths from the church's detractors, I will offer my perspective on what is the bottom line.  

I also want to discuss the gospel in general.  One way or the other, it's about the bottom line and what it takes to continue our eternal progression.