Saturday, July 15, 2017

How My Concept of Salvation Differs from Mainstream Christians

I have noticed that mainstream Christians spend a lot of time talking about whether they are saved. They are always encouraging an audience to declare their faith and be saved even if the audience is mostly Christian. In my faith we don’t worry about whether we are saved and we rarely talk about it in that way. Here’s why…

 I chose this picture because of the subcategories. In my theology there are many subcategories of glory in God's kingdom.
We teach that God has a Plan of Salvation. In this plan, we are born to mortal parents, tested, and die. God sent his Son to redeem us and this makes it possible for us to be resurrected after we die. Our choices here on Earth put us in paradise or prison after death until we are brought before the bar of God to be judged. Our judgement and resurrection precede our reward of a heavenly home in one of God’s many kingdoms which vary in their glory. The best kingdom has the highest glory and there are three degrees of glory in general. But as the stars differ one from another, the worst kingdom is like all the stars of heaven in its variety. In this way, the judgement that is pronounced is rewarded with exactly the right amount of glory in God’s kingdom. The idea that a mortal could declare with certainty someone’s salvation seems ludicrous to us. For all but sons of perdition, we believe that everyone will be saved from death with a resurrected body and from spiritual death with a restoration of the spirit but the glory of that salvation will vary. It doesn’t make sense to us to try to guess what glory someone will receive so we just focus on trying to make good choices and be worthy of the highest glory in God’s kingdom.

People in my faith are criticized for focusing too much on “works.” Our concept of salvation leads to this kind of focus but it doesn’t exclude us from teaching about the great Atonement of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. What “works” do Mormons do?

  1. I “work” towards unity and oneness with God. This means that ‘I’ll go where you want me to go. … I’ll say what you want me to say. … I’ll be what you want me to be.’” Hymn 270
  2. I “work” on personal religious observances like prayer, scriptures study, fasting and worship.
  3. I “work” on family. I have eight kids that all need my nurturing, instruction and discipline.
  4. I “work” on taking care of the poor, needy, widow and fatherless. I am assigned to look after four sisters in my congregation some of which are single.
  5. I “work” on teaching the rising generation how to worship God. My current assignment is to teach 4 year olds in sunday school, but I spent over five years teaching teenagers.
  6. I “work” on serving in my community. My leaders encouraged me to find a way to help refugees so I now volunteer for the Red Cross in a capacity that directly helps refugees.

Do I think that these “works” save me? Well not exactly. I’m well aware of my sinful nature and the necessity I have for a Redeemer. I also see my “works” as saving me from idleness and sin in this life. I don’t really worry about whether I’m saved or whether I’m doing enough. I don’t know that I’m saved but I don’t need the certainty because I’ve gotten little reassurances from God himself that I’m on the path. Focusing on a path and not the ending is to focus on walking and not arriving. A path requires flexibility because we can’t see where it goes short term even if we know where it leads. 

I hope this clarifies a little what has become a very divisive debate about grace, works and salvation. I have also written about it here and here. I know that Christ is my savior. I have been blessed to receive forgiveness for some of my sins and I continue to ponder, pray and make small incremental changes on others. I don’t expect to be able to change or correct my sinful nature enough to be worthy of redemption but I do intend to work towards purity while I am able.

Image credit: Subcategories of Twilight by TWCarlson 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Why Imagination is Vital to Faith

If you have stopped believing, it is possible that you have stopped imagining what is possible.

When Jesus started his ministry he had a barrier to entry that he crossed by engaging his listeners in a way that made them think about and question the possibilities.  He came in a time when the leadership had stifled questions. They had done this by threatening all who opposed them with death. Very few people were willing to think out loud. John 6:13 says that “No man spoke openly of him (Jesus) for fear of the Jews.”

Jesus was bold in declaring his message despite the well-known threat of death (John 6:25). The people who listened to him questioned his education and learning. They were sure he was a fake because he came from Galilee. But a few questioned this assertion and remembered that he was born in Bethlehem. (John 7:41-42)

Jesus circled his listeners with puzzles that distracted them from their certain resistance and got them thinking about what he might intend. He said, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” (John 7:34) They imagined that their problem would disappear if he killed himself. (John 8:22)

The officers said, “Never man spake like this man” and imagined the Prophet who was to come. (John 7:46) They questioned him, “Who art thou?” and he answered, “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.” (John 8:25)

Poetic words with layers of meaning and especially hidden meanings would have been used by people who were afraid of the authorities. Jesus was not afraid. Yet, the people, hearing this kind of language, began to wonder what it could possibly mean. Within the attitude of wonder is the ability to believe. Their resistance came down. Their certainty became uncertain. And “As he spoke these words, many believed on him.” (John 8: 30)

He saw their faith beginning and he told them that they need to believe and act. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) In an oppressive society, freedom is a dream. Jesus promised freedom and the people began to hope a little that what he said was true.

The conversation turned to legitimacy. The Jews were at odds with their half-breed neighbor Samaritans and Roman rulers. Jesus said to them, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” (John 8:40) There were those in the establishment that clung to their legitimacy. But there were those in the audience that started to think about the difference between how Abraham acted and how the Jews acted. Later, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56) Can you imagine Abraham rejoicing? Can you imagine what he saw that made him glad?

To imagine the joy is to begin to wonder how a society of people oppressed by their Jewish leaders and Roman rulers could be free. Jesus came to free them, not from their rulers but from their sins. His potential to remove chains that bind leads to unsurpassed joy because it is permanent.

Expectation leads to despair. Unlike imagination, expectation demands that what is imagined become real. Jesus can make it real but we cannot control him. We must submit our will to his. Jesus offers us hope and he expects us to continue with him without knowing how or when our hope will become real. Stay open. Believe. It’s real!

Image credit: Abraham and the Angels by Aert de Gelder in the public domain

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Day 12: Good, Better or Best

This is Day 12 in a challenging new series of posts. Each post will focus on a way to increase spirituality, focus or efficiency in dealing with life. Each post will provide a speech or essay to read, a 5 question quiz and a personal challenge statement or goal. The hope is that through self-directed learning and some coaching from me, you will grow in refreshing new ways.

The fact that life has choices means there are more than a thousand ways to go about it. In giving us a world of choices God surely knows that some will be bad, some will be good, and some will be "best." His written law, the ten commandments, his beatitudes and other parables point the way to the choices that lead to the "best" outcomes. His prediction is that "few there be that find it (meaning the best path)." This speech encourages us to be strategic about our use of time and resources so that we are on the best path.

1. Read the Speech:


2. Take the Quiz


3. Personal Challenge Statement: I will take responsibility for my past choices by making better choices today.

4. Goal: Make a plan to align your inner desires with your outward choices.

5. Dig Deeper: Best Family Councils

Do You See Small Enough?
Course Correction

image credit: flickr/Steven Guzzardi