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:

Speech

2. Take the Quiz

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 11: It isn't a Sin to be Weak

This is Day 11 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.



This life is a test. None of us is perfect at any time during the test but we can overcome many things and increase our capacity to feel joy. Our weaknesses can lead us to fall into sin, but "God can use human weakness to teach, strengthen, and bless us." Understanding our capacity and our potential can help us to have realistic expectations for this life. Working towards our potential, we will need to call upon the grace of God to augment our efforts. This essay discusses the difference between grace and repentance and how to use both on our journey. 

1. Read the Essay:

Essay

2. Take the Quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I will respond to the reality of my weaknesses with humility and faith. I choose to replace fear and shame with humility and faith.

4. Goal: Make a plan to develop humility and faith.

5. Dig Deeper: "Faith is More Than Belief"

"Grace Needed in the Kitchen"
"In Confidence is Your Strength"

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 10: A Mighty Change

This is Day 10 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.


I have many choices. I also have troubles that oppose my state of peace and joy. As I walk in step with Christ he lightens the load I must carry, removes my desire for evil and changes my weakness into strong characteristics. This is how my faith in him grows. I see the change inside my heart. To learn more...

1. Read the Speech:

Speech

2. Take the Quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I am turning away from evil by faith in Jesus Christ

4. Goal: Choose three ways to take tiny steps towards a closer relationship with the Lord.

5. Dig Deeper:

"Do You See Small Enough?"
"You Can Have What You Want or You Can Have Something Better"
"True and Perfect Worship"

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 9: Jesus the Perfect Mentor

This is Day 9 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.



Life has a purpose. That purpose determines the scope of our individual lives and the fate of nations. Making choices and learning the consequences is part of our experience here. Accepting Christ is one of the choices we have. This speech is about a few aspects of Jesus Christ's life and how he mentors us in our life individually. If you've never heard Neal A Maxwell, now deceased, he was a pleasure to listen to and his ideas were very profound. 

1. Read the Speech:

Speech

2. Take the Quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I am grateful for Jesus Christ's mentorship.

4. Goal: Even though I may not see the marvelous pattern and divine design in my life, I will have faith in the Lord's timetable.

5. Dig Deeper:
"When God Seems Distant"
"Who's Got the Reins?"
"One Fold, One Shepherd"

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 8: Maximizing our Effort

This is Day 8 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 challenges we face in life are real. All of us must earn our food and rent. We all have relationships to maintain. We have to keep up our health. There is entropy to fight with. Today, I present to you a speech that contains the ideas whereby anyone can maximize their productivity. These ideas are not new but they are profound. To get the most out of them...

1. Read the Speech

Speech

2. Take the Quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: In humility, I see how Christ is a source of strength to me and I believe he will stand side by side with me as I face life.

4. Goal: I will study the pattern of Christ to acquire new tools for the challenges I face in life.

5. Dig Deeper:
"God Will Have a Tried People"
"The Opening and Closing of Doors"
"An Anchor to the Souls of Men"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 7: Opposition in All Things

This is Day 7 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.



Life is a series of tests. Our response determines who we become and how our character develops. "Some of these tests are temptations to sin. Some are mortal challenges apart from personal sin. Some are very great. Some are minor. Some are continuous, and some are mere episodes. None of us is exempt. Opposition permits us to grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become." (Dallin H Oaks) We sometimes get discouraged by the nature of the opposition we face. It is easy to blame God for allowing our test to occur but it is better to take responsibility and rise to the challenge. To get a better idea of what exactly is opposition and why we face it...

1. Read the speech

Speech

2. Take the quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: With God, I am stronger than all the forces that oppose me.

4. Goal: I will list five ways that I have overcome my opposition. I will also acknowledge at least one challenge that I am struggling to overcome.

5. Dig deeper into another blog post on this topic:

Why does God Allow Bad Things to Happen

Image Credit: Flickr/Alberto G

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 6: The Transforming Power of Faith

This is Day 6 of 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.




This series of posts began with the immense value of the soul because that is a great place to begin. With a divine identity of inestimable worth, we begin to understand why God made a Plan of Happiness by which all his children come to Earth, learn and grow, and then return and report. Life is full of choices and challenges. We've talked about staying balance and now we're going to talk about the faith to set out and achieve success. Faith is a principle of action and when applied to true principles it adds strength to our character. A crisis is a defining moment. A person with faith and integrity is much more likely to succeed without becoming fearful and defensive. This speech is called The Transforming Power of Faith and Character by Richard G Scott.

1. Read the Speech (this speech is available in other languages by clicking on the link and then looking at the icon in the upper right corner which says "worldwide")

Speech

2. Take the Quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I am working on becoming a person of integrity by choosing to apply true principles in daily life.

4. Goal: I will make a plan to practice faith on a daily basis.

5. Dig deeper by reading other posts on this topic:

Faith Workout

Faith is the Conviction that Moves Us

You Can Have What you Want or You Can Have Something Better

Image credit: Flickr/BK



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Balanced, Righteous Life

This is Day 5 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.



Life is a journey. I begin as a child and grow into adulthood. My identity is formed by my childhood experiences together with my emergence from youth into adulthood and the definitions that I accept about myself. My identity is strongest when it incorporates a knowledge of my divine worth. Next I must have a safe harbor so that the inevitable storms can't sink my ship. Today I want to discuss the idea of balance. No ship will stay afloat if it has too much weight on one side. Balance is an oft-debated topic and it would be difficult to summarize the theories out there. Today I will propose the ideas for staying balanced from the speech The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life by L Tom Perry.

1. Read the Speech

Speech

2. Take the 5-question quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I can succeed in all aspects of life as I balance my efforts to feel, learn, do and share.

4. Goal: I will evaluate my life and focus on one way that I can be more balanced.

5. Dig Deeper into other blog posts on this topic:

Prioritize Spirituality

The Greatest Work

Spiritual Self Reliance


Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 4: Safe Harbor

This is Day 4 of 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 storms of life are strong and often leave me feeling vulnerable. I haven't capsized yet, but I surely have felt on the brink of failure and at the end of my resolve. Sometimes I feel so discouraged that I wonder if God cares. This speech is for all of us who feel overwhelmed by life. It explains why God allows us to suffer. It asserts that we are stronger than we think. I believe that we must know and be able to trust in God and others who form a support network in order to survive and thrive. No one is strong enough by themselves, but together we can be courageous.

1. Read the speech

Speech 

2. Take the 5-question quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement: I trust in my support network to come to my aid if ever I reach the limit of my ability.

4. Goal: Pick a personal struggle and list three strengths you have that can be applied to it. Use ingenuity and describe three outside resources who might have tools or expertise who you could ask for help in dealing with your struggle. Write out a specific prayer request by which your faith can be activated in addressing this issue.

5. Dig deeper into other post on this topic.

Transcend Problems Spiritually

The Body of Christ Analogy

When God Seems Distant


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day 3: Destiny

This is Day 3 of 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.



It is important to know there is a purpose to this mortal life. A meaningful purpose to life means that no effort is wasted and no challenge is pointless. Everyone who has lived knows how challenging life is. Yet not everyone knows that their decisions matter. The steering wheel is not controlled by an unknown destiny. While there may be circumstances outside our control, each of us has a steering wheel that determines how we perceive what is happening. When we understand that there is purpose to life, it is easier to believe that what is happening is for a greater good. It is possible to explain how a challenging situation may lead to something good. Those with faith, explain life in this positive way and good things do come to them. In fact, good arrives whenever we look for it. It is everywhere. The speech I have for you today was given by a man who has this positive way of looking at life. His example will show you how to think this way.

1. Read the speech

Speech 

2. Take the 5-question quiz

Quiz

3. Personal Challenge Statement
Despite the turmoil of daily living, I will choose to have faith that everything in life can teach me how to be a better person.

4. Goal: Explain one of my most challenging life experiences in a positive way emphasizing the choices that I still can make to learn and grow.

5. Dig Deeper by reading another speech by the same person
"Yellow Canaries with Gray on Their Wings"


Image credit: Walking the Labyrinth by GPS/Flickr