Saturday, August 16, 2008

"If you believe all this, then why are you a Mormon?"


Because of my gratitude and understanding for the merciful blessing of repentance, I could speak about it all day and night, and never get tired of it. It's always at the forefront of my thoughts and my teaching. (I teach Sunday School.) It's not only a key to my gospel study, but gospel living. It's such an essential principle of the gospel, along with faith in Christ—fundamental--especially if our faith in Christ leads us unto repentance.

I like how the Bible Dictionary in the LDS scriptures talk about repentance. (The Bible dictionary is not scripture itself, but it's a great study help). It states: "The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin, and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is not optional for salvation; it is a commandment of God."

I would venture to say that it's also one of the most positive aspects of the gospel, or "good news", of Jesus Christ. This is how we lay claim to Christ's mercy!

Obviously, our repentance, or whatever other works we manage to do out of love for God and our fellow man, is not what saves us. Christ saves us. That’s why we call Him the Savior. No knowledgeable Mormon will ever tell you that Mormons believe they can save themselves. That is a myth.

It is clear in the Bible, and even in The Book of Mormon, that "redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else". (2 Nephi 2:6-7)

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is so core, central, and fundamental in our faith and in our scriptures. This is why Joseph Smith declared: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

Ultimately, I believe that none but the penitent, who have a broken heart and contrite spirit, are saved. This is how the great Plan of Salvation (also referred to by the Latter-day Saints as the great Plan of Mercy, the Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Redemption) is brought to pass, through exercising "faith unto repentance." (see Alma 34:13-17 in the Book of Mormon). Naturally, Jesus Christ is central and key to the Plan.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I made the above comment on another blog run by a Christian not of our faith. She had written some excellent thoughts about sin, daily repentance, and forgiveness. I sensed that she thought she was sharing something that would be strange to me, as a Mormon. She then asked my thoughts, and I told her that what she had said was not only beautiful, but true. And then I took some time to share my above thoughts about repentance, Jesus Christ, and the Plan of Salvation. But the line that seemed to sum up the fact that Mormons are still misunderstood by so many people of other faiths was what she said in response to my comment:

"I really appreciate your kind words about my writing and explanation of continual repentance. If you believe all this, then why are you a Mormon? I know you say you know what Mormons believe, and surely you do, but you ignore what the Mormon church has taught and what the leaders believe and have believed in the past."

Why is this a common misconception by evangelicals? The doctrine hasn't changed. The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, have always said this. Any thoughts?

32 comments:

Untypically Jia said...

I too share your frustrations. I had a recent talk with one of my aunts, who is a Christian, and her biggest problem that she continued to bring up, always came back to the Prophet Joseph, and our leaders. I think perhaps they have a hard time trusting them, because they don't believe them to be true Prophets, and feel that we are constantly being lead astray, whereas, we know that they are in fact true Prophets of God.

Also, they believe that our doctrine changes, where we know that it doesn't change, but there are things that have yet to be revealed, so when they are revealed, we accept it as additional doctrine, whereas they might interpret that as something that has changed.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem is that people are all to willing to listen to what their pastor says Mormon's believe. Often, a pastor's want to keep the flock away from listening the Mormons becomes more important than honestly and truthfully talking about the differences between themselves and Mormons. When talking with an Evangelical, it is not uncommon to hear, "You don't believe that, you believe this." To which, we firmly reply, as Bob Millet and Stephen Robinson: "I am the world's authority on one thing: what I believe. I have studied Mormonism for (x) # of (days, Months, Years) and feel I understand it fairly well. Forgive me if I don't take the repsresentations against my religion by a competing group as an official declaration of MY faith."

Clean Cut said...

Yeah, it is frustrating. She actually though that I was lying.

Untypically Jia said...

I completely agree. The argument I got into with my aunt was the very same thing. She just kept telling me what I believe, and I was like, "Wow, way off." She actually said that the Church teaches us not to worship Jesus, but to worship Joseph Smith.

I was like, " . . . . WHAT?! Where are you getting this from?"

Jared said...

"This is how we lay claim to Christ's mercy!"

We can pray and seek the Lord's blessings for many things, but I think we can draw nearest to Him when we seek to repent. The Savior paid the highest possible price, as a God, so we could obtain a remission of our sins on the conditions of repentance, and access His mercy.


PS
I don't have a lot of contact with members of other churches so I can't comment on your question.

Berean said...

Why the common misconceptions by evangelicals? There are many reasons why and I look forward to going into depth with each point if you're willing to stick with it, attempt to answer the questions without dodging and stuffing it full of "filler". I say this because most of my questions and points were not addressed in the last thread. It seemed to be the usual "dodge and duck" that I get from my LDS friends when faced with tough questions. If I am welcome here I will start with one question and then move on from there. Thanks.

1. Do you believe that daily repentance is pleasing to Heavenly Father, necessary and an all around good thing to do?

Recap from last thread: Cleancut said that questions are always welcomed and encouraged at the ward. If that is the case, then I have a question I'd like for you to ask the bishop on Sunday:

"If books written by Mormon apostles like Bruce McConkie (Mormon Doctrine) and Orson Pratt (The Seer) and other sources like the Journal of Discourses are referenced in official church publications such as institute and seminary books as well as being referenced by the prophets in conference talks, then are those books/works authoritative? If not, why not?"

I look forward to hearing your answers.

Berean

Clean Cut said...

Berean, you are more than welcome to ask me any question you like. Perhaps a better forum for this would be privately via email. My email is listed prominently on my profile. I'm sorry that you felt I was giving you typical answers to your questions in the last thread. That's interesting you say that because I was purposely was trying to be meaningful. Like I said, however, email would be better for questions that are off topic for this thread.

Your first question was very applicable to this post: "Do you believe that daily repentance is pleasing to Heavenly Father, necessary and an all around good thing to do?". Yes I do. I tried to make my thoughts on repentance very clear in the above post.

Berean said...

Clean Cut,

Thanks for allowing me to be on board with your blog and being willing to do private email. I think that would be great. However, I plan to stay on topic so the vast majority of your readers can chime in if they desire.

Thank you for answering the first question. I will now give you the evangelical response that the LDS people are having a hard time understanding. When Christians (evangelicals) read this topic or hear Mormons talking about repentance we want to know what the Mormons think of repentance and what their prophets say about the subject. We think that there is no greater authority to state what the Church's position is on repentance than Joseph Smith. Would you agree with that?

If so, I would like to point out to you that Joseph Smith does not agree with your answer and his answer concerns Christians and I will tell you why in a moment. Joseph Smith said:

"Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.148)

Again, these are authoritative sermons of Joseph's and this book is referenced in nearly every official publication and doctrinal manual from LDS distribution that I have. So daily repentance is not pleasing in the sight of God? Really? If that is the case then when is one to repent if not daily? Are we to allow sin to just linger around? I thought sin was not pleasing in His sight (D&C 1:31)?

For the Christian, we put a great deal of emphasis on daily repentance because we recognize that when we sin it's against Heavenly Father (Psalms 51:1-4). We sin in our thoughts, words and deeds all the time. We sin by breaking His commands (sins of commission) and when we don't do the things that He wants us to do (sins of omission). We sin unintentionally. We are not aware of every sin that we commit (Psalms 19:12). Our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight (Isa 64:6) and if we say that we have no sin we are liars (1 John 1:8)

When Joseph Smith said that daily repentance is not pleasing in the sight of God I think you can see where evangelical Christians will object and state to you what you have been told as I am doing here. This is just one point.

Since we can't have a live conversation right now I would like to ask you the next question and that is:

2. How do you personally define the words "repentance" and "forgiveness"? Are you going to cite the LDS Bible Dictionary as you did in the topic thread or do you have a personal short answer?

Clean Cut said...

Berean, that's interesting that you take that quote to mean that. That's not what I get out of it at all. When you read all of Joseph Smith's teachings about repentance, they were very sound, as well as the scriptures. Since he played such a key role in bringing additional scripture to light, I'm going to assume he was familiar with their teachings.

When I read that quote, I guess I'm understanding it differently than you. What I understand Joseph to be saying is that we can't plan to sin all the while expecting to just repent later and expecting to be forgiven. Planning on sinning, and then expecting that God is just going to sweep it under the rug with "repentance" is indeed trifling with something very sacred. The person who does this does not have his/her heart in the right place.

For those who truly hunger and thirst after righteousness, yet constantly fall short as we all do, repentance is a blessing--and a commandment--so that we don't have to suffer like Jesus had to suffer. This kind of lifestyle is indeed the kind of daily repentance the Lord expects us to make. The sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Of course we all sin--every day--despite our best intentions. That's why it's merciful that we can repent--every day. But there are some very serious transgressions of which repentance is not easy. It's not just like taking a bath. For these transgressions, repentance can be a very painful and long process.

Someone who is in very deep transgression cannot trifle with repentance daily as if forgiveness is like turing on a water tap whenever we demand it, in order to wash and be clean. Forgiveness is a gift--even a miracle--that is offered through the Atonement of Christ. So the way I interpret that Joseph Smith quote is a serious warning to those who would crucify Christ afresh on any whim.

Forgive me if you don't feel satisfied with my very imperfect attempt of an explanation. My understanding is much clearer in my mind and heart than what comes through in my words.

mssaint said...

cleancut, with your permission, I would like to respond to berean. otherwise, just delete my comment.

berean,
I think you have narrowly interpreted Joseph Smith's comment regarding repentance. Since I am coming from the point of view that Joseph Smith was/is indeed a prophet of God and I agree with cleancut's opinion that repentance is necessary everyday, I would present this alternate interpretation of the comment in question.

I believe that Joseph's comments in this context are regarding chronic repeat offenses, meaning that we should not commit a sin on Monday, repent on Monday night and then commit the same sin on Tuesday only to repent again on Tuesday evening and so on. This type of action would seem to indicate that one is not taking the principle of repentance seriously and is therefore "trifling" with repentance.

The purpose of repentance is to allow us to overcome sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is an amazing gift that, when applied sincerely, allows us to be cleansed of our sins and we are promised that the Lord remembers them no more (D&C 58:42-43). Thus it is not something to be trifled with. If we are returning to the Lord each day in prayer seeking forgiveness for the same sins, then it would appear that maybe we have not experienced a change of heart and a desire to turn away from, or forsake, the sin. Also, committing sin with the premeditated idea that we will just repent later could also be considered trifling with repentance.

I do not believe Joseph was espousing the idea of waiting until we accummulate "enough" sin and then going to the Lord for repentance.

So this particular "gotcha" would seem to be up for interpretation. Someday we could ask the Prophet himself what he meant, but until that day, we can only assume based on our best guess.

My answers to your next question:
Repentance is the process by which we receive Forgiveness. It includes feeling genuine sorrow for our sins and a desire to forsake them, seeking to repair any damage that we have done to the greatest extent possible, confessing our sin to the Lord and those, if any, we have offended and asking for their forgiveness. Then going forward with a changed eart and earnest desire not to repeat the sin. Forgiveness is the miraculous application of the Lord's atonement which cleanses us from sin. It satisfies the demands of both justice and mercy.

Please forgive my insertion into your conversation.

-A Mississipi Saint

Clean Cut said...

In response to your second question: "How do you personally define the words "repentance" and "forgiveness"?"

First of all, I want to try to verbalize something that I see in my mind. Hopefully you can try to understand what my heart is wanting to express, as there will always be flaws in any analogy. (At least the ones I come up with!)

I picture a long line labeled with negative numbers all the way from the left until reaching zero--the middle of the line. Continuing onward from zero, the line is labeled with positive numbers that keep on going to the right. Let's say the line is infinite and our lives take place along this line. Negative numbers are "bad", and positive numbers are "good".

I think of repentance as very multi-dimensional. We need it for Christ to get us out of deep holes of transgression--those very negative numbers (ie: adultery)--and also from the smaller negative numbers, such as those daily sins like yelling at your kids or being unkind to your spouse.

Surly we need repentance for any negative. But repentance can also refine us to help us become more like Christ--more converted to Him. He can take us from the negative and bring us even closer to him, on a journey of discipleship that goes into the positive. Either way, repentance is key to taping into the redeeming power, as well as the enabling power, of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Like most airplanes which fly off course 99% of the time yet still make it to their destination, repentance helps us make whichever "course corrections" are necessary for us to truly become transformed into men and women of Christ. We might not ever stop sinning completely (at least in this life), but we can work on at least loosing our desire to sin, as we yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. We will still experience many negative numbers throughout our life, but we we hunger and thirst after righteousness and truly desire to stop our negatives and increase our positives.

The Atonement is necessary at all times. Someone once said that "the purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better." I really like that. It speaks of Christ's grace both in terms of His redeeming power, as well as his enabling power to make much more out of us than we could do on our own.

Clean Cut said...

Mississippi Saint, you are most welcome to insert yourself whenever you like! I'm grateful for your contribution to the conversation. Thank you.

Berean said...

Thanks for your responses. Your take and opinion is interesting, but it's really only a guess on your part on what Joseph meant. I don't say this in a negative way to you so don't take it wrong. I see from the quote that Joseph made a distinction between daily transgression and daily repentance. Whether they be chronic or acute sins in unknown, but a distinction is made. Even if it was, what is wrong with that? If you have a lustful eye and your eye roams everyday what is wrong with confessing that everyday? We will sin every day in one form or another. It's a fact. Daily repentance is a mandatory thing so why not confess that sin that you struggle with every day? Would that really be displeasing to Him that you confessed it or would it be more pleasing if one knew they had that daily issue and sin problem and just kept it to themselves if they were thinking about what Joseph Smith said?

There is one prophet that stated clearly what the definition of repentance is and that is Spencer Kimball. I'm sure all of you are familiar with his authoritative work "The Miracle of Forgiveness", right? This work is referenced in countless LDS publications and conference addressses. At Temple Square they have a picture of Spencer Kimball in glass and right below it is this book. This was the pinnacle of his work and contribution to the church. I think you would agree with that.

Anyhow, Spencer Kimball defined for the LDS Church this issue of repentance and forgiveness.

"Abandonment of Sin: The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again." (LDS pamphlet "Repentace Brings Forgiveness", 1984)

"There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin...The saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life...Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin...Desire is not sufficient. To try is weak." (Spencer Kimball, "Sharing the Gospel Manual", page 94)

I don't think there is anything hard to get from that. Repentance means abandoning the sin once for all. While I respect your thoughtful opinions on what you think repentance means, wouldn't you agree we need to stick with what the prophet has said since he is the mouthpiece of Heavenly Father and the prophet would never lead the Church astray, correct?

How about forgiveness?

"There is no royal road to repentance, no privileged path to forgiveness...There is only one way. It is a long road spiked with thorns and briars and pitfalls and problems". (Gospel Principles, p.123)

"To every forgiveness there is a condition...The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin." (Gospel Principles, page 252)

You want to know why Christians have great sympathy for the Mormon people? It's because of statements like that. That is not the good news of the gospel as stated in the Bible. The LDS people really have the weight put on them by their prophets when it comes to these issues. So much for the atonement of Christ when it comes to your personal responsibility to shrug off these sins. If you don't, Christ can't help you according to LDS scriptures.

Berean said...

By the way, the reference to D&C 58:42-43 you only quoted the first part of the verse about the Lord not remembering your sin no more (verse 42). You forgot to mention your part (verse 43). You prove that you have repented of your sins when you confess them and forsake them. Have you done this? If you didn't forsake them then you truly did not repent. Remember the authoritative quote from the LDS pamphlet: " The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one."

Anonymous said...

Berean,

Our (Mormon) understanding of what previous prophets (including Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball) meant is based on what the *current* prophet (Thomas S. Monson) and his authorized representatives say. The current prophet has authority from God to give binding interpretation (that's an area where we are more like Catholics than Protestants).

There is order in God's House. He speaks to the world in general through his prophets (both ancient and modern). He speaks to us individually through our hearts via the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost has born witness to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that Thomas Monson is His prophet today. I know by the same means that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I am so grateful that God continues to love and care for us just as he did in ancient time. Take care.

The Right Trousers said...

Berean, I'll answer your question on doctrinal authority.

Now, coming as you do from a more traditional view of prophets and prophecy, this might sound a little strange to you. But *not everything ever written or said by a prophet is authoritative, even in a church publication*. One reason this might sound strange to you is that *every* word you've *ever* read that was written by a prophet you accept has been authoritative.

Let me sum up how this works in our church. You may not have heard this from a Saint before, because sadly most of us aren't clear on it.

1. The only words that are personally binding to any member are those in the "Standard Works" (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, not including study helps or even chapter summaries). That is, the church as a body must accept any new work as canon before it is binding on everyone individually. *This* defines our doctrine, no matter what Elder McConkie's unfortunately named book seems to imply.

This means that we are free to disregard everything else and remain members in good standing, including official publications, lesson manuals, and the most recent General Conference addresses. Most of us don't, as a matter of choice. We are ultimately accountable to God, whom we assume has appointed these people for good reasons.

The plain and simple fact is that there are diverse opinions in the church and even among its highest leadership about the meaning of our doctrine. Why? We don't have creeds. We don't have a propositional theology in which you can derive all truth or doctrine from a set of axioms. We leave doctrine for God to reveal to us as he chooses, and when he does, we formally accept it as a people. The last time that happened was in 1978.

Your constant reminder that certain works are "authoritative" is simply not true. We don't use them that way among ourselves - we only use a few of them as resources. In reasoning with us about our doctrine it would be unfair (now that you know this) for you use these resources as authoritative. You should stick to the Standard Works.

I personally disagree with President Kimball's take on repentance, and I'm 100% allowed to do so, and even to teach my views in classes. I feel his views contrast too sharply with what I find in the Book of Mormon, which says that God's mercy is applied *immediately* upon repenting (Alma 34:31). There are also numerous statements there and in the Bible that Christ *has* redeemed (not *will* redeem) his people. I take great comfort in knowing - by revelation specific to me - that he has redeemed me, even of those sins I just can't seem to kick. FWIW, notice that the D&C gives forsaking as a *sign* that someone has repented. Also, nowhere in the Standard Works is it stated that individual perfection apart from Christ is required for exaltation, or that committing sin again causes every previous one to come back, or any other such nonsense that some well-meaning Saints sometimes teach.

I think that mercy and grace are often poorly understood in the church, even among its leadership. I attribute this to a founding-era backlash against popular "free grace" movements that failed to also teach good descipleship. The Lord himself said that the church was "under condemnation" until we studied the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:57), and my generation was challenged by President Benson to lift this. Many of us have found within it a breadth of God's mercy that we were never taught by our parents' generation.

So what good are the prophets' extra-canonical words? They're for wisdom and direction, and also individual revelation as confirmed by the Holy Spirit. We are also assured that following them will never lose us our salvation. Further, we finally get to item #2.

2. The words of the prophets are binding to the church as an institution. This includes things said in General Conference, special leadership meetings, direct correspondence, and any other way we get them. Leadership at local units have some interperetive leeway and are free to adapt to their own circumstances as well. But outright rebellion merits censure or loss of position.

So there you have it. The short version is that we accept as doctrine what's in the Standard Works, and we distinguish between what's personally binding and what's institutionally binding.

I realize this takes an awful lot of wind out of many of your arguments about our doctrine, and I hope you don't reject it on those grounds.

The Riight Trousers said...

Good grief, I just discovered that Clean Cut blogged about all that stuff I wrote (and said the same thing in substance) on Tuesday! I could have saved myself some time... ;)

I hope some of it was helpful anyway.

Clean Cut said...

Berean, you should know that there's always going to be multiple ways of interpreting quotes. Your way is not the only way, or even the "right way". I don't think I'd necessarily disagree with anything you personally have said about repentance and forgiveness. And although according to your way of understanding a quote by Joseph Smith or Spencer W. Kimball, you appear to think they would contradict or disagree with your way of thinking--I don't think that is necessarily the case either. There's more than one way of interpreting something. And I think it's unfair to claim you know exactly how Spencer W. Kimball thought about repentance based on one or two lines, or even based on your understanding--especially when he's not around anymore to explain himself to you.

I could go on and explain another way of interpreting the quote by Spencer Kimball that would probably fit better with your (or my) understanding. But that too would be a mute point, as we stick to the Standard Works for our doctrine. People will always have different opinions about what Paul meant or what Mormon meant or what Spencer Kimball meant. Historians especially struggle with this when writing biographies. But opinion is just opinion. Yours is just as opinion as mine. But I would tend to believe that my opinion about Spencer W. Kimball's words would probably closer to the truth of what he believed than yours.

None of us are perfect (ie: complete, finished, fully developed), even in our repentance. We'll never in this life be able to abandon ALL sin. Does that mean our repentance isn't valid? Of course not. President Kimball had a very sound understanding of repentance. And Joseph Smith wasn't actually saying we shouldn't repent daily. If you believe that, you would be basing your opinion on a misrepresentation of the whole picture. You can't appreciate or understand a painting by ignoring the whole and focusing on one little detail. That would cause you to get the wrong impression of the painting and perhaps disregard the he whole picture because of your experience. Yet this is what I feel you're doing with the words of the prophets.

I'm sure that for all people and for some sins, repentance isn't going to be complete in this lifetime. I tend to look at repentance more as a lifestyle than an event—the process of rejecting the natural man and becoming a saint through the Atonement of Christ (see Mosiah 3:19.) Repenting is what we do for the rest of our life in Christ--that journey along the continuum, or line, that I mentioned earlier. Having said that, there are some “events” of which we do need to repent and be done with. Spencer W. Kimball spoke to a lot of these kinds of sins in his book “Miracle of Forgiveness”. Does that mean he believed repentance was an event and not a lifestyle? Not at all. Different contexts demand different types of explanations.

I hope this is helpful. I must admit that I do feel the need to be careful that I'm following Paul's counsel in Romans 14:1, as I interact with you. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." If you are weak in your faith, or simply wanting to explore or understand my faith, that’s one thing. But purposely engaging in or causing “doubtful disputations” with Latter-day Saints is quite another.

Clean Cut said...

I am most grateful that God has told us that the desires of our hearts are what is most important. That's all throughout the scriptures. We will be judged according to the desires of our hearts. It’s merciful to those who’s hearts on in the right place, and its damning for those whose hearts are not. If we truly in our hearts desired to overcome sin and had even begun to change, but die before totally finishing the change (ie: the complete abandonment of "x" sin), we'll still get credit for what we would have completed had we still had more time, or at least he’ll judge us as such. Mercifully, Latter-day Saints believe that because of our covenant relationship with Christ, we'll be judged as one with Christ, and not alone on our own merits.

But keeping the topic on repentance, I like what Stephen Robinson has to say in his book "Following Christ"--sequel to "Believing Christ". These books helped me better understand the gospel as taught in the Standard Works. I think we've already established that some books, although not authoritative, can still be good and useful and helpful references. I’ll include a long quote for my own purposes. You’re welcome to read it or ignore it.

He said that "the Hebrew word for 'repent' is 'shuv', and it means literally 'to turn,' that is, to turn from following the carnal self and begin following Christ instead...

"Since individual perfection (unlike perfection in Christ) is impossible in mortality (Romans 3:23), there will always be something to repent of. Thus repentance is a process that must begin in earnest at conversion but continue to improve us and bring us closer to God all our lives. We can never be 'done' repenting until we have become what He is. In that sense, repentance is an attitude, an attitude of recognizing our sins, then rejecting them in principle, then working to get rid of them in fact.

"As we succeed in recognizing and removing big sins like violence, immorality, or a bad temper, we can progress to medium sins like selfishness, ingratitude, and laziness. Hopefully we can eventually get to the smaller sins like being late for church or not singing when we get there.

"Since repenting is 'turning' ourselves around, I think a useful analogy can be drawn from the navy. When a captain decides to turn a battleship or an aircraft carrier, it takes some time for the ship to come around. Though the decision has been made, the order has been given, and the change is being carried out, it still takes some time to bring a ship about. So in our lives the decisions for Christ can be truly and genuinely made, the order truly given and carried out, yet it can still take some time and space to overcome the natural resistance of the carnal self and make the complete turn. There will be rejoicing when the turn is completed and we have perfected part or all of our lives, but should we die before it’s done, the Lord will still credit us for making the right decision, for issuing the appropriate orders and attempting to carry them out in our lives—the rest would have been just a matter of time.

"If we should die, as all of us do, with some sins not completely eliminated, it will not harm us. God will give us credit for what we would have accomplished given more time (D&C 137:7-8). Were we truly repentant? Did we truly desire to root sin out of our lives? Then we are justified through the atonement of Christ and will eventually achieve what we sought in life”…

“Imperfect as I am, since my conversion I in fact ‘have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually,’ and most of us feel that way. It’s just that we have difficulty overcoming our carnal natures and the effects of the Fall at all times in order to act according to our predisposition. That our disposition is good is proven by the fact that when we occasionally act otherwise, we feel bad about it, repent, and return to our previous heading toward righteousness. Like a compass needle that may swing this way or that but always comes again to point north, so are the believers who may make this or that temporary misstep but always correct their course and return to their original heading. That is a clear disposition to do good. ‘The mighty change’ is a change of heart, a change of desires, and a change of disposition concerning our goals. It is not a complete victory over the Fall or over our carnal natures all at once.”

Stephen said...

This is how we lay claim to Christ's mercy -- yes.

Berean said...

I knew it wouldn't take long before "Foul ball!" would be screamed when a resource written by a Mormon prophet is presented. Does the LDS Church members want to know why they have a credibility problem outside with people outside of their own safety net? It's because of this constant waffling around what is doctrine and what is not. It's wanting to hit the "reset" button at the death of the prophet, but yet quote him when it suits the need and purposes. As I said in the other thread, this is "Vegas buffet" Mormonism. Mormons like to pick and choose what they want and when they want. If a certain doctrine or a certain teaching by a former prophet fits the need then it's okay. If a person especially if they are not LDS quotes the same reference then the Mormons say "foul ball!" once again.

Mormons want to constantly "move the goal post". There is no consistency. Clean Cut, I can read and understand what Spencer Kimball as good as you can. You don't know anything about my education level or who I am so let's not get into an intellectual debate over who can understand the dead prophet more than the other. Spencer's book "The Miracle of Forgiveness" wasn't written on a very high grade level.

What I think is going on here is another sign of blatant hypocrisy for the Mormon faithful. Righttrousers, you are a little late to the game on this one. We established what was doctrine and what is not in the last thread. Clean Cut was on board with the official statement from the LDS Newsroom entitled "Approaching Mormon Doctrine".

Clean Cut said, "If any teaching or idea is not in the standard works, not among official declarations or proclamations, is not taught currently by living apostles or prophets in general conference or other official gatherings, or is not in the GENERAL HANDBOOKS or OFFICAL CURRICULUM of the Church, it is not a part of the doctrine or teachings of the Church."

Now today it's a different story. Now it's only doctrine if it's in the Standard Works. You aren't being honest and truthful and you are being misleading. You are in violation of Articles of Faith 13. I'll remind you of the official statement of the Church on the link from the last thread to the LDS Newsroom:

"With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistenly proclaimes IN OFFICIAL CHURCH PUBLICATIONS. This doctrine resides in the four "standard works" of scripture, official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith."

I think that pretty well sums it up. It doesn't matter what you think is doctrine and what makes you feel uncomfortable or what you think is harsh. This is the marker set by the Church. For you to tell me differnt is once again a violation of Articles of Faith 13. You are not entitled to take and pick what you want when it comes to deciding what in your Church manuals you like and what you dislike. I guess none of you asked your bishop the question that I posed yesterday, right? The reason? Fear or afraid of what he might say that you didn't like. You're playing spiritual dodgeball and not being intellectually honest just like when the missionaries denied to me that the Mormon god is an exalted man when they knew in reality it was a truthful statement. I wonder why Mormons are embarrased of some of their teachings and the things that their former prophets have said.

I ask you, is the King Follet Discourse now not authoritative? Why publish the writings of former prophets if they are meaningless in authority now? Are you happy that your tithes are going to publish the books of these dead prophets to be sold at Deseret Books? I see on this blog site there are articles and resources of dead prophets and apostles? Why? They have no authority today?

Spencer Kimball's book "The Miracle of Forgiveness" is quoted all over the place in official church publications. Let's go with "Doctrines and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324&325." On page 122 guess who is quoted on explaining what D&C 58:42-43 is? You got it - Spencer Kimball and his book is the reference. It doesnt' matter what Clean Cut or Right Trousers thinks what this verse means. Seems like to me that Spencer Kimball and that book are authoritative and good enough today for this church manual to be used to teach students at institute classes.

You don't like that reference? How about the church publication "The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles". Spencer Kimball and his book are quoted throughout. For example look at page 303 (37-11), page 310 (38-12) and page 386 (48-25). That is just a short list. Would the LDS Church be guilty of educating the young people of the Church with doctrine that is not relevant today or not true? These manuals are taught today and used in ward settings. How about the series "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" in which a book was done for most of the prophets. I was sitting in a priesthood meeting a few months ago when they taught out of the Joseph Smith book in that series. In a Sunday school class they taught out of the Wilford Woodruff book. Are these not authoritative? The Church stamp is on the back. The are "official church publications" so by the definition set out by the general authorities over each of you that makes what is said in there doctrine. You don't like what Spencer Kimball said? Most Mormons I know don't. They gasp in disgust when I pull ths book out to read from it. They know Spencer brings the hammer down on them and they don't want to feel more guilty than they already do in their quest to perfection and becoming a god.

It's going to be hard to have a conversation with this group if you want to change the rules and guidelines on a daily basis. Okay guys, so what are we going to do? Do you just want to use the standard works and nothing else? I think it's great if you do. Your devotion and honor for your prophets who is the mouthpiece of the Mormon god is not showing at this time. Your blatant lack of consideration in the words of your dead prophets is very revealing. It's hypocrisy again. You don't want to quote them? Fine. I won't either. Let's just play by the same rules. I think the LDS scriptures are all well condemning on their own. They show the utter futility of living the Mormon gospel. Once you decide what the rules are going to be and what materials you want to use, at least for this thread, please let me know.

Right Trousers, Mormon scriptures don't say that former sins return? May I direct you to D&C 82:7 for another look. I really feel compassion for the Mormon people that are under this kind bondage in the Mormon law. What a terrible weight it is to have hanging around one's neck with those promises from scripture. I'm reminded of the elderly woman I saw at the ward who got up at testimony/fast Sunday who cried and cried as she stated she had been asking for forgiveness for months and still didn't know if she had it or not. Nobody at the ward offered her any consolation or spiritual advice...pathetic and depressing. That is not the good news and assurance that one has with the gospel in the Bible.

Clean Cut, I am strong in "the faith"...the real faith - "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). I have no faith in the Mormon faith because it is a faith and a gospel that does not save. It is a different faith, different gospel, different spirit and serves a different Jesus from that of the Bible (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 11:4-14). I might direct your attention to Romans 10:2 and state this is my opinion on where the LDS people are as well - they have zeal, but it's not based on knowledge.

I told you why I am here. I have compassion and love for the Mormon people. It is based on what I just said. I cannot sit idle while the Mormons are running at full pace to outer darkness in the Mormon system. My motives are pure and out of concern. I wouldn't waste my time on here just to stir trouble. Not saying or doing anything when you see people headed to outer darkness is not the loving thing to do.

Clean Cut said...

Berean, what's more important--to say the words "I only say this out of love and compassion" or that we actually FEEL your love and compassion?

Berean said...

I know and understand that Mormonism is based on feelings especially the burning of the bosom (Moroni 10:3-5; D&C 9). It's all about the testimony and the feeling surrounding them. See, I have a testimony too of the saving, redemptive work of Christ. Both of us can't be right because there is only one correct Jesus.

I talk to you out of concern as I do all Mormons that I come into contact with. Your missionaries are out knocking on doors for what reason? They think they have the correct gospel of Christ and are out to win/warn souls over to the Mormon gospel. Somehow if I do the same thing I am looked at as being hateful, not loving and unkind or I am accused of being anti-Mormon which is a very ignorant statement.

If you had cancer and there was a life saving operation that you could go through to save your life, you went to your doctor and he let you just walk out of the office without saying a word, would that be a loving/moral thing for him to do? No, it wouldn't. Likewise, I have found Mormonism to be false after studying its history, how the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph Smith's personal history, reading LDS scriptures and the writings of the prophets and reading church manuals. To not share those findings with Mormons who have not done the in-depth study for themselves, I share with them with the scriptures. Brigham Young offered the following:

"Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 126; Journal of Discourses Vol.17:46)

President George Smith offered the following:

"If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.14:216-217)

If you study the Apostle Paul and his approach to witnessing and warning those that were involved in false religions he did not come across as very loving to those that were hearing him probably. While my words may sound stern, it is because of the seriousness of this issue. In all honesty, when I feel that you or the other bloggers are giving me the "run around" and are contradicting yourselves from one thread to the other, then I am going to point that out to you. Now if you don't want to have a legitimate discussion on the scriptures, you desire to waffle around on your positions and statements or engage in hypocrisy, then say so and I will be on my way. While it's very nice that the LDS people may want to stay in their comfort zone and go unchallenged in what they believe and just roll in each others testimonies of the prophet Joseph Smith, I personally find that kind of faith to be very weak when asked legitimate questions that get to the heart of the matter.

How can you "FEEL" my love and compassion? Since I don't know you all that well and we are on an internet venue I don't know how in all honesty other than to reiterate what I have already said as to my motives. Again, I am a very busy person with many responsibilities and I would not take the large amount of time it takes to post these comments if I didn't care. You can take that for what it's worth. I labor for the work of Christ. He did for me what I cannot do. I am going to be honest and truthful at all times. I am confident and bold in what I believe and I will confidently tell you where I stand on the issues. I will not sacrifice truth for the sake of harmony. I don't have the answers to every question, but I do have the answers to many of the questions that Mormons do not and I would like to share that with you and the other guests that you have on your blog.

The Right Trousers said...

What's a "violation of Article of Faith 13"? WE don't use that language, which leads me to believe you've got a skewed idea of our culture, if not our doctrine. 13 isn't generally (and I've never heard it) regarded as a commandment. It's a general statement of faith and aspiration.

Regarding former sins returning: let's put Section 82 in context first. Having studied our scriptures so extensively it could not have escaped your notice that in verse 1 the Lord promises forgiveness to all who are forgiving. That's pretty broad. Also notice that a portion of the audience for this revelation have "sinned greatly" - that is, a message of "repent or suffer the demands of justice" is appropriate.

Now, I'm always prepared to be wrong about something, and it looks like I am in this case. There are a lot of ways to understand mercy and justice. "Former sins returning" as a consequence of rebellion looks like one aspect of it. I don't think it's the most helpful for people who are struggling to do what's right, because by definition they are believing and repenting and are therefore sanctified. However, for an audience where some members are harboring secret plans of apostasy against God's chosen prophet, it's probably a great idea.

I understand that the fluid nature of our doctrine must be maddening to you sometimes. The main principles (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit, eternal progression) have not changed, but every generation seems to understand things differently in a few respects. You have to understand that we view this as healthy progression toward more complete understanding of the mind and will of God. A church that lives and breathes revelation at all levels down to the smallest branch and the youngest Saint is simply going to exhibit malleability like this. Do you condemn Peter and Paul for preaching differently about circumcision until they got it worked out?

Now, I have a few direct questions about your witnessing approach.

1. Why are you cherry-picking scriptures that you feel show us in the worst possible light? There are plenty of our scriptures that support very well your views on grace. You must have noticed them in all your searching. If you truly care for the welfare of Mormon souls, why not concentrate on those?

2. Why are you spending time witnessing to Saints who have accepted and confessed Christ, received his grace, been sanctified, justified and perfected in him, and know it? The "different Jesus" answer is weak and I won't accept it - surely by your criteria of salvation I am owned by Christ crucified. I can't speak for Clean Cut, but I infer that he feels the same way.

There's a better option which is simultaneously more truthful and more charitable. Show the Saints, by their own scriptures, that they are saved. Show them that they would be right to firmly hope in Christ. There are many passages in our scriptures that promise salvation to those who put their trust in Jesus. Yet half the (active!) Saints are uncertain of these promises, worried that they only merit terrestrial glory. Our bishop publicly lamented this sad statistic last Sunday.

I suggest this approach because I know it works. I do it myself. My last sacrament meeting talk, on the topic of hope, was a demonstration from our scriptures that the Saints are safe in Jesus if they have faith and are trying to follow him. Many people thanked me, and several people asked for copies. Our stake presidency has been stressing this as well, and I've noticed a positive change in attitude in our ward in the short time I've been in it.

In short, less hellfire-and-outer-darkness and more true Christian charity. We're saved, but half of us don't know it. If you really want to help, help us know that.

Berean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clean Cut said...

Berean, please do not spread lies about what "Mormons" believe about Jesus Christ here. Saying things such as Jesus is "a god" and not fully God himself, or that "God had sex with Mary" are not what Mormons believe, and you know it. You're being dishonest and duplicitous. You seem to think that you have "authoritative sources" when you have no such thing--you have rumors, myth, opinions, and speculation. You take some really crazy ideas, such of which might have been the opinion of some Mormon at some time, and declare them to be fundamental Mormon belief. No, fundamental is the Atonement of Jesus Christ--who is fully God--along with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

Some of which you say is true, but you could use more of an explanation than you're willing to receive. But much of what you say is just blatantly untrue. I'm not going to spend my time defending things that aren't true and are not official doctrine. (Seems like you need to re-read the last post as to what constitutes official doctrine). There are no contradictions in what I have said. (ie: saying that our doctrine is found is the Standard Works is true. Saying that it is ONLY confined to the Standard Works is not. That would be as erroneous as arguing for a closed cannon).

I do not condone or invite your approach on my blog. You can keep them to your blog--thank you very much. You do sound like you have the desire to speak, but not listen. You are convinced that you're right. I'm convinced that we are right. I, however, enjoy exploring my beliefs and the beliefs of people of other faiths to gain an education, seek mutual understanding--not to argue or debate about how "untrue" or "misled" they are.

We will have to simply agree to disagree, and treat each other with convicted civility

Berean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clean Cut said...

Berean, please send me an email or leave your email address for me. This would be the best forum for off topic conversation about what Mormons believe and where you can ask questions about various doctrinal issues. While some things may in fact be true, there is a difference between whether or not they are either interesting, important, or imperative to our faith and to the gospel.

The marital status of Jesus falls under "speculation", not "doctrine". I'll be willing to share my opinion, but frankly, it's only opinion. Furthermore, such topics are off topic to the original post. Email would be better.

Clean Cut said...

One more thing needs to be taken into account. In some things, the question isn't about whether something is official or not, it's about which interpretation is correct. For example, interpreting the King Follet Discourse is an example of this. Yet many members and non-members alike haven’t realized or recognized that there is more than one way to understood the doctrine Joseph Smith taught at King Follet’s funeral. There isn't one "official" interpretation, but various interpretations exist.

My understanding has evolved lately about what Joseph was actually teaching. If one is not aware of other possible interpretations/meanings, one can get confused very easily over what to make of the King Follet discourse, whether it contradicts scripture, or what to make of God once being a man, or whether he was not eternally God. I’m guessing that a majority of people are confused because they aren't familiar with the fact that there are other interpretations. I'm sure that there are some, like I was, who are wondering what to make of it, not knowing whether they should accept it, defend it, ignore it, or do something else.

I'm fortunate enough to have had interaction with a special "mentor" to better help me make sense of this, and I’m now very comfortable with what I believe Joseph was actually teaching. I'm confident that my new found interpretation is correct, but I can't force it onto anyone. But it is important, as well as liberating, to know that on some things we are not bound to believe just one way or the other.

With some things that were most certainly said, yet not uniformly understood, it’s important to recognize that various interpretations are possible and do indeed exist.

For example, in the King Follet Discourse, I believe that what Joseph was really saying, and what makes sense to me in view of all the other revelations and scripture that came to us through Joseph, is not that God hasn’t always been God, but that God once had a mortal experience.

We know that Jesus, as God, had a mortal experience living as a man on earth. But he was not a man exactly as we are. He was still divine. So I can feel comfortable that this was what Joseph was really saying--not that God was once not divine, but that he too had a mortal experience, as did Jesus. That would have been a very different mortal experience than the one we’re presently going through, but I can believe that he went through one.

This indeed would seem to be more of a comfort/funeral appropriate teaching, and also in line with our doctrine that we will always worship God the Father as our Father, not replace or supplant him. We do not believe we will ever be worshipped like God is. We do believe we can become like Him and develop the same qualities and attributes as our Father, and live the kind of life that allows us to be “joint heirs” with Christ and the Father. (See my post about that here.)

This interpretation could also very well be scriptural. At least Joseph felt it was. He said he was going to reveal this “secret” by proving it through the Bible. So I, like other Latter-day Saints, don't think Joseph Smith ever taught that there was a time before God was God or when God was merely mortal and not divine. I, like other Latter-day Saints, believe that God was always eternally God and that there was never a time where he was not God. I don't accept the interpretation that Joseph Smith taught God was once just a mere mortal and had to grow into becoming a God. I don't believe that that King Follet Discourse teaches this. That’s not what I believe the “great secret” was referring to.

Joseph Smith certainly felt his theology was consistent with the Bible. As my mentor explained: “He doesn't say he will refute the Bible. He says he will refute the idea that God was God from all eternity, but to me it only makes sense to understand Joseph as saying "I will refute the idea that God the Father never had a mortal experience." When Joseph says "he [the Father] was once a man like us" we need to read it along with the phrase "the same as Jesus Christ himself did." In other words, Jesus Christ was definitely a man who dwelt on an earth just like us, but he was God and we are not. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I was not. Therefore, to me, it makes sense to understand that God the Father was also God when he "dwelt" on an earth. Thus, I do not believe that Joseph Smith was teaching that there was a time when God was not divine. Rather, he is trying to teach that God the Father experienced mortality. We are experiencing mortality, Jesus Christ also experienced mortality. Experience is the hallmark of Mormonism. We need experience. Even the Son of God needed experience.”

So the “great secret” would have been that God the Father also once had a mortal experience, as did Jesus. But that’s the extent of our understanding, as nothing more was ever said on this by Joseph Smith, and the Church has declined to issue an official interpretation or understanding. Instead, the Church publishes only those parts of the King Follet discourse in official curriculum that it feels is completely understandable with a standard interpretation. Thus, we have the freedom to believe how we see fit in regards to the other interpretations, and frankly, we don’t care that we don’t presently have all the answers yet. So we don’t really feel the need to discuss this doctrine very much because it’s not going to determine anyone’s salvation to believe one way or the other, and to do so would only bring up more speculation that we don’t have answers for.

Suffice it to say that Latter-day Saints have the freedom to interpret this differently. Nobody is forced to believe one standard or generally accepted interpretation of the entire King Follet Discourse.

nammeroo said...

I'm fascinated with Berean's doctrinal requirement that the LDS Church be of absolutely one mind from the President to each member and from the present back to 1830. This standard is not and cannot be applied to any other Christian church.

I once semi-regularly attended the Episcopal church - where I found the teaching in Sunday School alone varied widely between the two congregations I attended. More recently, I have accompanied my grandmother to her Disciples of Christ church occasionally over a period of a dozen years or more. I've found that the focus and content of the teaching in sermons and Sunday School lessons has similarly varied widely, depending on who was the minister at the time.

On the other hand, I have attended LDS Church meetings in multiple states, from small branches to large wards and stakes, over the past 15 years and found the same teaching, the same lessons, and the same Spirit wherever I've gone.

Berean, you clearly have studied the words of the prophets and the scriptures, but your purpose for this effort has blinded you to the Spirit that could otherwise testify to you of their truthfulness.

Move on.

Anonymous said...

It is always amazing to me that many Christians who wish to find fault with LDS teachings often find some statement by a Mormon leader and use that statement as proof positive that Mormons believe things that most Mormons do not. It is a dangerous and dishonest approach to learning truth.
For example, Jesus Christ Himself declared in Matt. 10: 34:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Does this one statement mean that Christ advocated violence? Of course it doesn't, but one needs to know the context of all statements, as well as the overall message that a person or institution advocates.

Alan said...

How disappointing! Berean started out as a sincere caring Christian, but under the pressure of your arguments, degenerated into presenting the same anti-mormon arguments I have heard before.