The Smell of Death –
I make no secret of the fact that I tend to bridge the LDS and non-LDS doctrinal worlds. I find witnesses of both things. Some say I have to choose. I’m not sure I do. When I go to a library do I have to pick books by only one author, or do I have to read books by different authors from different perspectives in order to find truth for myself? You probably have your own opinion on this question, and whatever it is, if it’s right for you I won’t disagree with it.
Anyway, I’m reading the Spencer W Kimball lessons out of order and read this one this morning:
I found it very disturbing. Not so much because it isn’t true. For all I know it may be true, and I am disturbed because I have wandered too far from the undeviating course leading to eternal life.
No, I read this and was disturbed, because I knew I was dead. I think President Kimball makes it quite plain that my salvation is in my hands. Faith alone won’t save me. Ordinances won’t save me. My church membership won’t save me. The only thing that will save me is a constant and diligent attempt to perfect myself. This life is a real-world game of “Survivor”, and only a few will make it to eternal life, those with the knowledge of the restored gospel who make all the correct choices.
"The Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, has given us our map—a code of laws and commandments whereby we might attain perfection and, eventually, godhood. This set of laws and ordinances is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the only plan which will exalt mankind. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sole repository of this priceless program in its fulness, which is made available to those who accept it."
"The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. … The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set."
“We are deeply grateful that we have his definite promise that where there has been sin and error, they can be followed by sincere and sufficient repentance that will in turn be rewarded with forgiveness.”
“The glorious thing about the whole matter of repentance is that the scriptures are as full of the Lord’s assurances that he will forgive as they are full of his commands for us to repent, to change our lives and bring them into full conformity with his wonderful teachings.”
“Why will only a few reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom? Not because it was not available to them, not because they did not know of its availability, not because the testimony was not given to them, but because they would not put forth the effort to pattern their lives and make them like the Savior’s life and establish them so well that there would be no deviation until the end.”
Of course I can repent, but in my case repentance is like bailing out a leaky rowboat with a teaspoon. I can’t repent fast enough to keep up. I’m short-tempered and self-centered at times. Times? Like when the second hand on the clock is moving. I provoked a fight with my wife last night just asking what time she wanted to leave for church and trying to take her car out to fill it with gas for her. That phrase "sufficient repentance catches me up. We are taught that true repentance means to forsake the sin and turn away from it. Returning to the sin is evidence that repentance wasn't sufficient. We are commanded to change our lives in "full conformity" to his teachings. I've been trying for 23 years, and I still can't do it. At the pace I am going I would need to live to be 300 to get even close, and I don't have it in me.
No, if I have to do this on my own effort, I am lost indeed. Jesus may have marked the path and showed the way, but I am buffeted about too much by my own short-comings to be able to reach the gate and enter in to his rest.
I was actually planning to attend my ward today, but after this message I couldn’t. Attending my ward would have been like throwing two more cinderblocks to someone who was already drowning. I went to our Episcopal church instead, where one of our readings was this:
Imagine this. Even Paul, the super-righteous Pharisee, wasn’t good enough based on the law. He felt what qualified him was his faith and his willingness to share Jesus’ suffering and to press on. Maybe I can do that. Maybe I can throw myself on the grace of God and rely on Christ’s merits, and so win the prize and eternal life.
For those who can be like President Kimball and do it on their own, I’m happy for them, much as I glory in the successes of athletes in the Olympics. For the rest of us, thank goodness we have Jesus.