Sunday, March 25, 2007

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:;&version=31;

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.


Anonymous said...

Roomate here....

A couple of scattered thoughts on your post.

1) I think that scripture is fairly clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. This means that no one, ever, save for Jesus Christ, has been perfect and earned the right to heaven by doing the work. So I don't cheer in admiration for anyone that thinks they have "done it right and are going to heaven as a result"; I actually grieve for them because if they are counting on works to save them, then they are damned. Only Grace through Faith in Jesus can save.

2) In the link to President Kimball's teaching, right at the beginning there is talk of a children's song about "Teach me what I must know to have eternity" (I forget the exact phrase); and then the President asks what about changing "know" to "do".

Well "do" is worse than "know" but they are both wrong thoughts. "do" is works salvation; "know" is salvation by right knowledge, sort of Gnostic but also sort of evangelical. We are saved neither by knowing nor by doing; we are saved by having Faith that we are Saved through Jesus atoning sacrifice and then by being sealed, and in-dwelt, by the Holy Spirit -- that Spirit of Christ dwelling within us, such that it is no longer me but Christ in me that is in action in this world.

Although not required, there are practices that we can do and knowledge that we can acquire that will help us to have that relationship with Christ within. That special relationship that will permit Jesus to say "welcome good and faithful servant", rather than saying "away from me I never knew you". But the doing and knowing accomplish nothing without Christ in us, and his blood to save us.

Enough rambling from me....

Former Home Teacher and Teachee said...

Yes. Really enjoyed your post. Terms such as the ones Kimball uses here, "full conformity" and "complete harmony" really put the pressure on. Did you try grinding your teeth? That may help! ;-)

Full. Complete.....


Anonymous said...

Hi, CF.

In my NOM-ness, a recurring question is, "Why can Jesus save us, but the Father can't? Why does Jesus love us enough to offer us forgiveness, but the Father doesn't? Why would the Father need an excuse to love us and forgive us?"

You see, to me, the idea of the Atonement is an important one to overcome notions of God as petty, vindictive, and demanding. But I just can't accept that God himself really needs an excuse or a scapegoat to forgive us. Jesus is a beautiful symbol and personalization of the mercy and magnanimity that is in God. But I feel badly about the implied accusation against God the Father whenever the doctrine of the atonement is discussed.

Here's what I hear: "God is so exacting and unforgiving that you will be toast unless you turn your worship to the Son, who submitted to the full demands of the Law for you." And that hurts. Because my reality about God is that He needs no excuse to love and forgive his children.

And don't get me wrong, the Law of the Harvest, or karma if you prefer, is real enough. But I just don't think assigning the Justice aspect to the Father is bound to have very good implications for our own godly aspirations as parents and leaders.

Justin Morning

Riva said...

Keep up the good work.

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