Grandpa

•March 6, 2008 • 4 Comments

I heard this week that my grandpa is on his way out. I lived with him for 14 years. All three of my kids were born while we lived in his basement. We went to the same ward, my kids had baths in his bathroom, he let me have half the garden. He’s old, and he has lived longer than he expected. I’m pretty sure he believes he will be reunited with my grandma. If nothing else, I’m glad for his belief, I’m glad that he has that comfort.

Loud may the sound of hope ring till all doubt departs.

Hmmmm…

•February 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

I just posted the conclusion to my husband’s talk on grace two seconds ago. I then went into my stats page, and one of the phrases someone used that led them to my blog was this:

“LDS snotty self-righteous brats” 

I don’t know whether to be flattered or flabbergasted. What can possibly be the motivation behind making that sort of search? Although, admittedly, I am LDS, I am a bit snotty, I’m self righteous at times, though I try to weed that out where I can, and I’m most definitely a brat. So the omniscient Google sent them to the right place!

Saved by Grace, pt. 3

•February 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

 See Part 1 and Part 2 of my husband’s talk on grace.

Grace is worthy of hyperbole and is glorious

There’s a tendency in the church when teaching a lesson or giving a talk to emphasize how important certain aspects of the lesson are. For example, in the Melchezidek priesthood manual under the topic of reverence it says, “It would appear that reverence for God and his name is one of the most important qualities we can develop.” And, of course, if you define reverence broadly enough this could be true. The fact of the matter is, is that grace really is one of the most important parts of the gospel. Can you think of gospel topics that really are more central to our salvation than the Atonement of Christ? I cannot. Grace is worthy of being at the forefront of our belief system. It is worthy of the hyperbole, the grandiose statements of its important. Because without it, we really will drown.

Referencing back to my statement about my knee-jerk reaction to changing the topic from grace to works, I note that the emphasis on works exists because it’s what we have control over. But from the point of view of salvation, those works play a very tiny, practically inconsequential role when compared to the magnitude of the grace given by Christ. After all, “there [is] no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:17) Christ’s role in your salvation is greater than yours will ever be. Christ’s role in the gospel and his grace is of paramount importance. His grace is glorious.

Conclusion

In conclusion, grace is unmerited divine assistance and in relation to our salvation can be equated to the Atonement. We accept that Grace through repentance and taking upon us the name of Christ which is all that we can do.

Finally, I would like to corroborate Nephi’s words with those of Moroni’s: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Moroni 10:32–33.)

Saved by Grace, pt. 2

•February 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

How do we receive grace?

Grace can be thought of as a gift or favor. A gift has no value if unreceived. Christ has laid down his life and paid for our sins, now He is waiting for us to receive that act into our lives. For grace to be effective in our lives, we must accept it.

Consider the following example (Randall D. Hughes, “God’s Saving Grace” ). You receive a check for a large sum of money. The check has no value to you until it is cashed. You didn’t earn the check, it was freely given, but to put it to good use, you must first cash the check to make it effective. Christ already wrote a check for your sins. You can receive it and cash it if you like, but the check is there and is given freely.

Perhaps a more relevant example is that of a drowning man who cannot reach the shore through his own actions (Christoffel Golden Jr., “Words of the Early Apostles: Grace,” Ensign, Oct 2003, 48–52). A lifeline can be extended to him, but unless he grasps onto the line he cannot make it effective in his survival. We are all drowning in the waters of sin. Under no circumstances can we extricate ourselves under our own actions or power. Christ has reached out the hand of his salvation and waits for us to grab on. He waits for us to receive his grace. We don’t earn his help by attempting to swim, he offers his hand freely. In like manner, grace is not earned, but our acceptance of it is necessary for salvation. That acceptance is based in repentance, but can also be thought of in terms of the first principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The belief in grace brings happiness

The Atonement and, indeed, all grace is given through the love of our Heavenly Father. It brings great joy to me to contemplate that despite my shortcomings and overall wretchedness, Christ loves me and stands ready to forgive me. This is a principle of the gospel that brings peace and joy to my life and is the core of my belief in God.

A French philosopher named Pascal argued for the belief in God in what is called Pascal’s Wager. Consider that a man may believe in God or not. Let us examine the four possible scenarios in which this man may find himself: 1) he believes and God and, in truth, God does exist; 2) he believes in God, but in reality there is none; 3) he does not believe in God, but God does exist; and 4) he does not believe in God and, in fact, there is none. Each situation has a payoff or reward. When a man believes in God, it doesn’t matter whether he is right or wrong, since at the end of the day, either he is correct and is exalted or he is incorrect and it doesn’t matter since he’s dead. The man who doesn’t believe in God, however, when he finds that there is, in fact, a God and having rejected the truth will have a lot of explaining to do.

Pascal argues that the dominant strategy is to believe in God whether or not He exists. One criticism of Pascal’s argument is that the two choices are not equal in effort; that is, it requires much more of a man if he is to believe in God. I would argue that that is true, but also that the effort required to believe and follow God pays off in this life. For instance, my belief in, and testimony of, the Atonement of Christ brings hope and joy to me. The act of striving to follow Christ blesses my family, my community and in a small way, the entire world. Therefore, the benefit of the joy and peace that believing in the Atonement bring me outweigh the effort it takes to accept Christ in this mortal life right now irrespective of whether there actually is a God.

I don’t mean this to sound as if I don’t believe in God – I firmly do. But any doubts that I have about the gospel or the church can be minimized by remembering the happiness I receive when I think on the Atonement of Christ and try to apply it to my life and behavior. Living by the teachings of Christ and knowing that he will forgive you is the best way to live a happy life.

 

Saved by Grace, pt. 1

•February 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The next few posts  will be parts of my husband’s talk on grace, given on February 17, 2008. I’m posting it in pieces because it is long. I loved the conclusions he made.

Grace: A Necessity

Introduction

The topic for my talk today is grace. Now, if you are like me, the first thing that comes to mind is “Works! Faith without works is dead! You can’t be saved without effort!” I want you to suppress those “greenie missionary” thoughts and really contemplate on the role of grace in LDS theology. This is a talk, so no one is going to argue with me and I certainly don’t need to defend Mormon doctrine to any of you, so I feel comfortable in saying, as Nephi does, that “it is by grace that we are saved.”

The full verse of Nephi’s proclamation is found in 2 Nephi 25:23 and reads, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

This is a weighty verse since there are key words with multiple meanings and connotations. So as not to be paralyzed by semantic arguments, let’s define some of these phrases carefully.

Dallin H. Oaks, in a talk 10 years ago, gave 6 different definitions for the salvation while addressing the question of being saved. Without going to that level of detail, I wish to put forth working definitions for ‘grace’, ‘saved’, and the phrase ‘all we can do’.

From Bible Dictionary we read, “The main idea of the word [grace] is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” A standard dictionary gives the following definition, “a favor rendered by one who need not do so; unmerited divine assistance.” Finally, one LDS author wrote “Grace is God’s love in action. It is his doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Jul 1989, 59–61)

So, in the simplest terms, grace is simply help from God. Of course, the greatest help that any of us can receive is forgiveness of our sins through the Atonement of Christ. This is the grace that Nephi is talking about – the unmerited favor from Christ, given through love, that allows you and me to overcome sin and become clean to stand before our Father in Heaven, that is, to be saved. In some sense, Grace (with a capital G) is the Atonement of Christ. This falls in line nicely with King Benjamin’s words “that salvation [is only] through the atoning blood of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:18)

One appealing aspect of this definition of grace is the inclusion of idea of grace being unmerited. We do not earn it, we don’t even deserve it. Christ gives it freely. Quoting Lehi, “salvation is free” (2 Ne 2:4), that is to say, Christ freely paid for our sins and satisfied the demands of justice. Again we see that the Grace of God is most important when equated with Christ’s sacrifice in our behalf. Revisiting Nephi’s words “it is by grace that we are saved”, we can interpret this as “through Christ’s atonement we are saved.”

As I mentioned earlier, Dallin H. Oaks outlined six different definitions of salvation. For this verse, I think we can say that when Nephi talks of being saved, he means exalted in the Celestial kingdom.

The trickiest part of the words of Nephi deal with the final phrase “after all we can do.” I say tricky because some could argue that “saved by grace, after all we can do” qualifies grace to be earned and we just said that grace is unmerited. However, the qualification is not on grace, but rather on salvation. Salvation is obtained only by the combination of grace (i.e. the Atonement) and “all we can do.”

So what is “all we can do?” As I pondered this question it seemed that no one could look back at his or her life and say “I did all that I could do.” Even limiting the discussion to just this morning, could you say with certainty that you did all you could do? Couldn’t you have spent a little more effort in prayer or been a little more patient with a family member? Clearly, even fulfilling our own potential, let alone being perfect, is impossible. So “all we can do” must mean something else. I propose that all that we really can do in relation to our salvation is repent. What more can you do? True repentance is the act of pleading for the grace of God while trying to follow the path of Christ. It is my firm belief that all we can do is repent.

Examining Nephi’s words once more “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” can be interpreted as “salvation is obtained through the Atonement of Christ if we are willing to accept that Atonement and repent.”

To recap, grace is unmerited divine assistance, the best of example of which is the Atonement. We can return to live with God only through his grace which we accept by following the teachings of Christ and practicing repentance.

Junior High

•February 11, 2008 • 7 Comments

I’m feeling a little self-conscious here, kind of like the nerdy girl in junior high that has no friends and doesn’t really know how to make them. She is not very good at sports, so the sporty girls don’t like her. She isn’t rich enough to have the popular crowd back her up, especially since she dresses in purely thrift-store findings. She’s not into radio or popular music, so all the different groups don’t really relate to her in any way. She has conversations with people in class, only to feel ignored the next day. She is constantly wondering if she said something wrong, if she offended someone with some idiot thing that came out of her mouth when she was trying to sound erudite.

I am way too self-involved. Blogging seems like such an indulgence of my selfishness. I only ever talk about myself, even in comments on other blogs. I think I might do that in regular conversation, too. I just noticed this a few days ago, so now I’m wallowing in self-pity, wondering how to fix it. But I can only think about the dumb stuff I do and say, which seems counterproductive. I’ve even thought about deleting my blog, but that seems like the juvenile faked suicide attempt, just to see if anyone notices. I’d love to not care, but I’ve been that poor nerd girl all my life. I guess I haven’t really left junior high. I don’t know why I think I need to feel important.

The other day, I dropped off a bunch of clothes to a homeless shelter. After I got the stuff out of the trunk, the man said, “Thank you. God bless you.” Then I told him that wasn’t all, that there was more in the front seat. I got out a huge box and gave it to him. He said, “The Lord will truly bless you. You must know Him.”

“I wish.”

All I want is to get my faith back and have a few people to share it with.

I suck at tests

•December 21, 2007 • 6 Comments

If there really is a God, and this really is a test, what sort of a mean test is it?

I’ve been living in a fog for the past couple of years. The fog has thickened to the point where I cannot see my hand if I hold it in front of me. I keep trying to tell myself that just because I don’t hear any voices, that doesn’t mean there’s no one else there. Sometimes I feel crazy.

I’m fighting with an institution that makes me feel guilty for questioning it, and that makes me hate it. Yet I loved it for so long. I served it. I helped it grow. I didn’t feel to question it, because I was told that you can’t use logic to explain it, and I always had those warm, happy feelings you get when you hear stories of miracles, of God’s love, of Christ and family and eternity and peace. The same feelings I get from reading weird O. Henry stories, or watching The West Wing.

I always told myself that God loved me, like he loves all his children. But if I wanted to give my kids a test, I wouldn’t do it by throwing them into the wild and not answering when they called. What is this? Are we trying to see if I can survive despair? Are we waiting to find out if I can “endure” whatever is thrown my way? Or is it really a test of whether I will try to change my circumstances, rather that sticking it out and being miserable? Or the classic, I’m supposed to just change my attitude, right? And then everything will be so bright and cheerful. If I can only put my mind to it.

I don’t feel loved.