Claiming Christ

One of the most remarkable books in recent memory in which Mormon thought and a more traditional strain of Protestant thought are engaged, which I’m sure most of you have read, is Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide: A Mormon & An Evangelical in Conversation, published by Intervarsity Press, a Christian publishing house. If you’ve never read this one, I recommend it; the Amazon listing is here.

There is a new entry in this genre of Mormon/Evangelical dialogue, due from Brazos Press, another Christian press, this coming September. This new one will be a dialogue between Gerald McDermott and Robert Millet, Claiming Christ: A Mormon and an Evangelical Debate Jesus (Brazos Press, September 2007). The following is an extract from a recent interview between John Moorehead and McDermott. The full interview, including background on McDermott and information on his other recent publications, may be read here (scroll down a bit). I am simply passing along the information related specifically to Mormonism and this forthcoming book, which I will look forward to with interest:

MM: You are also interested in the study of Mormonism, and recently completed a dialogue book on this topic with Robert Millet of Brigham Young University. Can you tell us a little about this book, and what did you learn during this dialogue?

McDermott: This book (Claiming Christ: A Mormon and an Evangelical Debate Jesus [Brazos Press, September 2007]) grew out of two debates I had with BYU theologian Robert Millet at Roanoke College. Both debates drew large crowds of both Mormons and evangelicals, demonstrating the interest in both communities in how they differ on Jesus. After the second debate, we asked a publisher if he was interested in a much longer, more fleshed out book version of the debate.

The book includes chapters on authority and canon, Christ and the Trinity, Mormon claims that Jesus went to North America, the Book of Mormon, faith and works, what happens to non-Christians, and other matters. Bob Millet and I discuss how all of these subjects affect our views of Jesus.

Now to your question. Early on in my Evangelical life I was told that Mormonism is a cult with radically un-Christian beliefs. Chief among these, I was told, were the ideas that we are saved by our works and that Jesus is not God. Their focus, I thought, was on Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ.

Then, a number of years ago, I met Bob and a number of his colleagues at Brigham Young University. I learned from Bob’s books and our conversations that he and others have been bringing a new emphasis on grace to the LDS community. I also discovered that there was more emphasis on grace in the Book of Mormon and other parts of the LDS canon than I had imagined and that Mormons worship Jesus as a God. I saw a concentration on Jesus which I had previously thought to be absent.

But there are still serious problems. As I have tried to show in this book, there still are considerable doctrinal differences between not only Evangelicals and Mormons, but between Mormons and the general stream of orthodox Christianity. Throughout the book, I examine these problems in great detail. Bob, of course, disagrees with me on most of them. And that is what, we think, makes for a good book.

Comments

  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    “I learned from Bob’s books and our conversations that he and others have been bringing a new emphasis on grace to the LDS community.”

    Ouch. Not that I believe this, but the last thing we need would be BYU Religion profs changing our doctrine to avoid chapping the hides of evangelicals. (Again: not that I believe him. I think what he should have said was that Bob et al made clear to him something that was always there that he didn’t realize was there.)

    I hope this kind of thing (ie., the book) catches on. In the recent flap over Romney speaking at that Christian college, a local pastor said something about Mormons having diametrically opposed values. Huh? Doctrine–maybe–but values? Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this.

  2. I’m with you Julie. Would be terribly sad to have had the first generation, including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young invest great energies in distinguishing them from evangelicals only to now give up the distinction.

  3. Costanza says:

    Ever since Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ came out there has been buzz about how a new emphasis on grace is emerging, chiefly from the BYU Religious Ed. department. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but I know I have heard a lot about it over the past few years, so I’m not surprised to hear about it in this context.

  4. I’m going to offer a friendly counter to Julie’s “Ouch” with an appreciative nod to Millet and others on this issue. For example, Believing Christ was a watershed book when it came out, and I hear echoes of it in Elder Ballard’s last conference talk. I think a strengthening of emphasis on our particular concept of grace (not the Protestant concept) is going a long way towards helping people feel comfortable in their LDS skin again, so I welcome the shift.

  5. David Paulsen has demonstrated at great length in the most recent issues of FARMS Review that there has always been an emphasis on Grace in LDS discourse in reponse to a claim made by Douglas Davies that there is a new emphasis on grace. You can read it here: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=624

    If there are other differences between LDS and evangelicals I say good. I personally can do without external declaration of righteousness, voluntarist imputations of Christ’s righteousness, predestination, volunarist “ethics” and sola scriptura. My chief concern is that those dialoguing with evangelcals don’t grasp the structure of their theology(ies) or the philosophical underpinnings. I can do with a real emphasis on shared life of Christ as deification, continuing revelation and a God who doesn’t control everything we do and that occurs.

  6. Eric Russell says:

    As to the distance between LDS and evangelicals, one conclusion I came to after taking Bro. Paulsen’s class wherein we discussed How Wide the Divide, is that what very well may be the biggest sticking point for evangelicals is one that we don’t appear likely to give up any time soon: Heavenly Mother. It’s not a lack of emphasis on Jesus that’s separating us from Christianity, it’s Her. Belief in a godly entity outside of the Trinity (or even within) is as heretical as it gets.

  7. Costanza says:

    Blake, thanks for the link.

  8. Eric: If we hold a belief in a Heavenly Mother, we ought to hold it tenatively, non-essentially and with respect for the fact that we don’t know her status, her relation to us or that she has anything to do with our salvation. Now that ought to tick off some folks.

  9. Blake, I appreciate the link, as well. I think Paulsen’s comments are useful as a reminder that grace has never been entirely absent from Mormon discourse (and an anecdotal strategy of the kind he pursues can never demonstrate anything other than that), but at the same time it seems clear to me that Davies is closer to correct than he is. There has certainly been a shift in emphasis among elements that have always been present in Mormonism; grace was never absent, but it’s now more prevalent, more openly discussed, and more often adequately explained. I grew up as a Mormon who was repeatedly taught that Mormons don’t believe in salvation by grace. Grace, I was taught, only became relevant after we had perfected ourselves by pure human effort. Quantitative analysis of this change in emphasis has been done by a number of scholars at BYU and elsewhere, and it was present in official publications as well as general conference talks. Indeed, Robert Millet refers to this research in his presentation at the Joseph Smith conference in the Library of Congress. So this wasn’t just my experience. Millet, Robinson, and others deserve a lot of credit for bringing new prominence to the concepts of grace around which the Book of Mormon, in particular, is built.

  10. Blake, RE Heavenly Mother, perhaps we should regard belief in Her as non-essential. If so, we should ask ourselves whether women have any reason to belong to our church at all.

  11. RT: Don’t be absurd. Would you say the same thing of the entire Protestant tradition that has no mariology and no mother in heaven?

  12. RT: I dobut your anectdotal evidence. I will be the first to say that LDS don’t understand the concept of grace well. I would say the same thing about Protestants in general. They don’t accord well with Augustine and Luther and Calvin on grace until they get a little theological training behind them. I would be interested in a link to the studies you point to. I haven’t been around long enough to know if there was no emphasis on grace before I was born, but in my own lifetime I have never heard anyone in the LDS tradition say that we are saved by works without grace — never!

  13. Blake, my anecdotal experience mirrors that of RT/JNS (I agree anecdote is not useful for significance inferences). Not that grace was non-existent, but that it was a divine afterthought, a minor distraction from the work of self-perfection.
    The evidence you seek for a shift in grace emphasis may be in Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd, A Kingdom Transformed: Themes in the Development of Mormonism. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1984. I remember shifts in mentions of Jesus and atonement ca. 1950 or so, but I don’t remember the entry for “grace” in their tables. Worth looking at if someone actually owns a copy.

    I agree with you that the early evidence for Mother in Heaven is not theologically well-characterized and tends to do little toward feminist goals, however much I wish it were otherwise (the material I have reviewed uses her as evidence of God’s familiality rather than as the Mother Deity/Sophia/Wisdom–cf the Shaker dyad for a representation of what she does not appear to be from the contemporary evidence). I do believe that God’s familiality is sufficiently well demonstrated in Smith’s corpus that it needs to be accommodated by a Mormon theology, though, and Mother in Heaven is important evidence of that.

  14. Sam: Isn’t 1984 rather too early for the claimed renaissance in grace as more than mere after-thought? After all, the alleged basis for change in Millett and Robinson couldn’t have occurred until well after then and they are supposedly the fore-runners of this revolution. Is it your experience that LDS ever claimed to be saved by works?

    I suspect that there is merely a confusion in what we are addressing. Justification or “being accepted as guiltless in right relationship with Christ” is by grace in Paul; but judgment, reward and glory are always based on judgment of works. I believe that because D&C 76 focuses on the reward we receive based on works, that rather theologically unsophisticated folks in the LDS tradition have merely confused reward by works with justification by grace. No one claims that they earned the atonement and its effects of justification that I know. Further, I believe that theologically unsophisticated Protestants consistently make the same mistake and confusion. What do you think?

  15. Blake, if I remember correctly (it’s been a while since I read the book), there was an uptick in mention of grace in the 1960s, on which the neo-orthodoxers could have based their more explicit view. They may be expanding a movement that began before them.

    As far as the distinctions between justification and reward, in my anecdotal experience people have not historically claimed that the atonement was based in works but that it was not worth much attention, something that only became relevant if one had fallen off the track to perfection but had little to do with the perfectionist/”Pelagian” impulse that occupied those who did not commit grievous sins. So while your point that “no one claims that they earned the atonement and its effects of justification” is likely correct, it is not fully relevant. I suspect you’re right about Protestants as well.

    The problem is you’re approaching a theological problem theologically, while practitioners approach it in a messier way more susceptible to difficult-to-express differences in emphasis and influences from broader culture. I agree with your theological view but am not convinced how applicable it has been to Mormons.

    In a sense, this feels like good old-fashioned revivals, returning people to a preexisting commitment and theology from which they had strayed in their own lives.

  16. Aaron B says:

    My father (born in 1944) was raised in the Church, but went inactive for much of the 1970s and 80s. When he started to reactivate years later, his Bishop gave him a copy of Robinson’s “Believing Christ.” He read it, and the Bishop later asked him what he thought of it.

    “I really liked it,” he said. “But I just have one problem. It isn’t Mormon.”

    My father simply didn’t recognize what he was reading as consistent with his childhood faith.

    Just an anecdote, for what it’s worth. But there sure do seem to be a lot of them out there.

    Aaron B

  17. D. Allen says:

    Here’s my understanding so far of the Mormon view of grace and salvation, as processed by my new convert/Ex-Baptist brain:

    Grace is what pardons us from the sin of Adam and is what keeps us from going to Hell/Outer Darkness. That, to me, is salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ is required to obtain this grace. The good works that are done by the followers of Jesus Christ are a manifestation of the required faith. (James 2:14-26) Good works done here would increase your reward in Heaven (Matt 16:27), including exaltation.

    In short, the Atonement is not earned, but rewards are. That only makes sense.

    Now, the concept of a Heavenly Mother totally shocked me at first. I’ve struggled with that because she’s not mentioned in Scripture. The reason I was told, and that I am inclined to believe, is that she is not mentioned to keep men from taking her name in vain. Men drag the name of God through the mud enough. It’s a good enough explanation for me.

  18. Eric Russell says:

    The problem with grace is how we define it. Or perhaps not how we see define it per se, but the manner in which it works. Robinson’s approach on grace, for example, is not one that I can really buy into. But to reject Believing Christ isn’t to reject Christ’s grace.

    D. Allen, the classic missionary explanation for HM! For my part I say go ahead and believe it if you like, but I’m just warning you, tread those waters carefully around these parts.

  19. RT commented:

    “RE Heavenly Mother, perhaps we should regard belief in Her as non-essential. If so, we should ask ourselves whether women have any reason to belong to our church at all.”

    Blake answered:

    “RT: Don’t be absurd. Would you say the same thing of the entire Protestant tradition that has no mariology and no mother in heaven?”

    I think RT has a point. I don’t think the comparison with the Protestant tradition holds up, because if you believe in a non-anthropomorphic God who transcends gender, the issue simply doesn’t arise in the same way. But if you teach on the one hand that humans are created in the image of God in a fairly literal sense, and also have the potential to become like God, but then only talk about a male God, you’ve left women in a very odd position.

    But back to the subject of this thread— I’m intrigued that LDS interfaith dialogue seems to largely be with evangelicals. Is it because we have more in common with them than other Protestants and/or Catholics, or simply because we’ve spent so many years arguing with them?

  20. Christopher Smith says:

    Probably because both the Evangelical and LDS intellectual communities are chiefly situated in the United States, whereas the Catholic academy is largely overseas. Furthermore, evangelicals and LDS both have fairly aggressive missionary efforts at the grassroots level, whereas Catholic proselytism (at least speaking from my own experience of local Catholicism) tends to be more professionalized. So EVs and LDS are more likely to butt heads than Catholics and LDS.

  21. Blake, in addition to the Shepherd and Shepherd book (grace moves in tandem with Jesus Christ and the atonement; very few mentions before about 1960), the other best source on this development is O. Kendall White’s Mormon Neo-Orthodoxy: A Crisis Theology. This book has some flaws. The sociological theory it offers for the emergence of Christ- and grace-oriented, Book of Mormon-driven Mormon theology is — in my view as such a believer — deeply problematic. Furthermore, the book occasionally conflates quite different things; anti-Communism and the other components of neo-orthodoxy were arguably united in the person of Ezra Taft Benson, but that doesn’t make the two belief systems one. Nonetheless, it offers a systematic history of the reemergence of a grace-focused Mormon theology.

    Regarding Mother in Heaven, I think Lynette’s argument reflects my views on the subject. If (1) gender is eternal, and (2) God the Father and God the Son are both literally male, (3) men and women are created in the image of God, and (4) Heavenly Mother is possibly nonexistent but certainly relatively unimportant, we have a uniquely problematic situation. Men are created a little bit more literally in the image of God the Father and God the Son than are women — who are, in your view, either created more literally in the image of a non-essential being or created in a way that is eternally and fundamentally different from any God whatsoever. Hence, in this view, men are probably eternally somewhat more important than women, being created directly in the image of the most important beings around. This makes God a respecter of persons in the worst way. You may nonetheless want to jettison Mother in Heaven, Blake; but you should think about the consequences of such a move. Other alternatives are, of course, available, such as the belief that Mother in Heaven is essential and central for us but her role has not been fully revealed.

  22. …Or that the strict “maleness” of “God” is up for question.

  23. Good point, Ronan. It’s a tough move to make, in some ways, because the one person of God that’s been really openly revealed to humanity is Jesus, who was a Jewish man. So a belief system that balances Jesus’s maleness with a less gender-specific overall Godhead is possible but may require some extra work.

  24. “between Mormons and the general stream of orthodox Christianity”
    We, for instance, don’t use icons in our worship.

  25. I would argue that the uptick in grace is due, at least in part, to the re-emphasis of the Book of Mormon in Pres. Benson’s presidency. The Book of Mormon is chock full of belief in grace, so much so that it seems natural to me that Millet and Robinson’s work also came to prominence in the same era.

  26. I fully agree with HP/JDC. The BofM is indeed full of teachings on salvation and grace, albeit with what I would characterize as an almost Arminian slant on the relationship with works.

    One teaching that seems to be gradually becoming modified or “differently emphasized” is the interpretation of salvation “by grace after all we can do.” I had understood for many years that this meant that “grace” was added, perhaps at the judgment day, only “after” we had become as perfected as we could, even after our mortal lives were over.

    I now understand that it is acceptable to interpret 2 Ne. 25:23 to mean that grace is available to us during the process of “doing all we can do”, i.e., that grace can be (and is) conferred not just “after” we’ve done all we can, but while we are doing so, and if and while we make mistakes along the way. (See J. Golden Kimball: “”I may not walk the straight and the narrow, but I sure in hell try to cross it as often as I can!”) Grace can be transforming as well as saving.

    Compare this 1990 article by Bruce C. Hafen, “Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr 1990, 7 (“Our reluctance to stress the doctrine of grace is understandable. Nephi wrote, ‘For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Ne. 25:23; italics added.) A constant public emphasis on grace might encourage some people to ignore the crucial ‘all we can do’ in that two-part process.”)

    with his 2004 conference talk, “The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign, May 2004, 97(“But growth means growing pains. It also means learning from our mistakes in a continual process made possible by the Savior’s grace, which He extends both during and ‘after all we can do.’ 6 [6. 2 Ne. 25:23; emphasis added.]”)

    Both pieces are infused with hope, rather than guilt or shame, but only the second makes clear, even and specifically in light of 2 Ne. 25:23, that grace is available now, while we are trying to turn our lives to God, rather than our being required to wait until some future date or time.

  27. To be honest, I don’t think I really understood the Mormon concept of grace, despite being raised in the church, until I served as a Bishop. It wasn’t so much taught to me by anyone, but something I learned through my service. I remember it came to me as an insight while I was counseling a couple contemplating divorce, and recognized it as something I had not taken note of before. After that experience, I found that there were many references to grace in the Book of Mormon, and then I began to see it in a number of general conference addresses.

    I have since decided that we didn’t like to use the term grace, to reinforce the differences from other religions. There is still a great deal of inertia in our community’s sense of understanding that emphasizes works, obedience, and ordinances, yet I now see the concept of grace discussed openly in gospel doctrine classes, sacrament meeting talks, and in various leadership meetings, as a necessary complement to works.

    And it was especially gratifying to hear my youngest, a recent high school/seminary graduate, share an insight in a FHE lesson he presented recently. He obviously was beginning to come to understand grace, and recognized its’ part in the atonement.

    Anecdotal evidence at best, but while I agree that grace was de-emphasized in the church for a while, its’ traces were always there, once I began to look for them.

    A renewed understanding of grace does not, however, lesson most of the gulf between us and the evangelicals. Nor should it. The beauty of our theology is that we really are different, and believe radically different doctrines than our evangelical “friends”. Unfortunately, I see in many of our members, especially in the political “social conservatives” in the church, a naivety about some of these differences, in an effort to feel more a part of the mainstream. As I think the Romney campaign is showing, we are liked for our good citizenship, our emphasis on families, but generally disliked for our theology, and feared for the perceived closed nature of our society. As a good friend once noted, the more we seek the national limelight to dispel the stereotypes about us, the more we reinforce those stereotypes. Scratch the surface of many church members, and our most troubling historical issues of polygamy and perceived “institutional racism” are still there under the surface, popping out at most unfortunate times. If Borat had decided to take on the LDS church as a target, I dread some of the things that might have come out of the mouths of our good brothers and sisters.

    Note: I’ve only seen clips of Borat on the internet, and read many of the reviews and commentary, but I get it. Hold up a mirror, and sometimes we don’t like what we see.

  28. Agreeing with #25 & #26, I don’t believe the theology of grace has changed as much as perhaps emphasis. It seems to me this is what we were supposed to get all along–and maybe now just get it better. I think HP is on to something when he says it seems to coincide with Pres. Benson’s emphasis on the Book of Mormon.
    2 Nephi 31:19 appears clear when he states, “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is might to save.”

    Personally, I have always understood the “all we can do” to mean to repent–or be reconciled to God-surely that is all we can do.

  29. I second HP’s suggestion ETB and his emphasis on the BOM changed the church position on grace forever. We really were under a curse, treating lightly the things we had received, and as a result of correcting that, Our culture changed to be more in line with the gospel. I think it is a marvelous example of modern prophetic guidance.

  30. greenfrog says:

    Isn’t 1984 rather too early for the claimed renaissance in grace as more than mere after-thought? After all, the alleged basis for change in Millett and Robinson couldn’t have occurred until well after then and they are supposedly the fore-runners of this revolution.

    Not at all. Elder McConkie delivered one of his heresy-correcting addresses at BYU around 1982, in that case launching a not-veiled-at-all attack on George Pace’s book about developing a personal relationship with Christ. Elder McConkie insisted, to the contrary, that as Mormons, we worshipped only God the Father.

    He preached, in part:

    Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead.

    I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode, when in fact they have never even received the fullness of the gospel.

    I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.

    Mind you, I’m not suggesting that Elder McConkie contended that grace was not a part of LDS instruction, but as he used the term — both in that address and elsewhere — it had a decidedly different tone and application than present-day general conference addresses do.

    For what it’s worth, I’m pretty comfortable that today, Prof. Pace’s book would pass without the batting of a doctrinal eye. In 1982, it was enough to inspire ad hominem ridicule and public shaming from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

    Is it your experience that LDS ever claimed to be saved by works?

    No — but only because the (previously taught, and not too frequently mentioned, at that) LDS version of grace was quite different than the evangelical concept. That began to change in the late 70s and early 80s, inspiring Elder McConkie’s somewhat reactionary retrenchment.

  31. Heavenly Mother is possibly nonexistent but certainly relatively unimportant

    As a lifelong member of the church, this is news to me! I have always regarded the belief in a Heavenly Mother as essential and important, just not discussed openly out of an excess of reverence. I don’t understand any reason for any other idea in light of our doctrines of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and our concepts of eternal progresion.

  32. …Or that the strict “maleness” of “God” is up for question.

    Ronan: To head off a threadjack, could you do a new post on this sometime? I would be interested to hear the theological underpinnings of this.

  33. Chuck McKinnon says:

    HP/JDC #25 — Elder Oaks appears to agree with your position. In a talk given at BYU in 1993 he notes that Church talks — even conference addresses — tended to downplay the centrality of Christ and his atonement in the decades prior to President Benson’s time as prophet. He approvingly mentions books by brothers Robinson, Millet and Hafen (“I hope such books are read and pondered, not just purchased and possessed”). He points out those books were written after President Benson had urged us to take the Book of Mormon more seriously.

  34. Mark N. says:

    The reason [she’s not mentioned in Scripture] I was told, and that I am inclined to believe, is that she is not mentioned to keep men from taking her name in vain.

    The reason has already been made plain: mainstream Christians (and some would add some Latter-day Saints to that group) don’t want her for the same reasons that Brigham Young’s Adam-God doctrine wasn’t wanted, which is that support for it couldn’t be found in the Bible.

    Of course, for a Church that teaches that there will be things revealed in the last days that have never before been revealed, that line of reasoning would seem to be just a bit odd.

  35. Some thoughts on grace, LDS style:

    In his GenCon 4/2004 talk that DavidH cited in #26, Bruce Hafen said,
    In recent years, we Latter-day Saints have been teaching, singing, and testifying much more about the Savior Jesus Christ. I rejoice that we are rejoicing more.
    As we “talk [more] of Christ,” the gospel’s doctrinal fulness will come out of obscurity. For example, some of our friends can’t see how our Atonement beliefs relate to our beliefs about becoming more like our Heavenly Father. Others mistakenly think our Church is moving toward an understanding of the relationship between grace and works that draws on Protestant teachings.
    Christ’s Atonement is at the very core of this plan. Without His dear, dear sacrifice, there would be no way home, no way to be together, no way to be like Him. He gave us all He had. Therefore, “how great is his joy,” when even one of us “gets it” when we look up from the weed patch and turn our face to the Son.
    Only the restored gospel has the fulness of these truths! Yet the adversary is engaged in one of history’s greatest cover-ups, trying to persuade people that this Church knows least when in fact it knows most about how our relationship with Christ makes true Christians of us.

    When I read 2 Ne 25:23 now, two main concepts appear to me:
    1) “we know that it is by grace that we are saved” – should be sufficient right there!
    2) “after all we can do” – not just what we actually do, but all we *can* — have the ability to do — do is not enough.

    12. RE:

    in my own lifetime I have never heard anyone in the LDS tradition say that we are saved by works without grace — never!

    Joseph Fielding Smith, no softy, wrote,
    SALVATION is preservation from impending evil; deliverance from sin and its penalty realized in a future state; also, the means of deliverance from evil and ruin. That is salvation. (I am giving you the dictionary definition of these terms.)
    Salvation will come to the great body of humanity. The redemption of the soul is the resurrection. Salvation is to find a place somewhere in that redeemed state, freed from the realms “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” in its fulness, or in other words redemption from that spiritual death which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when the Lord says unto them, “Depart,” and they go into the realms of Satan.
    Salvation will come to all who enter the terrestrial kingdom. They will receive a higher grade of salvation than will those in the telestial kingdom. Salvation will come also to those who enter the celestial kingdom. That will be a still higher grade of salvation.
    Salvation is the gift of God, according to the scriptures, to all men who do not sin against the light and become sons of perdition. Salvation is of varying stages or degrees. Every man is to be judged according to his works, and for this reason various degrees or kingdoms have been established.
    (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 11-13.)

    I’ve heard LDS teenagers misunderstand works and grace, but upon reflection, anyone should recognize that people in the Telestial Kingdom *of glory* are saved by grace alone because they don’t have good works!

    I enjoyed the discussion about grace on “a different blog” a while ago – take a look.

  36. Some thoughts on grace, LDS style:

    In his GenCon 4/2004 talk that DavidH cited in #26, Bruce Hafen said,

    In recent years, we Latter-day Saints have been teaching, singing, and testifying much more about the Savior Jesus Christ. I rejoice that we are rejoicing more.

    As we “talk [more] of Christ,” the gospel’s doctrinal fulness will come out of obscurity. For example, some of our friends can’t see how our Atonement beliefs relate to our beliefs about becoming more like our Heavenly Father. Others mistakenly think our Church is moving toward an understanding of the relationship between grace and works that draws on Protestant teachings.
    Christ’s Atonement is at the very core of this plan. Without His dear, dear sacrifice, there would be no way home, no way to be together, no way to be like Him. He gave us all He had. Therefore, “how great is his joy,” when even one of us “gets it” when we look up from the weed patch and turn our face to the Son.

    Only the restored gospel has the fulness of these truths! Yet the adversary is engaged in one of history’s greatest cover-ups, trying to persuade people that this Church knows least when in fact it knows most about how our relationship with Christ makes true Christians of us.

    When I read 2 Ne 25:23 now, two main concepts appear to me:
    1) “we know that it is by grace that we are saved” – should be sufficient right there!
    2) “after all we can do” – not just what we actually do, but all we *can* — have the ability to do — do is not enough.

    12. RE: in my own lifetime I have never heard anyone in the LDS tradition say that we are saved by works without grace — never!

    Joseph Fielding Smith, no softy, wrote,
    SALVATION is preservation from impending evil; deliverance from sin and its penalty realized in a future state; also, the means of deliverance from evil and ruin. That is salvation. (I am giving you the dictionary definition of these terms.)

    Salvation will come to the great body of humanity. The redemption of the soul is the resurrection. Salvation is to find a place somewhere in that redeemed state, freed from the realms “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” in its fulness, or in other words redemption from that spiritual death which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when the Lord says unto them, “Depart,” and they go into the realms of Satan.

    Salvation will come to all who enter the terrestrial kingdom. They will receive a higher grade of salvation than will those in the telestial kingdom. Salvation will come also to those who enter the celestial kingdom. That will be a still higher grade of salvation.
    Salvation is the gift of God, according to the scriptures, to all men who do not sin against the light and become sons of perdition. Salvation is of varying stages or degrees. Every man is to be judged according to his works, and for this reason various degrees or kingdoms have been established.
    (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 11-13.)

    I’ve heard LDS teenagers misunderstand works and grace, but upon reflection, anyone should recognize that people in the Telestial Kingdom *of glory* are saved by grace alone because they don’t have good works!

    I enjoyed the discussion about grace on “a different blog” a while ago – take a look.

  37. umh, here’s the link for the last sentence in #36:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=2582

  38. manaen, the JFS quote actually reflects one of the relatively anti-grace positions in Mormon thought: that grace gets us the resurrection and admission to the Telestial Kingdom. Recent developments have emphasized the role of grace in full salvation, i.e., exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. Many thinkers have placed a much heavier, and sometimes essentially exclusive, emphasis on the role of merit in reaching that status; whereas recent Mormon thought has emphasized that grace is a, or even the, primary engine there as well.

  39. D&C 76:69

    “These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus…”

    You know, grace has always been there, we just chose to ignore it.

  40. of course this all will upset those who see Smithian Mormonism as primarily a reflex of hermetic perfectionism (though to be honest, I actually see some grace in perfectionism, this kind of excited redefinition of what is possible in the face of human foibles).

  41. Robert Millett is somebody whose word I rely on. I love his emphasis on grace, it gives me hope. I’m tired of walking on eggshells in an effort to avoid being identified with other religions. We are more alike than we are different and we need to realize that. We are all God’s children.

    You want to see people get riled up, just bring up the word “grace” in Sunday School when somebody is telling us we need to do more, get off our duffs and work harder for our salvation.

    In Mormon language, in Catholic language, in Pentacostal language, the gospel means “good news.” Mormons seem to only want the bad news.

    I applaud this effort.

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