Must "Graduated" Salvation Necessarily Mean "Earned" Salvation?

On a new discussion board I’ve joined to help me sort through some of my questions regarding the gospel, the issue of being comfortable with imperfection came up.

We were discussing the fact that we Mormons have a tendency to “grade” sins on their level of severity: you know, with murder and sex being really bad, drinking and smoking kinda middle-of-the-road bad, and gossiping or judging being not so bad at all.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The preceding paragraph was intended [almost] entirely tongue-in-cheek, so please read with an appropriate dash of humor and don’t hate.  Love you guys.)

As I thought about it, I realized that our assigning “wickedness values” to various indiscretions is probably a counter-productive practice.  Because when we call one thing “better” or “worse” than another, aren’t we really just either a)–justifying our own sins (“Well, at least I didn’t do that”)…or b)–making it harder for those who have strayed to return (“What I did was so bad, there’s no hope for me”)?  I mean, when are we going to realize we’ve ALL strayed?  Does it really matter to what “degree”?

So I was pondering why these “wickedness values” exist.  And I realized it probably stems, at least in part, from a misunderstanding of the doctrine of a “graduated” salvation (i.e. the three degrees of glory).  If we’re not careful to give this issue the thought and care it requires, it’s easy to mistakenly extrapolate merit-based salvation from it. After all, it seems so logical: those who are extra good go to the Celestial Kingdom; those who are pretty good go to the Terrestrial Kingdom; and those who are bad go to the Telestial Kingdom.  Oh, and don’t even talk about the ones who are REALLY, REALLY bad…because they go straight to hell (outer darkness).

But what do the scriptures REALLY teach on this subject?  As far as I can tell from D&C 76…

  • Those who are sanctified by Christ and have received of His grace will inherit Celestial glory (D&C 88:21, D&C 76:92).  NOT those who have committed the fewest or “least serious” sins.  NOT those who have been the “best” or the “most faithful.”  But those whose garments have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  In other words, those who have accepted Christ.  And there is NOTHING we can do to merit this. It is God’s gift to us.
  • Those who will inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom are they who had the opportunity to accept Christ in mortality, but did not.  However, in the afterlife, they did accept Him (D&C 76:74). I have no idea what God constitutes an “opportunity” and who should theoretically fit into this category, so please let’s not to go there.  It is only God’s to judge.  However, I’d point out that there is NOTHING in these verses about the overall “goodness” of these people.  It is ALL about the status of their hearts, and when they accepted Jesus.
  • Those who will inherit the Telestial Kingdom are they who will never accept Christ, neither in mortality nor the life beyond (D&C 76:82).  Interestingly, this is the ONLY GROUP about which the scriptures outline the specifics of their sins: liars, sorcerers, adulterers, warmongers.  I believe this is NOT because “only Telestial Kingdom people would commit these ‘kinds’ of sins,” but because the atoning blood of Christ was never applied in their behalf to blot them out, so their works stand to condemn them.  And that is simply because they never believed on Jesus’s name.

Please notice that in every instance, the “qualification” for entrance into the various Kingdoms has virtually NOTHING to do with some arbitrary level of “righteousness” or works, but EVERYTHING to do with our acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus Christ.

What are your thoughts?  Am I wrong here?  Why is it so easy for us to assume that a model of graduated salvation must necessarily lead to a merit, or works-based, salvation?  How can we keep ourselves from falling into this intellectual and spiritual trap?  And what can we do to stop discussing sin like it’s a sliding scale of severity and simply love each other into giving our hearts more fully to Christ?

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on December 16, 2008, in Mormonism, Thoughts on God and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I think you are wrong.

    Are we not supposed to become like Christ? Are we not supposed to repent of our sins? Are we not supposed to keep commandments? Yes, yes and yes.

    Now I agree that the most important thing is what type of individual we become, not an itemized list of past sins.

    In the terrestrial, or middle kingdom, you conveniently left out verse 79

    The trap is falling for the heaven/hell dichotomy. Accepting a perfectly judged merit system is not equivalent to not loving each other. The heaven/hell dichotomy actually comes closer to that.

  2. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for stopping by! A few points of clarification…

    First of all, yes, we ARE supposed to become like Christ. We ARE supposed to repent of our sins. And we ARE supposed to keep the commandments. But we’ve got to remember: *we’re* not the ones doing it. We can’t make ourselves like Christ. Only He can do that. Repentance is the process of turning our hearts to Christ, who then makes us into what we could never have become on our own. That is the miracle of the Mighty Chance of Heart and the atonement of the Savior.

    “A perfectly judged merit system,” as you put it, is still no hope for any of us. Because we are ALL sinners, if we get what we “merit,” we’re all damned. Only when we rely on the mercy and merits of Jesus do we have a fighting chance. I think as Mormons we sometimes forget this crucial, crucial point.

    And that’s what I was getting at when I spoke about the graduated levels of sin. Why should we assign wickedness values to sins? They’re ALL wrong, and they’ll all keep us from returning to Heavenly Father. We all need the Savior, and we all need each other to support and love one another, totally regardless of the “severity” of our sins.

    Note, too, that I’m not speaking about “what type of individual we become,” as you assumed. That, again, is approaching the question from a merit-based position. But there is no arbitrary “level” of personal righteousness one must attain on one’s own in order to earn a spot in one of the Kingdoms. The issue is not what have or haven’t done to earn a spot in one of the Kingdoms of glory; the issue is have we given our hearts to Christ? I submit that when we are truly converted–when we have truly consecrated our hearts to Him–the acts of righteousness, the “laundry lists” of works, will take care of themselves. Because He is perfect, we cannot HELP but improve when we are truly and completely partnered with Him.

    Finally, I didn’t conveniently leave out verse 79. That verse speaks about being valiant (read: brave or determined) in the TESTIMONY of Jesus. The other scriptures clearly state that those who will inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom are those who did not accept Him in this life, despite having had the opportunity. I wasn’t going to get into this, but I speculate that “having an opportunity” means that they receive a testimony of Him but still choose not to accept Him because the pleasures of the world are too alluring.

    And lastly, remember, I am not arguing that works are unimportant. I am simply saying that our works will never save us. Jesus saves us. We’re all lost without Him, no matter how “small” our indiscretions; and He is the only one who can take our sins away, no matter how “large” they are. So what’s the point of rating them?

  3. The point of rating them is that we are all different, from what we choose to believe. I think there are very important aspects of Mormonism that you are leaving out.

    Free agency makes the world go round in Mormonism. Everything hinges on that. Not even God can infringe on free agency. Mormonism rejects the dogma of original sin, and has a very high opinion of mankind – literal children of God and all that. We choose all the time, and these choices are real, genuine choices that shape our destiny. We are in a partnership with God to work out our own exaltation.

    ‘Salvation’ is available to all as a free gift from Christ through the atonement. ‘Degrees’ of glory and possible ‘Exaltation’ is largely merit based. It just is.

    If you follow the links to the scripture vers 79 it will eventually take you to the topic of ‘diligence’. This leads to several scriptural verses to follow. This is more of what is meant by valient.

    So section 76 labels the terrestrials as non-valient, and labels the telestials as sinners. Verse 52 gives some of the qualifications of the celestials which include keeping commandments.

  4. I’m not as eloquent as you (and your commenters) but my opinion is… all sins are bad, it’s the consequences that vary. The “level” of “badness” or “wickedness” isn’t based on the actual sin, it’s based on the punishment.

    Murder seems like the worst because you’ll be excommunicated and go to prison for the rest of your life (or worse). But it’s in the same catagory as ALL sin. They are all bad and will keep us from achieving celestial glory, whether it’s being judgemental or murdering… both will keep us from the celestial kingdom.

    I hope that makes sense. 🙂

  5. “The point of rating them is that we are all different, from what we choose to believe.”

    I’m not sure I totally understand what you mean by that, could you elaborate? Are you saying that because we’re different as a people (i.e. Mormons in general), we tend to rate sins? Or because we’re different as individuals, we as individuals rate them differently (i.e. one person thinks one thing is worse than another)? Just trying to understand your point…

    “Free agency makes the world go round in Mormonism.”

    I’m not denying the role of agency. So, again, I’m trying to follow your argument, but am having trouble piecing it together. To clarify, are you saying that because I reject a merit-based salvation, I therefore reject agency? Would be interested in exploring this thought further with you, because the logic is not inherently apparent to me…

    “Mormonism rejects the dogma of original sin, and has a very high opinion of mankind – literal children of God and all that.”

    I agree that we reject the dogma of original sin, but would point out that in our mortal state, we are not “naturally” good (though that potential is within us as a result of our Divine birthright). On the contrary, in our natural, mortal state, we are fallen, enemies to God (Mosiah 3: 19). It is Christ who changes us, spiritually begets us, and changes us from our natural, mortal state to something higher (Mosiah 5: 7). Again, no amount of good works has the power to do this for us. I can serve God day and night, and yet I would still be an unprofitable servant (Mosiah 2: 21). I think this is all pretty straightforward, fundamental LDS doctrine. Or am I missing something here?

    The fundamental point I’m trying to make is that we can’t “earn” our eternal reward, because if we got what we deserved, we’d all end up someplace where God is not. Instead, we must rely on the mercy and grace of Christ to get us to where He is. Admittedly, there seems to be room for nuance and interpretation in terms of what constitutes true “acceptance” of Christ, but would you agree that if not for the grace of Christ, we could not be saved or exalted? Would you agree that it is only because of Him that we have hope in this world and the world to come?

  6. Heather, thanks for stopping by, my friend! 🙂

    I agree, some actions carry more serious consequences than others. For example, in all likelihood, my stealing a candy bar would have a smaller “tangible” consequence than would my murdering someone. Also, a person may become so immersed in a sinful lifestyle or way of thinking that they become dull to the Spirit and therefore find it more difficult to come back. So I see your point there.

    But we can never forget that in terms of an eternal, SPIRITUAL consequence, they are the same. Whether I steal a candy bar or kill someone in cold blood, that act will keep me from salvation if not for Christ.

    I know this may be difficult for some LDS to swallow, the idea that my “small” sins are as grave as another’s “large” sins, but that’s kind of my point. We get so caught up in earning our salvation (which is impossible, by the way) that we totally forget how much we absolutely need Christ. Whatever sins we have or haven’t committed in our lives.

    What do you think? Does that make sense? I’m thinking that’s basically along the lines of what you’re saying, but let me know if I missed your point somehow.

  7. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post, Katie!! I’ve missed our conversations. I do hope you are doing well. I’m so glad to see your thoughts on grace. Mormons aren’t the only ones with a “rating” scale when it comes to sin. We are all guilty of this and I completely agree with you that we are usually just justifying our own sins when we do this.

    “Those who are sanctified by Christ and have received of His grace will inherit Celestial glory. NOT those who have committed the fewest or “least serious” sins. NOT those who have been the “best” or the “most faithful.” But those whose garments have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. In other words, those who have accepted Christ. And there is NOTHING we can do to merit this. It is God’s gift to us.” – Amen!!!

  8. Thank you, Jessica! I have missed our conversations, too. I probably think about them at least 3 times a week. 🙂 I am still trying to figure out what Paul is talking about in Romans 6-8 but just have not sat down to actually formulate a coherent question for you!!!

    It’s been a little hectic here, because my husband just finished performing the lead in a university production, which means he’s been gone basically non-stop for the past 4 weeks or so…leaving me to try and balance being a mom and a business owner and a human being all at once. I PROMISE to have something super intelligent to say over the holidays to make up for it!

  9. When I say we are different, I am talking about everyone regadless of religion. We are different from each other. Judgement is an individual thing. Our behavior and attitudes are different. And there is a wide variety.

    As far as free agency goes, it ir real and genuine. If there is free agency then there will be a variation in results. A wide variation. Variation of results leads to variation in final judgement.

    As far as our natural state goes, we are dual beings with both a spirit and a body. Denying that we are capable of making good choices comes down to Calvinism and determinism. You are putting to stron of an interpretation on the scriptures you site without balancing them with our spirits which have divine origins.

    Listen, Jesus did the exact same thing for those who will be in the Celstial Kingdom as he did for those who will be in the Telestial Kingdom. His love, and actions towards all are the same. So what is the difference? The choices and actions of the individuals involved. Their merit is what determines the separation between the kingdoms. Of course there would be no salvation without Jesus, but that does not mean that we do not play a meaningful role in our own exaltation. Nor a role in our own happiness in life.

    Your apparent friendship with Jessica does not surprise me. Nor does it surprise me that an individual with an irrational fear and hatred for Mormonism loves, loves, loves this post.

  10. Just a quick note, Eric. I think you’re assuming some things about me and my perspective which aren’t necessarily there. I know that when you’ve been dialoguing about religion online for a long period of time, it’s easy to get frustrated by the poor quality of the discussion and lump people into groups. But I try to do things a little differently and will sincerely consider the things you’ve said. I’d appreciate it if you took a little bit more care, too, to address what I’ve actually said, not what you assume I’ve said based on discussions you’ve had with others.

    Having said that…

    “When I say we are different, I am talking about everyone regadless of religion. We are different from each other. Judgement is an individual thing. Our behavior and attitudes are different. And there is a wide variety.”

    Agreed. And that’s a good thing! Each person’s perspective adds to the collective wisdom of the Church and helps us understand truth in all its infinite layers. I would just point out, however, that when it comes to “scaling” or “rating” sins, the fact that we *do* it as a result of our individuality does not necessarily mean we *should.*

    “As far as free agency goes, it ir real and genuine. If there is free agency then there will be a variation in results. A wide variation. Variation of results leads to variation in final judgement.”

    I certainly agree that free agency is real and genuine, and that there is variation in results. I’m even willing to consider the possibility that among those who do NOT accept Christ, there is variation in the final judgement–because, after all, they are being judged by THEIR works and being rewarded (and punished) accordingly.

    HOWEVER. When it comes to those who have accepted the Savior (and we Mormons believe this is done through water baptism and the laying on of hands), I do NOT believe there is variation in the results at final judgement. As an example, if I’ve accepted Christ, despite having been an adulteress…and if my neighbor has accepted Christ, whose “greatest” sin was talking a little smack about me…we are both in a heap of hot water without Christ. But with Him, both my adultery and her gossip are washed away and we can BOTH inherit the Celestial Kingdom BECAUSE OF THE GRACE OF CHRIST.

    If we’re in the business of “rating” sins, does that seem fair? No. But that’s what Christ has done for us. And that’s why I think the practice of rating sins is kind of dangerous.

    “Denying that we are capable of making good choices comes down to Calvinism and determinism. You are putting to stron of an interpretation on the scriptures you site without balancing them with our spirits which have divine origins.”

    Eric, no. Again, you’re reading into things I haven’t said. I’ve never said we can’t make good choices. Of course we can. And I’m not talking about the divine nature of our spirits in this post. I’m talking about our need for a Savior.

    Perhaps an anecdote here would be useful. When I was on my mission in Bulgaria, Elder Nelson came to visit. I had been very concerned because the people I was teaching did not seem to acknowledge that they needed Christ. Note, too, that this was at a period of my life when I was at the height of my perfectionism, and still very much considered salvation to be an “earned” reward. So I asked Elder Nelson this question: “How do we teach the people that they need Jesus?”

    His response: “Teach them the Fall.”

    I have only just barely begun to realize to the tiniest degree what he meant. But if we do not acknowledge that we are born into decay, sin, and despair, then we will NEVER recognize how fully and completely we need our Savior. So in this blog, which focuses exclusively on a grace perspective within Mormonism, I’m gonna focus on that. It doesn’t mean I don’t think or acknowledge that part of our duality is a divine nature that has infinite potential for good. The difference is that CHRIST is the one who activates that potential within us. Does that make sense?

    “So what is the difference? The choices and actions of the individuals involved. Their merit is what determines the separation between the kingdoms.”

    Yes. The choice to accept Jesus *is* the difference maker. So in that sense, you are absolutely correct: we do have a role in our own exaltation, and most certainly a role in our own happiness in life. Candidly, as someone who has struggled with somewhat severe anxiety, I can most certainly attest to the fact that the way you choose to perceive and relate to life and the world around you has a tremendous effect on your overall happiness. I never argued anything to the contrary. Again, perhaps you’re making assumptions about what I believe based on conversations you’ve had with others?

    But I would be very careful about assuming that because we have a role, we therefore EARN or DESERVE our reward. The scriptures are clear that if we get what we deserve, we are damned. Salvation (and exaltation) comes by relying on the merits of *Jesus Christ,* not our own merits.

    “Your apparent friendship with Jessica does not surprise me. Nor does it surprise me that an individual with an irrational fear and hatred for Mormonism loves, loves, loves this post.”

    Finally, ouch. This was kinda harsh. Let’s not get personal, eh? In the immortal words of Shaneiqua from last night’s Jerry Springer program, “You don’t know me!” 🙂

    Jessica and I have been dialoguing quite a bit over the past few months, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. She has been nothing but completely respectful, kind, and delightful in our conversations together and I have gained a lot of really wonderful insights from her. There are certainly things we disagree on, but I appreciate her desire to share her beliefs with others and am not threatened by her firm conviction that Mormonism is wrong. She is every bit as entitled to her beliefs as I am to mine–and you are to yours. I would not equate a firm conviction with irrational fear and hatred. I feel that just shuts down what could otherwise be very insightful and uplifting religious dialogue.

    Have a wonderful day, Eric. Thanks for the rousing discussion.

  11. Rating sins is done even in the scriptures. Unpardonable sin leading to sons of perdition. Sins of chastity being said to be second only to murder. Some sins lead to excommunication, some lead to no temple recommend, some need no church discipline. The scriptures rate sins, so does the church.

    Those who are in the CK are there not only because of the grace of Christ, but also because of their repentance, and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Both are necessary, and our repentance and obedience is the stuff of merit. The example you give is fair because some sins are easier than others to repent of. Those with minor sins will have an easier time with repentance than those with major sins.

    Anyway I apologize. Sometimes reading typed words can seem more harsh than they ordinarily would. I just believe that a fullness of salvation, by grace alone, is a false doctrine.

  12. Interesting stuff, Katie (and Eric). I mostly agree with what you are saying here. I think that it is only through Christ that any of us are redeemed, saved, or even can repent. You are right about that. But we do have to show the Lord that we want access to his love and we do that through keeping the commandments. I think remembering that could add a little more balance to this post.

    Also, I’m interested in how you see covenants fitting in with these ideas. (Maybe you already covered this in the comments–I didn’t read them *that* closely.) The Lord has made it clear that there are checkpoints on the path to exaltation and those checkpoints come in the form of covenants. And our ability to make covenants is,well, predicated upon our worthiness (or, which sins we’ve committed and for how long and how willing we are to abandon those sins).

    Oh, and one other thing: in regular Christian-speak, exaltation and salvation and immortality mean very similar things. In Mormon-speak they do not. Which definitions are you using here?

    But I do think that on the whole you are right. After all the Lord has said that He cannot accept *any* degree of sin in His presence (D&C 1:31).

  13. “I think remembering that could add a little more balance to this post.”

    Laura, what?? You’re calling *me* unbalanced? That’s the first time I’ve *ever* been accused of that!! 😀 Hahahahaha!

    Good questions about exaltation vs. salvation vs. immortality. Also, REALLY good question about where covenants/ordinances fit in to all this. I’m going to dedicate a separate post to that question, if you don’t mind.

    Re: the former. The short answer, as far as I understand it: exaltation in Mormondom involves inheriting all that the Father hath. (Not entirely sure what that *means* exactly…but it sounds pretty groovy, eh?) Salvation is being redeemed from sin and being resurrected/restored to a kingdom of glory, though not necessarily a fullness. And immortality is granted to all, whether or not they are saved on any level. The argument typically goes that salvation and immortality are free gifts, while exaltation is “earned.”

    This is where I believe we get off track. Exaltation is not a laundry list of dos and don’ts. It’s not even a checklist of ordinances and covenants (though the ordinances do play an important role). Instead, it is granted through the grace of Christ, and I think the scriptures are pretty clear that all He requires in return is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. HOWEVER, and this where so many miss the boat in the grace/works debate, IT MUST NECESSARILY FOLLOW THAT WHEN WE GIVE OUR HEARTS TO HIM WE WILL SERVE HIM.

    It is a flawed question to ask, “How many works are required for my exaltation?” Because that’s kind of like saying, “What can I do (or not do) and still be okay?” I think the person who asks that probably *hasn’t* accepted Christ, nor experienced the Mighty Change of Heart. So the question becomes much less about *where* you are on the path to heaven, and much more about the status of your heart. Because if your heart is focused on Christ, you’re gonna be okay.

    What do you think? Does that make sense to you?

  14. I do not believe that there is anything random or capricious in what God does. So I do not think that the point of life is to sit back and hope to win the random heart change lottery – with those that win this random lottery (through no merit of their own) going to heaven and those who do not win that random lottery (through no fault of their own) going to hell. I believe this life is largely a test of who we are that will be perfectly judged by Christ, and the criteria will be consistent and fair for there is no respect of persons with God.

  15. “I do not believe that there is anything random or capricious in what God does. So I do not think that the point of life is to sit back and hope to win the random heart change lottery – with those that win this random lottery (through no merit of their own) going to heaven and those who do not win that random lottery (through no fault of their own) going to hell.”

    Agreed.

    What part of “the Lord requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit” says “random lottery” to you? I’m NOT a Calvinist. I agree we must choose Christ of our own free will. When we choose Christ, He changes our hearts. That is a scriptural promise. When our hearts are changed, we will necessarily keep his commandments. We play a vital role in our own salvation in that respect, but that doesn’t mean we “earn” it in the sense of the word that because we make the choice to follow Christ we somehow “deserve” salvation. Does that make sense? Or am I just completely and ineffectively articulating this point? Isn’t it the height of arrogance to think that because we’ve made a few good choices (or even a LOT of good choices) in our lives, we’re somehow “deserving” of the magnificent gifts God has bestowed on us? It’s like saying, “Jesus, you can suffer, bleed, and die for me, and that’s cool and all, but *I* made the choice to follow you, so I totally ‘deserve’ the rewards you’re giving me.”

    That’s all I’m saying. That no matter what we do, we can NEVER, EVER, EVER repay Christ for what He has done…and we can NEVER, EVER, EVER “deserve” the blessings He’s given us.

    And I can’t talk anymore about this right now ‘cuz I’ve gotta work and I’m getting kinda fired up. Have a fantastic day!

  16. There was an interesting question raised about the ordinances and covenants Mormons make on their “path” to salvation.

    I am under the understanding that a person CAN NOT attain Celestial glory UNLESS he/she has obtained certain keys. Grace/Works may or may not save you (I’m not going to argue either way) But without the right “keys” … where do I go?

    I think I already know the answer to my question, but it counteracts (in my mind) with the Grace belief.. Doesn’t it?

    This is the part of Mormon doctrine that always ended up making my head spin. (as you can see by this post)

    Sorry, hope this makes sense. 🙂

  17. Katie–me calling you unbalanced? I think that would be the pot calling the kettle black 🙂

    I’m waiting with baited breath for your post on covenants 🙂

  18. I think there are merits to both sides of this debate. I mean, sin IS sin, period. Doesn’t matter what you do, if it’s bad, it’s bad.

    However, I do believe that certain sins do carry more significance, and I’ll explain why. Murder is on this list, for the simple fact that the murderer is deciding when someone else should die. That is the domain of God, and, intended or not, the murderer is taking on a role reserved for Divinity…definitely something of more importance in my estimation than gossiping about the crazy neighbor lady with the forty-two cats.

    I also believe that sexual sins have been conveniently (and wrongly) lumped together in a catch-all category…but those which could lead to conception outside of wedlock are also in a more serious category, because, once again, the participants in this act are taking on God’s role and creating life where He has declared it should not be created.

    Let’s not forget that Lucifer’s downfall was in trying to elevate his plan above God’s. Certain sins which we can commit in this lifetime take us along a parallel path.

    And even that is risking over-simplifying things. Why we do something, good or bad, is every bit as important, if not moreso, as the act itself.

    I do agree, however, that it is a dangerous train of thought to make a laundry list of the varying degrees of ‘badness’ of sins. It’s a slippery slope that can easily lead to the thought process, “Well, as long as I don’t do THAT, I’m still in good shape…” But the question of WHY is often overlooked in the discussion of WHAT, when it comes to commission of sin.

  19. Curtis,

    You know, I think you make some strong points. I especially like what you say about WHY we do something being as important, if not more, than the act itself. I think it speaks to the idea that God judges the thoughts and intents of the heart, and in fact asks for nothing more or less than our hearts, and so where are hearts *are* when we do something is probably of paramount importance.

    Thanks for the insights.

  20. I read this with interest–the gulf that separates Eric and Katie is not a wide one. The differences seem to me to be a matter of vocabulary. Katie uses the vocabulary differently than our culture usuallydoes–so Eric seems to be using the words in relatively conventional Mormon ways while Katie dissects the concepts to try to deepen levels of understanding. She may not be exactly right all the time (although I think she’s on the right track here) I’m talking about words like free agency, exaltation, salvation, grace, faith, atonement. We in the Church seem to skim the surface of those words, hardly even realizing that more levels of truth may be available.

    I noticed that Eric got angry in one of the posts; he was threatened by the concepts. I know for sure that Katie would never try to undermine testimony; she is searching for the Savior and the doctrines. (I’m her mom, BTW:) These concepts are new to me, too. We’ve discussed them since the time Katie began struggling for understanding (she has actually intensely desired to know the doctrines of Christ since she was very young. She almost gave me a heart attack when at 9 years old she began questioning everything about everything).

    One of my life’s lessons is that the older I get the more I understand that I really don’t understand much. I never assume that my current understanding of a doctrine or concept is accurate. That lesson has helped me to be open to the fact that, although my understanding of something is the best I can do with the knowledge I have right now, I still better be open to further light and knowledge.

    This post is an example of probably not reflecting accurately enough what is in my heart and head. So, my apologies to all, especially Eric, if I have misstepped here. My intentions are good.

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