Do You See Her?

sinfulwoman

I gave a lesson in Relief Society today on Luke 7:36-51, the story of the sinful woman who anoints Christ and washes His feet in her tears.  I titled the lesson “Do You See Her?”

I started out by asking the sisters to imagine a woman whom Christ approves of, a woman who is acceptable to Him.  Then I asked them for the characteristics of such a woman, and I listed them on the board.  I got answers like:

Virtuous
Gentle
Charitable
Humble
Meek
Happy

We turned to the scriptures.   I took the story slowly, bit by bit, including the parable of the forgiving creditor, and the culmination when the Savior tells the woman that her faith has saved her.

I asked the sisters: “What do you think it means to have saving faith?”

I got some of the usual answers: it means enduring to the end when the going gets tough, it means always abounding in good works. I tried to gently affirm the good intentions behind the answers while moving the discussion away from such conclusions.

I also got some profound answers:

“It means knowing who Christ is and what He has done for me.”

“It means believing in His power to forgive and save.”

One sister raised her hand and said, “I think as women, so often, we say we believe in Christ, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t forgive ourselves–and we don’t forgive ourselves because we don’t really believe He can heal us.”

We talked about why that is for a while and came up with some interesting answers, from Satan’s lies to a lack of self-respect.

Then I asked, “What is the result of saving faith?”   They were kind of stumped here, so we turned back to the scriptures, where the Savior says of the sinful woman, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”

“So the fruit of salvation,” I said, “is love.”

I turned back to the board where the list of “ideal qualities” remained.  And I made a distinction between saving faith and the fruits of salvation.  I told them that all the wonderful qualities they had listed earlier were not requirements for salvation, but the result of salvation.

Overall, I believe it went well.  But I can’t help feeling empty now that it’s done.  I worked on this lesson for weeks, wondering how best to present this beautiful story.   Now that it’s over, I wonder how it was received.  I wonder to what extent I was preaching to the choir.  I wonder to what extent people are going home right now to complain to their husbands.  I wonder to what extent who, if anyone, got something out of it.

Mostly, I think I feel empty because while I believe deeply in the things I taught, I wonder to what extent I was “out of line” for teaching it.  I’ve never heard the concepts I expressed today taught in church (at least the way I taught them).  A sense of security in your salvation, the idea that your good works are a fruit and not a cause…I’ve never seen them thus articulated in a manual.  Never heard them addressed in a General Conference talk.    Of course, it’s in the scriptures, loud and clear–but it falls beyond what is most frequently emphasized in church.

And so I wonder, as a teacher in the church, whether my duty is to teach what’s on my heart…or what’s in the manual?*

*Note that I use the phrase “in the manual” as a metaphor. As a counselor in the Relief Society presidency I am supposed to pick my own topic when I teach.  I just wonder whether my topic would line up with the “correlated” teachings of the church, and if I overstepped my bounds teaching something that would not be included (if indeed it wouldn’t be).

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on July 12, 2009, in Mormonism, Thoughts on God and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Katie, that lesson sounds just beautiful.

  2. I bet people liked it a lot. It’s more about the Spirit than what you actually say anyway–and as we all know, the Spirit has more to do with the individual than the teacher 🙂

    I have heard this taught from the pulpit. Not your exact presentation of course, but the same idea. Today one high councilman talked about a conversation he had with our temple president (sorry this is turning into a friend of a friend, Mormon urban doctrine type thing. . .) where the temple pres. said that the fact that people are willing to make covenants and try to keep them is enough. If we do those things we will make it to the celestial kingdom because we’ve shown the Lord that we’ve chosen His way.

    In practice it’s a little more complicated, but in theory it really is that simple. All the Lord really wants is for us to sacrifice our broken hearts and our contrite spirits.

    I think a lot of Elder Scott’s talks and Elder’s Holland’s talks reflect this idea, although I can’t think of anything specific at the moment.

    Again, great lesson. Really.

  3. I think you may be on to something. All the adjectives listed by the women in your ward are what Christ makes us. Before submitting our lives to him, we may be unvirtuous, liars, deceitful, etc. Even if we may have been virtuous, truthful, or without guile, we aren’t “acceptable” to the Lord until we commit our lives to Him.

    But the second we DO commit our lives to Him we are “acceptable” to Him. To remain “acceptable” in His eyes we must strive to become all those good things we read about, but at every step in the process we are “acceptable” even with our glaring imperfections.

    In short, I guess the Lord cares not what we are right now, but whom we are striving to BECOME. Elder Holland’s talk “Broken Things to Mend” emphasizes that we must walk with the Savior and let Him change us. At any point in time there are still improvements we need to make – but what matters most is that we are walking with Him.

  4. Trine, Thanks. 🙂

    Tom and Laura, I appreciate your thoughtful responses. Here’s a question for you guys. Do you think Mormonism teaches that there is security in salvation? I have always felt as though there is this rumbling beneath LDS teachings that you are always at risk of losing your salvation with any unrepented of sin.

    What is your experience or take on this?

  5. It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with quite a lot lately.

    I’ve posted on this before, and eventually I’ll get around to writing it in more detail, but if we consider the Book of Moroni, we see in chapters 4 and 5 that he records the sacrament prayers, which include our covenant to be “willing” to keep God’s commandments. Then in chapter 6 it says that after baptism we should be continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ who is the author and the finisher of our faith. Then in chapter 10 he says that if we deny ourselves of all ungodliness then Christ’s grace is sufficient for us. “To deny” ungodliness is “to disavow” or “to refuse to accept.”

    Putting it all together, it seems to me that as long as we are willing to keep the commandments and refuse to accept ungodliness in our lives, then Christ’s grace is sufficient and we are “perfect in Christ.” The sacrament becomes the mechanism by which we deny ourselves of ungodliness, insofar as we recommit, acknowledge any ungodliness in our lives, and resolve to do better.

    Is there danger in unrepentant sin? Absolutely. But the fatal danger is when we are UNWILLING to repent. I am the first to admit that I live day to day in sin. But I refuse to accept sin in my life, because I know that through the grace of Christ I can be better. That is to say, I will never be satisfied as long as their is any sin in my life. To me, that is the path of discipleship. We strive for perfection, but as long as we are on the path, we are justified.

    If you haven’t read it already, Elder Christofferson’s Ensign article is a “must-read.” I recommend a careful study of the doctrine he teaches.

  6. Regarding “security in salvation,” Ether taught that “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God…” (Ether 12:4)

    To me, true hope is security in Christ’s salvation. A result of faith. It leads to a peace and confidence with respect to our salvation.

  7. The fact that you can find a verse in the Book of Mormon that says it most certainly does not mean that “Mormonism teaches it.”

  8. Katie, I would have loved to have been in your Relief Society class, and I’m going to be thinking about this lesson probably all week (especially nice since I missed church this week because of Lymes).

    As for security in salvation–I had an Institute teacher (who was also the Stake President) who always taught us that we should always know where we’re going, and pretty much Jesus just cares, at the end, if we’re facing in the right direction. In other words, it’s not about the work that we’re doing or that we’ve done.

    I don’t think you should feel guilty, because what you taught is not out of line with church teachings. Just because you haven’t heard something be expressly taught before doesn’t mean that it’s not right. And even if people reject what you were saying (which I doubt, btw), you gave them something to think about, a different approach to take when looking at it, something to chew on.

    Oh, and, lastly–I was in the RS Presidency too. Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to be in it together?! We would totally rule the world. 😀 I bet visiting teaching with you would be awesome, too.

  9. Tom, I don’t think the article you sent me to teaches surety in salvation. On the contrary, it seems to be saying that you are liable to fall from grace at any time:

    “In order to be classed among the truly penitent, random acts of obedience will not be enough.”

    “It is not simply the promise of obedience in our contracts with Deity that brings grace, but the performance of our promises.”

    “Thus, what is required of us in order to obtain mercy in the day of judgment is simple diligence.”

    “Where we can act, where we have the capacity and the means, we must act if we are to retain a justified and sanctified status.”

    Don’t get me wrong, a person who is truly born again will by definition want to follow Christ and obey the commandments (though they will still fall short). That kind of a person will necessarily choose the Savior, because the Savior is working in his/her life.

    But he didn’t make the distinction I shared in my lesson, that our good works and obedience are the fruits of salvation, NOT the cause. In fact, it seems he’s saying, “Grace is a free gift, but you have to work to get it.”

    And so I’m left, again, to wonder: is there any sense of security of salvation in Mormonism?

    If not, okay. That’s fine. But perhaps I should stop trying to put into it something that doesn’t exist.

  10. Katy, thanks. 🙂 Yeah, it would be AWESOME if we were in the RS Presidency together! And just a tiny bit out of control!

    I would really like to talk to you about your story one day. Maybe we could arrange a phone convo or something when you’re family is feeling better?

  11. You know, I’ve never felt that the church was very good at teaching “security in salvation.” We are consistantly drilled with the idea that Earth is our only chance, and after that we’re doomed–that we can only truly be happy if we’ve made it to the celestial kingdom. I definately appreciated what you spoke about on Sunday, and agree with what you said. I did have one question about the debtor and Christ though: why does the one needing less forgiveness love Christ not as much? For example, I know I’ve committed some serious sins (and am much more evil than you, my friend) in my past, but I would never venture to guess that you have less love for Christ than I. In fact, I might argue that you have more.

  12. Is there Security in Salvation?

    Through the atonement, yes.
    After we die… that’s another story.

    Christ’s Grace (the atonement) is sufficient enough to basically enable us to return to Heaven (Paradise/Purgatory, a.k.a “The Waiting Room”). So is there security in His promised Salvation? Yes, Of course there is.

    Now as for the judgment seat, that’s all entirely up to God, because no unclean thing can stand in God’s presence.

    … Am I completely off base here?

    Salvation won’t determine your heavenly glory. It’s just your ticket in the door…

    Why would we have ‘Degrees of Glory’ if our actions/lifestyle didn’t play any role in this life?

    So to repeat myself. Security in salvation? Yes, thanks to Jesus. Does that Salvation promise us heavenly Glory? No, I don’t believe it does.

    Is it security in Salvation you’re yearning for? Or is it security in God’s approval?

  13. I don’t know about that, Todd.

    Here’s the way I used to understand it: exaltation is a reward of infinite value. Anything less than exaltation has to be less than infinite and therefore finite. That means the spectrum of degrees of glory is not a clean progression from bottom to top: instead, degrees of glory increase quantitatively until you get to the top, exaltation, which suddenly makes a qualitative leap into infinity. It’s not merely different by being a little bit more glory: it is infinity glory, so it is of a completely different nature than any finite eternal reward.

    As an infinite eternal reward, there is no way we could ever merit exaltation. It doesn’t make sense, mathematically: it is valued at infinity, which is a check we just could not possibly pay, no matter how much merit we stored up. Other deqrees of glory are a different story. No matter how high their price tag is, they have finite prices on them, which means we can theoretically merit them. There is a payable proce attached to them so we could pay them.

    What I am getting at is that there is n entirely different evaluative scheme for exaltation and for the other degrees of glory. If you are thinking that you can earn your exaltation, you are wrong (it costs infinity, and by sinning we have a negative account already). You can’t even earn a percentage or a portion of it: what would a percentage of inifinity even look like? It’s a non-concept; it would just be more infinity.

    So exaltation is something you can qualify for through Jesus Christ. He earned our exaltation for us, and then he set out the requirements by which he can hand it out. Meeting those requirements does not earn our exaltation or even pay part of the check. It’s purely a transaction between us and Jesus, on his terms.

    If we fail to qualify for exaltation, then we are left with earning our own eternal reward, which may be a very good reward, but will never be infinite glory like the reward Jesus earned for us.

    Seen that way, security in salvation/exaltation makes plenty of sense. If we know we’ve qualified under Jesus’s requirements, we will receive an infinite reward no matter what we have actually earned. Otherwise, we can’t have security at all: we only get what we merit.

  14. People, I’ve actually thought a lot about your question since it came up in the lesson. I think the truth is that ALL of us owe Him the 500 pence. All of us owe Him infinitely. A person who thinks they owe Him less than another is a person who does not understand what He did for them–and thus, doesn’t love Him as much. Whaddya think?

  15. Christ’s Grace (the atonement) is sufficient enough to basically enable us to return to Heaven (Paradise/Purgatory, a.k.a “The Waiting Room”). So is there security in His promised Salvation? Yes, Of course there is.

    I don’t believe that Christ’s grace should be relegated just to the waiting room. I think it encompasses everything–and that’s what I mean when I use the word “salvation.” I know sometimes “salvation” and “exaltation” have different meanings in Mormonism, but I use them synonymously here. Because I know without a doubt that I will never “make it” otherwise.

    My personal conviction, therefore, is that there is security in salvation (or exaltation or whatever you want to call it): once you have received Christ’s grace, you’re “in”–all the way. Unless you consciously choose to reject Him. And you DON’T reject Him just by sinning. You reject Him by consciously choosing to no longer rely on the mercy and merits of Christ.

    I think it takes more work to lose your salvation (or exaltation) than it does to retain it.

    I think I might be the only Mormon who feels this way, however.

    (I also have to say as my mandatory disclaimer when discussing these things with LDS that I DON’T think it means you can “get saved” and do whatever the hell you want. I think if you’ve truly accepted Christ in the first place…it will show in your life.)

    Is it security in Salvation you’re yearning for? Or is it security in God’s approval?

    Todd, this is a really good question. And I’m not sure I know the answer entirely. Perhaps it’s just that I have an innate understanding of my flaws…I know with vivid detail how “broken” I am…and I desire to believe in a God who accepts me as I am–and who will fix me. That’s the fast answer. I’ll give it further thought and maybe do a whole post on it later.

  16. Regarding Kullervo’s comment, there are actually different degrees of “infinity” identified by mathematicians. (As long as we’re assigning value to something, we’re using math, so this dovetails.)

    There is “countable infinity”, such as the set of all natural numbers.
    Integers (negative numbers, natural numbers, and zero) are also “countably” infinite, but integers are twice as infinite as natural numbers.

    “Real” numbers are “uncountably infinite”, as in, infinitely more of them than integers, and twice infinitely more than natural numbers.

    Point is, a reward can be “infinite” and still be “smaller” than another reward which is also “infinite.”

    Where am I going with this? Extending the metaphor, “celestial” glory costs an “uncountably infinite” amount of whatever it is we’re paying. “Terrestrial,” a countably infinite amount. “Telestial,” half that, which is still infinite.

    Every degree of glory, in Mormonism, is impossible to earn on merit. Merit reflects our faith in Christ’s power to save us, with the glory receive from Him entirely concomitant with what we actually want for ourselves, evidenced by the things we do once we’ve realized what He has done.

  17. Rob, I just Googled the word “concomitant”….and I’m still not sure I get it. Could you translate that last sentence for a dummy like me?

  18. “naturally associated”

  19. concomitant = (roughly) “naturally associated” That is to say, Christ’s atonement enables us to lay hold on precisely what we want.

  20. Rob: I don’t think you’re right, but I’m not willing to argue the point with you because I think it’s all make-believe anyway. Sorry. I was just putting out what I used to believe; I’m definitely not willing to go to the mat for it.

  21. Kullervo, there’s a point of view where I’m not considered right, but that’s where my thinking on the matter has led me, after considering all the scripture I’ve read about it, taking a hard look at all the circumstances people end up in while living on Earth, and being completely unwilling to reject my own religious walk, if you will.

    Much of it has led me to the opinion that some of the stuff you’ve rejected, and most or all of the stuff Katie struggles with isn’t actually taught by the Church.

    Also, that many, many Mormons professing to be active don’t actually read the D&C, or they’d have slightly different opinions on subjects as wide ranging as property ownership, the Atonement of Christ, eternal progression, and even the “Constitution as inspired document” meme.

    (I could probably blog about that for hours, since I don’t think the currently popular-in-Utah anti-progressive stance on the Constitution is actually congruent with scripture. That, and it’s fun to say, “no” to relatives and friends who ask if I think the document is inspired. How can I put faith in a document with a three-fifths clause for indentured servants?)

    Bear in mind, too, that I’m talking about the set of “all people”, which includes sad circumstances like “duped Muslim suicide bomber teenagers”, rather than the usual set of “covenant people” targeted as the audience in many passages of scripture, which does not. That too, is a distinction many Mormons fail to draw for casual apologetics.

    Finally, I’ll point out that “infinite” is make-believe in the first place, and you brought it up… 🙂

  22. Rob, got it. Thank you.

    I’m intrigued by your infinity analogy. I remember from the “math for artistic minds” class I took in college that there are different degrees of infinity and that always blew my mind. (That was actually a REALLY cool class–as far as math classes go.)

    So if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that Christ rewards us according to our desires, not our actions? And that the varying degrees of glory are merely infinite manifestations of those desires, still granted through grace, yes?

    I will have to think about this some more.

    Much of it has led me to the opinion that some of the stuff you’ve rejected, and most or all of the stuff Katie struggles with isn’t actually taught by the Church.

    This just might be what I struggle with most. What the heck does “taught by the Church” even mean?

    That you can construct alternate models from scripture is true. But heck, you can construct the Trinity from the Bible, and that doesn’t mean the Church approves or teaches it.

    For a couple of years now, I’ve thought, “These teachings I disagree with are just incorrect interpretations of the gospel. They’re annoying, but they’re not True, so I’m not bound by them–and I can use my kind influence to help others see the light.”

    But lately I’ve begun to wonder…”If the majority of the church believes this…if it seems to be the position of the General Authorities…then who’s the one with the ‘correct’ idea of ‘what the church teaches’?”

  23. isn’t actually taught by the Church

    This is a non-thing you’re talking about. The Church isn’t a person and can’t teach anything. Only people can have opinions and teach doctrines. The myth that the Church teaches something and that “the thing the Church really teaches” is the True Thing is one of the most frustrating things about Mormonism.

    You want to talk about what doctrine you think is true, then you’re actually making a statement about something. You want to talk about what doctrines are taught most often in Sunday School, or by a given General Authority, or even if you want to make the claim that a particular doctrine has been taught and understood a particular way by every President of the Church since Joseph Smith, and you’re talking about something that has meaning.

    But you start talking about coming to conclusions about what the Church really teaches, and you may as well be talking about your conclusions about the sexual preferences of invisible pink leprechauns.

  24. Katie, Mormons talk about “what the Church teaches” because they abrogate their beliefs and thought processes to the Church organization: “what the Church teaches” is the only legitimate validation in Mormonism for ideas about theology, ecclesiology, morality, or ethics.

    In my opinion, you should toss that kind of thinking altogether. Worry about what you believe is actually true, and don’t feel like you have to validate it by appeal to an organization’s authority.

  25. “I know sometimes “salvation” and “exaltation” have different meanings in Mormonism, but I use them synonymously here.”

    .. I disagree with this.. I don’t believe they are synonymous.
    But that is okay.

  26. I disagree..

    To me, it sounds like you’ve taken a very simple teaching and ridiculously over-complicated it. But it’s okay to disagree.

  27. But it means that they should teach it. And I do teach it.

  28. Ok, but don’t most churches teach that you can fall from grace?

  29. “In my opinion, you should toss that kind of thinking altogether. Worry about what you believe is actually true, and don’t feel like you have to validate it by appeal to an organization’s authority.”

    Amen to that.

  30. Also, I guess I’m not sure what you mean by “security in salvation.”

    I assume you don’t mean that we aren’t concerned when we commit sin. Given the context of the last quotation from the Chritofferson article, it seems that what he is saying is “Just get on the path and don’t wander off, and you’re ok.” He never says that means we don’t sin while we’re on the path.

    As long as we put any stock in the many scriptures that say we will be judged according to our works, we should be very concerned about our actions. But that doesn’t mean we are insecure about our salvation.

  31. Katie,

    In practice, I find your statement and Elder Christofferson’s equivalent:

    You:

    I DON’T think it means you can “get saved” and do whatever the hell you want. I think if you’ve truly accepted Christ in the first place…it will show in your life.

    Elder C.:

    “It is not simply the promise of obedience in our contracts with Deity that brings grace, but the performance of our promises.”

    Either way you look at it, if you don’t follow through after you become justified, you don’t receive Christ’s grace.

  32. I feel like the word Grace is being attributed too much “face value”

    And to go along with that, and like I mentioned already to you Katie, I don’t believe exaltation and salvation to be synonymous- though I would be curious to see other peoples thoughts on that.

  33. Institutional leaders routinely organize, contextualize, and publish the ideas and memes associated with the group they lead, an action more generally known as “teaching.” Examples abound; every advocacy group does it. Every software development tools company as well.

    A Church is an institution with leaders. Thus, the Church, through its publications, teaches, and the ideas so published are “teachings of the Church.” QED.

    Simple syllogistic logic, really, which doesn’t include the behavior of the members of the organization.

    The only counterclaim possible stems from false premises, which you’re welcome to claim and prove or disprove, if you want. I’m happy to be wrong if I’m actually wrong!

    Besides, I happen to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that “invisible” and “pink” are mutually exclusive regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 😉

  34. See D&C 137, and Alma 41, but bear in mind that the former addresses the set of “all people”, while the latter is doctrinal instruction to Alma’s son Corianton, who was under a number of explicit covenants. Jack’s “Calormene Warrior” metaphor might also be kind of apt.

    But it’s also true that, all other things being equal (which they never are), one’s desires lead to specific actions: evil desires to evil actions, good to good. That’s in Alma 39-41 as well as lots of other places in the scriptures.

    It’s a point of view which permits me to suppose that Christ can save a chain smoker in the Celestial Kingdom. I certainly hope that’s the case, because I have dear friends who cannot shake their addictions, and I want their association after this life.

    What the heck does “taught by the Church” even mean?

    I use a heirarchy, roughly: scriptures/temple ordinances, general conference teaching, local conference teaching, leadership policy, correlated curriculum, magazines.

    Mormon folkways, such as women in dresses, men with careers, publications sold by Deseret Book, or membership in the Republican Party, are not part of it, unless absolutely consistent with scripture/temple/leaders. And if the local leaders are not consistent with scriptures/temple, I feel free to assume the Church doesn’t actually teach it.

    I could offer examples, but I’m out of time for now. (Traveling this week.)

  35. Ok, but don’t most churches teach that you can fall from grace?

    Sorry to answer down here, Tom. I just kind of hate threaded comments (and will probably turn them off when I have the energy to figure out how; hopefully this doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings!).

    As far as I understand, there is a strain in Calvinist thinking that says a person cannot fall from grace. I would love if someone who knows better could comment here.

    Either way you look at it, if you don’t follow through after you become justified, you don’t receive Christ’s grace.

    But there’s a fundamental difference between what I said and Elder Christofferson said. My point was that Christ’s works naturally flow from a justified heart–as the vessel is purified and becomes more and more sanctified. It is not a “requirement” but the natural result of Christ working through you. If this is not happening, I would question whether the justification really took place.

    Christofferson seems to be saying that you must act in order to retain your salvation. In other words, you must “work for” grace and to retain your justification.

  36. It’s a legal fiction, though.

  37. Katie – I see your point. I am still confused as to what would, for you, constitute “security in salvation.” Can you help me understand exactly how you define that phrase?

    As long as we have free will, our exercise of that free will has an effect on how we will be judged (that’s how I interpret “judged according to our works”). Unless we lose free will when we are justified, I don’t know how one can get around the fact that you have to choose every day to continue in the path of discipleship. If we ever choose to leave that path, we are no longer justified. It sounds to me that you are saying that if one is TRULY justified they will never leave the path of discipleship. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    The DC directly addresses falling from grace (DC 20:32). I don’t think a person can fall from grace if they never truly had grace in the first place. Thus, my understanding is that one can be truly justified and later fall victim to temptation and lose their justified state. Or in other words, one may obtain justification but later willingly decide to abandon the process of sanctification, the penalty for which is loss of the justified state.

    I think what more aptly describes Christofferson’s viewpoint is that we have to act to retain the grace we have already already received (cf. the scriptural phrase “retaining a remission of your sins”), which is done by participating in the process of sanctification. Jesus know we won’t be perfect, which is where willingness and denying ungodliness come in (see my earlier comment).

  38. One point of clarification: I said

    “…don’t most churches teach that you can fall from grace?”

    You mentioned Calvinism, and as far as I know, Calvinists don’t believe in free will. So my statement would be much more clearly rendered as:

    “Don’t most churches that believe in free will also believe that you can fall from grace?”

  39. Tom, good questions.

    I do believe a person can fall from grace. But I believe falling from grace entails consciously rejecting the gift Christ has given, even after having received it. I think one makes a decision to move away from Christ and stop believing in order to “fall from grace.” I don’t think committing a sin, even a serious one, automatically means you have fallen. It could be an indication that you have rejected Christ…but it could also be a lapse in judgment or a moment of weakness–and I think such a person could theoretically still remain in a justified state.

    The concern I’m having with Elder Christofferson’s approach is that the emphasis is on the external actions, NOT the heart: “It is not simply the promise of obedience in our contracts with Deity that brings grace, but the performance of our promises.”

    But I don’t always perform on my promises. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I am a feeble, weak, fallen, imperfect woman. I count it a great miracle when those rare moments come along and I manage to somehow get it right. If grace is dependent upon the performance of my promises, I’m totally screwed.

    However…if the requirement is the heart…well, I can do that. My heart is much better at being in the right place than my actions are.

    So security in salvation means to me that I am saved as long as I want to be. Even when I mess up (because I always will). Security in salvation means the only thing that matters is the state of my heart.

    What I long for–perhaps more than anything else in the world–is for the church to stop talking so darn much about the ACTIONS as being the key factor in salvation and to start talking more about the heart. Because to me, that is the crux of the matter.

    What do you think?

  40. Lots of good stuff here, Katie! I like this discussion.

    I believe falling from grace entails consciously rejecting the gift Christ has given, even after having received it. I think one makes a decision to move away from Christ and stop believing in order to “fall from grace.”

    I think you are correct. “Performance of our promises” to me doesn’t mean we always choose the right, but that we do our best. As I mentioned earlier, our promise is that we are “willing…to keep his commandments.” Being willing is DEFINITELY a matter of the heart. So you may be exactly right that the heart is the crux of the matter – I tend to agree.

    However…if the requirement is the heart…well, I can do that. My heart is much better at being in the right place than my actions are.

    That’s why we are judged according to our works AND the desires of our hearts. (DC 137:9). Both will play a role. I’ll have to think more about your description of “security in salvation,” though. The DC talks about those in the terrestrial kingdom, some of whom are members of the church who were not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus (whatever that really means). My point is, I’m sure they will want to be saved (exalted) at the day of judgment, but for whatever reason they will not be. The emphasis is definitely on their testimony of Jesus, though, so I strive to build my faith in Jesus Christ every day. I have long felt that as long as I do that then everything else will work out OK.

    The Savior gives us a very good description of how He will be our advocate with the Father in DC 45:3-5. It seems to me that it hinges on our testimonies of Him.

  41. Parenthetically, the reason I like Elder Christofferson’s approach is it ties together agency, grace and works, justification, and sanctification in a way that makes sense to me, particularly in acknowledging that we will screw up and sin A LOT:

    None of us, of course, is perfectly obedient, and thus we rely on our baptismal covenant to bring a remission of sins after baptism just as it has done for our lives before baptism. We rely on repentance to reinvigorate that covenant, to bring the Holy Spirit and, with it, atoning grace. The process of cleansing and sanctifying through the baptisms of water and of the Holy Ghost can be continued weekly as we worthily partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The tokens of the Atonement, the bread and water, become symbolic cleansing agents and the sign of our renewed covenant, similar to the symbolism of the water in which we were immersed at baptism. It is as if we were being baptized afresh and the door once again opened for the Holy Spirit to enter, “that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77). Thus, we need not fear judgment.

    I can appreciate that some of the sentences in his article make you uncomfortable, and I agree that when read in isolation they sound pretty depressing because we are mortal and we sin no matter how committed we are to Jesus.

    On the other hand, taking his message as a whole, it really sits well with me.

  42. Tom, here’s a post I wrote a few months back about whether graduated salvation necessarily means “earned” salvation. In it, I discuss the idea that the varying degrees of glory have more to do with if and when the person accepted Christ, not s’much how well one lives. I’d be curious to see your take on that.

    Having said that, I’m not sure what to make of the scriptures that speak of us being judged by our works. Those have always confused me, because my understanding is that our works, which are evil, will condemn us. One explanation I’ve heard is that the unjustified will be judged by their works, while the justified will be made whole through Christ and thus judged by His works.

    But something tells me that’s not the whole story, because even mainstream Christianity speaks of degrees of reward in heaven. So this is one area where I need to do some more study. Any insights would be appreciated.

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