Salvation

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May 22, 2008
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Salvation is another of those context-specific words that requires defining every time you use it. For example, in the Old Testament ‘salvation’ is often used to mean deliverance from the Canaanites or Pharaoh’s army, or the Philistines.

The intent of the word is ‘rescue from some kind of harm or destruction,’ and when Mormons use it, salvation means both deliverance from the effects of Adam’s fall (mortality and death), and from the effects of our own sins (spiritual separation from God–including the influence of the Holy Ghost).
In our most recent general conference, an Apostle, Elder Russell M. Nelson said this:

To be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death. People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him.
Salvation and Exaltation, Russell M. Nelson

Note in his last sentence he emphasizes our role goes beyond faith in Christ. I see little difference between ‘having faith in Christ’ and ‘living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and serving Him,’ because my definition of faith (see Faith, below) includes such loyalty and devotion. (I believe Paul’s did, too).

I think Elder Nelson included these added elements for those who associate ‘faith’ with ‘belief,’ to be clear in his meaning. The ancient Apostle James did, too, when he said, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18) Merely believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God is insufficient for salvation. The devils also believe, and tremble (see James 2:19).

Mormons also use another word, closely related to salvation: exaltation. This represents the highest potential we can reach (with God’s grace). It’s relationship to salvation is illustrated best through analogy:

We grow in two ways—removing negative weeds and cultivating positive flowers. The Savior’s grace blesses both parts—if we do our part. First and repeatedly we must uproot the weeds of sin and bad choices. It isn’t enough just to mow the weeds. Yank them out by the roots, repenting fully to satisfy the conditions of mercy. But being forgiven is only part of our growth. We are not just paying a debt. Our purpose is to become celestial beings. So once we’ve cleared our heartland, we must continually plant, weed, and nourish the seeds of divine qualities. And then as our sweat and discipline stretch us to meet His gifts, “the flow’rs of grace appear,” like hope and meekness. Even a tree of life can take root in this heart-garden, bearing fruit so sweet that it lightens all our burdens “through the joy of his Son.” And when the flower of charity blooms here, we will love others with the power of Christ’s own love.

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.
The Atonement: All for All, Bruce C. Hafen

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32 Responses to “Salvation”

  1. Kim Siever

    What are your thoughts on 2 Ne 2:4 when Lehi says “salvation is free”?

  2. Megan

    I think Lehi is referring to the resurrection there: all mankind will be resurrected, regardless of works or beliefs, age, race, gender, etc. Keep reading the next few verses: Lehi goes on to explain to Jacob about how the law demands justice (from the Fall) and how Christ provides that.

  3. Kim Siever

    Just resurrection?

    One of the footnotes in that verse refers to Jude 1:3, which goes on to discuss a common salvation.

    Do you think “common salvation” refers to just resurrection?

  4. Thaddeus

    Thank you for your comments, kim, and welcome to our blog.

    Along with the resurrection comes a nearly guaranteed position in one of the kingdoms of heaven. Telestial glory is still salvation, but not exaltation.

    I believe Megan is writing more about this, so I won’t try to go into further detail.

  5. Kim Siever

    That’s how I view it as well. Unfortunately, our gospel doctrine teacher didn’t see it that way when we discussed 2 Ne 2 a few weeks ago.

    I look forward to Megan’s comments.

  6. dave

    I would also like to add my thoughts to what has been written. The beginning of 2 Ne 2 is one of my favorite parts of scripture. I love verse 3, (i take the beginning part as a prophecy, not a commandment) “…and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer.”
    I think the scriptures make it clear that salvation-both spiritual and physical- is free, in that it doesn’t stem from our righteousness at all. Jacob would live his entire life in the service of God, but that’s not why Lehi knew he was redeemed. It was because of the righteousness of the Redeemer. It goes along well with the beginning of D&C 45, where Jesus pleads with the Father to spare us based on his own perfection, suffering, and death rather than an appeal to our righteousness.

    I’m glad that megan brought up that everyone will get resurrected (and be saved from death), no matter what they do. I think Lehi is talking about both “salvations,” because he also makes it clear that the only ones who receive the free salvation are those who are willing to join the Lord’s side. Thus, the offer is only “unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne 2:7)
    So does requiring the hearts of the people make salvation any less free? I don’t think so. It’s still free. I think it’s a little like offering unlimited free concert tickets, but you have to go pick them up.

  7. Thaddeus

    After giving it some more thought, I agree with Dave. Our payment, if we were to be paying for salvation, is suffering, similar to a criminal making restitution to society by sitting for years in prison.

    Salvation is free, in the sense that Jesus doesn’t require us to sit in any prison to purchase His grace. It is given only to the ‘truly penitent.’ Alma 42:24

  8. Bradley

    If our works are by grace (God’s grace working within us), and we didn’t do anything get “get” that grace, God just gives it freely, then isn’t the dichotomy between works and grace a false one?

    What do you Mormon’s think?

  9. Kim Siever

    Bradley,

    There is no dichotomy. The dichotomy was created by Evangelicals and Mormons who don’t understand Mormon doctrine. We are saved by God’s grace. We cannot save ourselves.

  10. Ben

    Kim, what a great response to an often misunderstood doctrine as you stated.

    Bradley and others, it is by God’s grace that we gain salvation, however, that does not exempt us from doing all that we can. If it wasn’t easy for Abraham, Moses, Noah, Peter, Paul etc, it shouldn’t be easy for us. I think that we would all agree that these men and many others, including women, weren’t passive in working towards salvation. They took an active role by trying to do all that God asked of them. We too, should do the same, hoping and having faith that God will save us.

  11. Kim Siever

    Totally agree, Ben. After all, wasn’t it James who said that faith without works is dead? Why have faith at all if it doesn’t motivate you to action? Why have faith in Jesus Christ if you aren’t going to follow his precepts or example?

  12. Bradley

    If grace is a power that works from within to cause an overflow of works, then not only is faith without works dead, but grace without works is not actually grace.

    What do you Mormons think?

  13. Jan

    Bradley,

    I think you are right– it is all interconnected. God inspires us to do good and Satan entices us to do evil. It is still our choice which direction we go, but it is in our choices, and the attending “works” that we choose either God or the Devil. When we show God that we choose Him by the works that we do (which, as you noted, are what He would do in the same situation), then He knows that we are sincere in our efforts and the atonement of Jesus Christ (or Grace) makes up the difference.

    There isn’t a point where one starts and the other stops, it is just a continuum.

  14. Bradley

    That’s encouraging to hear. So far, all our works are “by grace.” But it takes a will to choose to do the right thing, which determines whether we do good works or not. So now we have to determine whether our will’s are also aided by grace. I’ll put the question this way:

    If grace works on the human will, and the will determines our choices (which determine our actions and lifestyle), then not only does grace forgive us when we don’t do right (and “make up the difference”), but grace is always to credit whenever we will to choose, and in fact do choose, to do what is right.

    (that one’s a little harder to follow, but i trust you guys are willing and able, by God’s grace … ;)

    What do you Mormon’s think?

  15. Ben

    Bradley:

    I appreciate the questions and wanting to come discuss doctrines in a non-confrontational manner. Thank you. I am glad that we are having this conversation, because it has opened my eyes to how other Christian faiths understand grace.

    After reading your most current post I see that by grace you are referring to an inner power that encourages and impresses us to do that which is good. So, I want to explain something that is crucial to our doctrine. We believe that every person who is born into this world is given what is called the light of Christ (D&C 84:45, Moroni 7:16). You might call this conscience. This can work in us to help us choose that which is good. Here is a quote from the Book of Mormon, this is Mormon writing. He was the major compiler of the Book of Mormon:

    13 “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;” (Moroni 7:13,16)

    I think that this is what you are referring to by talking about grace in the context that you are.

    However, I need to make a very crucial point, and that is that we are free to choose. From your last post I understand that you think that it is grace that ultimately causes us to choose good. The problem with this reasoning Bradley, from the standpoint of the doctrine of our church, is that if grace or the light of Christ is what causes us to choose what is right then there is no choice and God is in essence forcing us to do what he wants. There are several problems with being forced to do that which is right. One of these if we are forced to do right then what is the need for faith? We would both agree that not all people do good or choose the right, so if the grace of God causes us to choose good, that must mean that God has hand selected a few to do good and he forces them to do it. If this is true, God is a respecter of persons and if he is a respecter of persons then how can I have faith in God? What use is there to have faith in God if I cannot have a surety that if I live according to the plan that he has outlined then I will be saved and that all others can too? I will always be wondering. However, I know that this cannot be the case because God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11).

    Bradley, we believe that we are free to choose (2 Nephi 2:27) and that right is given to us and it is a right that God cannot violate, because if he did, he would cease to be God (D&C 93:30, 2 Nephi 2:13-14) Yes the light of Christ or grace as you referred to it can help us to understand what is right, but ultimately, the choice is ours. God didn’t force Christ to work out the Atonement; he chose to do that. We too have to choose God and we have to choose to follow the light of Christ.

    Once again, thanks for your comments. However, I do have one request, when you end your posts will you please not end with “What do you Mormons think.” Thank you.

  16. Kendra

    I’ve been following this discussion and I hope you don’t mind me adding some thoughts.

    My first thoughts are best articulated from the text of a hymn called: “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free”:

    “Know this that every soul is free to choose his life and what he’ll be; for this eternal truth is given: That God will force no man to heaven.

    “He’ll call, persuade, direct aright, and bless with wisdom, love and light, in nameless ways be good and kind, but never force the human mind.

    “Freedom and reason make us men; take these away, what are we then? Mere animals, and just as well the beasts may think of heaven or hell.

    “May we no more our powers abuse, but ways of truth and goodness choose; our God is pleased when we improve His grace and seek his perfect love.”

    It is the grace of God that calls, persuades, and directs aright, however, there is no obligation on our part to follow these promptings and urges to do good and to obey our Father in Heaven. Truly we are free to choose what we’ll be and truly God is pleased when we choose to follow Him.

    Grace is a gift, and like any gift we must accept, receive and use the gift for it to have any influence on our lives. I think of the time when my uncle gave me a camera worth thousands of dollars. He, himself a photographer, knew the kinds of tools that I needed to also become a photographer. That gift, which cost him much, was freely given to me. But unfortunately I did not receive the gift. I remember thinking, I don’t have time to learn to use this camera right now because it wasn’t a simple aim and shoot it model. It took effort to use. So I sat it in a box on the shelf in my closet. To this day I have never used it and I am not a photographer.

    I think God’s grace works much the same way. The price (which was unfathomable to pay) was bought by our Savior’s sacrifice. It is freely given to all, but who will accept and use it?

    As has been said in previous comments before, we must do our part to have the divine power of grace work in our lives. In 2 Nephi 25:23 it says, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” In essence, grace must be accompanied by our total effort to follow God’s will to really work in our lives, or in other words it cannot suffice alone in bringing us to salvation. There must be both.

    God has given us not only the gift of grace, but also the gift of agency. He will never force the human mind, and thus it really is the one thing that we can offer to the Lord as a sacrifice…our submitting our wills to His. In this way we open ourselves up to be more in tune with Him and the promptings He sends to us through the Holy Ghost. When we choose to follow this divine assistance, we are enabled to be strengthened because of our obedience and it becomes easier to obey. However, because none of us are perfect (we all have weaknesses), we must strive to have this power in our lives by making a continual effort.

  17. Bradley

    Thanks for your gracious interaction and gratitude for my bringing up these important questions.

    I’m afraid what we have here is a difference in our operating definitions of “free will,” for I also believe in free will, and do not believe that God forces people to do ANYTHING against their will. Thus, what you see as implied in my question seems to be only implied if we operate from your framework of definition in discussing free will, which I’m afraid I do not share (although I believe in free will). The only way to settle this disagreement is by asking: What is “Free Will” according to the text of sacred scriptrue? (since the OT and NT canon are my final authority) I think it can be shown that God can change our will’s without violating our free will. To change something is not to violate it. To influence something is not to obliterate something. For God’s grace to so influence my will that I choose to do the right thing, does not, by biblical categories, contradict free will.

    Evidence suggests that in Jewish and Christian thought, actions done by “free will” are those that people do freely out of their own desire, as opposed to under compulsion, it’s opposite (e.g. Paul’s use in Philemon 16). Complusion is, to put is as simply as I can without getting to philosophical, when you do something because you have to, or out fear, or out of a sense of duty, not because you want to. This should be compared with “free will” offerings in the OT.

    NOTE: To designate only certain of the offerings as “free will” offerings as if the rest were not also free will offerings seems to raise an important question about the use of such language. This is an interesting way to designate an offering. It seems an appropriate question to ask: “If all human actions are done by free will, were not all the offerings which the people of Israel did unto the Lord “free will” offerings by definition, since they “did” them (and actions always follows choice)?

    It seems to me, then, that the biblical evidence lends to notions of free will which are contrasted with doing things out of a sense of duty or cumplusion rather than freely from the heart in accordance with one’s own desires. To choose to do the right things, then, would mean to choose to do them because that’s what you actually want to do. To choose God freely means you are not choosing him because you feel you “have to” or because it’s your “duty,” but out of true desire for Him. Analogies are imperfect, so don’t read too much into it, but it’s kind of like the difference between a man kissing his wife on the way out of the door out of mere routine and because he knows she will get mad if he does not, verses his kissing her with sincerity and love because he wants to kiss her. This is the difference between compulsion and free will as I understand it to be construed in Jewish thought, which was adopted by New Testament authors.

    IMPORTANT: In Jewish thought, the will per se is not spoken of much, but rather is bound up inextricably with a more common expression of the “heart.”

    But if the promise of the new covenant is that God will remove our stubborn hearts and replace them with more sensitive and obedient hearts, then God is actually promising to change our will’s, since they are a crucial component of Jewish categories for “heart.” Thus, in OT and NT biblical categories, part of God’s grace to us is his replacing our hearts with new one’s, and this is understood to be a supernatural work that HE does only to some, otherwise it would not be something promised as exclusive to the New Covenant.

    Operating in Jewish categories, then, one can say that God’s grace does not force people against their will to obey his commandments (compulsion), but rather, he changes their heart (and thereby their will, in Jewish thought) so that they actually freely will to love and obey him. This is a fundamental aspect of Jewish prophecy and New Testament soteriology.

    “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

    “I will MAKE them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will nto stumble; For I am a fatehr to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn” (Jeremiah 31:9).

    Surely you would not hold that the above verses mean that God will make them walk in a straight path against their will—yet God is promising that HE will be the one to MAKE them do this (i.e. it happens by his grace). This also happens to be a promise made only Israel in the context (cf. Jer 30:1-3, 9, 11, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 31:1, 7-9). God chose Israel and not other nations to be his people (Deut 10:14-15, cf. Rom 9). Therefore, in some sense, God does show partiality, otherwise he would have chosen all nations to be his people, not just Israel.

    Your definition of free will, in contrast to Jewish and Christian thought as portrayed in the biblical liturature, from which you judge my comments about God’s grace influencing the human will as implying that God forces people against their will, and from which you are arguing that if our will is “off limits” to the grace of God because otherwise he would be violating our “free will,” seems to define free will in a way quite out of synch with the biblical prophecies about the new heart, and the language of free will.

    I’m open to your disagreement, but only if it is biblical and not merely philosophical. Also, please do not continue to assume your definition of free will as a starting point to critiquing mine. Rather, let us pursue arguments for our definitions of free will to avoid circular reasoning and begging of the question.

    If God gives us new desires for righteousness by giving us a new heart, then those desires are both OURS (since he gave them to US), and God’s gracious gift (since HE GAVE them to us).

    Sorry about my “What do you Mormon’s beleive?” question, I guess I didn’t realize how condescending it sounds. Sorry!

    How do you guy’s understand the usage of language of free will in Jewish and NT thought, as it is understood in relation to the parallel language about the “heart,” and God’s New Covenant promises?

    “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. … for it is God who is at work IN YOU, BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK for His good pleasure.” – The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:29, 2:13).

  18. Ben

    Bradley:

    Thanks for the post and explaining how you see free will and I apologize if you felt that I was telling you that the way you see grace and free will was wrong. I wasn’t, I was trying to elucidate our church’s doctrine for you.

    The reason for this blog is to help educate people of other faiths about our often obscured beliefs. Many times we feel misinterpreted, therefore people write us off as a cult or sect or whatever and that we aren’t Christian. However, I think that you can see from our discussions that we believe that Christ is the only way to gain salvation and it is through the grace of God that we are able to do so.

    From your most recent post I can see that we share many of the same beliefs regarding free will and once again I apologize if you misread what I wrote. We both know that oftentimes thoughts and intents are correctly portrayed through writing.

    I think many times we are talking about many of the same things except we have different terminology and therein lies the difference. So we end up debating back and forth about this and that when in fact we already agree. Thanks for the clarifications.

  19. Thaddeus

    Bradley, correct me if I’m wrong, but when you say God’s grace changes our wills, you mean (in our language) that God is improving our motivation.

    At first we do things because we fear the consequences, next because it is our duty (grit your teeth and bear it), and finally, because we love. We love other people, we love our work, we love God. Transitioning from one motivation to another is largely out of our direct control. God helps lift our motivation through His grace.

    No matter how hard we concentrate, there are some things our ‘free will’ cannot control.

    Yes, this is what Mormons believe.

  20. Bradley

    Wow. As I see it, if you guys believe that even our good works, and corresponding will’s behind them, are all by God’s grace, there is no depreciating of God’s grace. If we see all our righteousness as coming from God, and coming from him “freely” (not as a response to some good thing we did), such that we do not deserve this gift of righteousness, but rather were given “new hearts” as a result of the promise of God (not a result of our working for it to get it), then you basically agree with the heart of Biblical soteriology, I think.

    That’s cool to discover. I wish I could have coffee with you guys or something sometime; it would be cool to see what else we agree on. I like your kind and charitable tone too. You’ve very quickly changed my opinion about Mormon’s. I will be eager to be more inquisitive in the future about your beliefs, and quick to defend them from misrepresentation as best I can.

  21. Thaddeus

    Thank you, also, for your kind tone in this discussion.

    I had just one more thought I wanted to clarify from my last comment. I said there are things beyond the direct control of our conscious wills. We lack the capacity to change our immediate motivations, but we do have the capacity to desire to change. When we present this desire to the Lord, He gives us the capacity to change, but only if we want it.

    I’m saying that God does not change our hearts until it becomes our desire.

    God respects our right to choose for ourselves, and then He facilitates the change.

  22. Megan

    I just wanted to jump in here and add my thanks to you too, Bradley. This has been a very interesting discussion for me to follow. I read your post clarifying your definition of free will and thought, “Yeah…that’s what we believe. I don’t see any problem here.” I hope you enjoy reading the other articles we’ve written here (for further discussion on the works and grace idea, look up the article I wrote a few months back titled “Works and Grace”) and feel free to comment on any of them! Welcome!

  23. Bradley

    Thaddeus,

    Thanks for your clarification.

    “I’m saying that God does not change our hearts until it becomes our desire. God respects our right to choose for ourselves, and then He facilitates the change.”

    Well … I guess after all of my attempts at making my question clear (to which I thought you were agreeing before you made that clarification), we don’t agree after all. Shucks. I really, really badly wanted to end on a basic agreement.

    However, perhaps it is encouraging to note that this is a debate/disagreement that Protestants are quite used to having, only not with Mormon’s, but with one another. In other words, Christian friends of mine would hold the same thing you do about the limits of God’s gracious power, and would understand grace to come as a result of their choice for it rather than their choice for it coming from grace.

    Reviving the interesting discussion …

    I tried to make clear in my comments (I could use some pointers on how to make it more clear) that I see the notion that God waits on our hearts to desire Him in the right way before he gives us grace and changes us as imposing extra-textual, non-Jewish categories on soteriology that seem at odds with Jewish soteriology. Rather, I see the biblical witness as teaching that God actually gives us new hearts that desire after Him, to love him and keep his commandments. This seems to be the inevitable conclusion from the biblical material of Jewish thought and language surrounding ideas of God’s intervention in the hearts of his people.

    Whereas you believe that God “waits” for us to make the decision, then moves in with grace to change the heart, I see the decision itself as God’s grace also. I see the biblical Jewish witness (which Jesus adopted and the Apostles followed and amplified even) advancing a notion that God first moves in the heart with grace (giving new hearts) and our desire and choices to love and follow him come as the result of that grace—-not the other way around.

    As I understand, although you guys have other writings which define your dogma, you also believe the Bible to be part of your authoritative canon. If so, perhaps you can take a second look at the sample verses I offered (along with the analysis of Jewish thought in general) and help me understand how you guys would see me as misunderstanding these verses:

    “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

    “I will MAKE them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will nto stumble; For I am a fatehr to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn” (Jeremiah 31:9).

    “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. … for it is God who is at work IN YOU, BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK for His good pleasure.” – The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:29, 2:13).

    I can think of another 14 or so verses off the top of my head that speak to this same effect, but I don’t find it necessary to pile on verse after verse.

    What do Mormon’s make of these notions found so readily within Jewish soteriology? How does your tradition understand these verses? How do you guys understand them?

    Appreciating your elucidation,

    Bradley

  24. Bradley

    Megan,

    Thank you too! :)

    I must read your article in due time. Perhaps if you read my comments and agreed, this is a difference also among different brands of Mormon’s, and not something which defines Christian Protestant dogma or Mormon dogma per se. So … perhaps I can end on a note of agreement after all!

    I’m still trying to get over the fact that Mormon’s believe in Jesus. Your posts on soteriology seem strikingly parallel in my opinion to Christian thought. I want to say Mormon’s really are my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I suppose I need more time to elucidate what may be a deeper disagreement in our understanding of God, salvation, etc. As should be clear from my recent interaction with Thaddeus, sometimes we can be thinking that we are agreeing and really be holding views quite at odds. Interesting how that works.

    Thanks for your gracious comments. I can feel the love on this blog. :)

    Bradley

  25. Thaddeus

    Bradley,

    This is a topic that isn’t frequently raised among Mormons. Rather than focusing on who does what for salvation, our eyes are on the goal: becoming like Christ.

    I agree with Jan, who posted earlier that our efforts and Christ’s efforts to make us holy aren’t compartmentalized, but represent a continuum. It means knitting our hearts together with God’s and yielding to the influence of the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

    His grace can have an impact on us; He can influence us, but He will not force our hands. Our decisions are our own, for happiness or for misery.

    The choice to follow God is always ours to make. As Joshua declared, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve;…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

  26. dave

    Thad, great comment! And everyone. Man, these have been excellent posts. And Bradley, loved the post on free will. It’s so good that I’m tempted to post it as a new article on “what Mormons believe about free will.” In the conversion process, I think it goes both ways. You’re right, Bradley, that God isn’t just a secretary that sits around and waits till we call. He acts in our lives to make the invitation. We are influenced because we feel God in some way. (For instance, Peter’s preaching to the people in Acts 1 that caused them to cry “men and brethren, what shall we do?” Or in the Book of Mormon Mosiah chapter 4, where King Benjamin’s speech causes the people to all cry out “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…”
    Both of those are examples of how God’s spirit can touch people’s hearts so that they want to follow Him.
    But there has to be a choice made somewhere, because look around: there are (and have been) millions of people everywhere who reject Jesus Christ even after having felt His influence. What about them? If the will to follow God came solely from His influence, then you’d have to conclude that God just didn’t influence them enough, that He didn’t want them to accept Him.
    I’m not saying you believe that. I think it’s like you said, “To influence something is not to obliterate something.” Even having been invited, people still have to choose to follow God. Some do, some don’t. We believe that God will give everyone an equal opportunity to accept it, by influencing and inviting.

  27. Bradley

    I believe in free will.
    I believe people must make a choice, freely, to follow Christ.
    I believe that God cannot force someone against their will to choose Christ.

    I believe all this, and also believe that if someone ever comes to choose Christ, it’s only because the Holy Spirit has healed their will, only because God has replaced their heart with one that would be willing to freely choose Christ.

    So … anytime someone hears what I believe, and says “Yeah, but I believe you have to make a choice, etc,” I realize that they are defining free will and free choice differently than I do, for I see no tension between God being the sufficient cause of one’s choosing freely, and their choosing freely. I see no contradiction in saying that each person must choose for him or herself, yet if they choose, it’s because the Spirit of God has effectively moved their hearts to choose, and that God is to be given the credit whenever someone chooses to come to Christ.

    “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – Jesus (John 6:29)

    It’s someone’s choice, yet, it’s God’s work.

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – Jesus (John, 6:44).

    “But there are some of you who do not believe. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is grated him by the Father.” – Jesus (John 6:64-65).

    The only way anyone could choose to come to Jesus is if the Father “draws” him. If the Father “draws” him or her, this same person will be raised on the last day. None are lost.

    “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – Jesus (John 6:45).

    So much for those who have “heard” from God and refuse to respond. Jesus say’s if you’ve heard, you will respond by coming to Jesus.

    That’s the way I understand Jesus teachings, Paul’s teachings, and Jewish Monotheism’s soteriology.

    Any thoughts on these verses? (cf. previous comments on Jewish soteriology and language about God making people do the right thing and granting them new hearts)

    I am pleased that you don’t think God waits for us to respond, but that he begins to work on the heart before we ever respond. I am also pleased by the “Salvation in a Nut Shell” post you guys did. I am both shocked to hear you sharing the gospel in the same basic way we evangelicals do, and curious whether there is not some major difference between our beliefs that just hasn’t come out through that post. You guys have really peaked my interest.

    Bradley

  28. dave

    Bradley,

    I get the impression that when we talk of ultimately having to choose Christ, you think that we are claiming some credit for our own salvation. We don’t. We agree with you “that God is to be given the credit whenever someone chooses to come to Christ.”

    “Every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16 ).

    This is why almost every time I’ve heard LDS people describe having done something good, they almost always describe being “prompted” to do it by the Holy Ghost. We don’t claim credit for the good things we do. In that sense, God is the “cause” for exercising our free will.

    To answer your question, I interpret the scriptures you have quoted as a description of the change of heart that God gives you during the process of being converted to Christ and his gospel; a process that comes about as we accept the invitation that He gives us through his spirit, and allow him to work in our hearts.

    I’m willing to accept that we disagree on free will, but I’m still not sure we do. We think that God invites, entices, and persuades, but we definitely believe that, as Nephi said,

    “there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away…” ( 2 Nephi 33:2 , see also Acts 19 , Jer 7)

    So just to restate my question from earlier: why are there people who do not accept Christ?

    We would answer that God gives everyone an equal chance to accept him, and that those people have hardened their hearts, and chosen not to let God work in them. What do you think?

  29. Bradley

    Dave,

    Thanks for the response. The reason why I assume we still disagree is because of statements like the one’s you just made. For God to “prompt” us is one thing, like Mother prompting her son to “do the right thing” by all the means of persuasion she has access to. For a Mother to supernaturally change her son’s heart so that he actually desired to do the right thing—this is something different. It goes beyond persuasion.

    Also I assume we disagree because of the clarifying comments made whenever I describe how I understand God to work. The clarifying statements go something like this: But if God works that way, people who don’t choose him could say it’s God’s fault since God didn’t “grant” them to believe. Other clarifying comments go something like the one you just made: I believe God gives everyone equal chance to choose or believe in Christ.

    I understand the starting point of all sinners (that’s everyone) as worthy of nothing but God’s wrath. Thus, God is not obligated to do anything for anyone—not even “equal opportunity” (as we are used to in America). God doesn’t seem to work that way in the Bible. He chose the Jews from among the nations of the earth and let the others go their own way. He draws some and not others (see verses I quoted previously, “no man can come to me unless …). God’s never been “fair” in the sense of choosing everyone equally or revealing himself equally to all people. God didn’t choose the Jews because they happened to be the only people on the face of the earth who were willing to “let” him reveal himself. That’s not the way the story goes. In Deut 10-11 God makes the point that he chose them from among the nations NOT because anything they have done.

    Thus, I hold to free will AND God’s infallible grace. I believe that all people naturally do not choose Christ, but rather they naturally harden their hearts. Thus, if anyone comes to Christ, it is because the Father who sent Christ grants to them to believe and gives them a heart that chooses Him. If anyone ends up not being saved, it’s because of their own hard hearts. Thus, God effectually intervenes on behalf of some (but not because of anything they did), and leaves others right were they always were—hardened (cf. Romans 9:16).

    Sorry my thoughts are so rushed; trying to get to bed on time.

    Hope that helps explain why I still sense a difference in they way we understand salvation. However, many of my Christian friends hold the same notions you do, so I don’t believe this is essential to the gospel. What is essential to the gospel is the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and Lordship of Christ.

    Does that help?

    Bradley

  30. dave

    Bradley,

    Your post does help, and I think you’re right; we do disagree on that point.

    Also just wanted to say it’s been great having this conversation. I appreciate all the time and energy you spend asking genuine questions about what Mormons believe and giving well thought-out explanations of your own beliefs. I hope you find the blog helpful in the future if you ever have any questions.

  31. Bradley

    You too Dave. I think i’ve been this thread to death. Glad you found it helpful as I did.

    Thanks all for your interaction. This has been my first real interaction with LDSaints, and it’s changed my perception significantly and sparked great interest.

    Thanks especially for non-divisive non-condescending tone.

    Bradley

  32. Rebecca Garret

    What about the verse in Rev 22:18-19? Does that apply to the Book of Mormons?

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