Friday, June 15, 2007

3rd Annual Meet an Anti in Manti

I was in Manti last night to see the doings. A few things were immediately noticeable:
1. The LDS crowd was pretty small. It may have been a normal size crowd for a Thursday, but there were 5,000 or less folks there, based on the large number of empty chairs.
2. The anti's are about as they always are: Not all that informed.
2.A. I saw Aaron S., the fanatically reformed faith "missionary" who advocates God as the ultimate narcissist, and his attack on people in the LDS Church who speculate God may have been a man who actually sinned when he was a man is laughable. As anyone knows who actually, carefully reads the King Follett Discourse, which is the only document we have by a president of the Church supposedly under inspiration (I say supposedly not because I doubt it is inspired, but because it is not accepted as scripture, so the degree of inspiration is what is in question.), Joseph says the Father lived on a planet and lived a sinless life which Jesus Christ modeled his own life after.

"The Scriptures inform us that Jesus said, As the Father hath power in Himself, even so hath the Son power-to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious-in a manner to lay down His body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. " Joseph Smith, TotPJS

Seems pretty clear to me.

My favorite Aaron S. line was the following: "God is so great, even he cannot praise himself more than he is deserving to be praised." Well, at least we have established there are things even the Reformed God cannot do. I love this line of reasoning. It completely ignores that god cannot force our obedience.

2b. I was trying to get Aaron S. to respond to Rev. 1:6's statement in the King James Version which reads: Jesus has "made us kings and priests unto god and his father." So does god have a Father? According to this verse he does. So while I am trying to get Aaron S. to respond, a woman walks up to me and says "I can answer that question for you." I said great. As we discussed it she informed me she knew grammar, and that the God was actually Jesus, and the Father was the Father. She then tried to prove the Book of Mormon teaches a trinitarian god, and a young LDS girl, probably about 14, walked up and listened, and started to ask a question, and the woman told her not to interrupt. So after she cited Alma 11, and 3 Nephi 20:35, I said, "if your point is the Book of Mormon is promoting a trinitarian doctrine, then it could not possibly contain the doctrine of exaltation of men to become like God, right?" She said "Yes". I said, "let's read 3 Nephi 28:10: And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;"
She said that had nothing to do with exaltation or being like God, and so we read the next verse:
"11 And the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of me." "Clearly the conversation is about the godhead, since all three persons of the Godhead are discussed right there, even if you don't want to comprehend the English words of verse 10." The lady got a twisted look on her face, then snapped at the young LDS girl, "I don't like your attitude." The girl said, "I didn't even say anything." The woman replied "It's rude for you to smile just because you think he's proved his point." At that point the LDS laughed, and I had the honor of Bill McKeever walking up to me.
3. Not all anti's are created equally. McKeever walked up and said I was a deceitful, deceiving person, and was there just to confuse people. Of course, his mean spiritedness was such that I grabbed my camcorder and told him to please repeat himself so I could get it on film. Pretty funny. The best discussion which anti's try to use all the time is citing Moroni 10:32.

Here is how their reasoning goes:
If Jesus' grace is only sufficient if we are obedient and cast off sin, you don't really need grace, nor do you really have a chance to be saved. They say we, in effect, create our own grace.

Unfortunately, they conspicuously ignore verse 33:
"33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."
Perfection in Christ is done through Grace, and the atonement of Christ. Which is precisely the message of 2 Nep 25:23
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

The last point is when they attack the phrase "after all we can do". Anti's like to speak of this phrase as if it is a command that we must do everything, then grace saves us. It is the opposite. No matter how much we do, it will never be enough, so we must be reconciled to God and have faith in Christ to be saved, which is by grace. We did not earn it.

More after tonight's pageant.


Eric Hoffman said...

Bob the anti anti said:
The last point is when they attack the phrase "after all we can do". Anti's
like to speak of this phrase as if it is a command that we must do
everything, then grace saves us. It is the opposite. No matter how much we
do, it will never be enough, so we must be reconciled to God and have faith
in Christ to be saved, which is by grace. We did not earn it.

Let's see what LDS church officials said about this:

"We have discussed elsewhere that other class of people who are basically
unrepentant because they are not 'doing the commandments.' They are Church
members who are steeped in lethargy.They are doing nothing seriously wrong
except in their failures to do the right things to earn their salvation"
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp.211-212).

"Many in the world, and even some in the Church, seem to think that
eventually the Lord will be merciful and give them the unearned blessing.
But the Lord cannot be merciful at the expense of justice" (Spencer W.
Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 223).

"They [Mormon missionaries] made clear distinction between general salvation
or resurrection from the grave and individual salvation or exaltation earned
by a man through his compliance with the laws of God. They taught that there
are preferential places in heaven as there are on earth and that the highest
place or Celestial Kingdom could be attained only by those who faithfully
subscribe to and keep all the laws and ordinances Of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ and thereby entitle themselves to come into the presence of our God
and Jesus Christ, His Son" (Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, April
1941, pp.102-103, brackets mine).

There will be no government dole which can get us through the pearly gates.
Nor will anybody go into the celestial kingdom who wants to go there on the
works of someone else. Every man must go through on his own merits. We might
just as well learn this here and now" (Marion G. Romney, "In Mine Own Way",
Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1976, p.123).

"Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then
they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, 'for we
know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.'" (James
Faust, Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2001, p.18).

"There are but few that will be absolutely lost, and that will go with the
sons of perdition. Nearly all will be saved in some degree of glory and
salvation, just according to what they have earned. That is what we shall
receive finally" (Francis M. Lyman, Conference Report, April 1910,

"The Lord has given to every individual soul power, if he will but exercise
it and do the will of the Lord, to earn eternal life" (Francis M. Lyman,
Collected Discourses 4:243).

".after we have been recorded members of the Church we must then work out
our salvation and earn eternal life, for it is not obtained without earning
it" (Francis Lyman, Conference Report, October 1899, p.35).

"If men are to be rewarded according to their works, then since the works of
men vary, the judgments of God must differ. That leads to the doctrine of
graded salvation. Every person will inherit a glory of salvation, which will
be the one that he has earned" (John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith--Seeker after
Truth, Prophet of God, p.170.)

"In reality, this doctrine means that we earn and must earn what we get.
Salvation must be earned. The plan of salvation is of value to us only as we
conform, actively, to its requirements. It has been so throughout the
eternities of existence. The spirit of man, seeking progress, has toiled and
striven to rise towards his high destiny, the likeness of God. The privilege
to come on earth was earned by him. Earth-life was not forced upon him, nor
did he receive it as a gift. That doctrine lifts man into the position of
kingship. He has labored and won. His battle has resulted in victory. He has
the right to walk among kings. This is one of the great doctrines, often
forgotten, laid down in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" (John A.
Widtsoe, An Understandable Religion, pp.81-82.)

"This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on
eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.
Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and
also because of man's weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot
suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the
explanation, 'It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Ne.
25:23)" (LDS Bible Dictionary, p.697).

"Indeed, it is only after a person has so performed a lifetime of works and
faithfulness - only after he has come to deny himself of all ungodliness and
every worldly lust - that the grace of God, that spiritual increment of
power, is efficacious" (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet,
Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 1:295).

"After we have done all that we can do, after we have denied ourselves of
ungodliness and worldly lusts, then is the grace of God sufficient for us;
then we are sanctified in Christ and eventually made perfect in Christ (see
2 Nephi 25:23; Moroni 10:32)" (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L.
Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 2:258).

"The perfect relationship between the atoning grace of Christ and the
obedient efforts of mankind is powerfully stated by Nephi: 'We know that it
is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Nephi 25:23).
Furthermore, we are invited to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.'
When we deny ourselves 'of all ungodliness,' then and only 'then is his
grace sufficient' for us (Moroni 10:32)" (BYU Assistant Professor Clyde J.
Williams, "Plain and Precious Truths Restored," Ensign, October 2006, p.53).

"It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we
desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such
blessings must be earned" (Thomas Monson, "An Invitation to Exaltation,"
Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p.53).

Sounds like work to me...

-Eric Hoffman

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Eric Hoffman wrote:
"Sounds like work to me..."
Well, yes, in the "If you love me, keep my commandments"(Jn 14:15),"And being made perfect, [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;"(Heb. 5:9), "but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Mark 13:13), way.

Eric, you know I have chastised you on several occasions for distorting the message of Mormonism, and President Kimball's teachings in The Miracle of Forgiveness in Particular. Mormons believe obedience and Grace are required for salvation, and this is clearly taught by President Kimball:

"This makes clear the two facets, neither of which alone would bring the individual salvation the grace of Christ, particularly as represented by his atoning sacrifice, and individual effort. However good a person's works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else's sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel." Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness , p.201


Suzanne said...

Hi Bob: I came upon your sight today and have enjoyed reading through some of it. On this post though, I wanted to offer the following. I'm LDS. This may just be semantics, but I'd like to put it out there anyway.

The LDS bible dictionary defines Grace as "a divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ." It goes on to say that Grace is "an enabling power". And, that those who exercise faith and willingness to repent, then "receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means."

To me, when I combine this with the 4th Article of Faith, I understand (and my living, breathing experience has been) that the ability to do good works comes from that "enabling power", from that "strength and assistance" which is Grace. And it is accessed through my faith, and my willingness to repent.

I say "willingness to" repent, because we even receive enabling power to fully repent, if we are willing to confess and ask for help. The sacrament prayer says, "...that they are willing to take upon him the name of thy Son". It doesn't say that "they have the willpower to.." Or "that they have the intestinal fortitude to .."

The truth is, (well, my truth is ..) I don’t have the ability, in my own strength (without divine enabling power), to bring good behavior to the Lord. And the answer for me isn’t to "dig deep".

It’s instead to avail myself of this Enabling Power by turning to my Heavenly Father and my Savior, and saying, as Peter did when he was sinking, Help! Or, the woman who was taken with the issue of blood, who just reached out and touched the hem of Christ.

But, this calling out for Help is a form of work. It’s the work of humility. The work of letting the Lord see that in fact, I don't entirely have my act together. It's the work of letting go of my need to be perfect in my own strength. It’s an ongoing cognitive shift in my “natural man, I can do it myself paradigm”.

It’s understanding that self-sufficiency in many contexts is a great thing. But, in the context of doing “good works”—I am not sufficient. But, He is. And He will help me. And he will accept me when I fall short. And somehow in my clumsiness, He will be glorified.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I think you have a healthy perspective. I would point out that the Book of Mormon agrees with your assessment that it is by Grace we are saved, after all we can do, and further, ends by telling us that it is by Grace we are perfected in Christ.

However, I also want to nuance this a little. People CAN do good works on their own, without the need of conversion first. We are influenced by both evil and good, which is the nature of agency. And we all have personalities, including the natural man, which is selfish. Yet Christ specifically taught that even evil people can do selfless good deeds (Matt 7:11). This is explicitly described in Genesis 3:22 when our knowledge of good and evil is said to be like God's. The Spirit of God strives with man to draw us to want to do good (Phil 2:13), but God cannot make us do good. But I think he enables us to see how choosing "good" is "good" and brings joy and light to not just our lives, but to those around us.

Grace is an enabling power. It is also something which is not required of God. He did not need to create the world for us to redeem us. He did so out of love. Christ had no need to die for us. He did that out of love. He provides his Spirit to guide us out of love, not obligation. He forgives us because he loves us. We are wicked, dirty, and he did not need to extend the gift of forgiveness and life.

Of ourselves, we could live a billion years, become flawless, highly intellectually evolved and committed believers of the principles we follow. And it still would only qualify us for outer darkness without the atonement of Christ.

People fail to recognize what a covenant is: It is a contract between two parties who each have something to do. Jesus Christ is the Savior of all those who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9). If he convinces us to obey him by using powers greater than temptation's ability to tempt us, then no one could righteously be judged and condemned. Because if we are condemned by a lack of the Spirit influencing us to do good, when we started out evil, then Jesus is really selectively saving his children, which is Calvinism. God says he wants to save all of his Children (1 Tim 2:4), and in fact the Bible teaches that Christ HAS justified all of Mankind (Romans 5:18). Therefore WE must have a roll in choosing God, even as he sends us His Spirit to more fully recognize and enjoy doing the good he tries to influence us to do.

I hope this clarifies my view on this.

JediMormon said...

(Catching breath after that last post, lol. Why is it anti-Mormons think that more volume equals more proof?)
Interesting site, BTW. I check it out frequently.
To my point now: I don't consider myself much of a scriptorian (sp?), but your explanation of "for it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" is right in line with my take on what that verse is saying. I've often heard Sunday School teachers and others present it as "if we have done ALL we can, THEN grace steps in to take us the rest of the way." If that were the case, few LDS--or anyone else, for that matter--would be saved. I've always thought that even among LDS, 2 Nephi 25:23 was one of the most misunderstood verses in scripture. Understood correctly, it provides powerful evidence against the anti-Mormon clams that LDS think we can get to heaven by works alone.