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FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 6 – Mercy

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Bondage without Atonement

These stages of salvation are all brought about by the atonement of Christ. Nothing is possible without it. In the church we frequently talk about how children who die before the age of accountability are saved in the Celestial Kingdom, having no need for any of the ordinances. But we must understand that even children could not be saved in any measure without the Atonement. To understand this we must look back to the first stage; Resurrection. Without the Atonement no one could be resurrected, and thus at death we would return to being a spirit for all eternity. The pain and disappointment this would cause would be an eternal torment. The scriptures even refer to this condition as being in bondage. “For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.” (D&C 45: 17)

“For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” (D&C 138: 50). The thought of being without our bodies, even temporarily, is a terrifying thought to all who understand the truth.

 

The Mercy of God

When we understand this progression of salvation, and who is saved at each stage, we begin to see more clearly the true mercy of God. Many view God as punishing those who are cast out, or who do not attain all levels of salvation. But God does not really punish anyone. God loves us and does not want to see any of his children suffer. We know that for the wicked to be in the presence of God would cause them greater torment than to be cast out. The scriptures testify that the wicked will seek to hide from His face and would that the rocks would cover them rather than stand in God’s presence. So, in His infinite mercy God will draw us as close to Himself as He possibly can in order to cause us the least amount of suffering. To cast us farther would be unjust, but to draw us closer would be unmerciful.

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FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 5 – Exaltation

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Exaltation (Eternal Life)

But Sanctification is not the final stage. Once we are sanctified we must continue faithful in the gospel to attain the highest level of salvation. As Nephi wrote

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31: 19-20)

This final stage Nephi refers to as Eternal Life, which is what it is commonly called in the church. However, I will refer to it by another name: Exaltation. This exaltation is attained by receiving every ordinance and entering into every covenant of gospel, the last being the eternal covenant of marriage. God has revealed that “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.” (D&C 131:1-3) This exaltation is to have everything that God has, to be like Him, having a continuation of lives, and thus is salvation from an eternally stagnant life.

FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 4 – Sanctification

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Sanctification

We have seen that the first stage (resurrection and intersession) is given to everyone who lives on this earth. We have also seen how Justification is also given to everyone who does not come out in open rebellion. These are universal effects of the atonement. As the hymn says

No creature is so lowly,

No sinner so depraved,

But feels thy presence holy

And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,

They feel thy love’s embrace;

The very foes who slay thee

Have access to thy grace.

 

But, even though these things are universally given to all men, the last two stages of salvation are only made possible for those who properly seek them. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants “that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true” which tells us that all are justified. But we then read that “sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.” (D&C 20: 30-31) Thus we see that sanctification, unlike justification, is contingent on our personal worthiness, and it is this sanctification that is the third stage of our salvation.

To be sanctified means that one is set apart, or consecrated as being Holy unto God. The process of Sanctification is fairly well outlined in the Fourth Article of Faith, as it is these first principles that sanctify us. Jesus taught the Nephite Disciples that “this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” (3 Nephi 27: 20) So, those who believe in Christ must then repent, and be baptized. Then, when they are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, this gift sanctifies them and makes them holy.

This sanctification is the narrow gate that leads to the Celestial Kingdom and eternity with God the Father. It is salvation from endless separation from our Father. Only those who are born of water and the spirit will inherit this gift, and then only if they endure to the end.

FULL EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT: part 3 – Justification

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Justification

After the resurrection and intercession of Christ, then comes the judgment. Here, again, I think many people miss the full scope of the effects of the Atonement. At the judgment all men will be justified, with the exception of those Sons of Perdition that come out in open defiance of God. Paul, in writing to the Romans, made this very clear. He writes “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5: 18)

Let that sink in for a moment. All men are justified, thus all men will have their sins forgiven them. That is a free gift of the Atonement. Nothing we do can ever earn us forgiveness of sins, nor can we in anyway pay for this forgiveness. It is a free gift to all, with that one exception of those who come out in open defiance against God, for Christ himself declared in Matthew that “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men…neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matthew 12: 31-32) So, justification is a free universal gift to all men, and this is salvation from the Second Spiritual death.

Through this justification men are raised out of Hell and brought into either the Telestial or Terrestrial glories. Those who receive of the Telestial are they who are truly wicked. John describes them as “…fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars…” (Revelation 21: 8). They will be the last to receive this justification through the Atonement, as the Lord told Joseph Smith “These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.” (D&C 76: 85). Those who receive of the Terrestrial the Lord describes as “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men…These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” (D&C 76: 75, 79). These were good men in mortality, but did not follow the fullness of the gospel.

Again let all this sink in. All but one sin will be forgiven eventually. The vilest murderer will be forgiven and justified, saved from the second spiritual death. This is true for, even though they will never return to the presence of the Father again, they will be ministered to by the Holy Ghost (D&C 76: 86), who is God, or a member of the Godhead. Thus even murderers will not be completely separated from that Divine influence. And thus the only ones that will suffer the second death are those sons of perdition that I mentioned earlier. The Lord has told us that “These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone…the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord…” (D&C 76: 36-38)

FULL SCOPE OF THE ATONEMENT: part 2 – Resurrection

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

Four Stages of Salvation

It is by the Atonement that salvation comes to mankind. So, to understand the full scope of the Atonement we must look at salvation and learn what it is. I find that this is easiest when we look at salvation as coming in four levels, or stages. I call the first Resurrection and Intersession; the second Justification; the third Sanctification; and the fourth and greatest Exaltation. These stages or levels are all made possible through the Atonement, and they come to us in the order that I have listed them. Each stage brings us salvation in some form, and each form is different. Let us look at each of these stages more closely.

 

Resurrection and Intersession

It is well known in the church that all who are born on this earth will be resurrected; that their spirit and physical body will be joined forever in immortality.  This is salvation from physical death, which is an effect of the fall of Adam.

It is less well known that the Intersession of Christ will bring all who are born on this earth back into the presence of the Father. This is salvation from the First Spiritual Death, which is defined as separation from God (Gospel Topics: Death, Spiritual at www.lds.org).

We know that both physical and spiritual death are the result of the Fall of Adam, as Alma tells us “the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.” (Alma 42: 9) By this we also know that it was part of God’s plan to not only redeem us from the physical death, but from the spiritual death as well.

It is by the Atonement that salvation from these two deaths is made possible. While we all know everyone will be saved from physical death through the resurrection, Lehi taught us that “because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him.” (2 Nephi 2: 10) Thus all men are redeemed from the spiritual death through the intercession of Christ.

 

THE FULL SCOPE OF THE ATONEMENT: Part 1 – Grace

5 Sep

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you. I am posting it in six parts, each being fairly brief, so have fun and let me know what you think.

Grace, Resurrection, Justification, Sanctification, Exaltation, Mercy

 

When speaking of the Atonement we must first remember that it is a specific event. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Christ took upon himself the sins of the world. It ended when Christ was resurrected and glorified at the right hand of God. The Atonement was completed by Christ and is finished. We should not think of it as an ongoing event or process, nor should we think that anything we do can affect the Atonement in any way. Only Christ could perform the work necessary, and we are eternally indebted to him for doing so.

 

Grace: The Medium

However, while the Atonement is finished, its effect can be felt in our lives and continues to bless mankind throughout all ages. But, there must be a medium through which the Atonement is connected to our lives. That medium is what we refer to as Grace. Grace is the catalyst or activating agent, through which the effects of the atonement are applied to our lives.

In describing Grace the church writes:

“Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, everyone who has lived will be resurrected—our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never again to be separated. Through His grace, the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.

Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” Gospel Topics: Grace at www.lds.org

Thus all things come through grace, and without this activating power the Atonement would have no effect in our lives. We must remember this as we learn of the Atonement and what it does for each of us.

Little Known Propaganda: 12 – Personal Relationship With Jesus

8 Feb

This is my continuing responses to the list of “little known facts” referenced at the blog Sound Doctrine. On this blog the author presents the list along with responses to each from a F.A.I.R. Mormon scholar, known only as CleanCut. In addition the author of this blog, known as Damon, gives a response to CleanCut. As I said in my introduction blog, I am writing a response to each fact in a lengthy series. I will not, however, comment on what CleanCut or Damon said.

See also Fact #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11

FACT #12. Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie has warned his people against a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

McConkie made these shocking statements at a speech given at BYU:

“… gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous. . . . Now, I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. . . .But you have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine taught.” (Church News, week ending March 20, 1982, p. 5)

In opposition to this, Jesus gives us a personal invitation:

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 

I have read the talk that is being quoted here, and I will agree that this is likely unknown to the vast majority of the world. I think the best way to address this is to simply let Elder McConkie explain himself. So, we will first see the quote in its context. After all, the quote given is actually taken from three different parts of the talk, and are separated by a great deal of further explanation.

 

“There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.”

So, Elder McConkie is, first of all, speaking of an over the top Zeal that is truly fanaticism, which is never healthy.

“I say perilous because this course, particularly in the lives of some who are spiritually immature, is a gospel hobby which creates an unwholesome holier-than-thou attitude. In other instances it leads to despondency because the seeker after perfection knows he is not living the way he supposes he should.

“Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed…”

Here we are told why it is perilous. It causes arrogance and pride in those who seek it, or such depression that it hinders their functioning. The Bible tells us that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18) Is it any wonder that we are warned against such actions?

Please note that we have not even touched on the second part of the quote given, and we have gone through three paragraphs. We now skip down four more paragraphs before we get to the second part of the quote.

“Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red schoolhouse. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshipers will not step.”

So, again, we have Elder McConkie speaking against an improper relationship. There is a proper, personal relationship we can have with Christ, but once we step over that line to seek an improper relationship, that is when we are in danger.

“It is true that there may, with propriety, be a special relationship with a wife, with children, with friends, with teachers, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky and the lilies of the valley. But the very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of his devotion, to the exclusion of the others, that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason.”

And here we get the full point of all of this. The personal relationship with Christ becomes improper when we seek that over the other members of the Godhead. When our devotion to Christ overshadows our devotion, veneration, and worship of the Father we have stepped over the line and are in peril.

Then, jumping down four more paragraphs, Elder McConkie tells us this.

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

When we try to remove the reverence between us and God in a desire for a personal relationship with Christ we dishonor the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we maintain that reverential barrier we strengthen ourselves spiritually.

 

I think this is sufficient to show the true intent of Elder McConkie’s words. He is not saying we shouldn’t have a relationship with Christ, even a personal one. He is saying that we should not have an improper relationship that removes the reverential respect and excludes the rest of the Godhead from our devotions. I honestly don’t see how any Christian could even disagree with this, let alone complain about it.

 

On a final note, none of this contradicts anything in the Bible. The specific quote given tells us to come to Christ, which we should do; but we should do so with reverential respect, never forgetting that He is the Son, not the Father.