Getting some “Fair” Attention Part 2, by Stephen Livings.

4th Watch

In response to the comments made about my June Ensign Review, on the Fairblog Podcast there are a few points I’d like to make.

Firstly, Ned Scarisbrick spends some time looking at my comments on what James Faust had said regarding the expectations of parents to bring up their children in the LDS vein. He agrees that my interpretation, that there can be great pressure on LDS parents and that people can feel very uncomfortable when their children don’t follow the LDS path, is probably true in many cases but that this is a cultural aspect of the LDS way of life and not a doctrinal point. I agree that this is not a doctrinal point, but in discussions with Mormons we often hear or read the expression: ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’. Well, surely these ‘fruits’ are worth examining.

Don’t forget that in his article, James Faust was himself describing some aspects of LDS culture. As it was my remit to review the June Ensign, and being a former Mormon myself, I don’t see it as a problem to comment on these aspects of the article. Is it surprising that, when striving to fulfil all the commands of LDS teachings in order to reach the celestial kingdom, a culture of comparison of people’s behaviour emerges? I think not, and as Mr Scarisbrick acknowledges, this is human nature. Human nature plus a belief system that states that we can only be saved ‘after all we can do’ is very likely to result in such a culture.

In understanding this culture of fear and shame about LDS family members who “leave the flock” it is important to remember that this culture is built on the teachings of LDS leaders. Remember that prophets speak God’s word. So when they say: “I want to bear testimony that no apostate who ever left this Church ever prospered as an influence in his community thereafter” and “You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell.” (from Prophets Harold B Lee and Brigham Young respectively). Ned Scarisbrick didn’t respond to these two quotes in my article, but they demonstrate that in Mormonism, your temporal and eternal happiness is in danger if you abandon the LDS faith. Therefore it is not straightforward to divide cultural and doctrinal matters here.

Scarisbrick then goes on to claim that I have misunderstood Faust’s quoting of Orson Whitney. In Faust’s article he quotes Whitney as saying that ‘the sheep who wander’ will be drawn back into the fold and then, “They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins”. My response to this was to say that the Bible teaches us that “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18) therefore we will not be required to pay our debt to justice and suffer for our sins as Whitney suggested. Ned Scarisbrick believes that I am saying that we do not suffer the consequences of our sins. This is not what I am saying, my point is that we do not have to pay the price for our sins. Sinning certainly leads to negative consequence or suffering, but that is not the same thing as paying our ‘debt to justice’. This is done by Christ alone. As I explained in my article, the prodigal son did not have to pay his ‘debt to justice’ as the Ensign article suggests he would, (though he certainly was suffering the consequence of his sins prior to returning to his father), rather he was welcomed from afar, before even uttering a word and accepted back into the fold without any sort of trial period, penitence, suffering of any kind. This is not what is taught in Faust’s article.

After this, Mr Scarisbrick believes I am confused about the meaning of the term ‘redeemed.’ In my article I comment upon Faust’s quoting from the D & C which says that, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,  And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.” (D&C 138: 58-59) According to these verses, people can be redeemed, after death, through repentance and obedience to the ordinances of the house of God. They will not be redeemed by Jesus’ blood. Yet in response to my article Scarisbrick says, “I don’t think the church teaches that we are redeemed by the ordinances of the house of God.” That is what the D & C clearly teaches.

When I pointed out that the LDS view that certain people may be in a position to repent after death is not a Biblical one, Scarisbrick responded with a suggestion based on some verses in 1 Peter 3 which says that by the Spirit Jesus went and preached to the ‘spirits in prison’. This one reference does not build a sufficient case for the LDS doctrine of carrying out essential saving ordinances in the temple for those who have died. Remember that LDS teaching is that they are the restored true church. Is there any evidence that the first Christians carried out temple ordinances for dead people who were ignorant of the gospel in the belief that this was essential for their salvation? No.

Next Scarisbrick responds to a direct quote from Faust’s article made by me. Faust says, “Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned.” So I paraphrased it thus: “He tries to argue that a repentant ‘wayward’ child can be saved through repentance and Christ’s atonement, but that he / she must earn their exaltation.” The response from Mr Scarisbrick to this is that we earn our exaltation ‘symbolically’ and ‘as respect, as honour, as gratitude at what the Saviour has done for us. Can we literally earn our exaltation? No, the church doesn’t teach that.” O.K. so now I’m confused. Faust says that exaltation is much more than salvation and must be fully earned, but the LDS Church doesn’t teach that we can literally earn our exaltation. Hmm.

I pointed out in my article that there is a difference between the LDS meaning of exaltation and the Biblical meaning. I used Revelation 5:9-10 to demonstrate a Biblical understanding because it says, “thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” The response given to this is, “No, no, no.”

Again, Mr Scarisbrick claims that what Faust said in his article is not what the LDS church teaches. This time it is in response to my pointing out that Faust has made two apparently opposing statements: (from my blog post) “Faust then says that ‘The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy’. Yet he has also just stated that it must be fully earned.” Scarisbrick claims this is not what the church teaches, yet Faust himself taught that our exaltation must be fully earned in the article I am reviewing. Hmm, again.

Ned then quotes my article directly, saying: “Also, thankfully, there a great many who leave the LDS faith because they have come to know who Jesus really is, rather than the reduced picture presented by the LDS church.” He says that, ‘If people leave the church for those reasons, they don’t really understand what the church teaches about Jesus.’ Ned suggests that I was raised without this real understanding of the LDS church’s teachings are about Jesus. That is certainly not the case. Rather, it was simply that when Christians got me reading the Bible for myself, the real gospel it contains leapt out at me, and the salvation Jesus offers was radically different compared to the LDS version. Ultimately, the great love of Jesus was truly revealed and I was amazed by this and responded in faith.

5 thoughts on “Getting some “Fair” Attention Part 2, by Stephen Livings.”

  1. I appreciate all those who have listened to my podcast. I had no idea that my views would result such a strong response. I tried to be sensitive in my remarks knowing that people are sensitive. I myself being a people. In regards to one of the main doctrinal issues, that of salvation and the Mormon religion that teachs one must earn their way into heaven I would refer you to a article in BYU / Magazine by Bradley R. Wilcox called “His grave is sufficient” . In the article he states. Quote. “I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way into heaven.” I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.” They ask me, “have you been saved by grace?” I answer, “Yes, Absolutely, totally, completelly, thankfully – yes!” Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” End of quote. In reference to President Faust’s statement of our need to earn heaven I look to brother Wilcox’s explanation. Perhaps the scriptural phrase Matt. 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” is what brother Faust had in mind. I would think that some may see this as a “earned” salvation. I see salvation as being composed of two basic parts. First, being justified by the Saviors atoning sacrifice which essentially happens when we receive Jesus as our personal Savior. This will allow us to enter into the judgment of rewards (general salvation ).Second, is being sanctified which is a process that takes place over time. Being changed by grace. As we change and grow in our Christian lives our works do follow us into heaven and have a bearing on what we receive in the judgment of rewards. True?

    -Ned Scarisbrick

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    1. Hi Ned I will give Stephen a chance to respond to most of your comment, though if he doesnt have time I will come back to this.

      I would just say we are not offended by you doing your podcast, I am certainly not thats for sure, to be honest I think its quite cool, having a chance to have dialogue with you on the back of a podcast like this is a first for us, and so we are just taking the opportunity. Please dont feel that we are offended or annoyed to have, had you do the episode, not at all, I just didnt expect a ministry as small as ours in the scheme of things to get noticed by you guys at Fair.

      talk soon

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  2. Hi Ned, thanks for your response. Firstly, let me say that I am in total agreement with Bobby’s comment above. The whole point of all this is to be thought-provoking and hopefully get some dialogue going.

    I’d like to look at what you said above regarding how you described salvation. You said that we are justified when we receive Jesus as our Saviour. I would agree with this. However when I look in the Bible, Romans 8:30 goes further than this: “and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” So this means that we do not add glory to what the Lord has given us. In fact, this is impossible since we have all fallen short of the glory of God. The glorifying is done by God.

    You also said, “being sanctified which is a process that takes place over time. Being changed by grace.” This is also something I agree with. Once people are saved they can be changed through God’s grace, but this is God working in their lives. This process is not something people can claim to their own credit or worthiness, as Hebrews 13:12, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood”. So it is the work of Jesus that sanctifies us.

    Finally, I do believe that in heaven people can be ‘rewarded’. For example, Matthew 5:12 suggests that those who are persecuted for their faith receive a reward in heaven. No specifics are given there though, apart from knowing that their reward is ‘great’. This is not to be equated with being glorified. We can only ever share in God’s glory if we are ‘co-heirs with Christ’.

    We all know that LDS doctrine is quite different to this. In the Book of Mormon we learn that we are saved by grace ‘after all we can do’. This negates grace, as Romans 11:6 so categorically states: ” And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” So this leads to the natural conclusion that if we must do “all we can do” (which is surely impossible) in order to be saved, then it is no longer a grace-based salvation, but a works-based salvation. The Bible tells us it can’t be both. So Mormons do truly believe that living with God after death (or ‘exaltation’ in LDS terminology) is only possible if it is earned.

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    1. “After all we can do” has been around for a long time and yes there are those who have a very literal view of this teaching. In my view there are two basic types of gospel value systems in the Church. One, which I call “performance based” is pretty much centered on what we do or don’t do to get into heaven. The other one I call “love based” which is centered on the Savior and what He has already done for us. Stephen Robinson, Brad Wilcox and Robert Millet are champions of this gospel view. If you are not familiar with these men or their writings please research their material. The current Ensign magazine (September) has a article by brother Wilcox which is called “His Grace is Sufficient.” This is a very good primer on the basic principles of this love based value system. I don’t see this issue as a us verses them thing. There are legalistic Christian churches today that are based on the performance of it’s members to gain favor with God. The growth that takes place on the inside will make accommodations for both levels of understanding and over time we can be sanctified if we will let the Him have His work in us.

      (Steve) I’d like to look at what you said above regarding how you described salvation. You said that we are justified when we receive Jesus as our Savior. I would agree with this. However when I look in the Bible, Romans 8:30 goes further than this: “and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” So this means that we do not add glory to what the Lord has given us. In fact, this is impossible since we have all fallen short of the glory of God. The glorifying is done by God. 2 Cor. 3:5..our sufficiency is of God;
      (Ned) I agree that the glorifying is done by God and not by man however there is a glory of the sun, a glory of the moon and a glory of the stars. 1 Cor. 15:41. Could these be the degrees of glory within the judgment of rewards? I think so. Again it’s not my call or work it is His.

      -Ned Scarisbrick

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  3. Hi Ned. If I read this:

    “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”

    then I don’t see any mention of kingdoms within heaven or God rewarding people according to how well they have kept the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (3rd article of faith). If these verse are read in context then a completely different understanding is clear. We are looking at the difference between people’s bodies before and after the resurrection: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” The other obvious omission here is any use of the made up word ‘telestial’.

    I had a glance at the Brad Wilcox article and I picked up on this: “you have plenty to do, but it is not to pay that debt. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged. What is left to be determined by our obedience is how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and what degree of glory we plan on receiving” I don’t see this fitting in with the teaching of the Bible at all. The Bible does not teach that there are ‘degrees of glory’ in heaven. Rather it teaches that if you are ‘in Christ’ then you are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1) Romans 8 goes on to explain that those ‘in Christ’ live by the spirit and not by the law and this means we are children of God and co-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:16-17) So we do not need to determine our level of glory by our obedience. Our works can add nothing to what Christ gives us: “if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

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