The Miracle of Forgiveness Chapter 4 reviewed by Stephen Livings

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Here are the opening sentences of each of the last two reviews of this book:

Ch. 3

This third chapter is entitled ‘None Righteous, No, Not One’ and its purpose is to make it very plain that we are all sinful.

 

Ch.2

This second chapter is entitled ‘No Unclean Thing Can Enter’ and therefore it focuses largely on sin.

 

Bearing in mind the extent to which those two chapters cover sin, I was hoping for a little relief when reading chapter 4 for this review. However, the title of this chapter is: “These Things Doth the Lord Hate”. So here we go again, yet more sin.

The chapter outlines the following sixteen areas of sin: Idolatry, Rebellion, Traitors, Sabbath-Breaking, Lovers of Money, Stealing, Unholy Masters, Improvidence, False Witness, Vulgarity, Word of Wisdom Violation, Drug Habits, Covenant Breakers, Haters of God, Ingratitude, Unmercifulness.

In this chapter, Spencer Kimball writes at length about the harmful effects of each of these sins, and summarises only very briefly at the end about how to be free from sin by saying: “As sinners we will better appreciate his love and kindness if similar abhorrence for sin impels us to transform our lives through repentance.” (emphasis added). Once again, we have here a chapter going into great depth about a wide variety of sins, how harmful, grave and dangerous they are, yet with the only, very brief, glimpse of hope being that if we hate sin in a similar way to God, we can transform our own lives so that we will then be aware of God’s love and kindness.

Fortunately, we have a great response to this in Titus 3, one of my favourite selections of verses: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7) Here is the real gospel. We cannot transform our own lives in order to better appreciate God’s love and kindness, rather, we are saved because the kindness of God our Saviour appeared, according to His mercy and are renewed through the Holy Ghost/ Spirit and are justified by God’s grace which in turn means we are the heirs of eternal life, with all that this implies! How much greater is this God than the God of Mormonism who merely says in effect, “Sort yourselves out, keep telling me you’re sorry, and one day I may deem you worthy to receive my love and kindness”!

I would now like to focus on one of the sections in this chapter in particular, namely: rebellion. Of course, this is of special interest on this blog and I also am interested in this part as a ‘rebel’ myself in LDS eyes. So what does Kimball say on this matter. One point he makes is: “Among Church members rebellion frequently takes the form of criticism of authorities and leaders.” Is this sinful? Is any human above or beyond criticism? Many Mormon leaders have suggested that Mormonism should be investigated and will stand up to such investigating:

George Albert Smith: “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”

John Taylor: “I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.”

Joseph Fielding Smith: “If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false.”

Gordon Hinckley:“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.”

Surely then, if these Prophets are all for putting Mormonism and its leaders under scrutiny, then it makes sense not to simply accept all things unquestioningly. Jesus clearly liked responding to questions from the people he encountered and always had a response to those who showed curiosity, interest, faith. Not all questioners went away content, but from reading the gospels it is clear that Jesus not only wanted loyal followers, but wanted the mind engaged and searching too.

Kimball continues: “After a while they absent themselves from Church meetings for imagined offenses, and fail to pay their tithes and meet their other Church obligations. In a word, they have the spirit of apostasy, which is almost always the harvest of the seeds of criticism.” Really? People who question church leaders and don’t take the line: “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” are subject to leaving the church over ‘imagined offenses’? I wonder what Spencer Kimball would have made of Dieter Uchtdorf’s very different line on this issue from last October’s General Conference: “Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations… And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.” If this is so, then surely questioning, criticising, analysing are all part and parcel of what it means to be a follower, to be a faithful member. In addition, if this is so, then surely it is clear that people leave the LDS church due to these errors or inconsistencies rather than due to imagined offenses or sinful behaviour. (It is worth pointing out, of course, that Uchtdorf does not go into any detail about those things that were said and done that were not in harmony with the LDS church’s values, principles or doctrine. That part is left very much down to individual interpretation). God did not create us as intelligent beings, only for us to follow blindly, accepting simply that someone ‘above’ us has done all thinking on our behalf. What a dangerous philosophy that would be!

Spencer Kimball believes that those who betray the church are doing it for selfish ends: “We are not without traitors in the Church today, those who would destroy that which is good to win their own selfish earthly rewards or to accomplish their base schemes.” I wonder how many of those the LDS would call ‘traitors’ are really better off in ‘earthly’ terms since their ‘betrayal’. There is certainly a lot to lose on many levels by leaving the LDS church. Thankfully, many ‘rebels’ leave for the true gospel found in the Bible. And when they have left, they can sing these words wholeheartedly:

“In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song;

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

12 thoughts on “The Miracle of Forgiveness Chapter 4 reviewed by Stephen Livings”

  1. Stephen,
    1) In reference to Titus 3:3-7,
    My response: Did you also read vs. 8? “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”

    Paul wrote wonderfully about the power of God’s Grace, but not to the exclusion of doing God’s works.

    Romans 7: 12 “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
    Romans 2: 13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”
    or in 22 “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man”
    Romans 3:31 “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
    Romans 6:15 “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
    2 Timothy 16 “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

    Ephesians 2: 8” For by grace are ye saved through faith;”
    Just as God’s works on our behalf are an integral part of His Grace, so are doing His works on His behalf an integral part of our faith. Works are an integral part of both His grace and our faith – they can’t be separated or disregarded. They are all parts of the same whole.

    2) In reference to your statement, “the God of Mormonism who merely says in effect, “Sort yourselves out, keep telling me you’re sorry, and one day I may deem you worthy to receive my love and kindness”!
    My Response: That statement is not true at all. Here’s some text from a hymn often sung by Mormons that expresses otherwise,
    “1. I know that my Redeemer lives.What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
    He lives, he lives, who once was dead.He lives, my ever-living Head.
    He lives to bless me with his love.He lives to plead for me above.
    He lives my hungry soul to feed.He lives to bless in time of need.
    2. He lives to grant me rich supply.He lives to guide me with his eye.
    He lives to comfort me when faint.He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
    He lives to silence all my fears.He lives to wipe away my tears.
    He lives to calm my troubled heart.He lives all blessings to impart.

    3)Paul warned very bluntly and sometimes harshly against sin, similar to Spencer W. Kimball – do you also condemn Paul?
    Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
    Romans 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil…”
    Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”.
    … and there are many more writings of Paul that condemn and warn against sin.

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    1. The problem with your Mormon thinking, Michael is that Christians do their good works because they have been changed by knowing Jesus and have a new heart for loving and helping others. That’s what all these scriptures say that you have referenced. Mormons are striving to be perfect and get points to reach a higher heaven. At least that is the way it was when I was a Mormon:-). Have you been born again through faith in Christ alone?

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      1. Joanne,
        I’ve been a Mormon for 34+ years and I’ve never heard any teaching that suggested, “Mormons are striving to …get points to reach a higher heaven.”
        I have read in the New Testament where Jesus taught us to, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” or in Romans 8 where Paul taught, “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

        And then there is the Christian Scholar and author, C.S. Lewis, who taught, “The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him –for we can prevent Him, if we choose –He well make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”

        Spencer W. Kimball is in good company. It is a difficult and sometimes painful process to acknowledge and confront sin in our lives. The message is that through Christ, that burden will be light.

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      2. Joanne, To your question: Have you been born again through faith in Christ alone?
        My Response: Yes

        James 2; 14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
        16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 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. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

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  2. Hi Michael. I think Joanne sums it all up very well, but I would simply point out that in comparing Paul’s warnings and condemnation of sin with the chapter I have reviewed here (as well as chapters 2 & 3) I see a world of difference. Paul’s writings are infused with earnestly teaching the reader of God’s grace. Read the books of Romans and Ephesians that you refer to from start to finish and this is abundantly clear. Galatians is another excellent example of this. As I said in the review above, in this chapter Kimball takes up eleven and a half pages of dense text outlining sixteen sins, and writes only one sentence offering any sort of hope. That sentence says: “As sinners we will better appreciate his love and kindness if similar abhorrence for sin impels us to transform our lives through repentance.” So clearly this sentence is saying that it is what we do that will ultimately free us from our sins. So my take on that balance of the in-depth 11 and half page description of sin followed by one sentence telling us it is our actions that take us out of our sins is precisely what I said: “Sort yourselves out, keep telling me you’re sorry, and one day I may deem you worthy to receive my love and kindness”. You can hardly compare the writings of Paul with the words in this chapter when looking at what they have to say about sin, God’s love, grace and the role of our own works in all of this.

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  3. Hi again Michael,
    Just seen your comments: ” I’ve never heard any teaching that suggested, “Mormons are striving to …get points to reach a higher heaven.”

    In essence the following quote sums up the same view, even if it is worded rather differently: “If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, to live with our Heavenly Father in eternal families. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children ” Gospel Principles – Chapter 47

    If you read the rest of that chapter you will see that there are a great many steps on that road that reaches to a ‘higher heaven’ or the ‘highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven’.

    Your reference from Romans 8 when looked at within the whole chapter is clearly teaching that those who show faith in Jesus are those who God calls his children: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” So children of God are joint-heirs with Christ, they are adopted into his family and therefore share in that inheritance. There is no list akin to the one in Gospel Principles manual that outlines works and ordinances that are required to qualify for this.

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    1. Stephen,
      1) One has to read through to the concluding chapters of “Miracle of Forgiveness” to understand the whole message.
      2) Romans 8: “… “if so be that we suffer with him”, that we may be also glorified together” Becoming joint heirs with Christ includes the exercise of our faith which is and includes doing His works because faith without works is dead! One of those works He requires is Baptism for the remission of sins.
      3) When Spencer W. Kimball writes, “abhorrence for sin impels us to transform our lives through repentance”, inherent within the words, “through repentance” is the Grace of Christ. There is no “repentance” without the Grace of Christ.
      4) For exaltation, we need His works which are an integral part of His Grace and we need to do His works which are an integral part of our Faith. Combined, they all provide the opportunity for what Jesus taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect..”

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  4. Hi Michael. Thanks for your points detailed above. Conversations with people responding to my posts always end up coming round to these themes. Hmm, I wonder why that might be! 😀 As such, I feel the same cycle of conversation tends to take place. So, instead of trying to continue the back and forth as I normally would do, I will instead recommend reading Bobby’s article here: http://mormonisminvestigated.co.uk/2011/02/07/we-are-saved-by-grace/ which outlines in great detail how the Bible teaches us that salvation is received as a gift of grace, where our works don’t play a part, but also demonstrating the role of works in the lives of Christians.

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    1. Thank you Stephen for the link. However, I read through the scriptures and the commentary and have drawn a different conclusion..

      For purpose of full disclosure, I am a pragmatist by nature. For me (based on study of the scriptures and personal experience), God’s works for His children are the fingers of the hand of His Grace. His works on our behalf (ie, the creation, giving His Son, the atonement which includes Gethsemane, the Cross, and Resurrection, preparing many mansions, establishment of His church, covenants, forsaking of sin, answers to prayers, providing for our needs, daily inspiration through the Holy Ghost, etc. etc) are all manifestations of His Grace to us.

      Striving to do the works that He asks of us to do with Him (baptism, prayers, serving others, covenant making and keeping, thoughts, words and deeds, etc) are likewise the fingers of the hand of our faith. It is by totally relying on Him as we strive to do the works He asks of us that we are able to commune with Him and get to KNOW Him. It is how our faith in Him is manifest. He is then able to manifest Himself (His Grace) more fully to us which He always wants to do: Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

      As Neil A Maxwell taught, “…the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

      In Acts 9, Jesus intervenes in the middle of Paul’s sin filled life in a much more dramatic way than most of us will experience. Paul reacts by choosing to offer His complete will to Christ’s. Paul responds to Christ’s chastening, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
      “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”
      “Doing” was a critical part for Paul’s conversion/salvation as it is in ours.

      The “doing” is NOT for boasting and it’s Not to build a resume. The “Doing” is the experiential process through which Christ is able to reveal Himself and His Grace to us, line upon line, precept upon precept, so that we can come to KNOW Him, His thoughts, His ways, His attitudes,His character, that we might become One with and like Him and the Father. This is a process. It takes time and experience walking and living with Christ. Sin interrupts that process and requires repentance through Christ. All of this is not a one time event .

      As C.S. Lewis understood, “The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said (“Be ye perfect”).”

      This is the same message Spencer W. Kimball seeks to convey.
      Thank you for the opportunity to share.

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  5. Hi Michael. I am having to type this out for a second time as something weird just happened to my computer, so to give the brief version of what I had said at some length first time round:

    I believe the clearest way to show these two contrasting ideas regarding what is required for God to view us as righteous, thereby living with Him when we die and receiving and sharing in His glory is as follows:

    LDS view (from Gospel Principles):

    “He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:
    1. We must be baptized.

    2. We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.

    4. We must receive the temple endowment.

    5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.”

    and as well as this:

    “1. Love and worship God
    2. Love our neighbour
    3. Repent of our wrongdoings
    4. Live the law of chastity
    5. Pay honest tithes and offerings
    6. Be honest in our dealings with others and with the Lord.
    7. Speak the truth always
    8. Obey the Word of Wisdom
    9. Search out our kindred dead and perform the saving ordinances of the gospel for them
    10. Keep the Sabbath day holy
    11. Attend our church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
    12. Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord
    13. Have family and individual prayers everyday
    14. Honor our parents
    15. Teach the gospel to others by word and example
    16. Study the scriptures
    17. Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.
    Finally, each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow His direction in our individual lives.”

    Remember, this is necessary to live with God when we die and progress on to Godhood.

    Now the Bible view:

    “it (righteousness) shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 4:24-25 and 5:1-2) and also:

    “ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15-17)

    and the last two are very famous ones!

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

    “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:5-9)

    So I think it is clear that what the Bible says on how God deals with our sin and thereby enables us to live with Him is distinctly different and non-compatible with what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to say about how it can be possible to dwell in God’s presence eternally.

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  6. Stephen:
    When I read the scriptures you’ve quoted, I understand them differently. One thing I try to do is read scriptures in their context and seek to compare and harmonize them with other scriptures to reach a more complete understanding.

    For example, you quoted, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

    I completely agree with that scripture. The difference is when I read “justified by faith” and “access by faith into this grace” I think of James 2 (and other NT scriptures) which tells us that doing God’s work is a key means of accessing His Grace by faith.. I also consider my own experiences with God and the communion with His grace I have personally experienced while doing any of those things on that list you quoted with the proper attitude of worship and devotion.
    For example, I was baptized and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Christmas morning when I was 11 years old. I’ll never forget the connection, sense of devotion and complete Grace I experienced from God that day. It was amazing to me then and amazing every time I think of it – even now as I type.

    Another example: I had been serving as a missionary for about 4 months in another country. My assigned companion had only been in the country for 2 months. We were assigned to a more isolated and lightly populated part of the mission. We were new missionaries, still learning the language and how to be effective missionaries. It was so hot where we were and there was no air conditioning. We worked hard every day, but to no apparent avail. About that time I received word from home of the difficult time my mother and 4 younger brothers (ages 4-11) were experiencing as my parents were going through a divorce. On the same day, I received a Dear John letter. I hit a low, so low that I began to consider going home. I went on top of the roof (flat roof available like a porch) and kneeled and poured out my heart to God. I told Him, “you need to tell me in a way I cannot misunderstand that you want me to stay on the mission (I had 18 months left), or else I am going home.” Stephen, it was like a beam of pure love and light came upon me and filled my heart with a degree and depth of love that was so overwhelming I began to cry like a baby, knowing, at that moment I was in God’s embrace. The purity, the goodness, the strength, the healing, the conviction was all more than amazing and a direct answer to my prayers. Through prayer (#13 on the list), God revealed his love of me and for me when I needed it. He manifested His Grace through #13 on that list you quoted. I could share at least one spiritual experience associated with participating in every single activity you quoted on that list. All of them, provide us the opportunity to access and experience God’s Grace.

    I completely agree with Romans 8:15-17, but why did you NOT include all of vs. 17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
    Did you leave it out because there is a big “IF” included in it and a verb that follows it? Whenever there is an “if” and then a verb, there is always a manifestation of His Grace that follows (IF/THEN), “if so be that we suffer with him (Christ), that we may be also glorified together.”

    With regards to John 3:16-17, KEEP reading! vs 21 But he that “doeth” truth cometh to the light, that his “deeds” may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

    In reference to Ephesians 2:5-9 – I also agree when Paul says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith;” Paul also said Romans 3:31 “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
    Doing God’s works are an integral part of true faith and when combined as one, as they are intended (“if ye love me, keep my commandments”), the windows of heaven are opened and we experience God more fully, we come to know Him more profoundly and line upon line, experience after experience, in process of time, grace by grace, we become more and more like Him. Everyone who has accessed His grace by doing what he has asked, knows that there is nothing to boast about, but there is much praise to offer our God.
    Grateful to exchange ideas on these topics.

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