Being Chosen People

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In our egalitarian society in the United States we tend to shy away from things that hint of inequality. As a nation fighting for independence from England, we fought for freedom from aristocracy. The United States was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal [by God].” However, “equal” did not necessarily mean the same thing as how many use it today – it was mainly commentary against the idea that the “common man” is entitled by God to have the same right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that aristocracy or royalty have. Unlike during the French Revolution, the idea of equality was not one where the weak debase the strong, it was the idea that the weak (i.e., common) can become strong.

Because of our general aversion to aristocracy many people have difficulty with the concept of “chosenness” or being a chosen people or nation. That sounds too much like royalty and surely leads to oppression. How can people be equal if some people are chosen? The seeming contradiction lies in misunderstanding of both equality (which I will not discuss further) and chosenness (which I will discuss).

The Apostle Paul gave a discourse to Jews in Rome about what being a chosen people really means.

“Behold, thou art called a Jew [God’s Chosen People], and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” (Romans 2:17-20).

The Jews were and are the Chosen People of God. They were given His law by covenant and as such are really Covenant People. Being chosen by God comes in the form of covenants with God. Covenants are two-way agreements, meaning that great responsibility rests upon those with whom God has covenanted to uphold their covenants. Paul continues with his sermon to those who are “guide[s] of the blind” and “light[s] [to] them…in darkness”.

“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:21-29).

Being circumcised, being one of God’s covenant people, does not mean anything if the laws and covenants are not kept. Hypocrisy is much worse than ignorance.

The Apostle Paul then continues on in a beautiful exposition on the necessity of the grace of Christ that at first almost seems to contradict the idea that works (our actions) are important, but such a reading of Paul’s words is errant and ignores much of what Paul had just finished teaching and goes on to teach. Without deviating more from the topic of this post, I’ll come back to the topic.

“And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:11-12).

Abraham first had faith and then received circumcision – a sign of the covenant he and the Lord made with each other. The children of Israel, of which the Jews were a part, were the children of this covenant and circumcision was a sign of this covenant. However, just because the Jews were covenant – chosen – people did not make them part of an exclusive club. Abraham can be a father to all who have faith [in Christ] and “walk in the steps of [the] faith of our father Abraham.” All who are willing to exhibit that faith in Christ can become chosen, they can partake in God’s covenants.

Simply being chosen is not enough. Being chosen does not make you better than another or more blessed than another if you do not also keep the laws of God. Further, all who desire to walk in the light of Christ can become chosen. Chosenness is a call to covenant, service, and responsibility. Equality comes from raising up, not tearing down.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

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One eternal principle is that nothing is free. “But wait!” you say, “What about 2 Nephi chapter 2 verse 4?”

“And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.” (2 Ne. 2:4).

You say, “There, it says that salvation is free! You’re wrong about no free lunches. In fact, we are specifically told about free lunches a few chapters later.”

“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (2 Ne. 9:50).

“So fix the title of your post already Jared!”

Interesting, those are beautiful scriptures telling of the love of God and Jesus Christ. We can come and partake and be blessed with salvation. I will address both verses.

“The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.” Who prepared the way? The way was prepared by our Father and then presented by Jehovah in the council in Heaven. Adam and Eve fell that humankind might be. They fell as part of the plan for us to return to live with God. But in order for them to fall, they had to choose to come to earth. We all had – and did! – to make the choice to come to earth. Those who did not make that choice in support of the Father were cursed with eternal damnation, they were stopped in their progression and cast out of Heaven, having rejected the Father and His Son. Thus, in order to receive this gift of salvation, which is termed “free”, we had to take sides in a war. Those who did not keep this first estate (Abraham 3:26) cannot receive this free gift. So while salvation is free, there was a price paid in a premortal world. More on this theme after an intermediary paragraph.

Salvation is free? For whom? Was salvation free for Christ? He paid a heavy price so that we might have salvation. Christ paid the ransom fee for us. We might not be able to pay that fee ourselves but just because Someone else paid it does not make it free.

In 2 Ne. 9:50 it says “Come…come to the waters…come buy and eat…come buy…without money and without price.” The blessings Christ offers do not require a price of money but they require our actions – we must come, buy, and eat. That requires our faith, devotion, diligence, and time. We must pay the price Christ requires, which is a broken heart and contrite spirit (see D&C 20:37). That is a price many people are not willing to pay (see D&C 121:34-35).

What all this means is that grace is not free. Christ paid with His life, death, and life so that we might have access to grace. While we might be undeserving of many of our blessings, the cost of those blessings is borne ultimately by God. In order to fully partake of grace and salvation, we must consecrate all we have. The first consecration came in our decision to come to earth. While here, those who reach the age of accountability, must make another consecration, one that is both weighty, lifting, and freeing.

Thus, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Note: This post was inspired by my 7 year old daughter. Yesterday we were talking about a Christmas tree our family had been given. She said, “Nothing really is free because you might have to drive somewhere [to pick up something] and you have to buy gas; you also have to pay taxes for the roads.”

Ephesians 2

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Chapter 2 in Ephesians is full of powerful doctrine. There is more than I can cover without turning this post into a casserole of Utah proportions (this is simply a reference to the popularity of casseroles in Utah – they are usually simple to prepare and can feed a lot of people, so they are useful for church functions).

Paul (we assume Paul wrote this epistle) talks about Christ’s role as Reconciler. He redeems us from our fallen state: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off were made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13). When we are fallen or when we are not part of Christ’s covenant people (i.e., Gentiles), we are strangers. We are separated from the flock. Christ’s blood brings us near, it removes the title of stranger, adding the title of fellow citizen with the saints: “Now therefor ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19).

That is an important thing to keep in mind – that we (members of the Church) are of the household of God. Who are household members? They are family (this is one reason why in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we call each other “brother” and “sister” {we are also all spirit brothers and sisters}). So we, through the blood of Christ, become sons and daughters of God. We all are spiritually but through sin – none of us is perfect – we suffer spiritual death. Christ’s Atonement gives us life as we repent, which is how we accept His redemption. Repentance is more than just a verbal and spiritual acknowledgment, it involves real contrition; it also involves ordinances – baptism and confirmation and the sacrament. Through Christ’s Atonement we can be adopted back into God’s family. What does it mean to be a son or daughter? It means that we have the potential of the parent.

Now we get to another interesting verse. Those who are saved by Christ, who are now fellow citizens with the saints (meaning those who have joined Christ’s church)  “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph. 2:20-21). So those in Christ’s church (again, this is anyone who is redeemed – which is a process, it’s not a one-time event – by the blood of Christ) must be built upon a foundation of the apostles and prophets. Some might believe that Christ gave us the original apostles and they were enough, however, Judas Iscariot was replaced and Saul/Paul was later called as an apostle so clearly there was a pattern established to have new apostles called when needed. Paul also stated: “And he [Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-13). These are things that have not happened yet – a unity of the faith; knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man. We still have a lot of work to do until we reach those goals. What this means is that apostles, prophets, evangelists (called Patriarchs in the LDS Church), pastors (we in the LDS Church use the term “Bishop” but the role is the same), and teachers all should be part of Christ’s church. So our foundation as members of Christ’s household is upon prophets and apostles. We need them to guide us and to help perfect the saints and perform the work of the ministry. They are our sure foundation with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. Christ is the chief prophet and apostle; He is more than prophet and apostle, of course, but those callings are His to bestow on others.

Thus, Christ’s church has to have prophets and apostles. His church is the “building fitly framed” in which the saints dwell (in this case Christ’s church is not restricted to an earthly institution, it includes His organization in Heaven. So when we as a church – when we as members of the church – are truly saved by Christ’s blood, we can become sanctified as a holy temple in the Lord. This sanctification is the process that truly lifts us to God as His sons and daughters. This process is only possible through Christ’s redeeming blood.

Grading on the Curve

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In some classes the professor does what is called grading on a curve. Sometimes this means fitting the class grades to a strict Gaussian distribution with a “C” grade as the mean and all the other grades evenly distributed around that point. In this case some people will get lower grades than they “earned” if the average was above a “C”. However, most of the time grading on a curve results in a boost to everyone’s grades. For example, if the class mean unadjusted grade is a 75%, a professor might move the average up 5% points, adding 5% points to everyone’s grades. In college I had two courses where the examinations were designed for a 33% to be a “C”. That means that if I only got 33/100 points on an exam, it would be curved up to where it looks like I received a 75/100 on the examination. The exams were designed so no one, or maybe the rare individual, received a 100/100 on an exam. Some people believed this manner of examination to be unduly harsh and unjust. Even having to struggle through taking such difficult exams, I appreciated the theory of that design. Making examinations difficult allows the professor to see a true range in abilities and learning. If a test is too easy, too many people get perfect scores and they do not learn anything and the professor does not appropriately judge their knowledge. I think it teaches an important point about the justice and mercy of God.

The Book of Mormon prophet taught this important truth about the role of the Savior in the balance between justice and mercy. Nephi wrote, “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.” (2 Ne. 25:23). In the test of this life, God has designed what some see as an onerously difficult examination. Sometimes it seems like we are thrown into the test without preparation. However, we were prepared, we just do not remember all of the preparation. Because it is difficult, all of us fall short of perfection on the test. Only One ever received a perfect score – Jesus Christ. Because of Christ’s divinity and calling, he is able to provide the mercy to counteract the justice. He provides the curve that makes up our shortcomings. Through His grace we can be saved “after [above and beyond] all we can do.” Our Heavenly Father, through Christ, can take our imperfect scores and curve them up to perfection. However, in the school of life in order for our grades to be curved up we have to accept the curve. This means we have to do a set of things in order to receive the curve. We do this by faith in Christ and by receiving the necessary ordinances – baptism, confirmation, temple endowment, temple sealing. By these efforts are we able to fully accept the grace of Christ and receive His curve that will lift us to perfection and to home. We could not make it without Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

The Rest of God

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“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was this gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest…. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief…. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 1-5,10-11,16).

What is the rest of the Lord? It is, in part, the glory of God. It is His power and His presence. His power and glory are restful and comforting. His glory sanctifies us, purging us of impurities and turning us into glorious beings. The rest of the Lord in this sense has nothing to do with physical activity or inactivity. It does not mean taking a break from work; it means the glory of God.

Yet, the rest of the Lord is also a break from labors: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). We all need to take a break from time to time. However, oftentimes taking a break means doing a different kind of work. Work can be enjoyable. It can be fulfilling and rewarding. Work is not always tiring. This can be seen in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sundays (and other days of the week) can be busy with church service and activities. The least amount of time I spend devoted to church and church-related activities is about 7 hours per week (5 hours on Sunday – meetings plus church service – and 2 hours for youth activities during the week). Some weeks have more time requirements and infrequently, some weeks have less time requirements. There are other responsibilities but my point is that I find myself quite rested on a Sunday, even if I spend much of the day in church-related activities. This is because the work of the Lord is restful. This is why resting from our labors does not mean we are not working. It means that we turn away from our labors to the Lord’s.

God has promised that to those who labor diligently in their faith will obtain the rest of the Lord. They will obtain audience at the throne of grace and partake of the mercy of God which is in Christ. Those who receive this rest receive the glory of God, making the works of God their works forevermore.

The Innocence of a Child – Part 1

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“Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy” (Moroni 8:19).

Anyone who gazes lovingly at an infant sees a spark of divinity. Not all realize what they see but most recognize the innocence and goodness of infants. Some, however, do not fully understand the power of the Atonement (not that any of us “fully” do or will in this life!) and so do not understand that little children are declared innocent through the blood of the Lamb. They are clean and pure before God and absolved as we are all of Adam’s transgression. Little children receive the pure mercies of God. For those of us who are older, we receive the conditional mercies of God. Some parts of the Lord’s grace and mercy are unconditional such as salvation from death. On the other hand, even that is conditional because we had to keep our first estates and choose to follow God’s plan of salvation and come here to earth. God’s mercy is also conditional because it is based on the goodness of the Savior’s life. In other words, the mercy of the atonement was conditional on the Savior offering himself as the unblemished sacrificial lamb.

There stands a great balance in heaven. When our lives are placed in the scale to each of us it is said, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). With that we are subject to the demands of justice. Each of us is weighed down with the chains of justice. Justice is not always negative; in fact, justice is what allows us eternal freedom and progression. However, none of us as imperfect humanity can satisfy the demands of justice. We all fall short. We all incur great debt, a debt that none of us can repay. We are all like the servant who owed his master the king 10,000 talents (Matt. 18:23-35). That is an enormous sum none of us can repay. As merciful as God is, He cannot deny justice. Justice is a law that cannot be broken. The debt must be repaid.

There is One who is willing to pay the price of our sins. He not only is willing but also able to pay the debt that hangs in the balance. He is able to pay the price for all of us; He can pay for all of our debts combined, and then some. In this way is the debt satisfied. He fulfills the law of mercy while paying the debt due justice. Jesus Christ was the only One who could pay the price of sin and death. He only could unlock the way to Heaven to let us in. Cecil Alexander wrote of Jesus’ sacrifice for us:

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav’n and let us in.

Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do. (Source).

Puritanism Parallels with Mormonism: Preparation for the Restoration – Part 4

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We read in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C; 121:34-36). Fore-ordination does not have anything to do with who will be able to return to live with Heavenly Father again, unlike the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Fore-ordination and predestination are similar but they do differ by degrees.

The LDS doctrine of salvation is quite liberal, especially compared to the Calvinism of the Puritans – however, it’s not our doctrine, it’s God’s. That is, Mormons did not create the doctrine, God did. We believe that all who have ever lived upon the earth will have the opportunity to receive and accept the ordinances required to return to live again with our Father in Heaven. All people will eventually have the necessary ordinances performed for them but not all will accept (or possibly even be able to accept based on their lives here) the ordinances. We believe that all children who died before the age of accountability (age eight) will return to live with God again – this is because little children are whole and incapable of committing sin (see Moroni 8:8; Mosiah 15:25) because the Savior’s Atonement freed them from sin; they are declared blameless by God through the power and grace and mercy of the Atonement.

That is radically different from Puritan beliefs about children; they thought children were full of sin and mischief and evil. Children, to the Puritans, had to be “broken.” LDS doctrine holds children to be inherently good. Christ also taught we should become as little children (see Matt. 18:3). While LDS doctrine about salvation is liberal – we believe that most will receive some degree of glory (they at least kept their first estate and chose in the pre-mortal realm to follow our Father’s plan of salvation by coming to earth) but not all will live with God forever more – LDS doctrine is not as liberal as some other Christian faiths, such as Universalists who believe that all will be saved; God’s power is so great that He will bring all humankind back to Him. On a continuum, LDS doctrine is between the Calvinists and the Universalists.

Calvinism in New England espoused “Five Points” of doctrine, similar conceptually to our thirteen Articles of Faith (i.e., these Five Points are some of the basic and distinctive Puritan doctrines just like the LDS Articles of Faith cover the basic doctrines of Mormonism). These Five Points were: “[1] the natural condition of humanity was total depravity,…[2] salvation was beyond mortal striving,…[3] grace was predestined only for a few,…[4] most mortals were condemned to suffer eternal damnation, and [5] no earthy effort could save them” (p.112). That seems to be quite a depressing set of dogma! However, the Puritans did not live depressing lives – although they were austere in many ways – but they were never sure of their salvation. Their glasses of salvation were never more than half empty. They constantly sought and desired the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we all should. Another quote will further establish the Puritan views of salvation. About one Puritan it is written, “Always before, when [Thomas] wept for his sins, he had kept some feeling of human merit. Now he knows he has none, that the natural man, even when seemingly a good man, is only a beautiful abomination, for the natural man has had no merit since Adam’s disobedience, and Hell is his just destination” (Simpson as cited by Fischer, p.116).

But does not that passage sound a bit like King Benjamin? “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). There are similarities between Puritanism and the first part of King Benjamin’s statement but there is a key difference. King Benjamin stated that we need to become as a child in order to overcome the natural man!

Children are naturally good; the natural man is a learned and developed state, not an inherent state. We learn to be natural men and women! We all give in to the natural man at some point but we all start out good and clean and pure. I do have to point out that it is only through the atonement of Christ the Lord that we become saintly, or saved and sanctified. Again, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that people are inherently good – the Puritans did not. The Savior’s Atonement freed us from the transgression of Adam. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (Second Article of Faith). I believe Joseph wrote that in part because it was different from the prevailing beliefs of many of the religions of his day.

Reference

Fischer, D. H. (1989). Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

On Grace

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Clean Cut has a new post about grace. I think it is a wonderful post that we all should read. Historically, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed more emphasis on works than grace, or least to much of the world it appeared that we did. In the mid-1900s the LDS Church redesigned its logo to place more emphasis on the words “Jesus Christ” in the name of our church. This was not done because we previously did not emphasize the Savior, it was done so that all people (including all of us as members of the LDS Church) better understood the centrality of the Savior and His Atonement in our lives and to our church. It wasn’t a shift in focus or doctrine, it was just a subtle way to remind us and all the world that we do believe in the Savior and His Atonement and grace.

With this emphasis of the Savior in the LDS Church’s logo came an increased discussion and clarification about LDS doctrines about grace and works. Again, it was not a shift in doctrine, there was simply an increase in the dialogue with people of other Christian churches about LDS doctrines about the Savior. What some members of the Church started doing was trying to make sure members of other Christian churches (and our own!) correctly understood our doctrines. It is in light of that background that I believe Clean Cut wrote his post (if I can ascribe motive to him); in other words, I believe he wrote his post to help members of the LDS Church as well as other Christian churches better understand the role of grace in all our lives.

Clean Cut wrote:

The other day I read an article titled “How to become a Christian” by Billy Graham. I was actually quite impressed. I thought it was good and I couldn’t find a single thing I disagreed with. (This must mean I’m a Christian after all, despite the fact that some probably think Billy Graham should have inserted a disclaimer: “unless you’re a Mormon, in which case this won’t work for you”).

I especially liked how he described Christ’s free gift of salvation. Naturally, we don’t pay anything when we receive a gift. The giver of the gift pays for it and we receive it joyfully, ever grateful for the giver of the gift. Graham writes:

“The word grace means ‘undeserved favor’. It means God is offering you something you could never provide for yourself: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, God’s gift to you is free. You do not have to work for a gift. All you have to do is joyfully receive it.”

He then goes on to talk about how to demonstrate commitment back to Christ as a response to the free gift of grace. (We Latter-day Saints would also have more to say about how to appropriately respond to Christ’s grace, namely, through covenant). But in short, I think it was simply an excellent article.

I wrote a comment to his post, which you can read on his site. However, I felt that the topic warrented a post on my blog. I’ll use my comment as a basis for my post. To fully understand my comment in its context it is best to read Clean Cut’s post first. 🙂

What I wrote was (with some mild editing):

Great post. I think the only quibble, and it’s a very small one (and I even hate to quibble [or use the word quibble] because I don’t want to come across as pedantic or dogmatic), we as Latter-day Saints might have with Billy Graham’s statement is that we do not have to work for the gift of eternal life.

As Mormons our definition of eternal life is a bit different from our definition of salvation, although the two are highly related (salvation is essentially a superordinate category with eternal life a subset of that category; all eternal life is salvation but not all salvation is eternal life). For most other Christians, they are not different.

While we do not earn the gifts we receive from the Lord, we do need to place ourselves in a position to receive the gifts. Firstly, we all chose to come here to earth and support the Plan of Salvation. Coming to earth is a wonderful blessing we did not earn, per se, but by our choices to come here, we were placed in the condition where we could progress further along the road to salvation.

Similarly, we do not earn forgiveness but we do place ourselves in a position through repentance in which we can receive forgiveness. Further, we do not earn resurrection but we did make the decision to come to earth, which decision placed ourselves in a position where we could receive the blessing of resurrection. That decision also places us in the position where we can additionally all receive some measure of glory in the next life – but again, we did not earn it.

It’s the same with eternal life. Those who are faithful in receiving and keeping the necessary covenants and ordinances place themselves in the position where they can receive the gift of eternal life. Did those who receive this gift earn it? No, that’s the grace of God, but they did expend the effort, however large or small, to receive that “bicycle.”

So, my quibble is with the statement that we don’t have to work for the gifts. We do have to work for them but that does not mean that we earn them; that does not mean that we purchase them. We give our hearts, as Clean Cut said, which means we give our wills to our Father in Heaven. That is work but it’s not earning salvation. It’s like standing out in the sun rather than hiding in the shade. Do we earn the light? No, but we did walk out of the shade.

The Lord gives us everything; all we are required to give in return is our all, especially our wills. That may seem like we are “purchasing” our salvation; we are not. The Lord gave us everything, all we are doing is giving Him what is rightfully His. His grace is free; of the Lord it was written, “Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Ne. 25:26; see also Isa. 55:1 and 2 Ne. 9:50). Is there anything more beautiful than that beckoning call?