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March 20th, 2011
The Consistency of Christian Character
I gave the following talk in my ward today. I feel the need to convey here what I said over the pulpit before giving these remarks, namely, that this talk was for myself as much as anybody else. I claim no moral superiority or perfection at all, but simply have made observations based on my study of what the correct principles are as they relate to this topic. I, as much as anybody else, stand to benefit from the understanding and implementation of these principles.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ often employed very direct and stern language in rebuking the Pharisees. This group’s focus on rigid observance of the law publicly, while failing to internalize the law’s purposes privately, earned them the label of “hypocrite” by the Master. “Do not ye after their works,” Jesus counseled his disciples, “for they say, and do not.”
This, of course, was a definitive example of hypocrisy, which is when a person puts on a false appearance, pretending publicly to be what they truly are not in private. The Pharisee’s outward actions were specifically engineered to attract attention, praise, and respect; enlarging their phylacteries, disfiguring their faces while fasting, and practicing their religious observances in plain view of others were only part of what this group did. Jesus noted that though they “outwardly appear[ed] righteous unto men,” they were inwardly “full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
After discussing ways in which we may be similarly hypocritical, Elder Bednar recently taught that “we need to be and become more consistent.” Consistency is the method by which we act and behave in ways that reflect our inward thoughts and desires. Any public manifestation of righteous behavior should not be a mask that is taken off when in the privacy of our home, but rather the reflection of a sincere, inward dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are not immune from hypocrisy. It is found in the Latter-day Saint who criticizes an associate who occasionally smokes marijuana but who himself has a strong Diet Coke addiction. It is found in the Brother or Sister who somehow finds time for the temple, but prioritizes most other things above his family’s needs. Hypocrisy is evident in the individual who dutifully pays his tithing, but engages in appropriate or immoral business activity to defraud or deceive another person. Plenty of other examples exist, but the point is simple: we members of the Church can at times be similarly guilty of publicly professing ideals that we don’t personally exemplify, while in some cases criticizing others for failing to comply with the very standard we ourselves do not adhere to.
The Antidote to Hypocrisy
The antidote to such hypocrisy, as Elder Bednar mentioned, is consistency. The Apostle Paul taught that we should be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” It is perhaps important to note that Paul did not list exemptions for those cheering on a sports team, or engaging in an online discussion, or when participating in political activities, or when managing a business. Being an example of the believers, or, rather, being an example and disciple of Jesus Christ, requires both external and internal manifestations. Consistency comes when our outward actions demonstrate an inward spirituality that is anchored to a firm conviction of and dedication to the gospel.
This is not to say, of course, that Latter-day Saints are perfect. Though we are commanded to achieve that lofty standard, we fall short repeatedly. This means, then, that we who proclaim a moral standard fail to adhere to that standard with complete fidelity. We say one thing and do another. In short, we are all, at times, a hypocrite. What, then, distinguishes us from the Pharisees?
The difference, I believe, is one of degrees. If we continuously proclaim one standard in public that we likewise continuously disregard when nobody is looking, then we clearly are not justified. If, however, our sincere desire is to internalize the principles which we publicly profess, then our infrequent inability to continuously abide by that standard may be seen as a byproduct of our mortal, fallen nature. This does not excuse any sins of commission or omission, of course, but it does at least put them into context. Those who stumble along the path while clinging to the iron rod are trying to follow the counsel of Moroni, who said that we may become “perfect in Christ” “by the grace of God.” We achieve perfection by applying the Atonement and purging our infrequent infidelities from our soul.
The Key is Consistency
The Latin root of the word consistency suggests that the word entails “standing firm.” Elder Maxwell referenced this notion when suggesting that discipleship “requires sturdy, all-weather souls who are constant in every season of life and who are not easily stalled or thrown off course.” This theme permeates the scriptures. King Benjamin, for example, exhorted his people to be “steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his.” The Lamanites, when “converted unto the true faith… would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.” Helaman taught his sons that they should build their foundation “upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God… that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down… because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
We may not fall, but it’s likely that we will falter at times. To lessen our deviations from this divine course, Elder Richard G. Scott recently suggested four essential principles as cornerstones in God’s eternal plan: 1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2) Repentance to rectify the consequences of mistakes of omission or commission; 3) Obedience to the commandments of the Lord to provide strength and direction in our lives; and 4) Selfless service to enrich the lives of others. When these “are applied with diligence and consistency,” said Elder Scott, “they produce strength of character…”
This character, as Elder Scott further explained, “is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming. Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind. In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality.” The consistent application of divine principles to cultivate our Christian character is not a process that allows for vacations or luke-warm commitments. “We become what we want to be,” said Elder Scott,” by consistently being what we want to become each day.” Elder Maxwell elaborated:
The daily discipleship of which I’m speaking is designed to develop these very attributes that are possessed to perfection by Jesus. These attributes emerge from a consciously chosen way of life; one in which we deny ourselves of all ungodliness and we take up the cross daily–not occasionally, not weekly, not monthly. If we are thus determined, then we are emulating yet another quality of our Lord, of whom we read: “And there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it” (Abraham 3:17). True disciples are meek but very determined.
The consistent development of our Christian character requires faith. As Elder Scott said, “Your consistent exercise of faith builds strong character. A secure foundation for your growing character is laid by making Jesus Christ and His teachings the center of your life.” Faith in Jesus Christ is the core of Christian character; our outward actions, such as service, kindness, love, honesty, and compassion, as well as our inward thoughts and feelings, must all revolve around the gospel of Jesus Christ. We apply Christ’s teachings not only when congregating at Church, but when in the privacy of our home.
It is appropriate, then, to speak of faith not only as having faith in Christ, but being faithful to Him. Our character exemplifies Christ’s when we are committed to the gospel, when we obey His teachings, and when we do what He would do. Just as spouses should be faithful unto one another by strictly adhering to their marital covenant, so too should we be faithful to the Bridegroom by strictly adhering to the covenants we have made with Him and one another.
The relationship between faith and character is reciprocal. Our application of faith in Jesus Christ strengthens our character and helps us be consistent in abiding by the principles we proclaim. Strengthening our character in this way “expands our capacity to exercise faith,” as Elder Scott has taught on another occasion. “The more [our] character is fortified, the more enabled [we] are to exercise the power of faith.”
Having faith in, and being faithful to Christ requires, of course, knowing who He is. We cannot have Christian character if we do not know what Christ’s character is. Joseph Smith taught that “it is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God. I want you all to know him and to be familiar with him.” In our articles of faith, written by the prophet Joseph, we read that the first principle of the gospel is faith. Thus, to Joseph, faith is synonymous with understanding the character of God.” This idea is further expounded in the Lectures on Faith, presented by Joseph in the School of the Prophets in 1835. As Joseph taught, “faith could not center in a being of whose existence we had no idea, because the idea of his existence in the first instance is essential to the exercise of faith in him.” He then quotes a few verses from Romans 10, which read:
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The prophet continues:
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
First, The idea that he actually exists.
Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.
For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Understanding the character of God, our faith “can become perfect and fruitful.” Applying our faith, we match our character to Christ’s by “becoming perfect in [Him].” With strengthened character, we are able to more consistently act according to Christ’s teachings, thus reducing, if not eliminating, any hypocrisy we might otherwise have.
Consistent in our Covenants
A few moments ago, we partook of the sacrament. This ordinance allows us the opportunity to renew the covenants we made at baptism. Upon being baptized, and as part of that covenant, we committed to enter the Church of Jesus Christ, be called after the name of Christ, serve God and keep His commandments, serve one another bear each others’ burdens, and be a witness for Christ and His Church. As part of the sacrament, we commit to “always remember [God] and keep his commandments which he has given [us].” An article in the Ensign over 30 years ago places in context this covenant-making process, and how it relates to our need to consistently build Christian character:
[T]he sacrament [is] a dynamic process of covenant-making—of remembrance and recommitment that helps us in our upward struggle toward perfection. The process becomes a way of answering affirmatively the piercing question asked by Alma: “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26; italics added.) Speaking to precisely this issue, King Benjamin taught his people that it is through remembering God and showing steadfast commitment that we become capable of always feeling the redeeming love of which Alma spoke: “If ye have known of [God’s] goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceeding great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of [the Atonement] which is to come. …
“And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 5:11–12.)
As the history of Israel demonstrates, learning to remember and remain committed is no easy task; the forgetting of covenants has too often been the dominant theme of the scriptures. But as King Benjamin’s teachings indicate, it is only through keeping our covenants—through constantly remembering and recommitting—that we become heirs to the promise of constant joy, divine love, permanent remission of sins, and an ever-growing knowledge of God. Only then can we affirmatively answer Alma’s question, “Can ye feel so now?”
Imagine what life would be like if we treated our marital covenants with the same level of fidelity with which we often treat our baptismal covenants. This imaginary widespread marital infidelity, infrequent on an individual basis, perhaps, but significant in the aggregate, would rightly generate a large amount of outrage and shock. A collective inability to remain faithful to our spouses would be seen, ultimately, as a disinterest in, if not rejection of, our covenants. Should the standard be different for our baptismal and sacramental covenants? Why does similar outrage and shock not exist when observing the degree to which we Latter-day Saints are faithful to our covenants with God? Are we as consistently faithful to God as we are, or at least should be, to our spouses?
In Elder Scott’s discourse, he taught that “a consistent, righteous life produces an inner power and strength that can be permanently resistant to the eroding influence of sin and transgression.” The reciprocal nature of character building faith, and faith building character, allows us to progressively perfect ourselves through applying the Atonement. We learn of Christ in order to know who He is. We know who He is that we might become like Him. We become like Him that we might match our character to His, and thus achieve perfection.
The development of our Christian character comes as a result of consistently making correct choices. We must daily—minute by minute—ensure that we think, feel, and act in a manner that is both internally consistent, and consistent with Christ’s gospel. Despite our inconsistencies and infrequent infidelities, we have the assurance that so long as we are trying to become perfect in Christ, we will be justified. As President Hinckley taught:
There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord uses imperfect people—you and me—to build strong societies. If some of us occasionally stumble, or if our characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that we accomplish so much.
We Latter-day Saints understand the importance of being faithful to Christ. We have been given His teachings, we are able to learn of His doctrine, and we are commanded to make His character our own. Joseph Smith taught:
There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty.
… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us.
Therein lies the end goal of a consistent Christian character: to become sufficiently like Christ that we receive Him in our lives and are ultimately able to return to God’s presence. I testify that though we all face temptations, trials, and times in which our grip on the iron rod may be weak, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. Repentance is possible, and forgiveness is assured. Despite any past character flaws or infidelity to our covenants, we can remember and recommit ourselves to the cause of Christ. I testify that when we make and renew that commitment, our capacity for increased faith, and our ability to exercise it, is increased. We, the Saints of God, can commit today to be like Christ, and become perfect in Him.
33 Responses to “The Consistency of Christian Character”
March 21, 2011
[…] writes a pretty good post today. My quibble: Smoking pot = drinking Diet Coke? […]
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I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone missed the point of that analogy.
I think sometimes, though, we as LDS speak too much about what we are, theoretically, doing ‘right’–
perhaps it would be wise if more of us (*trying to avoid a tongue in cheek here*) would simply not talk about how good we are–
*we* being collective–
I do hear entirely too much of people talking about what *we* as LDS do–
and it begins to sound boastful–
no wonder *we* trip and fall so often–
if *we* don’t profess righteousness, we will have less temptation to be hypocrites.
Better not to say anything about how good *we* are or what *we* are doing right and be more consistent in doing–
our works, in the end, will mean more than our words, either way–
I don’t recommend that anyone get up and confess all of his/her sins in front of a congregation–
but I think *we* should be skeptical about ourselves–
perhaps a disclaimer, “I am going to bear testimony of this principle, but I don’t pretend to have perfected my obedience to it”–
I don’t know; I may just be talking–
a person in my ward who is known for being extremely kind to an ‘inner circle’ and at the best patronizing to any who don’t fit his/her ideal of saintliness, particularly by lack of financial success–
is supreme at talking about the importance of being righteous–
it is not always easy to hear–
There are people who simply are not capable of grasping this concept; what *they* say is what *they* are–
works don’t enter into the picture–
Those are the exact reasons why Mormon kept the account of the Zoramite prayer and why the Savior gave us the parable of the pharisee and publican in Luke 18. When does the Lord’s covenant people start to really get into trouble in any given dispensation? When they begin to brag about being the Lord’s covenant people.
mormonconsecrationist, I couldn’t agree more with your statements. I definitely don’t think that everybody has to have walked the “road to Damascus” in order to be able to bear witness to principles of self-improvement and gospel alignment, but the best and most effective messages will of course come from some internal place, self-examination of one’s own weaknesses, and a desire to teach true principles rather than to criticize.
And anybody who misses Connor’s soda analogy, in my opinion, is either doing so deliberately or needs to be less sensitive to potentially constructive principles. Sadly, turning a statement into a bizarre absolute and then acting indignant is pretty easy as well, hence the “Are you really correlating pot and Diet Coke!?” hysteria a select few may immediately lash into. (Incidentally, I think caffeine may be more addictive than THC, and controlling its intake would probably do more toward making Utah a lighter, healthier state than banning “spice” :P.)
Wonderful talk. It is obvious that you thought about this and prayed about it and had the courage to challenge the congregation to a new level of committment. Two thoughts that I would add is that in all we do we need to follow the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. The Sanctifer is our true guide. As people we can never be good enough to save ourselves…that is why we have the Savior and that is his mission. In improving our lives we need his help and that comes through the Holy Ghost. You are a thoughtful young man and I think you will be a strong leader for goodness. The world needs men of courage. God bless you as you seek to help others and share you testimony with them.
Very well written. I assume your delivery matched the content. Thanks for the reminder we all need from time to time—as in daily!
No, maybe you are morally superior. “cuz that’s why they have you speak so frequently. It’s at least a 12 year rotation around here. You’re doing something right. Maybe you could pre-post next week’s as a teaser.
Why do you mention “rigid observance of the law publicly, while failing to internalize the law’s purposes privately’.
The LDS church advances a number of very public standards for appearances. Such as hair length, style of clothes, beardless face for men, particular length of dress and cut for tops for women. Even the wow can be a public outer observation, every time a particular substance is offered it can be turned down and distained.
The basic hypocrasy I see is that it doesn’t appear to match the original christian faith. Jesus is often pictured as having long hair, beard, and clothes that do not match LDS standards. In addition he used wine in the passover feast or the ‘last supper’. Culture has changed, but for the most part christian values have not. Adherence to outer public dress misses the internal values which are possible to keep without having short hair or wearing a suit, or shaving ones face.
Christ taught that the only way to tell if someone really believes in him & is a true disciple of his, is by their possessing ‘pure Christlike unconditional love’.
Unfortunately though, I can’t seem to find anyone in all the members that surround me (family, friends, ward, church, etc.) that truly believe in Christ & having this kind of love. They flat out all say, when asked, that they don’t believe in Christ’s true love, (especially for a spouse), let alone neither do they seem to possess it by their acts & beliefs.
They all believe in disintergrating their marriages & families before having true love. Or they believe in ‘supporting’ others who don’t believe in true love & who disintegrate their marriages & destroy their families.
No one seems to believe in having Christ’s true love anymore for a wayward or wicked spouse. And that’s just when your spouse & God needs you most to have it. The whole purpose of Christ’s Gospel message, which is ‘Christlike love’, is for saving marriages & families. But who actually believes in that? No one I know.
I don’t know what to make of all this. I can only think that 2 Nephi 28 is definately talking about our Church today & that everyone has gone astray & become corrupt, except a rare few, but I can’t even find those rare few.
Do any of ‘you’ really believe in Christ & having Christlike pure unconditional love for everyone, especially your spouse?
For if we don’t have it for our spouse 1st, it’s impossible to have it for anyone else in this world.
It’s ‘marriage’ that truly teaches us how to have this kind of love & proves whether we do or not.
Jim, I don’t think that any practicing Mormons would argue that a lack of facial hair (or any other grooming or dress-based practice) is a universal Gospel requirement :).
Even on BYU campus, where grooming practices are pretty rigidly enforced for students, the “religious” aspect of things primarily focuses on the personal honor aspect – fulfilling a promise to behave in certain ways as a condition of attendance. Naturally, missionaries and Church employees also have pretty meticulous standards of appearance, and for good reasons: they reflect the Church in various capacities. In a sense it’s a matter of public relations (no negative meaning implied).
My theory (and I believe it’s a good one) is that long facial hair and extreme accessories or stylings have come to be associated mainly with countercultural elements, something that official Church institutions probably don’t want to be associated with in an attempt to retain a certain independence from such things. As pictures of what we believe to be prophets of this dispensation will attest, there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with having a beard, though obviously sometimes-overzealous bishops and stake presidents will occasionally counsel people to the contrary.
I’m sorry for your negative experiences; it sounds like you’ve been through quite a bit. I would like to register my belief in unconditional love, which doesn’t involve condoning everything a person does but a willingness to support and help everyone, particularly those closest to you, without thinking of others (ever!) as “inferior” or lost, unworthy of help or compassion. In my experience few people are actually hateful – they may be thoughtless ignorant, or have failed to truly internalize the message you cite. Some people may be silly, insensitive or even hateful sometimes though I certainly don’t feel this reduces the potency of the Gospel itself, which represents an ideal we ought to be striving for rather than a day-to-day reality. My personal philosophy obtained from a good friend is to have zero expectations for the people around you, but to be grateful and learn something from what positive you can find in anybody. It’s pretty difficult counsel to follow when those people are your family and friends, but it’s helped me in some pretty nasty circumstances.
It’s wonderful to know that you believe in Christ-like unconditional love, for you are rare. Most everyone will not keep their covenants & endure to the end with their spouse if their spouse becomes wicked & refuses to stay faithful & keep their covenants to them.
Most people today believe in divorce & remarriage, not true love. People who believe in & have ‘unconditional true love’ would never divorce or remarry no matter what. Though they may need to separate from a dangerous spouse for awhile & love & serve them from a safe distance, until they repent, which is usually not until the next life.
The negative times we live in are just fulfilling prophecy, that everyone will be lead astray & become corrupt in the last days, except a few. The trick is trying to hold on & be one of the few.
I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, though. Are you saying that people should stay with spouses who refuse to stay faithful, that this is an aspect of “unconditional love”? Part of these covenants mean that a philandering or abusive spouse doesn’t give the other person the right to do the same things, sure, but if one person absolutely refuses to support or respect the other and attempts have been made to resolve the situation in a spirit of kindness and love, I’m not sure that it’s a situation that can continue. Temporal divorce or separation exists for a reason, though of course temple sealings are not easily separated, and while there is pain and deep hurt associated with it, it may be better in some cases than the pain of staying in an abusive relationship or one based on gross disregard or negligence on one side. You seem to be referring to an almost alarmingly specific case, though, so I hope these words don’t cause any hurt related to a specific event you’ve undergone :(.
We are commanded to have unconditional true love for our spouse, no matter what, even if they don’t have it for us & don’t stay faithful to us & even become our enemy.
For this kind of love never dies & never gives up on a spouse & this is the kind of love Christ had & has for us. He has commanded us to even love our enemies, even if & especially if that is our spouse.
Now I did say in my post above, that it may be necessary to love & serve & stay faithful to a spouse from a safe distance, & have a temporary separation, until they repent in this life or the next, if they are dangerous. But most abusive & unfaithful spouses will repent if their spouse has true love & they are taught how to love & respect their spouse & pressure & consequences are applied from family, friends & church if needed.
But those who possess this Christ-like Unconditional True Love would never divorce their spouse & date or remarry someone else. They would wait until their spouse repents, for everyone must eventually repent someday, hopefully for their sakes in this life, instead of much more painfully in the next.
Heavenly Father knew that in most all marriages on this earth, even in the Church, one or both spouses would become hurtful, unrighteous, abusive or unfaithful in some way, & thus he commanded us to have true love, instead of having everyone go in & out of divorce trying to find someone who loves them back. That is wonderful when it happens, but is not reality for must marriages.
Marriage is not about ‘our’ happiness & welfare & getting our needs met, but about loving & serving & even ‘saving’ if necessary, our spouse, by the power of ‘true love’, which as the Prophets have taught, has the power to save the souls of our errant spouse & children & bring them to the Celestial Kingdom with us, after they pay for their sins & repent & are cleansed in Spirit Prison.
A very honest and surprising answer. LDS people as a whole generally follow advise on grooming and clothing standards however?
Its not only LDS that have a problem with long hair on men. My in law commented that my hair was starting to ‘look like a hippy’. I found that extremely rude, and judgemental. The comment actually happend when I was actually thinking I need to get a haircut. Not for looking righteous or whatever, its just not having it fall in my face. I have always wondered what it would be like to have long hair, but I could never get past that length where its in my face, but not long enough to put in a pony tail or braids. So, I have more or less have had the same hairstyle all my life. Pretty boring and uncreative.
LDS seperating their appearance by getting haircuts and shaving, if its on advice of leadership is pretty much like jews wearing a yamica, or sikhs wearing a turban. Its more subtle thats for sure. But the appearance as a whole is very distinct. Dark suit, shaved face, short hair, briefcase on sunday usually people with think LDS or a business person.
From what I know short hair is just a convention that started in the industrial revolution, to prevent workers from getting their hair caught in machinery, and to keep it out of the way in general in an assembly line. Somehow it stuck. Yet few people give it a second thought as to historical figures like Jesus having long hair. Or the founding fathers with a pony tail. Most of the time it was actually a wig, but it still has long hair. Of course there is Brigham young, with rather longish hair, and sometimes pictured with a beard.
Here’s a good reason/theory why a lot of Mormons won’t subscribe to the doctrine of Christlike love, because they’ve been programmed to believe that God’s love is now conditional!
History has shown that God’s love is “tough” love, but the scriptures testify of it being unconditional. An apostle really should know better.
What do you do with those scriptures in the NT which are not exclusively LDS? This guy seems to make them read that divine love is conditional, as a general christian principle.
Its honest however, as the LDS faith believes that works in addition to faith are required for salvation. Many nonLDS christians believe that salvation is acquired by grace only. This is NOT to say that christians don’t ascribe to standards of behavior, only that you cannot earn love or salvation, those are freely given.
It does explain a lot about how the Church authority works, and how the LDS people seem to judge people who don’t hold the same view or the same standards. At the very least it is consistent and truthful, ‘transparent’ about their belief.
I think that much of the problem comes from our equating of “love” with “acceptance”. For example, regarding AV’s words, I feel a marriage is a scenario wherein two people make a partnership to remain true to each other and work toward some of the same goals. Although I believe that a very large tolerance should be allowed and forgiveness and leeway offered on both sides, if it’s clear that the fundamental underpinnings of the relationship cannot and will not continue on these terms then it’s time to make a thoughtful and prayerful decision as to whether it’s something that can continue. The true Christlike love you should have for the other person should not evaporate, but making another person your “project” when they are unwilling is a recipe for falling into self-destruction, especially if there’s a family involved. You cannot solve another person’s problems; you can only provide support and that love. And though I think that the situation would need to be fairly extreme before a separation would be necessary, I’m willing to allow for that scenario.
Similarly, I definitely feel that I may have a different perspective from Elder Nelson (though I think this is just a really weak article, as I’ll back up below), for reasons I can delineate. I feel that he’s equating God’s love for us with specific blessings rendered, that he seems to think that some are defining “love” as “absolute acceptance of a person as they are with no desire to change them”, and its absolute manifestation as blessings and salvation. I do believe that God understands us fully and loves us fully as we are, but that does not mean that He does not require us to improve ourselves and change according to divine instruction and light. Punishments (or a lack of blessings, which can be conditional) are often a corrective tool, and are as such motivated by love. Parents don’t punish their children or withhold privileges conditional upon behavior because they love them less, they do so for their own improvement.
I think “love” is being used in two senses in those verses – in one sense, meaning the unconditional love that God has for all of us that cannot be lost, and in another sense the state of walking in His love that as a matter of consequence is dependent upon obedience. Reading the article it’s also clear that Elder Nelson is using that term in both senses as well – when he describes the love that parents have for their children, and that God loves the sinner as well as the saint – so it’s a little strange and inconsistent to not see him recognize that and the article feels a little schizophrenic as a result. I therefore suspect that this pretty weak article may be a consequence of editing rather than misguided belief, as a selection from an address given by Elder Nelson in April 2010’s General Conference seems to attest:
Clumpy, thank you for sharing these comments. You’ve put these issues into a perspective that, while I agree, I would not be able to articulate otherwise.
Going back to the issue of the Church maintaining standards to uphold their image- this is a related concern I recently brought up to my sister (who is a seminary teacher). While I see good reason for there to be grooming standards for a general body of representatives of Christ, my concern that I brought up to her is that there are people who preach grooming standards at the same level as heavier principles-such as faith or charity. Often, even though people aren’t being taught cultural standards at the same level of weightier matters there are still some who interpret them to be equal. As teachers and learners we need to be able to distinguish the difference between culture and truth. Culture changes but truth doesn’t.
There are some good reasons to abide by cultural expectations but we should see them for what they are and not judge or be offended when someone violates our cultural expectation. Introspectively though, by reasonably abiding by other people’s cultural expectation we are applying the golden rule. More on the subject here.
Thanks! And I agree with your “culture” angle – I’ve also heard misguided arguments like “If it’s okay for (missionaries/BYU students), then it’s okay for me!”. I think that failing to recognize the line between culture and doctrine is a major cause of the disillusionment some individuals feel with “the Church”, culminating in resentment.
In this discussion I keep reading ‘grooming standards’ as if a man with long hair is ungroomed. Not necessarily untrue. One could also have really nice facial hair that is pleasing and neat in appearance.
One example I thought of is Yanni.
I think he could go to an LDS church meeting and barely even get noticed as far as the sense of being appropriately dressed for church.
I think the issue is that for some issues its expressed as an all or none kind of deal. The masses don’t comprehend exceptions, and a sense that some look good with their hair one way or another. But perhaps the masses should become more sophisticated and be able to make more subtle distinctions. Just an opinion.
I am sorry to hear that you also, believe in divorce. I had hoped you really did believe in True Christ-like love, the kind that never gives up on a marriage or spouse. For while you say you would walk out the door at some point from a wicked spouse who won’t repent, Christ with his True Love, knows that that is just the time to be staying in the relationship all the more, so you could save your spouse, especially when they needed saving the most. For the grand purpose of true love & marriage is to give us the power to ‘save’ our spouse from an eternity alone in a lower kingdom if they don’t earn the Celestial.
Very few believe we can gain that power to save our spouse but Christ taught us how to.
Christ saved us, all of us, even those who refuse to repent in this life, by his power of True Everlasting love. He gave his life even for his worst enemy. He did not walk out or give up on the unrepentant.
And those who truly possess his unconditional love would never divorce their spouse & choose to lose them for eternity. They would faithfully wait for them to repent.
Those who possess this love, understand that they have the power to save their spouse & marriage for eternity, no matter what the other spouse may do in this life. After the errant spouse finally repents & pays for their sins in Spirit Prison the righteous spouse can bring them to the Celestial KIngdom with them for all eternity.
All wicked spouses must eventually repent someday, either in this life or the next.
So it appears that what you are actually describing & believe in, like almost everyone today, is ‘conditional’ love, only loving & staying faithful & true to a spouse only if they do it for you too.
That is not the way God set up marriage to be, for he knew way before hand that hardly any marriage would have 2 people who did that. God designed marriage to be where one spouse must love the other anyway, no matter what, & thus alone save the marriage, spouse & family eternally, by true ‘unconditional’ love.
I am grateful that Christ had ‘un’conditional love for me & all of us & did not desert us just when we needed him most. But gave his life to save us & bless us with salvation (in at least one of the 3 kingdoms), which none of us deserved or could have gotten for ourselves.
AV, I think this kind of goes back to what we were referring to. What if somebody defined Christ’s love a automatic salvation, regardless of what the person did or whether they accepted it? One might say: “True love is saving everybody, regardless of whether or not they repent.” The Atonement is unconditional in the sense that it applies to everybody without limits, but the person must take advantage of it.
Likewise I don’t believe that extreme cases which require separation necessarily indicate a lack of Christlike “love”. Bear in mind that a civil divorce is not a cessation of the temple sealing, something that is only given in rare cases (and I think probably only applies in extreme cases of abuse or infidelity). If it’s any consolation, I don’t believe that I would lean toward even civil divorce as one of the first choices, particularly if the relationship had been going for some time. I myself am of the wait it out school of practice, though in my mind somebody who violates their marriage covenants already called the partnership off to an extent.
If a person divorces their spouse & starts to date or remarry, than that breaks the sealing automatically, at least from that spouse’s end (the other spouse can stay faithful & keep the sealing together if they choose to), whether or not the cancellation is done officially on paper yet or not.
Thus there is no such thing as a man truly sealed to more than one woman, though it often looks that way for awhile.
True Love is what makes any marriage eternal, & no one can have true love for their spouse & be faithful to that spouse if they are desiring to be with someone else or dating or marrying someone else. So they give up their eternal claim on their spouse & children if they divorce & date & break that seal by their unfaithfulness to their 1st spouse.
Christ’s true love for us can only get us to ‘one’ of the 3 kingdoms, which ever one we really deserve, after we repent & are cleansed in Spirit Prison if needed.
But if a spouse has true love they can get their errant spouse (after that spouse repents & is cleansed in Spirit Prison) all the way to the Celestial Kingdom with them, to be together & married forever.
So Christ’s true love can’t save everyone to the Celestial Kingdom, unless everyone has a spouse or parent who is that valiant & willing to do that for them.
But such true love for a spouse is very rare. Very few people will probably be brought to the Cel. Kingdom by true love & allowed to enjoy what they didn’t earn, like the prodical son.
For as I said in the beginning, rare is the person who is willing to believe in, let alone have true love & faithfulness for their spouse when their wicked spouse is continually unfaithful, hurtful & may even abandon them.
Most everyone does what you say, & leaves their spouse eventually & breaks their covenants to them by dating someone else, if they won’t repent.
Anyone, even the wicked, can love those who love them, but only those who possess true Christlike love can love, serve & save their enemies, especially when that is a spouse.
So when a spouse sacrifices that much to keep their covenants of true love, they are rewarded with the greatest power of all, to save their spouse & children to the Celestial Kingdom.
I think this is where we get into trouble. If I felt that one’s salvation could hinge on their spouse (an occasional cultural belief in the Church), and that the person would go from being sinful or whatnot to a perfect, purified person merely because of their spouse’s works, then I would be with you and agree that they should just wait it out until the next life.
But it doesn’t work that way – nobody can save another person and “drag” them up to a higher kingdom within Mormon doctrine. It’s up to each individual person to accept the Atonement and live up to their understanding, and the LDS Church doesn’t believe in any sort of “purgatory” which purges the wickedness out of a person and makes them fit for the same Celestial salvation as somebody who remained faithful. Spirit Prison is almost always used in the context of teaching the Gospel to people who didn’t have the chance to hear it (and hence no accountability). Of course God is the final judge, but nobody has the option to willfully disobey and then be saved after the fact merely because their spouse was faithful. That would be so unfair to those not saved through such an arbitrary mechanism.
It appears you are not familiar with everything that the Prophets have taught on this subject. I would encourage you to study out what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young & Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith said on marriage & errant spouses & divorce, for starters. They seemed to really understand & expound the most about what happens to errant spouses after this life.
It is actually very true that Spirit Prison, at least a part of it, is also a type of true hell, worse & more painful than anything we can imagine, for those who need further pain to help them finally repent. The realization of their sins is what brings them that incredible pain, that caused even Christ to bleed at every pore. Everyone must eventually repent in hell (if they didn’t repent on earth) & be completely cleansed & pure before they can move on to one of the 3 Kingdoms.
Unfortunately, it seems that most people in this world choose to wait to repent in hell, instead of repenting on earth where it is easier, faster & not so painful.
I’m afraid you misunderstood what I said. No spouse can change the character & nature of their spouse by their righteous works, no matter how good. A righteous spouse can only get an ‘unworthy’ spouse, who was cleansed & changed in hell, to a higher reward than they really deserved.
A unrighteous spouse will have to suffer & slowly learn & change by their own choice, which some Prophets say may take a 1000 years in Spirit Prison before the errant spouse is cleansed & changed & ready to accept Christ & desire to only do good continually now.
The atonement of Christ does not cover their sins if they don’t repent while on earth.
Once a wicked spouse is finally clean & pure, only then can the spouse be released & join a righteous spouse who may still want them, & be taken by them to the Celestial Kingdom, if they are so fortunate to have that blessing & not just have to go to the Telestial Kingdom they really earned.
The ability & power to do this has nothing to do with the errant spouse, but it is a reward for the valiant spouse, for patiently & faithfully keeping their marriage covenants to their spouse, regardless of the sins of their spouse & the suffering the spouse caused them on earth.
So it is very fair, anyone spouse can earn the power to save their spouse ( & errant children too) if they choose to have Christlike true love & never give up on them.
Of course though, that doesn’t mean we can live sinful lives here on earth & trust that our spouse will save us, for the may not be worthy enough either to be able to save us or they may not choose to stay faithful & save us. Such a thing is very rare.
Plus, even if your spouse would save you, they can’t save you from having to go to hell 1st & suffering for maybe a 1000 years until you are ready to move on with your righteous spouse.
So it is very risky to not repent in this life & think our spouse will just save us.
I hoped that helped to clarify things a little more.
If we study the Prophets & pray about these things it will all be laid out to us very clearly, line upon line.
Wow, thats interesting. However, the average christian believes that all their sins will be paid for and they will never suffer for a moment in hell or spirit prison or anything like that. 1,000 years of suffering? And that is for a believer in christ?
I agree. It seems belief in the scripture that “We can lie a little, cheat a little, etc, & God will beat us with a few stripes & then we will all be saved in the KIngdom of God” is very popular among those who don’t want to repent in this life. One Prophet said that scripture is one of the most ‘devilish doctrines ever taught’.
It takes a very righteous person to make it to the Celestial Kingdom.
And the 1000 years thing is probably only the length of time for the worse of sinners, not all sinners will take 1000 years to repent. It will probably be up to the person how long they want to take to finally decide to change their wicked ways & thinking.
And no, a true ‘believer in Christ’ would never have to go to such a ‘hell’, for they would be righteous.
There are 613 commands given in the torah. Do you think you could live them at all times throughout a life time? I think it would be difficult to keep even a small fraction of them, ones that the average person would consider important.
If a person just earns 1 thing, Charity, the pure love of Christ, they will be righteous enough to go to the Celestial Kingdom, even if they have a few minor weaknesses still to iron out in the next life.
We don’t have to be perfect in this life, just holy & on a high enough level of spirituality to make it. Meaning we live worthy of the Holy Spirit (which is the Spirit of love) as our guide & then we will not be deceived to do anything seriously wrong.
Charity covereth a multitude of sins. And we can all gain Charity if we really want to.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us…”
1 John 4:10
We are saved through the shedding of Christ’s blood and resurrection. The same saving power will help us be dressed for wedding when we believe and protest. Being dressed for wedding does not bare power. At all!! Or we would be back to the law. Which didn’t work.