27 September 2015

What do I mean by "Salvation"?

When I first began hearing Christians use the word "salvation", I wasn't sure what to make of it. I was taught, for over thirty years, that salvation comes after this life. It is something one receives after being tested and tried, and is only certain when the gavel comes down on Judgement Day.
"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 Nephi 25:23
My understanding of salvation has shifted somewhat, into an understanding that allows for an exponentially higher degree of hope and joy in this life: being saved, during our lives, from sin and death through the merits of Jesus Christ. There are three degrees of salvation:

  1. Salvation from the punishment of sin: hell, the place of eternal separation from God where lucifer and his angels dwell.
  2. Salvation from the effects of sin: pain and suffering, both mental/emotional and physical.
  3. Salvation from the presence of sin: existence in Heaven with God.

The first degree of salvation comes about when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and begin our walk as believers.

The second degree of salvation is when we progress in our walk to the point that we trust God enough to believe that Jesus truly overcame sin AND death, and we allow Him to heal us. The baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit usually happens sometime during this phase.

The third degree of salvation happens after this life is through, and we are taken back to the God who gave us life.

So do I mean, then, that salvation is finished and all we have to do is receive it, with nothing required of us for the rest of our lives?

No. I'm not preaching a "do nothing gospel". Not by a long shot. Lip service alone will not work in you the transformation necessary for you to be comfortable in the presence of God. And I know this because scripture is abundantly clear on this point:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 
~Matthew 7:21
If you want to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, your life must actively fulfill the will of the Father.

Peter wrote, pertaining to being able to receive the fulfillment of the promises offered by Jesus:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
~2 Peter 1:5-11
What I am saying, earnestly, is that when we are truly able to receive the love of Jesus Christ, when we truly trust Him, believing what He said (which is the natural result of actually accepting Him as your Savior), you choose the influence of the Holy Spirit. That bears fruit, as the word proclaims clearly:
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23
 When you choose Jesus Christ, and begin to walk as a believer, learning of Him and following Him, your life changes. You choose differently, because you believe what Jesus said. You begin to change as God teaches you (Romans 12:2), and He begins to transform you into His own image, the image of God.

The life of a believer, who receives what Jesus offers, the walking out of salvation before God, is a beautiful, powerful, transformative thing. It's not stasis, comfort and flattery. It's challenge, it's being called to deeper and higher levels of discipline and service, and it's learning to receive the comfort Jesus offers as the old life is stripped away to reveal the new creature in Christ Jesus.

If anyone has any questions, please do let me know.

8 comments:

  1. You wrote:

    “In LDS teachings, salvation comes after this life. It is something one receives after being tested and tried, and is only certain when the gavel comes down on Judgement Day.”

    This is what the LDS Church really teaches:

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    "To Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation in this teaching signify a present covenant relationship with Jesus Christ in which we are assured salvation from the consequences of sin if we are obedient. Every sincere Latter-day Saint is “saved” according to this meaning. We have been converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have experienced repentance and baptism, and we are renewing our covenants of baptism by partaking of the sacrament."
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/05/have-you-been-saved?lang=eng

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  2. Forgive me for not including proper citation. I'll fix that after this comment.

    I took, as the basis of my initial statement, the oft-quoted 2 Nephi 25:23:

    "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."

    The last phrase, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do", is one that is repeated with tremendous regularity in LDS church culture. The general understanding, culturally accepted, is that members don't really know if they're saved until they stand before Jesus Christ. I know this because, in addition to my own decades of disciplined and serious study of Mormon Doctrine and scripture, I have my lifetime of Fast and Testimony meetings under my belt in wards spanning four states, five stakes, and nine church units, from the meager branch where I grew up to BYU wards (both student and family) to thriving family wards in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Church members, on the whole, have very little confidence that they will stand before Jesus Christ with confidence. They hope, desperately. But, with the rare exception, declare nothing more.

    Your quote is legitimate. But it is not the commonly accepted or preached concept of salvation that I was taught. (In the aforementioned, reasonably broad sample of LDS Church units.)

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  3. Your original comments were on salvation, not grace. Although they are connected, you made a statement that “in LDS teachings, salvation comes after this life.” It depends on what definition of salvation you are referring to. The Born Again Christian definition of having accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, then according to an Apostle, Elder Oaks, we have been saved. If you finish Elder Oak’s talk you will see there are several definitions of saved or salvation that are taught in the LDS church.

    Elder Oaks
    "As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5) or as conditioned upon a future event (e.g., Mark 13:13). But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ."
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/05/have-you-been-saved?lang=eng

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    Replies
    1. We're talking past one another, again. Can you not grasp where I'm coming from?

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    2. We're talking past one another, again. Can you not grasp where I'm coming from?

      Delete
  4. I apologize if you feel I am talking past you, but you made a claim about the LDS church that needs to be corrected.

    What is taught in the LDS church is, the word saved or salvation has several meanings. This doctrine has been taught for years. Like the word mathematics has several meanings. First grade addition is considered mathematics but so is calculus. To claim the LDS church only teaches calculus as the definition of mathematics is your personal opinion and cannot be stated as “In LDS teachings, salvation comes after this life.” That statement is not supported in the LDS teachings.

    Some individuals, from your post, you included, may have focused more on the one definition of salvation which comes after this life. Just as Born Again Christians may focus more on the immediate mortal definition of salvation. This is not the doctrine of the LDS church.

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  5. I'm sharing my experience. I recognize that my wording might have made it sound otherwise, so I've edited the link you quoted.

    I would add that cultural reality is a far cry from what is said over the pulpit at General Conference. Take Elder Uchtdorf's talk about "big tent" Mormonism, where there's room for all kinds of people, including those who question, those who disagree on various things. My experience, along with many hundreds of others, if not thousands, stand in direct contradiction to his statements that there is room in the church for those types.

    What is preached is NOT what is practiced.

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  6. Thank you for the correction.

    This is the quote from Pres. Uchtdorf you were referring to:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.”

    The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” The Church is for people like you and me. The Church is a place of welcoming and nurturing, not of separating or criticizing. It is a place where we reach out to encourage, uplift, and sustain one another as we pursue our individual search for divine truth.

    In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship.
    We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.”
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/receiving-a-testimony-of-light-and-truth?lang=eng

    Nowhere in the quote does he say “those who disagree on various things.” Having question is not the same as disagreeing. What happens is people do not like the answers to their questions and then they disagree. This has been the case since before the world. 1/3 of the host of heaven disagreed on who should be the Savior. No one was forced to choose one side or the other. Just as no one is forced to accept the LDS doctrine of Jesus Christ.

    Pres. Uchtdorf did go on to give some counsel:

    “First you must search the word of God. That means reading the scriptures and studying the words of the ancient as well as modern prophets regarding the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—not with an intent to doubt or criticize but with a sincere desire to discover truth.

    Second, you must consider, ponder, fearlessly strive to believe,8 and be grateful for how merciful the Lord has been to His children from the time of Adam to our day by providing prophets, seers, and revelators to lead His Church and help us find the way back to Him…

    Third, you must ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unto you…

    There is also a fourth step, given to us by the Savior: “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”10 In other words, when you are trying to verify the truth of gospel principles, you must first live them. Put gospel doctrine and Church teachings to the test in your own life. Do it with real intent and enduring faith in God.

    …if we remove ourselves from the light of the gospel, our own light begins to dim—not in a day or a week but gradually over time—until we look back and can’t quite understand why we had ever believed the gospel was true. Our previous knowledge might even seem foolish to us because what once was so clear has again become blurred, hazy, and distant.”

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!