Grace vs. Works: An Oar With Your Name on It?

Ecumenigal Mormon 25 Comments

I just loved John Dehlin’s latest interview with Shawn McCraney.  I’ve followed both of their work with great interest for years. They bring up the age-old grace vs. works issue, which always compels me to speak, because I don’t ever hear my point of view quite verbalized.  I’m interested in the thoughts of this very thoughtful crowd.

SHORT VERSION:  If all we do is get in the boat, Christ will row us to the other side.  But if we’re anxious to meet God face to face, there is an extra oar in the boat with our name on it.

LONG VERSION:

1. EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS emphasize that “Grace is sufficient” and we are helpless to save ourselves.  In response, people often ask, “Why would you continue to be good if you’re already saved and it doesn’t matter what you do?”  The response is often, “We do good works out of gratitude to God.”

2. MORMONS say that we are “saved by Grace after all that we can do”.  I think Shawn McCraney has a valid concern that Mormon people are burdened by the belief that they need to do all these things to become exalted. I’ve heard so many dear Mormon friends (some physically or mentally ill with severe limitations) gnash their teeth in fear that they had not “done all they could do” and would fail in God’s eyes or miss out on living with God.   I hope and pray for the message in Stephen E. Robinson’s Believing Christ to permeate Mormon culture.   In that book he describes that Grace is in fact sufficient, and that being in partnership with Christ is like having a bank account with infinity.  Any amount times infinity is infinity.  It’s not up to us to save ourselves, but it is up to us to be fully engaged in the process as our way of saying “yes” to that partnership.

3. EASTERN PHILOSOPHY emphasizes that our spiritual goals are attained by personal effort and choices, but also includes the idea of Grace in places.   In my yoga class this week we read from the Bagivad Gita a passage emphatically urging disciples that no progress will come, save from our own effort.  (In much of Eastern Philosophy, “works” are Knowledge, Selfless Service, Meditation, Renunciation, Devotion, and others.)

4. MY PERSPECTIVE is that the purpose of works is in fact the elevation of our consciousness and the transformation of our natures into Celestial Beings.  We miss the power of spiritual practices when we think of works as merely expressing gratitude to God, or even as a gesture to show God our sincerity.  Works actually do something that matters to our spiritual growth.  I sometimes wonder if  “Grace AFTER all we CAN do” doesn’t really play out as “Grace BEFORE all that we WILL do”,  since it is Grace that gives us the life, health, faith, motivation, understanding, and free will that allow us to do works in the first place.  To me, the co-creative process of spiritual growth looks like this:  If all we do is get in the boat, Christ will row us to the other side.  But if we’re anxious to meet God face to face, there is an extra oar in the boat with our name on it.

Questions for you:

1. What do you think of my universalist religion-synthesizing?  Am I missing the point?

2. What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God? Do you feel in bondage?

3. What do you think of my idea that works are optional?  Blasphemy or sensible?

4. In my boat analogy, if you agree with it, what does it mean to “get in the boat”?

Comments

comments

Comments 25

  1. What great questions.

    1. What do you think of my universalist religion-synthesizing? Am I missing the point?

    No, I don’t think you’re missing the point with universalist religion-synthesizing. I often find you can make all kinds of meaningful connections and spiritual discoveries by studying other points of view.

    2. What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God? Do you feel in bondage?

    Yes, I believe that many Mormons are in bondage. Not all. To be honest, at this moment in my life, I feel in bondage every single day. The church has commandments about absolutely everything: what beverages I drink in the morning, what I do with my money, what clothes I wear, hell — what underwear I wear, and the list goes on. And it’s not enough to simply smile and nod and do your own thing when something doesn’t ring quite true; no, they call you into a meeting every two years to check up on you and make sure you’re in compliance, otherwise they take away your ticket to exaltation (temple recommend). I’m not usually this negative, so I apologize for the frustration in this comment, but at times I feel as though I’m being forced to comply under spiritual knifepoint, and it really sucks.

    3. I don’t think works are optional, but I should add that I believe that the entire premise of the grace/works debate is flawed. It’s not about “what you have to do to get to heaven.” It’s about what a life looks like when it’s in partnership with God. I believe that kind of life inevitably and automatically manifests good works — works of kindness, charity, temperance, patience, humility. Still, it looks different in every life, and it’s not up to me to set arbitrary standards of how it will play out for someone else, nor to judge if it looks very different in their life than it does in mine.

    4. I think the boat analogy works to describe a part of what it means to join with God. I expect part of “getting in the boat” means affirmatively assenting to God’s will, and allowing Him to begin to work in your life.

  2. 1. Interesting
    2. I don’t feel in bondage. I feel that I need to do my best and there are so many good things to do that if you ask the Lord will help you choose and you can let go of the rest at least that day without guilt. So whether I help my child with homework or read the scriptures, as long as I am letting the Lord know I am trying to do his will then I am doing all I can do.
    3. Nope works don’t seem optional to me. I do feel more graded on effort than results (sort of, it is not like I agree with putting more effort into a task than is needed just to earn a better effort grade). I just mean that the Lord expects different works from different people.
    4. I see it more as a Christ saves everyone from death, but saving from sin in based on effort. If we are conscious in the boat, I think he’d like to see us pick up an oar that is appropriate size based on our strength and start rowing.
    What I like about our concept of the different kingdoms is that I view this time as choosing to become. What I choose to become then will then be comfortable in one of the kingdoms. Whatever kingdom I end up, or anyone else for that matter, is the kingdom where their spirit feels comfortable.

  3. I like Robert Millet’s comment that “we are saved by grace in spite of all we do”. The Mormon paradigm is developmental in nature. We ‘become’ by emulation. We see ourselves as disciples – followers of Christ. The protestant false grace-works dichotomy seems to emphasize the words of Paul much more than the words of Christ.It isn’t obedience to the ‘law’, it as obedience to Him. In their world view, we are not children, we are creations of an uncreated being so our familial analogies don’t make sense to them.

  4. 1. It’s fine.
    2. I think a lot of mormons fail to understand grace. I hear that “we are saved by Grace after all we can do” idea so often and I think it creates the misunderstanding. What we need to understand is that we are not saved by our works. No amount of running ourselves ragged trying to earn favor from God will save us.
    3. I don’t think works being optional is the best way to think about it. I think it’s best to not think about it and just try to do good like Jesus Christ.
    4. Not a fan of the boat analogy.

  5. 1.What do you think of my universalist religion-synthesizing? Am I missing the point?

    It’s easy to understand why we feel a need to keep plowing this field, as we keep getting bruised by our “after all we can do” conception.

    2. What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God? Do you feel in bondage?

    I do not, but I know people who do feel a large burden. Worship as burden just doesn’t feel right to me, as the Lord said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. As a people, Mormons do have a lot to do, that’s for sure.

    3. What do you think of my idea that works are optional? Blasphemy or sensible?

    Some works are not optional. Ordinances are not optional. They are where the power of God intersects with men and women to allow God to be manifest in our lives.

    4. In my boat analogy, if you agree with it, what does it mean to “get in the boat”?

    Not sure I love the boat analogy.

    Here’s my beef with the “after all we can do” mentality (of which I have also been guilty).

    First: it’s one verse! Theodore M. Burton taught me (and the other missionaries in the room) that if the Lord says something only once in the scriptures it might not be as important as the things he says over and over. I know it’s a catchy phrase and we quote it a lot. But it’s still one verse.

    Second, in its context, the verse seems to me to say that Nephi is explaining why they have preached Christ so much to their children — so they would understand the grace of His redeeming love. There are six other references to grace in 2 Nephi alone which also make clear that salvation is a free gift. I can’t find a reference to exaltation in 2 Nephi at all. (Hence I don’t know that Nephi drove the distinction we seem to in the church.)

    Third, whereas my evangelical friends say they do good works out of gratitude for God (and that’s great), I would say that as Mormons we might do them out of faith. Our good works (eg, service, obedience) grows out of our love of God and our faith in His promises. At some level we may do things to get rewards, but I believe that most mature members are not counting their chips for come great celestial payoff. The Lord teaches that if we love him, we’ll keep his commandments.

    Fourth, even if exaltation requires more than the free gift of salvation (as is the traditional deliniation among Mormons), its possibility is also available only by the grace of Jesus Christ our Savior. Without His sacrifice we could never repent and overcome sin. So in that sense, even exaltation is a gift, albeit not quite as free (because we actually need to repent and be worthy).

    Personally I find the grace v. works discussion to be a bit of a red herring. If I love the Lord, I’ll strive to keep his commandments. Is the keeping of His commandments a “work”? If so, fine. Do I need ordinances to return to God? Yes. Christ was baptized as an example to me; I need to follow His example. Is that a work? If so, fine. But in the end, it’s all possible ONLY because of His grace. The whole plan is only possible because of His grace.

  6. I seriously think that doing our best means we do the things we can do.

    I don’t take responsibility for the things I am just not able to do. Nobody is perfect.

    If the trip to go is a million miles, our faith gets us started, our works may take us a few yards forward, and Christ will carry us to the end. The best I can do is very little, after all.

    On the other hand, the little I can do is much more than nothing. Try figure the percentage growth from zero to one. It’s infinite, or approaches it.

  7. #8 – Well worded.

    It all changes perspective when we remember why we are here — to further our eternal progression. That is the work of our Heavenly Father, and that is why he wants us to obey. He know that they only way we can become exalted and perfect as He is, is by learning from our experiences. He also knows that we can’t do it on our own. I believe that the boat analogy can be applied if modified as stated by #13. He DOES expect us to pick up an oar and paddle according to our abilities.

  8. 1. What do you think of my universalist religion-synthesizing? Am I missing the point?

    I like it. If you would have asked me at an earlier point in my life, I was more along the “one-true Church”, “all other churches are necessarily of the devil” McConkieesque viewpoint. Several events in my life caused some pretty serious soul searching and investigation of myself and other viewpoints. I am much more universalist now and see my LDS faith as a facet of a much larger and more beautiful gem than the single “pearl of great price” I used to think it was.

    2. What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God? Do you feel in bondage?

    I agree absolutely. The LDS faith has added layers upon layers to the “Law”, or basic principles. Take the principle “Avoid intoxication”. Christ understood this. He wasn’t an alcoholic, yet drank wine. So did Joseph Smith. This has been inflated to the “not a drop” principle where some people won’t even use wine for cooking or drink a cough medicine that might have alcohol. It is fine if people chose this for themselves, but it is institutionalized. The same with “Love your neighbor”. That has been inflated to where we are made to feel guilty if we didn’t do our monthly formal meeting with an assigned family to cover the latest correlated Ensign message. Or the principle of “Dress respectfully for worship”. Instead of letting each person decide what this means, the “unwritten rule” is that it includes a white shirt, a clean shaven face, no earrings or tattoos, and a certain style of underwear.

    We have truly become a “check box” religion of formal and informal rules. It is a religion focused on outward actions as opposed to inward intent. A much higher principle was taught by Joseph Smith at one point – teach people the principles and let them govern themselves. It is prevalent in other religions, including Eastern ones, where general principles are taught but the interpretation of them is up to each individual, and might actually differ between individuals depending on their place in their journey.

    3. What do you think of my idea that works are optional? Blasphemy or sensible?

    I think works are a symptom. Whether you want to call it the “heart” or intent or whatever, developing our inner person is much more important than what we do. I think having some principles are important for the sense of developing discipline, but the works in and of themselves are necessarily unimportant. There is nothing we can do that is more than nothing when compared to the eternal and infinite. Unfortunately, in our church, there is a check-box of rules you have to maintain to be “saved” (which going to the temple implies).

    The works I think are important are those concerning our fellowman. I would MUCH rather have someone who truly loves and serves their fellowman who has a glass of wine for dinner than a tee-tolling man who is unscrupulous in business and wouldn’t lift a finger for something beyond his own self-interest. Unfortunately, the first man would be kept out of the temple yet the second man could (and does for many men I know) go to the temple.

    4. In my boat analogy, if you agree with it, what does it mean to “get in the boat”?

    I think “getting in the boat” is much different than joining a particular denomination. It can’t mean being LDS, as there are many, many more good people in the boat than the 0.1% of the world who are Mormon. I think getting in the boat means accepting that our natural and selfish ways aren’t all there is to reality. For many people, this means accepting Christ in this life, but I also think there are many people who realize this outside the Christian denominations. I think it means accepting God or a higher force or the interconnectedness between all of us as the prime purpose of being here. I then think we need to row, or actively try to serve our fellowman.

    And when it comes down to it, this is the core even though different denominations phrase it differently. Christ expressed it: Greatest commandment – Love God. Second commandment – Love fellowman. That’s really the essence – Loving God is getting in the boat. Loving fellowman is pulling on an oar.

  9. One of the things that has perpetuated the works side of the equation is Joseph Smith’s teaching about blessings being predicated on adherence to a specific law. “There is a law irrevocably decreed…”. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say more than half seriously that they did something to “get blessings”. The idea of doing good for the sake of doing good and letting that evolve into a way of living sometimes seems to be at risk in favor or performance/obediance for it’s own sake. I’ve grown up with the idea that if you did enough good you’d be justified and life and experience has taught me that I can never do enough. I don’t really believe that anymore but in part it’s because faith in the rest of it is on the wane as well.

  10. “the purpose of works is in fact the elevation of our consciousness and the transformation of our natures into Celestial Beings” I totally agree. This is one problem I have with the evangelical proposition. It makes Christianity a religion for losers (or of losers). As Dennis Miller once said, “Why is it that so many people only find Jesus after nobody else here will talk to them?”

    “What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God?” Yes, I think this is an issue for many Mormons, but I don’t think perfectionism (which I don’t suffer from) is the worst outcome of this line of thinking. I think it’s much worse when people begin to think they are better than others or “righteous enough” compared to others; while perfectionism may stall spiritual growth, self-righeousness actually erodes spiritual growth. And I think it’s also a more important issue when someone believes they can “bind the Lord” through their obedience in ways that they can’t. IOW, when crap happens to them, they are left holding the bag. We seem to have a very Pharisaical tendency in the church, counting the number of steps we can walk on a Sunday (something concrete and measurable) rather than truly becoming Godlike (something much more vague).

  11. I really like #4 in the OP, up until the end. To me, works have to be transformative, not simply optional. Christ’s discussion of good works emphasized the internal workings of the person doing good works (eg., Good Samaritan, Widow’s mite, forgiving, “it has been said of them of old…but I say unto you…”). I do believe that Christ through his Spirit can change our hearts, but we have to allow that process, and doing good works is part of it.

    If what we do in life is unessential, then life itself seems unessential. The counter-argument, of course, is that there are plenty of people who die without being able to really do or choose anything. But to me, the whole period between birth and resurrection is all part of this “life”, since we can still choose good in the spirit world.

    If what we do is unessential, then why would God grant agency? Just to increase world suffering?

    The “oar with your name on it” analogy doesn’t work for me because it implies Christ can carry us without us EVER doing anything. I don’t believe this. Why life, then? Because we can be transformed just by observing?

    I fully accept that nothing I do can truly be of any value without Christ. I fully accept that He can compensate for my failings. I cannot accept that Christ can save me without my active participation.

    It would be a cruel God indeed to create this world with all its evil just so I’d appreciate Him more for saving me from it.

  12. I also am not a fan of the oar analogy – or the boat. Again, it implies we are the cargo, not the boat. For me, it’s not about the me I am today going somewhere, it’s about the me I am becoming.

  13. There is no power in works for salvation. There are only two real reasons for works. Obedience and Service. Without both, there is no salvation. But this isn’t because there is power in either to save. It is because without both there is no love, neither for God, or for one’s fellow beings. The purpose of both is to keep the first and second commandments, NOT for the sake of our own salvation. AFTER keeping the first and second great commandments, THEN we are saved by grace. But without the first and second commandments, grace will not step in, because we aren’t truly converted to be saved without charity, which is the manifestation of the first and second great commandments. That which we sow, so also will we reap. If we sow love, we reap love. If we are the embodiment of love, then and only then are we saved by grace, NOT BY WORKS AT ALL.

  14. I like the idea that Grace is what we need because we are too pathetic to make it even close on our own.

    However, with works, it is not a passive journey but a way for me to figure out how to develop Christ-like qualities and understand how loving others helps me appreciate God’s love for me, even if it doesn’t get me an inch closer to the other side, it is the only way to begin to understand God’s way and change my heart to become like Him, so he’ll recognize me and know that I want His grace for me and my family.

    Works help me internally grow…Grace has power to save me.

  15. #4 — If Christ is pulling on two oars and we’re only pulling on one, won’t that make the boat go in circles?

    No, I don’t think so because it is like me pulling oars to move the boat, and my 1 year old son splashing around with little coordination and no strength trying to pretend to make a difference in helping me.

    In reality, our “oar pulling” probably just slows the boat down…but it helps us learn and build muscles.

  16. I think a better analogy is that Christ creates a slipstream for us. We can fire thrusters within that slipstream, but it probably doesn’t matter much if we do.

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    Author

    Oh, bother. I liked my boat analogy! I think Shawn McCraney would like it. But I can see that it has some flaws in relation to what I really think. In my first draft I wrote, “If ALL WE CAN DO is get in the boat, then Christ will row us to the other side…” But I changed it to separate out the choice to get in the boat with the issue of doing “all you can do”.

    When I said that maybe it’s “Grace BEFORE all that we WILL do” I was thinking eternally. When I was suggesting that works are optional I was thinking more within this lifetime. Bad writer! No pens for me.

    All Ya’ll’s great comments are clarifying my thinking.

    I guess I’m arguing that works are both more AND less necessary than the common Mormon view.

    WORKS LESS NECESSARY THAN WE THINK: My vision of fairness and benevolence and Grace is that people have to have a real, meaningful chance. I’m not sure we all get that in these bodies, on this planet. If honestly all you can do in this lifetime is crawl into the boat, that’s got to be enough for now. And, I don’t go in for the time limits on the other side, either. Or some fixed point in time when the doors between the Kingdoms of Heaven will be locked and we will not be able to progress any further. I don’t know that time will even exist on the other side, but I think we get into trouble with these “hurry to be ready before it’s too late” stories. I don’t think we need them to motivate us. I think once we get a taste of God, motivation to be closer to him is enough.

    WORKS MORE NECESSARY THAN WE THINK: Grace may buy us “time” and second chances, but can Grace remove the fact that personal participation is required for personal growth? Can Grace remove the natural law that darkness cannot exist in the presence of light? I don’t think so. Works are more than a nice gesture of participation. If we want to be transformed and become the ultimate light (or become a God), that doesn’t just happen to a passive bump on a log, nor do I believe that that God can waive a magic wand and make us into something we’re not, just because he’s pleased with our effort. Spiritual maturity is something you do, not something you’re granted as a reward.

    GRACE, THE BALANCER: Grace gives us the choice, the ability, and the TIME to do what we eventually need to do to live with God or becoming a god. (Which I conceptualize as achieving Cosmic Consciousness or living in/as The Light.) I don’t really think that Christ can row us ALL THE WAY there. I think he can and will row us through eternities if that’s how long it takes for us to be strong enough to pick up an oar and participate in transforming ourselves into pure light.

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    Author

    Favorites from above:

    #4 Wyoming: “The Mormon paradigm is developmental in nature.”

    #6 Paul:”The whole plan is only possible because of His grace.”

    #7 Velska: “…the little I can do is much more than nothing. Try figure the percentage growth from zero to one. It’s infinite, or approaches it.”

    #10 Mike: “developing our inner person is much more important than what we do”

    (We really need to define “works” for this conversation, don’t we? When in a conversation about the saving power of “works” I tend to think of “works” as the things we “do” to “develop our inner person”. I think some of the things you call “check-boxes” and others call “chances to show obedience”, I call “Spiritual practices for the development of consciousness”. But we’d have to start comparing lists to really find out who is talking about what.)

    #10 Mike: “…Christ expressed it: Greatest commandment – Love God. Second commandment – Love fellowman. That’s really the essence – Loving God is getting in the boat. Loving fellowman is pulling on an oar.” Beautiful!

    #12 Hawkgrrrl: “I think it’s much worse when people begin to think they are better than others or “righteous enough” compared to others; while perfectionism may stall spiritual growth, self-righeousness actually erodes spiritual growth. And I think it’s also a more important issue when someone believes they can “bind the Lord” through their obedience in ways that they can’t.”

    #13 Martin: “If what we do in life is unessential, then life itself seems unessential. The counter-argument, of course, is that there are plenty of people who die without being able to really do or choose anything. But to me, the whole period between birth and resurrection is all part of this “life”, since we can still choose good in the spirit world.”

    That one second chance built into Mormon theology is nice. Makes it easier for me to be a Mormon than an Evangelical. But there are still “what if” scenarios where people get left out, and it doesn’t seem fair to me. I agree with Shawn McCraney who said in his interview with John Dehlin that he just trusts in the principle of justice and that it will all be worked out fairly. But I squirm in my seat a little whenever these deadline-based constructs come up.

    #13 Martin: “If what we do is unessential, then why would God grant agency? Just to increase world suffering?…It would be a cruel God indeed to create this world with all its evil just so I’d appreciate Him more for saving me from it.”

    Woah! Martin. Powerful words. Good words.

  19. I would add that works is the wrong word; I would use merits. Also, we need our repentance to have claim on mercy. By looking at it in that way it makes more sense. We try everyday to stop doing bad and start doing good. It’s not about how many good things we do but what path we are on.

  20. “By grace we are saved, after all we can do.” Sounds bad when you first read it, I think. Almost sounds like we work our way to heaven. But it not true.

    We cannot work our way to heaven, in spite of all we are asked to do. There are not even works in this whole wide world to gt us into heaven.

    The “All we can do” is offer to God and His Son is a broken heart and contrite spirit. And willingness to be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. That’s it.

    No amount of temple endowments, home or visiting teaching, callings, cans of wheat, tithes and offerings will ever get us one step toward exaltation.

    Seems like a paradox at times with the fact that the Lord’s grace save us from eternal damnation but asks us to follow Him and do stuff.

  21. I wish you’d consider the most important lesson from Matthew 23:23 that says,

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone
    (New Testament | Matthew 23:23).

    Please note that Jesus says, not to leave the other undone. We need Faith and works like we need Air and Water; take either one out, and we’re dead as a rock. I think it’s that simple. Your mileage may vary.

    I do think it’s wrong to give all your attention to the visible parts of your life; there are far too many people, who just want to look good in the eyes of others. There are also the people, who, because their own pride, think their own exertion, suffering etc. will save them. And we know that such people have no salvation.

    Besides, if I expect mercy/grace, I should be offering it to others. I know I can do it by learning to love others, but I’m just human in that respect, too, so I’ll never get to the end of the road; I’ll never “arrive” in this life.

    As far as the Word of Wisdom hair splitting goes, I don’t give a hoot if someone frowns on my drinking diet cola (the only way I can really drink diet soda). If my bishop said he wouldn’t give me a TR, I’d definitely give it up totally. Just an example.

    But I do think, that the world is a tougher place in man respects than they were in Joseph Smith’s time. The opposition is growing as the Kingdom is growing. As recently as 1950, you didn’t worry about letting your kid ride a bike or even walk some ways to school. Now everybody is paranoid about pedophiles. Examples of the same type abound.

    Just remember, when Jesus seems to be correcting Martha, when he says, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful about many things,” I’m not sure it was meant she shouldn’t have given them food — remember, they were all — including Jesus — eating food served by Martha. Man does not live by bread alone, but as long as we are mortals, we need bread. Period. The lack of it makes us unable to think of much else in the long run (the Other Side of Heaven example notwithstanding; I have prepared to die before and made peace with the Lord and my near and dear ones and I felt very serene — turned out I was needlessly worried about dying then, but still, I know I’m going to die one day, and I don’t know the day, and don’t want to).

  22. 1. What do you think of my universalist religion-synthesizing? Am I missing the point?

    Your post is a breath of fresh air to me! I think you’re spot-on.

    2. What do you think of Shawn McCraney’s concern that Mormons are in bondage under a false teaching that more than faith is needed for us to live with God? Do you feel in bondage? Many Mormons put themselves under self-imposed bondage because they fail to read (and then believe what they’ve read) in the scriptures and what is spoken from the Prophets. I think it’s very easy to confuse “disobedience” with “damnation” rather than a missed opportunity to learn something to improve ourselves spiritually. The Israelites wandering in Egypt complained chronically about the commandments they had to live and the stress they lived under…completly missing the point of the instruction. We do it to ourselves, I’m afraid.

    3. What do you think of my idea that works are optional? Blasphemy or sensible? If the work we perform is solely performed to improve our spiritual character and teach us to be more Christlike then I’m okay with it. If we think that we need a certain number of tally marks on a chart (visiting teaching, tithing, temple recommend, etc.) before we’ll be able to get into heaven then it’s close to blasphemy (IMHO)

    4. In my boat analogy, if you agree with it, what does it mean to “get in the boat”? I don’t agree. I think Christ’s work was 100% sufficinet and nothing we can do (grab another oar?) can improve on His perfect, fully satisfactory performance. The Holy Ghost will ratify the contract (covenant) that we make with Heavenly Father as long as we repent and remain obedient to our part of the contract. If we don’t learn to improve our character (thinking and behaviors) and become Christlike then we won’t be comfortable being where He is in the heavens….it will be fully and completely uncomfortable and our own choice will be to reside elsewhere.

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