What Makes a “Good Person?”

KC Kern Mormon 27 Comments

In the landscape of conflicting ideologies and differing theologies, there is one area that almost everyone can agree on: the importance of being a “good person.” But what does that really mean?  WikiHow offers:

Philosophers have been debating what is good and what is not for centuries. Many people find that it’s more complicated than just being kind, and several complex religions have arisen with the attempt to understand the difference between good and evil. While every person’s journey is different, being good has a lot to do with discovering yourself and your role in the world. (reference)

As we explore this idea of being “good,” we deal with very tough fundamental issues; we find ourselves needing to reconcile the harsh blade of the good/bad dichotomy with the realities of  individual circumstances and personal relativism.

Some secular commentators accuse religious adherents of lacking a moral core as evidenced by their insistence on cataloging commandments in order to know what is right and what is wrong.

Some religious proponents, on the other hand, accuse the non-religious of likewise being immoral (or amoral) by virtue of the fact that they live in ethical anarchy, where right and wrong is dictated by that moment’s whim, or a conveniently self-selected school of thought.

Here are three lists that build on each other, each of which can be used in one context or another to define what a “good person” is.

List A

A secular person who values virtue might define a “good person” as someone who:

  • Loves their family
  • Looks out for their neighbors
  • Donates to charity
  • Volunteers their time
  • Puts in an honest day’s work

List B

A religious person (let’s say a Mormon) might understand being a “good person” as someone who:

  • Goes to church
  • Reads the scriptures
  • Prays daily
  • Uses clean language
  • Serves others
  • Keeps the commandments, especially:
  • The word of wisdom
  • The law of chastity

List C

A more dogmatic Mormon might reserve the “good person” title for someone who:

  • Has received the ordinances of the gospel
  • Keeps gospel covenants
  • Served an honorable full-time mission
  • Was sealed in the Temple
  • Is actively replenishing the earth in the covenant
  • Magnifies church callings
  • Endures to the end

There are, of course, many traditional Mormons who will agree that participation within Mormonism (or any religious establishment, for that matter) is not required for being a “good person.”

There are also many non-religious or ex-religious people who espouse “being a good person” as an alternative to following any given structured religious system or set of commandments.

There is ample doctrinal support to suggest that we are all “bad people” (or “enemies to God“) and are fully reliant upon God’s goodness to be saved.  Several Christian ministries have gone about convincing passers-by that they are bad people (largely based on the one-strike-and-you’re-out principle) and must accept God into their life to have any hope of heaven.

The more I think about it, it seems that defining a “good person” is more complicated that most would like to admit.  From “doing whatever you feel is right” to “obeying commandments with exactness,” to neither or both, at the end of the day, each person must evaluate his or her convictions, values, and circumstances, and decide for themselves how they will be good.  Despite all our best efforts, we all have some “bad person” in us.  Is there really such a thing as a “good person?”  Is there such a thing as a “bad person?”  Is there room for lukewarm?  Considering polar opposite ideals in the face of dynamic reality is often unsettling.  Does the term “good person” mean anything at all?

Discussion Questions

  • What does being a “good person” mean to you?
  • Can you do everything on lists B and C and still be a “bad person”?
  • If list A is sufficient for being a “good person,” is there any value in lists B and C?
  • Can saying you’re a “good person” just be a rationalization for being disobedient?
  • Which implications of morality or ethics are of greatest importance in a secular setting?
  • When eternal consequences are not considered, does the importance of “being good” increase, decrease, or stay the same?
  • When day-to-day consequences are not considered, does the importance of “being good” increase, decrease, or stay the same?

Comments

comments

Comments 27

  1. I don’t believe even your secular person’s list are required activities for a good person. I would say a good person sees themselves as basically good. Thats all. Of course you can not judge this from the outside. You do not have to tick any boxes, which members seem to greatly value. How many members see themselves as good?

    If you check your references you will find that, although there are a number of scriptures that say pretty clearly that man is basically evil, explanations such as institute manuals explain that we are only evil in as much as we have not yet repented. Which makes sense to me as I can’t see God creating evil prodigeny.

    I believe that the conservative concept that people who don’t agree with our standards are evil and attacking our beliefs is wrong. This also allows them to feel entitled to impose their standards on others for the greater good (sounds like Satans plan to me)

    A person who does not adhere to our standards can still be good. I have been impressed by the basic goodnes of most of the non members I meet including Gays, Democrats etc.

    Guilt is not a part of goodness.

    I do believe however there are people who are basically good and others who are basically bad. In Australia i’d say 90% good to 10% bad. I believe this varies with culture and training. Australia has a population of 21 million and 300 murders a year South Africa with 50 million have 30,000 so there are more people willing to murder (bad)

  2. Is there room in this discussion for a difference between Good and Righteous?

    While a righteous person may be defined by adherence to doctrine and / or ordinances, can a good person exist without these?

    Alternatively, is there also room for a sliding scale of “goodness”? That is, where we have knowledge we’re obliged to live by that knowledge (eg, doctrines and ordinances).

    I’d like to see more specific discussion of the “man is basically bad” scriptures. While the Book of Mormon teaches the natural man is an enemy to God, the overarching prescription for overcoming the natural man is in serving fellow men.

    That we are in a fallen state is clear, and that we need to be rescued from that state is clear, but that does not mean we are inherently evil, as we are to be punished for our own sins and not Adam’s transgression.

  3. Interesting points of discussion. Those list are not mutually exclusive by any means.

    I would hold that a good person is basically defined as someone who “does no harm” to others nor himself/herself. On the other hand, we all tend to suffer from some form of personal vice and that does not exclude us from being a good person in the way that we treat and interact with others. others still, like mafia members or some terrorist leaders are viewed as good people because of the their treatment of those around then even though they commit heinous acts against others they don’t know.

    “There is ample doctrinal support to suggest that we are all “bad people” I do not agree with this characterization. It is way too simplistic to say we are bad people because of a nature that would tend us to go wrong things in the eyes of Go unless we follow Him. That does not make anyone all bad. Only that we are in-born with that tendency. And we generally prove that every day in spite of all the effort we may make to try to be good.

    But even with that tendency there is plenty of room for doing good. And those with a religious and/or moral grounding are usually on the side of doing good.

  4. Post
    Author

    I suppose I should have qualified my statement that the scriptures suggest we are bad. The scriptures indicate that we are “fallen” and have “sinned,” (young children excluded) and therefore must look to Christ for redemption. That is fundamentally different than “being bad,” but I guess that is the main point of my questions and discussion: What does it mean to be a “good sinner?” A sinner who repents frequently? A sinner who is a peace with his sins? A sinner who has not sinned recently?

    @Paul, these lists are certainly not mutually exclusive, nor are they comprehensive, they are more designed to illustrate the spectrum of criteria that one might associate with general “goodness,” and how religious, doctrinal, or even cultural factor might influence this. These factors presented in the face of the “good”/”bad” binary, which many would like to think of as absolute.

    @Geoff, I like you’re suggestion of disambiguating “good” and “righteous.” Some might feel this is splitting semantic hairs, but I think it could be useful in separating the doctrinal qualifications from the more ethereal qualities of goodness.

  5. This post caused me to really stop and reflect on things for a time – which, to me, is the mark of a good post. So, thank you.

    The basic premise of this post is probably the biggest issue I have with Mormonism – saying this as someone who has been an active LDS member my whole life. In the Church, there are a checklist of things that make you “good” which, in reality, have little to do with what being a “good” person really is. In the beginning of my life, I probably gravitated towards your “List C” as to what made a “good” person. As I’ve seen the world around me, I’ve come to the realization that many of the practices of the Church are merely things that the current leadership require as a function of membership (and are not eternal things) but have nothing to do with being a “good” person. They may perhaps be requirements to be a “good” member of the LDS Church, but that does NOT mean they mean you are a “good” person. I now look at “List A” as my definition of a “good” person.

    In the Church, it seems that actions are prioritized more than qualities. Do you have that glass of wine? Do you do your home teaching every month? Do you wear a white shirt and tie? Do you go to church every Sunday? Do you have a doillie (sp?), a picture of Christ, and a handcrafted treat for your lesson? Someone can do all of the “actions” that define them as a “good” member of the Church, yet still not care for their fellowman, not put others first, etc. (essentially all of your things in List A). Yet they still think they are “good”.

    My best understanding of good/bad comes from Buddhism. Buddhist precepts make you really internalize what the principles mean, as opposed to having some external checklist to follow. A typical example: sexual conduct. We get fairly hung up on this. Some people consider masturbation extremely evil (Miracle of Forgiveness mode) while others don’t. The Mormon list of do’s and don’t goes on and on. It leads to difficulties with how to handle homosexuality, premarital sex in a large percentage of our youth, “petting” and “necking” and all the other euphemisms they have come up with.

    In Buddhism, the precept is merely: avoid sexual misconduct. The definition for this is up to each person. Here is one guideline: “Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.” This leaves room for a healthy expression and development of sexuality. It teaches respect for ones spouse or partner. In reality, it can make for a better person. There may be a Mormon man who is domineering over his wife, including sexually, but who may be a “good” person in that regard according to LDS standards. Contrast this with a Buddhist in a long-term, loving relationship who may not be married but treats his partner with true respect. I would consider the second person a better person, but according to LDS standards, he is living in sin, committing an act next to murder in seriousness.

    Or with alcohol. The precept in Buddhism is to “avoid intoxication”. To some people, this means abstinence. To others, a glass of wine is ok but intoxication is avoided for the problems it may cause. It is up to each person to internalize this and see what it means.

    At the end of the day, there is great value in being forced to decide that “being good” means for yourself, as opposed to running through a check-list of TR questions and therefore implying that you’re “good”. And “List A”, or the “secular list”, is probably closest to what Jesus taught. He drank wine. He didn’t care what people wore. He didn’t care if someone gave exactly 10% in tithing. He taught that we should love God. We should love our fellowman. We should serve. And that was basically it. it sounds much more like your “List A”. Unfortunately, the Church has built a crust of other requirements around the core of the gospel.

  6. Mike S.

    “In the Church, there are a checklist of things that make you “good” which, in reality, have little to do with what being a “good” person really is.”

    This is a true statement and only a very naive person would buy the list as a definition of good.. The Church does not teach this idea, but for many people a checklist is easier to manage than a set of principles that must be applied uniquely in each person’s life.

  7. Jeff:

    I agree absolutely that “only a very naive person would buy the list as a definition of good”. Unfortunately, it is very common. I am continually correcting my kids from things that they must have picked up in Church. Examples: “Oh, look at them. They’re drinking a glass of wine.” “They’re bad for going skiing on Sunday” Etc. They judge people who don’t fit the Mormon checklist as bad people. As this is repeated over years and years, it becomes something that needs to be unlearned.

    I also taught a lesson in EQ several years ago on honesty. I gave an example of a prominent LDS businessman who screwed over someone I knew for several thousand dollars, because that is how much it would cost to sue for the money in small claims court, so he just had to accept it. Nearly 50% of the class (TR-holding, active, “good” people) all said that is just how business is, that you have to try to screw each other and cut corners because everyone else is doing that and if not, you’d be out of business. So they could take advantage of their fellowman yet still think they were “good” people because they didn’t drink the same glass of wine that Christ drank.

    So, while it seems naive, I would argue that the LDS Church is set up in such a way to encourage the naiveté as opposed to having people truly search their souls, minds, and hearts for what precepts are important between them and God, as opposed to what institutional guidelines they are going to follow.

  8. Mike, you make a good point about how law (like religion!) can serve as a ritual for justifying immoral behavior. As long as there is “no controlling legal authority” (or, even if there is a recognized legal wrong, a final judgment that the behavior in question is unlawful), a person can justify himself with the thought that he isn’t doing wrong.

    As Mike S points out, though, litigation economics often prevent nominally unlawful, immoral conduct from being formally classified as such.

  9. Never mind the silly check lists for good people. Is merely being good really what you want? There will be good people in the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms. From the description in the Doctrine & Covenants, I can’t really say that for the Telestial Kingdom even though many of them will have done lots of good actions in their lives.
    Moroni says “Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.” (Mor. 7:10).
    The commandment is not to be good, but to be perfect, just like an exalted person is perfect. There are two parts to that; complete obedience to all the commandments and becoming physically celestial. Becoming physically celestial is not possible in mortality. At least as far as continuing on in Mortality. If one is made celestial while in mortality that person must leave mortality forever.
    Becoming completely obedient to all the commandments all the time is possible in morality. (lNephi 3:7)
    Never mind being good. Go for perfection. You’ll pass up the goodness by and by.

  10. Mike S.

    “I am continually correcting my kids from things that they must have picked up in Church.”

    Which is your job. I don’t think they pick up that at Church per se. They being children, do not understand the nuance between not judging others and obedience to that which we believe. We obey the WoW, not because it is a checklist item, but because we believe the Lord asked us to. And, for folks who do not, that is their choice. It is a good lesson in agency and the difference between following the Gospel as taught in our church and what others believe. And the key doctrine at not judging others too harshly.

    Same would be true for Sabbath day activities.

    A screw job is a screw job no mater who commits it. And it doesn’t matter how “good” they think they are. To be being honest and having integrity is just as important, maybe even more so, that not drinking wine. i know plenty of hard-working, totally honest, high integrity folks who drink wine. I’d be stupid to hold that against them.

  11. My first thought was exactly the same as Jeff’s: “First, do no harm.” That, to me, is the essence of being a Good Person. It is absolutely possible to be a Good Person without being a Good Mormon (a silly question since so few people are Mormons), and it is also possible to be a Good Mormon (to conform to the cultural appearance of being one) without being a Good Person (doing no harm). The quickest way to be a Good Mormon without being a Good Person is to judge and ostracize others (doing harm by not loving our neighbor). The more extraneous items in our checklists, the more we run the risk of pride and smugness.

    There is a question families love to debate around the dinner table in India: “Was Ghandi a righteous man?” Most Westerners would say he was, but while he did so much to liberate India from oppressive colonial rule, he was a negligent father (some would even say his negligence crossed the line into abuse) and a restrictive husband who didn’t treat his wife well consistently. So, it’s essentially the same question as whether any success in the world can compensate for failure in the home, but in this case, it’s not about choosing career over family, but rather humanitarian efforts and social justice over personal relationships and individual love.

    I am inclined to think like Victor Frankl, that every human being contains both good and evil instincts, both at the surface and all the way to the core. At any given time, we can choose one or the other. We create our habits through deliberate choices made repeatedly.

  12. Rich, that passage, “Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift,” reminds me of the teaching of one of the early Church Fathers, to the effect that the (seeming) virtues of the noble pagans were merely splendid vices. Calvinism took that reasoning and put it on steroids: Even if Bob and Mary each help a little old lady across the street, if Bob is saved (according to God’s unconditional, sovereign and irresistible election), and Mary isn’t, then Mary’s act is objectively sinful as far as God’s concerned.

    I say to hell with that, and with John Calvin too. There isn’t a man alive who doesn’t have a mixture of good and evil in him and his deeds, and if God plays favorites, then he’s both unjust and a liar (for having told me he’s no respecter of persons).

    “Becoming completely obedient to all the commandments all the time is possible in mortality. (lNephi 3:7)”

    Maybe I read that passage too fast, but I didn’t see the words “in mortality.”

  13. Thomas (12) – Let me start with the verse again – “Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift,”. Comes from the Book of Mormon. I don’t know what you feel about that book. I feel it’s from God, but I don’t mean to start using leverage, just want you to know what I think of it. Let’s say Bob and Mary are shoveling sidewalks across the street for people to old to do it themselves. Let’s say Bob hates what he’s doing. He’d rather be bowling. Let’s say Mary loves what she doing simply because she loves helping people.
    Look at what it says about Bob – “8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” (Mor 7). Do I have prove that Mary will be blessed? It does look like Bob may even have brought a cursing on himself. If he had gone bowling he would of, at least, remained civil. Now he’s in a grudging attitude.
    We will be judged by what’s in our hearts. No list of works will be necessary at all (D&C 137:9). Observing a work only tells God that a person was doing something. Looking into that person’s heart tells God why he/she was doing it. Sure they both have their problems but why will Mary get rid of hers at a faster rate? – because of what’s in her heart, she’s getting closer to God – and the power to overcome. He’s unfair because He blesses one for obedience and He doesn’t bless one for disobedience?? Thomas, you’re the one that’s unfair (Ezekiel 18:24-30).

    And about 1Nephi 3:7, you probably didn’t read it to fast – you probably weren’t looking. The ‘in mortality’ is there – “the children of men”.

    If your grudge is against God, I understand. I used to get mad at Him myself, but I can tell you now: It’s an utter waste of time. But, if you just have a grudge against a lot of people who talk about God, I understand that to. I think I’m still there, so I don’t know what to tell you.

  14. Rich 9 I’m not sure perfection can be achieved by obedience. I suspect there are extras to perfection that aren’t covered by obedience and certainly not by ticking boxes. For example charity, love and joy. Was the world created so we could learn total obedience or so we could learn JOY. “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy”.
    I believe we can’t be perfect until we have learned to be joyful. Obedience contributes to joy but being obedient without realizing it’s all about achieving JOY won’t arrive at joy.
    As you say in 12 we will be judged by whats in our hearts, and as I tried to say in post 1 that can not be judged by others.

    Hawkgirl, your last line “We create our habits through deliberate choices made repeatedly” You could change habits to personality. But if our view of life is that you are seeking total obedience we may miss the whole point, if I am correct.

    I have been thinking about agency recently. Can you exercise your agency without making decisions? Are we learning, and teaching our children decision making skills. eg. What are the consequences of doing this, not doing it, any alternatives, short term, long term, eternal? etc

  15. Geoff in Aussieland,

    “Rich 9 I’m not sure perfection can be achieved by obedience.” It most certainly cannot be achieved by obedience. “It is by Grace we are saved……” There is not enough obedience in the Universe to perfect us. We are but a small part of the equation. Yes, we need to obey, By the Lord’s grace is the lion’s share.

  16. Rich, I respect your interpretation of that passage, but I’d be interested in hearing you explain why the phrase “children of men” necessarily limits the application of that verse to what the “children of men” do in mortality. I think that scripture has room to encompass situations where the space where God makes perfect obedience possible includes the eternities.

    As for the Calvinist passages in the Book of Mormon (echoing similar Calvinist-leaning passages in the New Testament), I believe, with Blake Ostler, that it’s possible that at least some portion of the Book of Mormon’s text may represent Joseph Smith’s personal contribution, shaped by his New England Calvinist religious environment. “God, when he makes the prophet, does not unmake the man.” The Book of Mormon accepts, uncritically, the notion of a global flood, which I do not believe a person exposed to the world as it has now been revealed to be constituted can in good conscience believe.

    And as for the whole Calvinist “everything evil people do is evil” notion — it simply doesn’t match up with the revelation in observed nature of “that portion of Truth which [God] has laid within the reach of [our] natural Faculties.” I can imagine a couple of serial killers (and one former employer!) who probably come pretty close to being unalloyed evil, but virtually every ordinary person I’ve ever known — no matter how dissolute a trust-fund wastrel he may be — had some basic “good” qualities. And I don’t know any Mormons, either, who are spotlessly “good.” I find that there are vestiges of pride, enmity and imprudence in even most of the kindest, wisest, most obedient Mormons I know, or in thoroughly orthodox defenders of the faith. And don’t even get me started on myself. Notice that we both said to each other online, things that we probably wouldn’t have said to each other’s faces: “Maybe I read that passage too fast” vs. “You probably weren’t looking.”

    My objection is to the natural conclusion of Calvinism: “The virtues of the noble pagans are merely splendid vices.” That’s not just saying that an apparently virtuous act done grudgingly is a vice — I can understand that thinking. The Calvinist theory, rather, is that even a virtuous act done willingly and cheerfully is “evil” if the person doing it isn’t one of the Christian elect. That strikes me as just one more recipe for people to divide themselves up into tribes, adn reading the entire Christian message as a whole, I have to understand that thinking as, at best, a well-meant misunderstanding of the speculative implications of God’s sovereignty.

  17. Thomas (16) – “Rich, I respect your interpretation of that passage, but I’d be interested in hearing you explain why the phrase “children of men” necessarily limits the application of that verse to what the “children of men” do in mortality. I think that scripture has room to encompass situations where the space where God makes perfect obedience possible includes the eternities.”

    I don’t see why our Standard Works aren’t used in the spirit world. People are still being taught the gospel – but now the eternities. Before we get to the eternities there will be a judgment. We will be assigned a kingdom of glory. We will never leave that kingdom with the exception of, maybe, a work we get involved with, in a lower kingdom. Who knows? All I’m saying is that we will never go upwards to a higher glory. Now about these scriptures, about theses commandments that are in them, why would you think these resurrected people in these kingdoms would need them? They are where they’re going to be regardless of what the commandments are that were in them. The commandments are given unto those whose lives can be benefited. They would be the spirits in the spirit world and, most particularly, those who are in the mortal world; those who have every chance (except unforgivable sins) of gaining a celestial glory. And remember, just because someone lives their whole lives without being taught the gospel does not mean they will be able to get into the Celestial Kingdom. Having the light of Christ will raise the bar globally. If that person lived a telestial life, those works will weigh heavily in the judgment and we are judged according to men in the flesh (according to men in this mortal world). What the scriptures will do for anybody beyond the judgment, except remind them of how stupid they were, is beyond me.

  18. Rich:

    “The brethren direct me to say that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point. Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others of the brethren have taken the opposite view. But as stated, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point.”

    -Secretary to the First Presidency in a 1952 letter.

    “None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process.”

    -Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855

    “It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”

    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421

    “I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.”

    -J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3

    In other words — maybe, maybe not. All I know is I have good reason to be skeptical of any man who think’s he’s perfect in mortality.

  19. NOT A PROBLEM. First of all, though, you seem to quote me as saying, “I’m not sure perfection can be achieved by obedience.”. I cannot find where I made that statement, but I want to comment on it anyway.
    Once again, NOT A PROBLEM.
    Remember though, I said that perfect obedience is just one part of the total obedience Jesus commanded mortal men to do. And by the way, “It is by Grace we are saved……”. What’s this all about? The subject was perfection – not salvation. They are two very different things. Even if you reach perfection, you’ve all ready committed sin along the way. Being perfect doesn’t take that away.

    I, certainly, didn’t mean to exclude the grace of God (there’s another subject). It’s just that I get so much resistance because of my claim of the possibility of perfection in this life that when I get on that subject, it can consume my whole mind focus. I was gearing up for the big one.

    If we lived our whole lives striving and overcoming sin and then, proceeding, for the remainder of our lives never doing any wrong at all and we did this without a knowledge of the gospel with it’s authorized baptism and confirmation and then would be taken by people who hated us and skinned us alive and burned us at the stake and after this life we went straight to the judgment, we would be found ‘filthy still’ and would be sent into hell as children of Perdition and never come out — this is where grace comes in — and us puny mortals should never ever forget that!
    That portion of perfection which is obtainable in this life is in that we reach a point where we obey all the commandment all the time.

  20. Geoff of Australia (14) – “Rich 9 I’m not sure perfection can be achieved by obedience.”
    What? How else are you going to do it? That’s what Christ was saying when he commanded us to be perfect. Follow the commandments all the time. Obedience is the foundation to Matthew 5:48. As for joy, that is the consequence and blessing for the obedient. The more obedient you are, the more joy you will experience, even in pain and sorrow. Joy is a gift of God. If you are experiencing something you call joy and in reality it is not from God then it’s a fake and will be only fleeting. (Isaiah 50:11).

  21. Thomas. I’m going to quote your entire, shocking, post and then go through it piece by piece. I hadn’t realized any of this. Anyway, here’s your post.

    ***
    Rich:
    “The brethren direct me to say that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point. Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others of the brethren have taken the opposite view. But as stated, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point.”
    -Secretary to the First Presidency in a 1952 letter.
    “None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process.”
    -Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855
    “It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
    “I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.”
    -J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3
    In other words — maybe, maybe not. All I know is I have good reason to be skeptical of any man who think’s he’s perfect in mortality.
    ***

    Now, here it is piece by piece
    Thomas (18) –

    “The brethren direct me to say that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point. Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others of the brethren have taken the opposite view. But as stated, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point.”
    -Secretary to the First Presidency in a 1952 letter.

    “The brethren direct me to say…”
    How times change. Back then the secretary to the First Presidency made the announcements.

    …”Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression…”
    So, in other words, some of the brethren have invoked the principle of eternal progression. If they have invoked such a thing than what is the source of their invocation?
    According to the statement, the source was “the view they held”. Well at least they have a source because it couldn’t have been the scriptures. Though the word ’eternal is used in the scriptures 269 times, the word ’progression’ is not used at all. If the concept of eternal progression is so true and such a big deal, don’t you think God would have used the term at least once in how many pages of scriptures He gave us? One request – using the scriptures, teach me about eternal progression. Till then let’s check out some other views.

    “None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process.”
    -Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855
    Then this is eternal progression at a snails pace. OK, maybe, but we don’t have a source yet, unless it’s ‘the view he held’ although, I believe there are many members that would say Brigham Young would have been an authorized source of church doctrine. I don’t really care, it’s not church doctrine I’m looking for: it’s gospel doctrine I’m interested in, especially when the Church doctrine’s source is ‘views held’.

    “It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for.”
    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
    There, again, is that phrase, eternal progression, still, without a source.

    “But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress”
    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
    So everybody is progressing eternally, though for the wicked it’s slower than what it could have been.

    “perfection is relative”
    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
    —————– numbed silence —————————— disbelief ————————
    What was he on to say that? ——If that’s true than –imperfection– is the standard. —–God has His hang ups just like everyone else.—–We just entered the Twilight Zone.

    “the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
    -James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
    So, though, unrighteous here, we can still get to where we have the power of eternal increase. Just for the fun of it and, certainly for something completely different, I have a scripture.

    But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;
    And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;
    For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared;
    And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they dcannot come, worlds without end. (D&C 76:109-112)

    Now, how long will it be that the telestial beings will not be able to be where God and Christ dwell? Worlds without end? Like forever? Can we count verse 112 as Church doctrine? No we cannot: the Church leaders say so and I mean that quite literally. They are the Lord’s anointed and I don’t see Him interceding.

    “I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here.”
    -J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3
    Hey, brother Clark, you’re kidding, right?

    “For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.” (Alma 34:35).

    “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” (John 3:33)

    And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my bwords, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall ccondemn you at the last day.
    “For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must bobey. Amen.” (2Nephi 33:14-15)

    “Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
    Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. (Hel.10:6-7)

    “And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious; (D&C1:8)

    “And of as many as the Father shall bear record, to you shall be given power to seal them up unto eternal life” (D&C68:12)

    “Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?
    A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness. (D&C77:8)

    “And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bbind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you cremit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven” (D&C132:46)

    “For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.” (D&C132:49)

    Yeah, Brother Clark, ———-you were just kidding.

    “It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can…”
    -J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3
    Brother Clark, you don’t seem to understand that all telestial, terrestrial, and celestial beings are saved or in other words have been washed clean of all their sins. Now the question is this: where are they going to live in their saved condition? The Judgment decides that.

    “the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God”
    -J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3

    Brother Clark, where does it say that? I know let’s talk about where it says just the opposite.

    “These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
    These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
    Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.
    These are they who are not avaliant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” (D&C76:76-79)
    The above verses describe the inhabitants of the terrestrial world.
    76 – in referring to Jesus they receive of his glory but not of his fulness.
    77 – they receive the presence of the Son, but not the fullness of the Father
    78 – they are not bodies celestial
    79 – because they were not valiant they don’t obtain the crown

    Since these scriptures say, then, is that if you are not valiant you will not receive the fullness of the Father, you will not receive a celestial body, and you will not obtain the crown over the kingdom of God. If after four times the scriptures tell you of things that are not going to happen and you want to persist in insisting that they will happen, than do you think that you might owe the nauseated listener a few scriptures that support your cause? Well the past general authorities don’t, but I do, so I will be happy to throw both them and their argument out the window.

    “For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own cdominion, in the mansions which are prepared;
    And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.” (D&C132:111-112)

    Again, in speaking of the telestial, like all of us they will be judged according to their works. What works? The works they did in mortality. The works that caused that they should go to the Telestial Kingdom. Now remember, mortality is gone. The test is over. “Now is the time to prepare.” – is gone. There is no place in the scriptures that mentions extra credit work. If you think there is extra credit work, the burden of proof rests with you to find them.

    “Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my cleft hand.” (D&C19:5)
    Why will there be the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth? Because God does not revoke the judgments He makes and therefore the damnation is eternal (D&C19:7): the punishment is eternal (D&C19:11).

    By the same token why do the sub-celestials stay in their assigned kingdoms? Because God does not revoke His judgments. Their damnation and their punishment will be eternal.

    If there is advancement between the kingdoms of glory then why are we even in the Church. It costs way too much money and takes way too much time and energy. We could live decent lives and still end up with the same rewards as the celestial life fools. OK, it takes longer. SO! There’s plenty of time so what’s the rush?
    Personally I don’t want to live a telestial life because those people will have to suffer for their own sins in hell but then once that’s done, they’ll get the same reward as any celestial person.
    25 ¶ Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
    26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
    27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
    28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
    29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not aequal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?
    30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your btransgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

    Let’s consider the word ruin. Here are some definitions:
    1. To destroy completely; demolish.
    2. To harm irreparably.
    3. To reduce to poverty or bankruptcy.
    4. To deprive of chastity.
    Notice the irreparable harm. Look at what verse 30 says. God will judge us. That judgment will be according to our works in the flesh (not our works after this life) and if our works are sub-celestial, that judgment will stand. All chances of a celestial life will be demolished. For the children of perdition, all chances of a spiritual salvation will be demolished.

    This may seem like it’s wandered from the subject of being a good person. But that’s not true. If the church doctrine would go the wrong way on this it wouldn’t really matter whether a person was good or not.

    In closing, a word about your last remark, Thomas.

    “In other words — maybe, maybe not. All I know is I have good reason to be skeptical of any man who think’s he’s perfect in mortality.”

    I believe the scriptures will support the idea that anyone in mortality who reaches perfection will never announce it. If we know it, it will be because God has announced it. (Nathaniel, Job, Noah, and who knows who else)

  22. #22 Rich

    Staying out of the debate as to what the definition of “is” is, I certainly hope that the God I meet in the next life is as merciful as Thomas and much less judgmental than you.

  23. Mike S (23) – You feel with your heart but you think with your brain. You shouldn’t get the two mixed up. I’ll accept whatever the law is but judgment must be according to the law. Not even mercy can deny that. Not even the adulterous acts of the their husbands could take away the reality that they were married to their husbands. “And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.” (Jacob 2:35)

    Saying that good old Joe Blow was such a good man that a merciful God would allow a man who lived a telestial or terrestrial life to be in the Celstial Kingdom anyway when God has all ready laid down the law on that matter is not child-like but childish.
    Get you act together.

  24. Rich 21. Interestingly Matt 5 is not about obedience, all obout love, and charity.

    If you get up in the morning with the purpose of being obedient (and tried- members who think this life is about obedience usually add tried). You may experience some joy and love as a result. Tied up with this is the Mosiah 3:19 view of ourselves struggling to overcome our evil self.

    If you believe your purpose is to have love and joy, and choosing to follow the Gospel contributes to that end you will have a different life.

    The previous verses of Mathew 5 are not to my mind things you can obey. More they are about our view of the world, how we fit into it, and whether we make it a better place for those around us, and in return inadvertently recieve love and joy. To be perfect you have to be confident you are basically good, and so are those around you so you can move to a higher plane where obedience is replaced by love charity and joy.

    The purpose is different, the outcome is different (better) and no you can’t achieve perfection by obedience as is clear from Matt 5 which is about these higher principles which can not be achieved by obedience, but are the pathway to perfection.

    Good people (back to the post) are concerned with these qualities in their life, more than whether they are obedient (in many cases to transitory laws).

    If you think you can be obedient to the beattitudes go for it. If you think the purpose of our existence is to become super obedient, again. Do you think God is obedient or is he loving life and making right choices because that is his nature? Is this how we have to think to be like him?

  25. Geoff of Australia (25)
    “Wherefore, my brethren, I would that ye should consider that the things which have been written upon the plates of brass are true; and they testify that a man must be obedient to the commandments of God.
    Wherefore, ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified, and also taught them. Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.” (1Nephi 22;30-31)
    Geoff, the virtues mentioned in Matthew 5 along with all other virtues and blessings are the gifts of God for obedience. Virtues and blessings are not things you can buy at the store. The spirit of man has to force his/her body to resist the things of the world and to overcome weaknesses given by Heavenly Father and as that begins and the spirit perseveres, He start to give those blessings and virtues mentioned in Matthew 5.

    The foundation of true religion is obedience to the true God and is an excellent way to conclude Matthew 5 where a precise quality of obedience is given which will lead to those blessings of God mentioned in that chapter along with all other blessings.

    We worry about the obedience. God will get the blessings to us when the time is right. Now Geoff, I think you need to change your interpretation.

  26. Rich you seem very convinced that there is one way (your way) obedience. This whole discussion is about whether there is only one way to define good. Iam not advocating happiness through disobedience, but I do believe your emphasis on obedience and God will bless you with Love, charity and joy is missing the point. As Christ suggests the pharisees miss the point with their emphasis on obedience.

    Christ in his ministry and in Matt 5 places much more emphasis on our developing the qualities of love joy, charity, peace etc. than he does on obedience. I do appreciate that the present Church places a great deal of emphasis on obedience, but I put this down to the conservative culture of the US and most of the leadership of the Church. There is another blog reguarding this running currently. This idea that our bodies are evil and fighting against us is also part of this conservative way of seeing life and not part of the Gospel of Christ. Sorry, I think your culture is distracting you from the truth.

    You say that Matt 5 gives a precise quality of obedience. Verse 19 does say we must not break any of the commandments but he then goes on in the next verse to say your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and pharisees (who were very strong on rules and obedience), and continues to say obedience is not enough to obtain perfection. For example obedience requires you not to kill but he wants you to not even be angry or call your brother a fool. Do those of you who emphasise thou shalt not kill consider loosing your temper or calling someone else a fool, or otherwise ridiculing them, breaks this law? Or is it part of the higher understanding I am talking about?

    I am happy for you to carry on your view, and although you and a majority of church members agree with you, I will continue in my way which I believe is at least as acceptable to the Lord.

    If you are right I have been equally obedient to all the eternal laws, and also sought to live the higher qualities and values you hope will be bestowed on you as a result of your obedience. Where is my disadvantage? If I am right, perhaps as the pharisees, you have been wonderfully obedient but have missed the point. If we are here to achieve a life of joy, peace, love and charity and you have achieved total obedience…….

    We are seeking to be perfect like our father in heaven v48. Do you see his life as continuing total obedience, or is the obedience in the background, and the love, peace and joy in the foreground, as I am suggesting ours can be also.

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