Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What is salvation, and how do we achieve it?

This post is the second part of a correspondence. The first part is under the post, “What is the difference between conversion and salvation?”

If the only heaven worth striving for is the one where we enjoy full fellowship with the Father, then what does it really take to live the kind of life where we can have the expectation of going there?

I think the key here is an understanding of what our whole purpose is for our existence. Why is it that God created us in his image? Why did he care about us so much that he sent his son to suffer beyond mortal comprehension for us. Why does he offer us all that he has if we are faithful (Rom 8:16-17, Heb 1:2)? These are BIG investments.

I believe it is because we are His children, literally. He loves us more than we know. He wants us to progress to our full potential, just as any of us would want our children to.

I mentioned before how salvation seems to be a pass/fail thing for many people. The saints tend to view it (from my experience) more like grade school. Everyone in the same school has the same opportunities to succeed as the next person. What they become in life depends on what they want to be, and the choices they make to get there. If someone just wants to pass and get through so they can get a decent job that pays the bills, it is their choice and they are welcome to it. If someone aspires to grad school and wants to keep learning and progressing and become the best they can possibly be, they are free to do so and can take the steps and make the decisions to get there. It is all about agency.

The LDS doctrine teaches that this life is a learning experience. We are trying to become more like our Heavenly Father. This is where eternal perspective comes in. If our final destination is to strum a harp and sing hymns for eternity, why all the commandments and trials? Shouldn’t we just take music and singing lessons? –I’m being a little facetious here obviously.

We are given agency and are presented with commandments. We are free to follow them, or take another path. We do not keep these commandments just to pass the test in this life, but they teach us the skills we need to succeed in our eternal career. -Accountability, responsibility, humility to listen to the Lord’s counsel and DO IT, etc…. We are trying to become like our Father. That’s what the commandments are (His book of etiquette, per se). We have a book we consider scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. In it, the Lord explains why he gives commandments:
“8 I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.”
-D&C 92:8-9

I assume you know that LDS doctrine teaches there are three main degrees of heaven. It’s not about what religion someone belongs to that gets you into one of these degrees, but the choices we make with God.

That’s what the temple is all about (some non-Mormons get upset and freaked out about rumors they hear about what goes on inside). Temple ceremonies partly consist of making promises and commitments to God and returning frequently to remind ourselves of them. We also receive instruction on how to better live a better life. There is nothing dark or ominous in he temple, just fortifying and inspiring.

If in life someone wants to get better, they make a commitment, they keep the commitment, they are rewarded. Then they want to keep getting better, so they make bigger commitments, etc….
It’s a perpetual upward cycle.

Some take issue with the idea of different degrees of heaven. They say it’s not fair. I would ask them if they would consider it fair for someone who lives a horrible life, beats his family, and never helps anyone, who, if he “accepts Christ as his savior” two days before he dies, to receive the same rewards as faithful Abraham? In Christ’s Father’s house “there are many mansions” (John 14:2). Those who strive to live up to the highest of God’s standards will be worthy to continue on to eternal progression. –ONLY through the grace of Christ (this is important, most people don’t realize Mormon’s believe in being saved by grace -2 Nephi 10:24, 2 Nephi 25:23-).
This is the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) mentioned by Paul.

Those who are good, but do not desire to reach this same degree will still be rewarded, but they will not continue to eternal progression. Have you ever wondered what the word “damn” means? Think of a river. A damn stops the progression of a river.
In the gospel context, being damned is the stopping of one’s progression because of their own choices. They have not proved themselves responsible enough to continue down the path of eternal progression. They are damned. You work with prisoners. You know that if someone does not act responsibly, they have privileges taken away.

In summary, this life is about making choices. Where we go depends on the choices we make. If we want to “pass,” we make the choices to get us there. If we want to go to grad school and become the best we can be, we make the choices, and follow through, to get there.

Best Wishes,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the only heaven worth striving for is the one where we enjoy full fellowship with the Father, then what does it really take to live the kind of life where we can have the expectation of going there?

I think that this question is best answered by looking to the answer the Lord gave in the Doctrine and Covenants. In section one of the book the Lord himself gives a preface to what the entire book is about. He outlines who the book is for, what is contained in the book, and the reason that he is giving us the information in the book.
As we study the beginning of the section we come to understand that the Doctrine and Covenants is a book for everyone, everywhere. The Lord makes it quite clear as he states:
2 For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

He further states that one of the reasons for the instructions of the book is because He is coming again to the earth and He wants us to be ready to be in His presence:
12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;

He instructs to listen to the voice of His appointed servants, mainly his prophets and apostles. This could be possibly the first step to living the kind of life that we need to to go to "heaven".

He then tells us an important bit of information, or a reason why He needs to give us these instructions:
15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
I think that this is pretty much of description of the world that we live in, what do you think?

Then the Lord gives the reason for the instructions in the book that is to follow:
17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

He states reasons like, weak things will break down mighty and strong, faith will increase, every man might speak in His name, his "everlasting covenant" might be established, and the "fulness of his gospel" might be exclaimed.
What exactly is his "everlasting covenant"? It was the covenant made with Adam in the garden, renewed with Enoch, and again with Noah, and finally, with it's namesake Abraham, continuing through the lines of Isaac, and Jacob. It is, simply stated, "I will be your God, and you will be my people'" Now, I think this is a main condition to return to live with him, making Him your God. What does this really mean though? It means that you will do everything he says, be everything he requires and love Him unconditionally.
Now, how will we know what He says? Refer back to instruction#1. Sounds relatively simple, but it is a life long journey of experiences, testing us to see if we will submit to His will and really make Him our God.
Next He instructs us on another very important requirement to living with Him again, when he refers to "the fulness of His Gospel". Refer back to reason #2 for His giving us this book.
The restoration of His "ordinances" are required to admit us into his kingdom. The Doctrine and Covenants is an instruction book of these required ordinances, the first one being Baptism and receiving the Gift of The Holy Ghost. He instructs that repentance and living His commandments (one of them being baptism), will give one the light from the Spirit which is available to "all flesh". Upon reception of the Holy Ghost, he will instruct you by his spirit all things which you must do.
Finally, he gives added instruction and testimony:
37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

39 For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.

Yep, the same thing to be in the presence of the Father is required of all men everywhere, he excuses even not himself. So if you think that by "grace" you may be the exception to the rule, perhaps a study of law must be further discussed.
The Doctrine and Covenants outlines beautifully what is required to return to our Father in Heaven. Now all we have to do is "learn and do" or "search and apply" that which is written.

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