Elder McConkie has a great BYU speeches talk (I think it was “The Lord God of Joseph Smith”) in which he points out that when Joseph Smith talked of eternal progression, he was talking about very “advanced” things and did not intend to disregard or throw out the basics, e.g. we mustn’t take the phrase eternal progression to mean that God doesn’t have all knowledge, or all power. In fact the lectures on faith clearly teach that without knowing the God has all knowledge and all power it would be impossible for us to excercise the faith necessary unto life and salvation.
Instead Elder McConkie points out that eternal progression means that Christ offers his kingdom up to his Father thus the Father gains greater exaltation, a greater kingdom, than he had before. In this sense his kingdom is progressively and eternally growing and thus we speak of eternal progression.
When we speak of what the Lord requires of us, the answer is everything. We must offer our kingdom to him, who in turn offers it to the Father. Giving everything to someone else might seem like a terrible sacrifice, but it is the condition on which we are exalted. It is made possible for us to do that fully in good will if we are one with the person to whom we are giving it, i.e. when we are one in Christ as he is one in the father than giving him our entire kingdom without any remorse is something we can do. This changes the meaning of the phrase from the lectures on faith and seem related to words that I will not recount that are used in the temple.
The lecture on faith phrase is: A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never had the power to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.
This was my Amazon review of a book. It makes a lot of points on the atonement (one objector to my review felt like it was more sermon than review).
I am astonished at the objections other reviewers make to this book.
Is there really anything in this book that is less frank that what can be found in Matthew chapters 5-7 spoken by the Son of God himself? Those are high standards indeed. Chapter 5 culminates in the Savior’s summary which is to “be ye therefore perfect”. If anything, “not even once” doesn’t ask nearly as much. The Savior went so far as to say that whoso sayeth “thou fool” shall be in danger of Hell fire.
So what if this book had taught that whoever says “thou fool” to another is in danger of hell fire? Would that mean it was not good for children? Would it be bad doctrine? Would it then deny the atonement of Christ?
Frankly an honest reading of Christ’s actual teachings offer a much higher standard than anything I have ever heard any mortal ask for. Take his standard “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust upon her hath committed adultery in his heart.” Wow! Now there is a standard! What if this book had stated words like “Any boy who looks lustfully on a girl has already committed adultery in his heart”. Wow! I wonder what peoples reaction to that would have been. Bad doctrine for parents and children alike? I know what sort of reaction there was in Christ’s day when He taught such things.
That sort of bold standard is not denying the atonement. For goodness sake, it was Christ who stated it. He proposed a lot of very high standards in His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, which He gave on multiple occasions. It is interesting that the reasoning given in most of the negative reviews of this book applies equally well to Christ’s own sermon on the mount. After all the sermon on the mount includes no mention of the atonement, not even the Book of Mormon version. But it sure contains a lot of extremely high standards. If the sort of message in this book is just going to make people feel guilty, destroy their lives, is bad doctrine, and denies the atonement, one has to wonder what sort of labels Christ’s own great Sermon on the Mount deserves. The same is true of Lehi’s dream which very clearly portrays wandering away from the tree or into the mists of darkness or into the river “even once” as having dire consequences.
I am frankly appalled to see such a boiling crowd responding to this book with such venom. I don’t think it’s a perfect book, but let’s be honest. It is clearly a much easier standard than the sort of lifestyle Christ proposed. “Bless them that curse you.” “Do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” Those are really, really high standards. What about Christ’s teaching that to divorce except in cases of adultery really involves a form of adultery itself. Yikes! Now THAT standard would raise a few hackles these days! Many reviewers should ask themselves if they feel this standard is only just going to make people feel guilty and is therefore false doctrine and a denial of the atonement.
Then there is Christ’s teaching: “What manner of men ought ye to be. Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” That is an astonishing standard. It also happens to be impossible to reach in mortality. But it was still frankly taught by Christ himself and without so much as a nod toward his sacrifice for sin. That is because Christ doesn’t save us in our sins, but from our sins. We are forgiven as we repent, but no amount of atonement forgives the unrepentant and that means that until I stop doing sin ABC on a daily basis (say, withholding the due charity my neighbors deserve) that I’m not going to really get the desired forgiveness for sin ABC. Thus the atonement frees one from big sins through baptism (accompanied by a commitment that we will not commit them any more), but then continues to work away at the littler ones until finally, in the eternities, we can find that THROUGH THE ATONEMENT we can finally keep the commandment to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”. However, if one decides to decry any attempt to take advantage of the repentance and consequent forgiveness the atonement offers except forgiveness from the Big Sins, then we in fact deny the atonement in our own lives. That is because we deny it to ourselves, refusing to allow it to heal us completely. High standards are not a denial of the atonement. Quite the contrary. It is stopping at some point on the strait and narrow path and refusing to move forward, allowing the atonement to bring us past that spot, that denies ourselves the full healing power of the atonement.
Christ ALWAYS did what was right. He ALWAYS obeyed His Father’s will. Those that feel that striving for obedience makes us into mindless robots without agency should stop and think about whether they think that the Son of God was just a mindless robot without agency, because that is exactly what He chose to do. As we learn to chose the same as He did, we are looking to Him. If we wallow in disobedience it is clearly not the light of His example we are looking to.
If you want a book of absurdly high impossible to meet in mortality standards, don’t look at this book, instead thoughtfully ponder all the words you can that were taught by the Savior himself. We are so used to ignoring them that we need a book like this to kick us in the pants and realize that the Savior set a standard that makes this children’s book look like tiddly-winks. Thus if you think teaching high standards means you know nothing about the atonement, you should probably reconsider. In great depth. It was the Son of God who taught the highest of them.
What seems to be missing here is the fact that while Christ’s atonement pulls many out of the mire of serious sin, the banks of that mire are not a resting point, nor a mud hole He intends for us to return to. The atonement is not Christ’s way of handing us an unlimited credit card to go commit sin with. It is a way to help us out of the mire to take us to a better place. Thus teaching our children to stay out of the worst parts of the mudpit is hardly something He objects to. Instead staying away from such depths keeps ourselves and our children in a place where we can more easily hear His voice and see and accept His offer of help. He wants to make us clean, but He can only clean the parts we don’t leave soaking in the mud. In time as we follow him we slowly move to drier and drier ground and He can continue the process of making us cleaner and cleaner through His atonement. Thus there is nothing wrong with helping your children stay only ankle deep in the sort of daily sin everyone partakes of, instead of wading out into the depths just because it is possible for Christ to save them even there. Too often while out there they lose interest in being saved at all. There is also nothing wrong with keeping them from wandering into mud patches that aren’t as serious as pornography, but are easy to avoid if they are determined to do so, such as lying and cheating.
Christ atoned for sins, yes. But the idea that the atonement for sins is somehow reciprocated by a need for us to commit sin on a large scale is a ridiculous rendering of his tremendous sacrifice. Yes everbody sins. But there is no reason our guilt or our children’s can’t be like Joseph Smith’s (“but I was guilty of levity and of associating with jovial company”). Why does it need to be sin with a big “s” instead of the small daily sins for the atonement to count for anything? The answer is simple. It doesn’t. As Joseph Smith said “the prettiest thing is to have no faults at all.”
As most reviewers appear to be LDS, I will end with a quote by Joseph Smith. It is a quote about the atonement, even if it isn’t evident at first glance, as it shows what we need to do to have the faith to partake of all the atonement can offer us. High standards don’t deny the atonement, they are its most intimate friend. They are where it is meant to lead us to. Thus Christ who performed the atonement was the same being that taught the highest of standards.
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”
Both in my ward and in other discussions I have heard the idea echoed that one can only tell someone they are doing something wrong if one presides over them.
That is simply not true. The doctrine is that whoever is warned is to warn his neighbor.
If someone is doing something that would prevent them from getting exaltation, we have a responsibility to warn them. Everyone has a responsibility to warn his neighbor. If, on the other hand, someone is doing something small that irritates us, we should probably just overlook their faults. This is so simple and obvious that only in this day when, as Joseph Fielding McConkie put it, “the only thing that is morally wrong is to say that something is morally wrong” could we fail to easily understand it.
Imagine how Heavenly Father must see this. If I am away from home and if one of my children begins doing something life threatening, like leaning against the pop out screen of a second story window, then everyone who knows better is responsible to warn that child, and even to take action that might reasonably prevent it if it is dangerous enough. Every child I have is responsible to warn a child who is endangering his or her life.
When I leave my house, I leave someone in charge. That child is allowed to determine punishments in our absence, and none of the others are. No matter that everyone should warn, only someone we authorized has the right to actually punish someone in our absence. The same is true with regard to our spiritual brothers and sisters here in mortality. We are all responsible to warn everyone that is risking their exaltation one way or another. For very dangerous things we should try and ensure they never happen at all, e.g. if I see a crime being committed. However, I have no authority to determine spiritual penalties of misbehavior unless I have been given authority by God e.g. if I was the Bishop who is the proper judge in Israel.
What person can’t think over what they want in their own home and realize this? If your kid is risking his life, you want other kids to warn him. But if instead you kid is just annoying another kid, you want them not to fight over it.
If you get home and your kid is dead, how do you feel about the child whose excuse was “I saw what he was doing but I didn’t warn him because I wasn’t the babysitter”? If we have enough sense to see how we would feel about that then we shouldn’t struggle so hard with our politically correct devils to figure out what Heavenly Father would think of this with his own children.
This extends to the need to teach the gospel. Being a faithful member of the true church brings exaltation. You don’t have to be called to be a missionary to teach the gospel. The field is white already to harvest and everyone that wants exaltation needs to store up for the winter by thrusting in their sickle and gathering souls. It is the same principle, there is no difference between them.
The doctors (I mean doctors of law, no physic) say, “If you preach anything not according to the Bible, we will cry treason.” How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us? Men bind us with chains. The Latin says Jacob and the German says Jacob; here we have the testimony of four against one. I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have got the oldest book in the world; but I [also] have the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have all the four Testaments. Come here, ye learned men, and read, if you can. I should not have introduced this testimony, were it not to back up the word rosh–the head, the Father of the Gods. I should not have brought it up, only to show that I am right.
The Lectures on Faith teach that there are some traits God must have perfectly or it would be impossible for man to have the faith needed in God in order to be saved. For instance, they teach that if God did not know all things then man could not exercise the faith in him needed to be saved. In essence, it teaches about attributes God must have in order be God. The lectures on Faith conclude that since we must follow Jesus Christ and become like him to be saved, then it is necessary for us to also gain each of these same attributes in order to gain salvation. Among these attributes we must gain for salvation is the attribute of judgement.
If one looks up judgement in Mormon Doctrine one is referred to this discussion in the lectures on Faith, namely, that Judgement is one of the traits we must gain if we want to be exalted.
The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 7 reads “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment”. This significantly alters the meaning from the previous phrase “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Without this significant change the verse teaches that we are in danger of being judged if we judge. The inspired correction changes the warning: we are in danger of being judged if instead of judging righteous judgement we choose to judge unrighteous judgement. Those are very different things. Warning that you are in danger of being judged if you judge is very different than warning that you must judge righteous judgement, and that you are in danger of being judged if you judge unrighteous judgement instead. The mere fact that Joseph Smith was inspired to make this correction tells us something. According to this change, is not judging, but judging unrighteous judgement that puts us in danger of being judged.
Moroni 7 teaches the same doctrine as the JST of Matthew 7 but explains it in much more detail. It states exactly what it means to judge “unrighteous judgement”.
Moroni 7:14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
The next verse diverges wildly from the non-corrected version of Matthew 7. Instead of being in danger if we judge, we are told that it is given to us to judge, and that it is easy to do correctly.
Moroni 7:15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
This teaches that we are in danger if we judge that which is evil to be good or judge that which is good to be evil. It teaches that (1) it is given to us to judge and (2) the way to judge is plain so we can know good from evil as perfectly as we know night from day.
If two scriptures were to directly contradict each other, one might wonder what to make of it. Here in Moroni 7 we read that it is given to us to judge. It explains how to judge. It makes clear that correctly judging good from evil is crucially important. In Matthew 7 we read that if we judge we are in danger of judgement. If there was no Joseph Smith translation we might be in quite a conundrum. But we do have the Joseph Smith translation, and the contradiction vanishes away. The danger is not in judging, but in judging that which is evil to be good or that which is good to be evil. If we judge righteously, using the light of Christ as our lamp, then we will judge good to be good and evil to be evil. If we judge unrighteously, using some other method, then we are doomed to mistake good for evil and evil for good.
Calling good evil, or evil good is exactly the unrighteous judgement we are warned against in Matthew. How can we judge righteous judgement? By searching diligently in the light of Christ to determine what is good and what is evil. If we use some method other than searching diligently in the light of Christ, we will likely get it wrong and call good evil and evil good (because if we neglect God’s method we are no longer standing on God’s ground), and our judgement will be an unrighteous one. According to Moroni 7, we can search diligently in the light of Christ in order to decide what is good and what is evil. If we judge using God’s INSPIRED means we are judging righteous judgement and we will judge good to be good, and judge evil to be evil then. If not we are judging unrighteous judgement and will end up calling good evil and evil good.
The warning that if we do this wrong we will be judged appears in both the Matthew 7 JST as well as in Moroni 7. If one judges unrighteously, calling good evil or calling evil good, then one is in danger of being judged. The Moroni 7 version is:
Moroni 7:18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
Here it is clear that the issue is not whether to judge or not to judge, rather the issue is whether to judge rightly by using God’s inspired method. Judging wrongly, judging good to be evil or evil to be good, that is what puts us in danger of being judged.
Moroni 7 also speaks of asking whether something leads us to Christ or further from him. It needs to be kept in mind that this chapter is addressed to faithful church members, and they already know that Christ is the head of the one true and living church. Without this truth in place it would be impossible to follow this counsel correctly as one would be in the same conundrum Joseph Smith faced in his youth when he found that different churches interpret the scriptures about what following Christ means so differently that is was impossible for him to determine how to act.
Only with the truth that the Church of Jesus Christ is the only true and living church we can correctly apply this counsel.
One of the foundational reasons we come to this earth was to “know good and evil”. If we don’t learn to correctly judge good from evil, do we believe we learned our lesson? Do we know good and evil if we still judge good for evil and evil for good? No, judging righteous judgement is knowing good from evil.
There is another obligation we have in the church. Joseph Smith told the saints that if they would pass over his faults, he would pass over theirs. He asked the Relief Society how they would feel if God and his angels were to object to us over small things. There is an important obligation in the gospel to pass over one another’s faults. It has become common to use the uncorrected verses in Matthew 7, “Judge not that ye be not judged” to refer to this important obligation. When modern prophets and apostles exhort us to “not judge one another” they are referring to this obligation to pass over faults, rather than disagreeing with Joseph Smith’s correction to the above verses. The obligation to pass over each others faults is different than our obligation to learn to discern good from evil. After all, we would like the Son of God, in whose footsteps we follow, to pass over our faults, but we would also like him to be able to discern correctly between what is good and what is evil. We have the same dual obligation ourselves.