Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: The heavenly council, and some counsel for mortals’

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Published: Thursday, April 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Richard Hitchens
Layton, UT

A good porition of Letter to a Doubter, and especially the section quoted here is not specific to Mormonism. It could with little work be repurposed to defend any faith based belief system.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

There is an eastern saying (in Zen, I think) that goes – “without great doubt there is no great awakening.”

I’ve never trusted people who claim absolute certainty, especially in areas where that is all but impossible… like religion. In my experience, people who make such claims are either young, unintelligent, or simply never engage the big questions: which is typically a sign that their faith is very superficial.

The truth should be able to withstand any scrutiny – if it cannot, then perhaps it’s not the truth, or at least not the only truth.

Phoenix, AZ

And after it is all said and done, it is still a guessing game in which one may never know their fate. But, aside from all the imagination of the many different religious sales people of pies in the skies, it seems Jesus's teaching of love they neighbor is the best council for this life and leave god to his business: what ever that may be.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Faith without reason is flirting with disaster. The wise man builds his house on a rock.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god waiting to see if we ‘get it right.’"

No, but the real "test" for Latter Day Saints is not the call to faith, but the call to obedience. Strict compliance to the requisite LDS codes and rituals trump faith. Latter Day Saints must correctly perform the mandatory rites and rituals set up by the church in order to be eligible for the full benefits of heaven...despite any doubt or lack of faith.

Interestingly, a recommend for participation in these rituals is limited to qualified elites who can first complete a set of rigid tasks and assignments, including a significant financial contribution of one's income to the church, before they can even participate in these mandatory rites and ceremonies.

In the LDS light, obedience "is" the test...with, or without faith.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

A few years ago at the giving of a name and a blessing to a baby, a counselor in the ward Bishopric required each man standing in the circle to produce his temple recommend in order to participate. First time I knew of holding a current recommend being a prerequisite for anything other than entering the temple.

I still don’t know if this is a discretionary latitude allowed to local leadership or if it was an isolated instance of a rogue counselor practicing improvised Mormonism.

Res Novae
Ashburn, VA

Tyler D,

As a devout Mormon, I completely agree with everything you say about certainty. The older I get, the less certain I am about many things in life. And yet I feel that my faith is stronger and more mature now than when I could say, "I know" with full conviction.

I hope that more people in my religious tradition become more comfortable with the idea of ambiguity and being uncertain, and less eager to squeeze those who aren't as sure. I think we'd be both more humble and more resilient for it. I've seen too many -- utterly convinced of truth -- crumble when encountering true challenges to their ideas for the first time.

For many, a deep faith requires an apprenticeship of doubt.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

@Craig Clark

"A few years ago at the giving of a name and a blessing to a baby, a counselor in the ward Bishopric required each man standing in the circle to produce his temple recommend in order to participate. I still don’t know if this is a discretionary latitude allowed to local leadership or if it was an isolated instance of a rogue counselor practicing improvised Mormonism."

I don't know if a Temple Recommend was required a few years ago, but currently it is not required now.

From the Church Handbook of Instructions, Handbook 2, Administering the Church:

20.1.2 "A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy."

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Weber State Graduate,

Living the gospel is hardly so rigid as you indicate. There are lots of folks with very different lives who qualify for a temple recommend.

And (for what sacifice there is - and that varies) sacrifice demonstrates faith. It is easy to say we have faith. Another thing entirely to put it into gear.

Finally, my entire life in the church I have been inundated with calls to learn faith - to gain a testimony, to come to know God.

Salt Lake City, UT

Thanks, Dan. The journey of faith is different for each, but the goal is the same.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

Craig Clark: Were any of the men from out of town and not known to the Bishop or his counselors. In that case, yes it may be required that the individuals have a temple recommend or some type of letter that states they are worthy to participate in the circle. It is not a prerequist but if one is officiating or doing the blessing and not known to the Bishopric then yes it is necessary to prove worthiness.

The handbook does state this by the way.

layton, UT

RE: Defending the Faith(in JS). …described by biblical writers as “the host of heaven,” … the*“sons of God” and, even, as “gods.”

The *“sons of God” in the OT is generally taken to refer to angels. The idiom is a poetic way of describing their nature and relationship to God.

… the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:7 NIV)

hat mightiest angel is anything like the LORD? (Psalm 89:6 NLT).

The result of the union between fallen angels and women is rather clearly implied to be the Nephilim. (Genesis 6:4 NET).

P. of G.P. Moses 8:18 the *”sons of god”; have we not taken unto ourselves the daughters of men ?
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (II Peter 2:4).

@Twin Lights,to gain a testimony. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,…
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy(Romans 9: 15-16),

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@sharrona – “Twin Lights, to gain a testimony… It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9: 15-16)”

Directed towards someone (Twin Lights) you don’t know, this came across as slightly presumptuous and arrogant.

But your quote raise some interesting issues, not the least of which is that the Bible can seem contradictory regarding how we are be saved. Yes, Paul suggests in Romans that it’s all about faith, whereas other authors (e.g., Matthew and James) say an awful lot about “human effort.”

The biblical writers were typically writing for a particular audience often trying to correct a specific problem (i.e, over-emphasizing one aspect while ignoring another). This is likely the case with everything said in the Bible regarding the dilemma of Effort vs. Grace.

If a believer is stuck on one horn of the dilemma, the proper counsel is to get them to see the validity of the other horn and regain some balance & perspective.

To take Bible passages as for-all-time absolutes is to miss the point and even flirt with idolatry.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

Twin Lights:

Some may say that the requirement to give a significant portion of one's income to the church -- despite today's distressing economy -- as a prerequisite to performing the redemptive rituals that qualify people for the full rewards of heaven is exceptionally rigid. If you don't pay -- despite your financial situation -- then you simply don't get to participate in those rituals.

Of course, many Latter Day Saints agree that mandatory financial payments are a worthy sacrifice and bring blessings. However, others who struggle financially may question why cash should even be a qualifier for celestial redemption. It's really a matter of perspective about compulsory money exchange as a qualifier for any celestial reward.

My point is faith, which is the context of Peterson's article, takes a back seat to "obedience" within the LDS church. You may argue that obedience demonstrates faith. Fair enough, but it's clear that without obedience to the required church rites and rituals, despite faith, celestial redemption is impossible.

Fred Vader
Oklahoma City, OK

@ TylerD: Well said.

@ Weber State Graduate: "it's clear that without obedience to the required church rites and rituals, despite faith, celestial redemption is impossible." And yet, I (and I think most Mormons) would argue, that without Faith, all the obedience to "church rites and rituals" is also for naught.

They both go together IMHO.

I don't think obedience only demonstrates faith, I think the converse is also true. If you have faith you are led to obedience. Otherwise, why would you have faith in something you could not obey or follow? That is not to say that having faith is perfect obedience in all things, but it leads one to the path of desiring to be, and being, obedient in all things. In other words, does one really have faith, who is intentionally disobedient to the things they have faith in?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Obedience that comes from a sense of genuine conviction of duty and obligation can also be the self-serving defense of a collaborator in something that's wrong. "I was just obeying orders," isn't the sort of explanation that brings plaudits or laurels. I don't wish to be cynical, but let's not forget that obedience is often most extolled as a virtue by those who wish to be obeyed.

layton, UT

RE:Tyler D, Romans it’s about faith, James “human effort.”

James 2:24-26. Martin Luther words, a man is justified(made righteous) before God alone, but not that faith is alone. Faith is pregnant with good works.

For we know that is by grace we are saved after all we can do.(2 Nephi 25 :23)similar to God helps them who helps themselves, Not Biblical. God helps those who cannot help themselves, which is what grace is about . The statement is often given as an example of the heresy of Pelagianism. The “Pale” of Christianity is Monergnistic or synergistic.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast .( Eph 2:8-9)

… “I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again=( Gr anothen, from above).(John 3:6)

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I(ego) am(eimi) .(John 8:24) He is saying He is God.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Craig Clark,

I have often been counseled and seen other folks encouraged to get a testimony of what they are being asked to do. Certainly, I have counseled my own children this way.

Weber State Graduate

First, I have never had an easy time paying tithing so I get the question. But, in my experience and that of my friends, we have no easier time paying tithing when we have plenty of cash than when we are struggling. Go figure.

Tyler D,

Thanks. BTW, a nice summary of Biblical balance.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

The one line in Fast & Testimony meeting I cringe everytime I hear it is; "I know without a shadow of a doubt..."

Most testimonies should hold the following disclaimer: "At this time..." or "To the best of my knowledge..."

We are all human.

I love the Book of Mormon --
because in it, we can learn and take comfort knowin that in trying times and great difficulties, even Lehi - THE Propeht - murmured.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


I prefer James to Martin Luther. "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." (NIV).

The full quote from Nephi is: "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. " It is far more than being God helps those who help themselves. Rather, an acknowledgement of free will. That God will draw near to us if we draw near to him (see D&C 88:63).

Though we acknowledge that all those (of age) are sinners, we do not see man as wholly depraved but as children of a Heavenly Father. He did not create us to suffer but to rejoin him if we will. In all of this, we must offer (willingly) the acceptable sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. There is no force or it is not an offering.

BTW, I assume you know that the "works" Paul so often argues against are the works of the law of Moses.

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