24
Aug
10

PURIFIED IN THIS LIFE?

     In the September issue of the LDS’s magazine, the Ensign, President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor to the LDS President, refers to a teaching of Mormonism that warrants further examination.  He writes:  “The Book of Mormon also gives us confidence that we can become so purified in this life that we have no more desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5;2).” 

     This raises some questions.  Are there LDS members who presently fit this description – who have no more desire to do evil?  Mosiah 5:2, the Book of Mormon verse that he cites, expands by also saying that they “do good continually.”  Does that mean that there are LDS members who never have a selfish desire or never do anything selfishly?  Are there LDS members who never speak an unkind word after a bad day? Who never overlook an opportunity to help a fellow human being?  Who never act rudely?  If so, shouldn’t they be identified as such, so that we can be inspired by them?  For example, have all General Authorities reached this state of purfication?

     And if an individual LDS member hasn’t reached this state yet, what does that say about him or her?  President Eyring says that the Book of Mormon gives the confidence that this can happen.   What does it say if an LDS member isn’t confident about this happening in his or her life?  Shouldn’t every LDS member have this confidence?

     St. Paul didn’t agree with President Eyring or the Book of Mormon.  This type of purification wasn’t something St. Paul claimed for himself.  In fact, he claimed the opposite:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19)  But not only did he confess this about himself, this is also what he taught.  “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

     Which of the two do you identify with?  I identify with Paul.  Every day I find myself doing the evil that I don’t want to do and not doing the good that I want to do.  The Book of Mormon thought of not having any desire for evil is a completely foreign concept – and not part of my reality.  That is why each and every day I rejoice in knowing that all more sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.  That is the only purification I have confidence in.

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14 Responses to “PURIFIED IN THIS LIFE?”


  1. 1 Aaron Shafovaloff
    August 24, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    I have wondered, with Moroni 10:32-33 as possible evidence, whether Smith was a fan of Wesleyan perfectionism.

  2. August 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Something that has always bothered me about Romans 7… well not actually about the passage but about how even some Christians are interpreting it. Pastors such as pastor Tim Conway – not related to the comedian :-) – in Texas. Most of the people I find doing this are reformed Baptists, for whatever reason. That may be because I just don’t bother to listen to the Arminian camp at all, so they may also be saying it.

    They say that he cannot be speaking of himself as a redeemed and regenerated man, but is speaking of himself before he was born again. They have to do some fancy hermeneutical gymnastics to say that Paul is using the present tense only as a figure of speech.

    I simply do not see how that makes any sense at all. Now granted these pastors often do say “but that doesn’t mean that believers don’t struggle with sin” and they also do not go so far as to suggest that we can in this life attain a freedom from any desire to sin, and do good continually. But I would guess the same hermeneutical error is at the root.

  3. 3 markcares
    August 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Paula:
    You are correct in noting that some think Paul is referring to his past life. You are also correct in noting that he is speaking in the present tense which causes a lot of difficulty for that interpretation. There is another problem with interpreting this as Paul speaking about how he was before he came to faith. And that is, according to the Bible, unbelievers don’t have the desire to do good. Paul made that point himself in Romans 3:10-18.
    In this section of Romans (6:1-8:4) Paul is making the point that sin is no longer reigning in Christians (6:1-7:6) but sin still remains in Christians (7:7-8:4). But that doesn’t mean we are still under God’s condemnation. Because of Jesus we are not condemned- Romans 8:1. Praise be to him.

  4. 4 faithoffathers
    August 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Mark,

    Have you ever felt the spirit so strongly and powerfully, that at that minute or hour you truly felt no desire whatsoever to sin?

    I have.

    I do believe that it is possible to grow and develop to the point that a person has that spirit with them more and more of the time. As this occurs, a person’s life more and more resembles what is described in the BOM.

    I have known several people, almost all of them are elderly people, who I truly believe approach this standard of desiring nothing but good all the time.

    Are you finding fault with making this the standard for which we aspire?

    Because I do not understand such criticism.

    The fact that all the people I know who seem to come close to this standard are elderly is interesting to me. I believe it suggests something about the purpose of this life. If applied correctly, this life enables us to become more like God- not in a one-time confessional type experience, but in the enduring, practicing, perfecting, and refining way.

    fof

  5. 5 shematwater
    August 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I like what FOF said.

    I would also add that President Eyring never said we would be perfect, nor did he say we would be without sin. The desire to do no evil does not always translate into the action of doing no evil, as we are mortal. Also, doing good continually simply means that at each moment of your life you are trying to do good.

    This perfection is attainable, and is not the perfection of God (Which is what Paul was talking about in Romans 3). The perfection of God no man can attian in this life, for all have sinned and come short of his glory. In this sense there is no one who is righteous, as there is no one who has not sinned at some time in their life.

    When it comes to Romans 7, I do not think Paul is talking about himself specifically, nor do I think he is speaking in the past tense. What I see in this passage is his description of a struggle between the spiritual desire to do good, and the physical instincts of the body to do evil. In verse 14 he tells us the law is spiritual, and in verse 18 he tells us that in the flesh (or body) there is no good thing. In verse 23 he states this strait out.
    So, what is he actually saying. He is saying that he has no more desire to do evil (his spirit) but is constantly in ooposition to the physical desires and drives of the body to maintain the righteousness he desires.
    He is also saying that if you give into the desires of the body you are under sin, which implies that if you allow the spirit to control you are under righteousness. As such, it is actually in very close agreement with Mosiah, and so I can identify with both.

  6. 6 markcares
    August 25, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    FOF:
    One of the most spiritual elderly persons I ever knew, a retired president of a Christian school, one time told me that I shouldn’t be deceived into thinking that the elderly no longer had any evil desires. He said, with a twinkle in his eye, but in all seriousness, they just didn’t have the energy to follow through!
    I have never met a person, regardless of their age, who has claimed they had no more desire to do wrong. Did the persons you mention make that claim of themselves? Has any living prophet made this claim of himself? If so, please give me the reference.

  7. 7 markcares
    August 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Shem:
    A person can do good continually and still sin? Note that the Book of Mormon doesn’t say “try to do good”. It says ‘do”.

  8. 8 shematwater
    August 26, 2010 at 12:23 am

    MARK

    I know what it says. I will admit my words were confusing, and did not convey the proper message.
    A person can do good continually, and still have the small failings that are common among men. The example I love to use is Joseph Smith. From the time of his first vision he did good continually, but still fell into a few small errors (he was very sarcastic, and he said he was a little too lightheaded at times). In other words, he chose to do good at all times, but on occasion his instinct and impulse would cause an error in his actions, simply because he is mortal.

    This is what I meant. We try to do good in all things, and we can reach the point where every active dicision is one for good. However, we will never fully elliminate the instinct and impulse of mortal life, which is what Paul was saying in Romans.

  9. 9 faithoffathers
    August 26, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Mark,

    I find it interesting that you always seem to represent the checking-off-the-list mind-set, more so than the LDS that I know. This is the opposite of what you so often claim. Supposedly, we are obsessed with works and making ourselves feel good by our lists of good things we do. But the idea of striving for goodness and purity seems to automatically lead you to measure the success in those people who attempt such a life. I know you are simply making a point, but my observation is curious to me. Why such a propensity to compare people simply because they try to be good?

    The elderly that I referred to would not likely claim any special righteousness or holiness. But I, like you, have known thousands of people and am very confident that those I speak of hide no sinister or unholy motives. I am not their judge, but I have known them pretty well. Their pure and humble desires radiate an unmistakable goodness and purity.

    Do all elderly people reflect this degree of purity? Of course not.

    And I don’t know why you challenge the general authorities- as if they publicly claim any special degree of righteousness. I have never heard anything from them except that they are normal people.

    fof

  10. 10 markcares
    August 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Shem:
    Thanks for clarifying what you said.
    A difference that I often see between Mormonism and Christianity is what is defined as sin or evil. You talk about samll failings that Joseph Smith did and then mention him being very sarcastic. The Bible doesn’t label those as failings but things wothy of judgmnent – i.e.sins. See Matthew 12:36.
    Do you have any living examples of people who have reached this state? That seems to be a reasonable request since Mormonism teaches that “the Book of Mormon gives us confidence that we can become purified in this life.” Can you cite examples of living people who have that confidence? Do you have that confidence?

  11. 11 markcares
    August 26, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    FOF:
    Since the LDS Church teaches that “the Book of Mormon gives us confidence that we can become so purified in this life. . .” isn’t it reasonable to ask for living examples of that? Isn’t it also reasonable to first look for those examples in the leaders of the LDS Church? Why is it so unreasonable to assume that the leaders have the very confidence they teach? And if they have it, shouldn’t they talk about it, so they could be examples and inspiration for the other members? I find it odd that this isn’t happening since the Book of Mormon gives that confidence.

  12. 12 shematwater
    August 27, 2010 at 12:15 am

    MARK

    It is not reasonable because the living are never good judges of the living. The Book of Mormon gives us this confidence by looking back on what others did.

    I want to be like my father. In fifty years if you ask me if I succeeded I will likely say no. However, my children, or my Grand children might say yes.

    There are those that I think have reached this level of purity, but I doubt they would agree. This is what FOF was saying. Anyone who claims they have reached this state hasn’t, as they are raised to boasting.

    If you demand examples, the only living person among the general authorities that I would dare claim this of publically is the President (Thomas S. Monson) because I do not believe one who was not this pure would be made the president. I have no doubt others have, but I will not make that claim, as we know that even Apostles and members of the First Presidency have fallen into sin and been excommunicated.
    Beyond this I would give the same answer that FOF gave, and would refain from naming particular people.

    As to Joseph Smith, when did I ever say he said an idle word. Every word he uttered had a purpose to it, and taught us something. It was a small failing to do so in a sarcastic way at times, but it was not idle.
    Like when the one man said he couldn’t be a prophet because he never told a parable. In response he wrote the parable of the Lion and Jackass (he was the Lion and the man was the Jackass). It was very sarcastic, but not idle.
    Idles words are gossip, not sarcasm.

  13. 13 Miss Pie
    August 28, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Shem,
    Fortunately, we are not judged by men, but by the Lord! The Bible states there is not one person who is without sin, not even one! NOT EVEN ONE means not even the President of the LDS church is without sin and all the works and good things he’s done in his life are not enough. The Bible states clearly that in order to live with Heavenly Father in heaven by your works, you have to be perfect (Matt 5:48) and having even one sin is not perfect so we are condemned to outer darkness because of our sin. Alas, THERE IS HOPE! Jesus became sin for us and took upon himself all of our sins because he knew we could not be without sin! We are forgiven based on what Jesus has done for us, not based on what we have done for Jesus! He was perfect for us, suffered our sins for us, died for us and was resurrected so we can be too! Jesus was our ultimate substitute because we cannot do it ourselves. According to scripture, even your President Monson will not be with Heavenly Father based on what he has done in this life only on his trust in Jesus’ work for him. The same is true for you, me and anyone else in this world who lives or whom has died. This is a very hard truth because as humans, we tend to place ourselves and our accomplishments very highly but God says they are worthless because we CANNOT win his favor based on what we do! We do righteous works because of what Jesus has done for us, not because we want to win his favor. Out of gratitude we do things to show our love to the Lord, not hoping it will please him. He doesn’t need our works or us to do things for him, He is the Lord! As far as idle words go, sarcasm is idle and is sinful. The Bible says to only speak things that are edifying to others. I have never found sarcasm to be edifying but often times rather hurful to the party it is aimed towards.

  14. 14 shematwater
    August 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    MISS PIE

    I really don’t want to get into an argument on what Jesus did for us. However, I never said the President of the Church was perfect, only that he had reached this level of purity as described in the Book of Mormon.
    No man is without sin, as all have sinned. However, this is in the past tense, which would indicate that we can reach the level of purity where we will sin no more (in the manner in which I have described). Perfection is required, and with the help of Christ we can be made perfect.

    As to being judged, we read in Matthew 19: 28 “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
    So it is by men that we will be judged, for the Twelve apostles of Christ will judge the twelve tribes of Israel.


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