LDS Zeal for Law

While some of my fellow bloggers here at FPR conclude their probably ecstatic SBL experience, I thought I’d make a post about a topic that I’ve been musing on for the past while. A realization that I’ve had recently is connected to just how legalistic we are with respect to the attaining of salvation, even exaltation. Just a quick perusal of our modernly revealed scriptures reinforced this idea to me: the LDS salvific model (as fluid a concept as that is) has a very strong legalistic flavor to it.

Most of you probably are already tuned into the idea I’m trying to describe. In a nutshell, the attainment of salvation (and exaltation) is often described or explained in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants in legalistic terms, in terms of the fulfilling of a law set forth by God.

This was so ingrained in me that I was pretty surprised in college when I was briefly (very briefly) introduced to the concept of multiple salvific models given by Paul. What I was told was that Paul describes the attainment of salvation in several different ways, using various metaphors. And some, maybe even many, of them had no reference to law. I confess that I have not done the research on this topic yet. I’m buried in rural southern Alberta with little to no access to non-LDS scholarship (where this sort of thing is more easily found). Even my own books are packed away in storage in Utah. I promise to return to this idea later, probably much later, when I get back into my academic groove.

But for the purposes of this post, I’ve said enough already. What is important is that I learned that not every way of viewing salvation is connected with law. This makes many of us Mormons pretty uncomfortable. For example, Paul often speaks about salvation in terms of simply having faith. Most of us don’t like this. Our immediate reaction is to start shouting about Paul not saying everything he meant and knew about the subject, or that “yeah but faith without works is dead, didn’t you read James?” or other such things. Ok, maybe. I know I’ve been there before and argued that myself, but are we right? Can we view the attainment of salvation without considering law? Is it really so interconnected that we cannot separate the two?

I said earlier that our modern scriptures reinforce, or perhaps I should say gave birth to, our distinctly legalistic view of salvation. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi starts this sort of thinking right off the bat. It is he who gave us the very familiar pattern for salvation of faith, repentance, baptism, holy ghost, endure to the end. This is our legalistic view of salvation in its simplest form. 2 Nephi in general is filled with legalistic terms, right down to the very last words where Nephi promises that when we are judged before the bar of God that he will stand as a witness that we had been made aware of the law and its full implications. Even the word testimony is taken from legal jargon.

This theme continues throughout the Book of Mormon. Seemingly each writer hinges their teachings on the concepts of keeping the law and being rewarded for our actions in relation to that law either to our ultimate salvation and prosperity or damnation and destruction. Jacob, Benjamin, Alma, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni all take this view. Read the last 3 verses of Moroni, the last three of the whole Book of Mormon:

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

The legalism is implicit in the first two verses and explicit in the last, much like we see with Nephi. In the first two the implication is that one must pass through a complex system of actions that include deny ungodliness and becoming perfect in Christ through his grace to the attainment of sanctification. It seems to me that this legalistic view of salvation is not only present and flourishing but has been developed and expanded upon. I see it filing the book from cover to cover.

The D&C is similarly filled. When the Vision was given it taught us that every kingdom has a law given and that those who may inhabit those kingdoms will be those who are able to abide that law. When exaltation to the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom is taught it contains reference to obeying the law pertaining to the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage. But I have not yet thought of any good examples in either of these books of scripture where a salvific model is presented that doesn’t involve some law being fulfilled.

So my question is: Is the LDS view of salvation so law-centered that no other model is tenable? What other salvific models have you all been exposed to and do you find them to be tenable?

35 Replies to “LDS Zeal for Law”

  1. I think that the ultimate in legalistic explanations of salvation in the Church today was explained to me by Steve Robinson. A fair portion of it is found in “Believing Christ.” I have to say that even though I’m exploring this idea I was pretty convinced by his explanation, particularly in connection with the Book of Mormon’s view of salvation.

  2. LXXLuthor,

    I am not sure of your criteria for calling something legalistic. For example, the following passage appears in Alma 5, do you count this as framing salvation in terms of the law?

    10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
    11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
    12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
    13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

    It would be hard to find a text better suited for this question since he starts out by asking “what grounds had they to hope for salvation?” The answer for Alma is said to be that he (1) believed Abinadi who delivered the words of God, (2) according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Likewise, “your fathers” in vs. 13 are saved because (1) a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, (2) they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God and (3) they were faithful to the end. “Therefore they were saved.”

    So, does that count as legalistic? Your answer will help me understand where you are coming from.

  3. One thing I would say is that speaking in terms of the law or in legalistic fashion is a motif found in the Old Testament. For example, the book of Job is filled with court-room imagery, so while it is true that there is court room imagery in the Book of Mormon, I think the Book of Mormon shares this with the Old Testament scriptures. One only needs to think of the five books of Moses in which things are explained from the point of view of law. If a nation is destroyed it is because they did not obey God’s law and if a nation is victorious, then it is because they adhered to God’s law.

    However, in my discussions, I’ve sensed a resistance to the term “law” mostly from the Protestant Evangelical community. The “law” is almost always synonymous with the Mosaic Law which was fulfilled and done away with, and thus most Evangelicals from, my experience, are uneasy with the phrases “God’s law” or “the law of the Gospel” and would prefer some other term. I’m not sure to what extent Catholicism shares this same reaction since they have a tradition of canon law and even the phrase “the law of the Gospel” comes from the Summa Theologica. LDS don’t share this same negative reaction to the notion of law. Partly because I feel Mormon thought resonates with Old Testament imagery and language in ways that Protestantism generally does not. In other words, from my experience, when Protestants think of “law” immediately this conjures up the inadequacy of the Mosaic Law, that by the law are all men cut off, and by the law no man is justified, and thus the notion of a “Gospel law” seems somewhat of an oxymoron. However, for LDS, the law conjures up “a law irrevocably declared before the foundations of the world,” some sort of pre-existent universal law, without the negative connotations of the Mosaic Law. Take these musings for what they are, just musings and thoughts that are a work in progress.

  4. What I had in mind when I mentioned the Evangelical preference for a term other than the term “law” in reference to the Gospel, was a passage from Craig Blomberg in How Wide the Divide (1997, p.181).

    “But I have no quarrel whatever with the insistence that for the one who repeatedly and consistently rejects God’s moral standards (a word I think more appropriate than “laws” in the age of the Gospel, which is never called a law in the New Testament), “Jesus has not really been made Lord, and there is neither justification nor salvation.”

  5. I think a good case can be made that Joseph Smith believed that there were a number of natural laws that were independent of God – elements and intelligences are eternal, no ex nihilo creation, suffering atonement is an absolute necessity (i.e. one God cannot avoid while simultaneously redeeming mankind). James E. Talmage and Joseph Fielding Smith certainly thought so.

    If there are such laws, and they are pertinent to the Atonement, then the latter is necessarily law oriented at some level no matter what – i.e. not a matter of divine discretion alone, but governed by unavoidable natural constraints.

    The Book of Mormon is full of them: Wickedness never was happiness. No unclean thing can be saved in the kingdom of God. An infinite atonement is required. And so on.

  6. I don’t have time to really answer the question right now, but I think that LDS commonly put the cart before the horse on this (and I think the Book of Mormon backs me up on this). As such I only think that the law is necessary for salvation in that it reminds us what is necessary for salvation is Christ.

    Be nice.

  7. Aquinas is right about resistance.

    Just this Sunday our church family sang a hymn, “Free from the law, O happy condition.”

    At one time, I had a marriage to the law; and I was miserable. Wretchedly miserable.

    And far from being trite, the eternal marriage that I have now is paradise.

    Thanks for the interesting post, lxxluthor.

  8. I’m really interested in hearing other models. One that I am thinking about is the concept of being joint-heirs with Christ (I know, not a BoM reference). That’s sort of legalistic—heirs are named in a will, wills are written by lawyers, etc.—but does not have the courtroom/judge imagery of much of the LDS scriptures. So does that qualify as non-legalistic?

  9. Dang, I don’t have time this lunch to properly respond to everyone. I’ll get to you all when I get off of work. But for Tim, I hope that some day that you’d come to believe that you can “have” me without me leaving this faith. I think of you this way already.

  10. I don’t think you’ve framed the debate accurately. Latter-day Saints believe it is only by the Atonement of Jesus Christ that anyone is saved. In this sense, I agree with John C. that to the extent that the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants use metaphors relating to the law or discuss laws of the Gospel or laws of heaven, they are in relation to the Atonement of Jesus Christ which saves those who accept it.

    Over-emphasizing Romans or prioritizing it above other scripture makes the same mistake in the other direction that you seem to be cricizing in Latter-day Saints who cherish the law-related metaphors in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. There is no reason to assume that Paul should be favored over Peter or James. There is also no reason to assume that Latter-day Saint reference to law or laws of the Gospel should invoke the criticisms that Paul had against the law, since his argument was with continued adherence to the law of Moses after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. What Latter-day Saint adheres to the Law of Moses? I don’t know any.

  11. I think the LDS notion results from the idea of obedience vs. the ultimate intentionality of God. Ideally we have to be One with God and the anti-legalistic is due to the problem of a simple set of statements capturing those intents in all contexts. The problem is that what many Mormons call the first covenant is to obey God (represented in the A&E story) but that God’s intents and his words don’t match. (The common way Mormons view Paul’s statement on letter of the law vs. spirit of the law)

    So when we speak of Law I think we have to be clear whether we’re talking about a transcendent law in the sense of being “more” than our categories or the idea of law at all.

    That distinction isn’t being made clearly in this discussion. (IMO)

  12. John F.,

    Only by and through the Atonement, absolutely. That itself is an expression of a law. So the next question is that law a matter of divine discretion, or is it derived from some sort of natural constraint?

    Would a non-suffering atonement be efficacious? Is God free to neglect the laws / principles of justice and mercy and redeem mankind regardless? Can God save people in their sins?

    The Book of Mormon answer to the latter three is no. Laws and more laws.

  13. Jacob J: I would absolutely say that this has an undercurrent of legalism. The lingo isn’t there explicitly but it is close to Nephi’s pattern of having faith, repent, be baptised, get the Holy Ghost, endure to the end. Hearing and believing the words of God can be equated easily to faith, receiving a change of heart can be seen as the reward of repentance, and enduring to the end is explicitly stated. I see these as being spoken as steps in fulfilling the requirements of the Lord’s Law.

    Aquinas: I find that Christian groups that dislike speaking of law in the Gospel of Christ are those who will also see sin in terms of doing what God doesn’t like but not in terms of violating some law that God gave. It takes law out of the question entirely.

    Mark D: I think you are seeing exactly what I’m seeing for the most part. Our scriptures (I mean exclusively LDS scriptures) are filled with law. So does that mean that you don’t believe that law can be separated from salvation from sin?

    John: You are going to have to expound on that idea, it intrigues me.

    Brian: I don’t think so. I think that many scriptures that deal with salvation are not explicitly legalistic on the surface but are in their inferences and bases (like what Jacob cited). Yours even has legalistic references so I’d consider them clearly tied to law.

    John F: I don’t know if I follow you or if you follow me. I think that you might be right in that I haven’t framed this question well. I’m not saying anything about the Law of Moses, only asking whether we can consider the Atonement’s efficacy outside of law. I also agree that we shouldn’t consider one scripture above another, but that doesn’t mean that there are necessarily no other appropriate ways of considering the way the Atonement causes salvation to be possible outside of law. Does that make more sense? I hope so.

    Clark: I was thinking in terms of any law at all. If I were to rephrase the question I guess it would read “Is the Atonement literally and indivisibly based on law or is law just a useful metaphor for understanding the Atonement symbolically?”

  14. LXXLuthor,

    If that passage counts as being legalistic, you have quite a broad definition of legalistic. It seems that if there are any conditions whatsoever to salvation it will qualify as being legalistic according to the criteria you are using. To be saved, some conditions must be met and meeting those conditions can be called “following the requirements of the Lord’s law.” However, if you define “law” this broadly, there is nothing remarkable about the “legalism” of Mormonism. I don’t know of any Christian soteriology that does not qualify as legalistic under the definition you are applying here.

  15. David, that’s not true and I think you know it. I understand that studying at an Evangelical creedalist college can sour one on Mormonism but let’s not get dishonest about the centrality and absolute essentiality of the Atonement in LDS belief.

  16. re # 14, “Would a non-suffering atonement be efficacious? Is God free to neglect the laws / principles of justice and mercy and redeem mankind regardless? Can God save people in their sins? The Book of Mormon answer to the latter three is no. Laws and more laws.”

    Okay, laws and more laws but none of which displace the Atonement or render anything Paul says inapplicable. That is, understanding the Atonement as propitiation for a broken law is also what Evangelical creedalists, and creedal Christians more generally, believe, so it looks like they also are obsessed with legal metaphors in understanding the Atonement. Thus, your comment relates to philosophical debates revolving around creatio ex nihilo and not out of law metaphors that surface in scripture.

  17. re # 15: “John F: I don’t know if I follow you or if you follow me. I think that you might be right in that I haven’t framed this question well. I’m not saying anything about the Law of Moses, only asking whether we can consider the Atonement’s efficacy outside of law. I also agree that we shouldn’t consider one scripture above another, but that doesn’t mean that there are necessarily no other appropriate ways of considering the way the Atonement causes salvation to be possible outside of law. Does that make more sense? I hope so.”

    If you didn’t intend to convey the idea that Latter-day Saints focus too much on law, that this is not desirable, and how can they more correctly understand the Atonement without an overemphasis on law, then you are probably right that I didn’t follow you in your post — because those are the ideas that you conveyed.

    I don’t think that Evangelical creedalists actually see the Atonement outside the concept of law. It’s just that they do not believe that they are subject to law anymore once they have accepted Jesus in their hearts. This is different than viewing the Atonement as something other than the propitiation for a broken law (the Fall).

  18. Lxx– Fair enough; inheritance is legalistic. Like Jacob J (I think), I am at a loss to think of non-legalistic examples (using your definition of legalistic). The story of Hosea is legalistic: it deals with a marriage contract. Even the Day of Atonement is legalistic: rules and steps to follow, etc.

    I guess I was hoping that you were looking for “non-courtroom” references. Help me out here.

  19. John, so you are saying you don’t need the final piece of the endowment for full exaltation? I may have sounded crass, but what I said is true, and you know it.

  20. John F. and David J.,
    Don’t make me stop this car!

    What I mean, in part, is that what law is best at is demonstrating how poorly we keep it. This is especially the case for divine or perfect law, for which we have no excuses when we neglect it. This is certainly the Book of Mormon approach to the Law of Moses (it reminded them of Christ because it was (pretty much) impossible to keep. This in turn causes us to set aside our hopes of keeping the law, call ourselves sinners, and turn to Christ for atonement. He, in turn, makes us better people, more desiring to do his will, and, therefore, makes it easier to keep whatever amount of the law we can keep.

    By the law we are all condemned. If condemned, then Christ is our only hope. If Christ is our hope, then by him we are redeemed. By our redemption, we better keep the law. And so forth.

    The purpose of the law is to generate change, not to demonstrate it (or so I think)

  21. David and John,
    You both know LDS Doctrine well enough to know that the versions of it that you are presenting here are polarized. We believe in the efficacy of divine appointed and authorized ordinances. We also believe that that efficacy comes via the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Be Nice!

  22. Answering a question with a question — nice. I suppose if that stuff is part of “the atonement,” then we agree. But then semantically I’m not sure I like what is being done to the word “atonement.” And round and round we go.

    My comment had nothing to do with my education, which I have completely forsaken anyway.

    Semantics, semantics, we all love semantics! No harm, no foul (pun intended), right? 🙂

  23. LXXLuthor,

    I don’t know how familiar you are with NPP (New Perspective on Paul) scholarship, but I would recommend to you these books:

    N.T. Wright: New Interpreter’s Bible Volume 10 (a 400 page commentary on Romans that interacts with current modern scholarship and comes from one of the leading proponents of the NPP. Very accessible.)

    N.T. Wright: What St. Paul Really Said? (A 140 page introduction to the NPP and its arguments from a leading NPP scholar; it builds off of and is a summary of sorts of his more in-depth scholarly treatments. Very accessible.)

    E.P. Sander’s: Paul and Palestinian Judaism. (The Book that started it all; still a foundational book for discussion of major Pauline themes.)

    James Dunn: The Theology of the Apostle Paul (A semi-systematic treatment of major Pauline teachings from a leading NPP scholar.)

    James Dunn: Romans WBC. 2 Volumes. (A two volume commentary on Romans from the World Biblical Commentary series. Very in-depth treatments; Perhaps not as good an introduction as the works by N.T. Wright listed above, but essential reading nonetheless. Written by a leading NPP scholar.)

    I also posted some comments on the NPP (especially Romans) in a conversation with Todd W. here:

    Start about half way down. I never finished the conversation…which reminds me…


    I would say my problem with the discussion in this post/comments is that salvation, exaltation, sanctification, justification, etc. are all terms being used with little precision. I think Blake Ostler’s 2nd volume of Exploring Mormon Thought: The Problems of Theism and the Love of God also goes over this issue extensively. From what I remember it was quite interesting and informative;I would recommend you check out that as well.

  24. “salvation, exaltation, sanctification, justification, etc.”
    The terminological dispute is eternal in Mormon discussions of Atonement. These terms (and others) have never been sufficiently distinguished.

  25. John F: You are completely misinterpreting my tone and meaning here. This is an exploration of whether or not we can look at how the Atonement works without an appeal to law. If the answer is no, so be it. I don’t think that I have a preference either way, just an interest to see where this investigation takes me.

    Jacob: My point exactly. Every explanation in the LDS tradition that I can think of is based in law (broadly speaking). And maybe I’m misunderstanding some other faiths’ traditions or the explanations that I was quickly given in school, it’s very possible. But as I said above, from what I understand there are those who do not see sin as a violation of law (perhaps including the Fall) and so the Atonement is not in any way legally based and neither is their soteriology.

    Brian: Exactly.

    John C: I really like and agree with what you said in #23. It doesn’t disconnect the Atonement with law but I like how it relates the two.

    Mike: Thanks for the list. I have had many of the same and similar books recommended to me that I fully intend to read at some point.

  26. Luthor, I think that one must distinguish between normative laws (or laws by convention) which clearly can be broken and absolute laws which by definition can’t be broken. When one speaks of law “broadly speaking” I think one still must make the normative/absolute distinction. I think one can’t within the LDS range of theologies ignore that as a crucial feature. Sin is a violation of normative law but clearly isn’t a violation of absolute law. One might even say that sin is sin because of some law. (There must be a reason that something is bad rather than good)

    Now outside of the LDS community one might say that this is all determined by God and perhaps some might even say there is an element of arbitrariness to it. (And actually there are a few within the LDS community who attempt this move I’ve found) I’m not sure this ultimately makes much sense to me.

    It seems to me that LDS say there is law simply because there are things one must do and be to be like God. Yet we can’t do this. The Atonement in some unfathomable way makes it possible to get from point A to point B. But to the degree there is order in existence and it isn’t arbitrary (which I believe) then this move must itself be predicated upon laws.

    This is different from what you presented in the original post, which is a law in the sense of convention, as I see it. Certainly there are elements of that. (The idea within Abraham of having to do all God says – which is of course a logical problem for the reasons I outlined)

    Even if we talk in Pauline terms of faith one has to unpack what one means by faith. It may well be that faith to be faith entails laws.

    So my personal feeling is that if we talk too loosely about all this we are doomed to misuse the terms in question.

  27. David:

    John, so you are saying you don’t need the final piece of the endowment for full exaltation? I may have sounded crass, but what I said is true, and you know it.

    David, as I’m sure you know the endowment Mormons engage in is a prepratory rite. This is clearly stated in the ceremony itself. It is a vessel to help us obtain Grace. It is not Grace itself except to the degree God freely gives it to us and enlightens us through it. But the way you frame it is confusing the vessel for what it contains. Mormons typically (although not always) don’t make that mistake.

    Grace offered must be received. Who are we to dictate to God how he must bestow Grace to us? Yet that is what I view some theologies as doing.

    The analogy is to a stranded climber being tossed a rope and demanding that their salvation not entail clipping into the rope since that is denying the salvation offered. (A rather common analogy used in Mormon circles)

  28. Lxx,

    I think Mormonism does support an alternative salvific view, though I agree with you that it is not one our discourse normally emphasizes. I might call this the “affinity” model: we are saved by moving towards the Light, by ever more closely patterning ourselves after Jesus Christ. The concepts of judgment and commandment are of course still present in this view, but are secondary: as taught in John 9 and 11, we judge ourselves by our own reactions and actions.

    Here are some verses that might support this view:

    Mormon 9:14: …and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.

    D&C 88 (there are a number of verses in this that support this view, IMHO):

    28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
    29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
    30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
    31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
    32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
    33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

    88:40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own…

    These are just a few, there are more. Of course the very concept of “salvation” has concepts that might be viewed in a legalistic way, so even the above verses can be construed in such a legalistic paradigm. But I would maintain that requires a forced reading. The primacy is on rejecting darkness and moving toward the light, just as the Samaritan woman at the well did at the crucial moment when Jesus’ conversation put that challenge in front of her. She courageously moved toward the light, and moved toward salvation, and in the same way, when we develop mercy, love, happiness, etc., we are moving toward the light and ultimately becoming more like Deity. This is the ultimate salvation. The commandments guide us to the light, but 3 Nephi, Alma, and others strenuously condemn going through the motions of righteous behavior without actually changing who we are (think Rameumpton).

    Would this qualify as a different model in your view? It is one that I find highly tenable, even preferable.

  29. Seneca: Interesting notion. Your presentation does seem to be extra-legal. I’m going to have to think about that. Thanks for sharing, it’s the most tantalizing suggestion offered yet.

  30. Clark,

    Although I do not disagree with your conclusion that the endowment ceremony is prepatory, I do have to say that it is a bit of a stretch to say that it is prepatory for Grace (capital “G”) the way you emphasized it is. You almost make it seem like it’s prepatory for nothing else, or that anything else for which it might be prepatory is just living in the shadow of “Grace.” It is explicit in its mention of being prepatory for the fulness of the priesthood anointing and entrance into God’s presence (and yes, those things are an extension of God’s “Grace”) and perhaps some other things, but getting Grace (capital “G”) from the ceremony the way you portray it requires a bit of reading between the lines. Don’t get me wrong, I think you are right that it does make an enormous extension of grace toward its participants, but I don’t think it is as explicitly mentioned in the ceremony itself to the degree you portray it. I find myself having to really strain to find where Grace represents the centrality of the ceremony’s purpose and message in an explicit manner. (Actually, there is only one explicit mention of it in the endowment, and it is made in reference to Jesus being the one “full of grace and truth”). One could argue from the same field of evidence you cite that the real prepatory purpose of the endowment is to clothe the participant in God’s love, the Holy Ghost, etc., none of which are explicitly mentioned. Again, what is made clear as being prepatory I mentioned above, and possibly some other things.

    Actually, it almost sounds like your pining to non-members with your hyper-emphasis on grace. Yes, the word “grace” speaks volumes to evangelicals and other protestants, but if you were to discuss the Mormon endowment as an extraordinary outpouring of “grace” to the protestants I know, they would be even more suspicious of the ceremony because it sounds like you’re trying to “sell” it to them on their terms.

    I think it is great that you think the central preparatory message of the endowment is Grace. Indeed it may be, but I’m having trouble finding it so plainly as you do.

  31. it almost sounds like your pining to non-members

    Or maybe your pining yourself to sound more mainstream??? Either way, I’m sure your intentions are noble, I’m just a bit caught off guard by them.

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