I uploaded an 11-page document about the often-misunderstood principle of Grace. I added links to a classic talk from Brad Wilcox on You Tube, and to another podcast from Mark Curtis of Doctrine of Christ. I took notes during all of these videos and includes them in this document.
(This is so good I am including the entire post.)
We latter-day saints are used to numbered to-do lists, bullet points, checklists and other formulaic methods to accomplish a goal. For example, we pay our tithing, don’t drink tea, faithfully go to church, work on genealogy, and check off all the boxes we can so we can be perceived as being perfectly obedient. Here’s what my friend John Pontius said about this:
“It is not uncommon for someone to make a list of everything they feel they should be doing in their lives, then select a few to begin working on. As wholesome as this sounds, it will only create feelings of impotence and frustration. Read all the scriptures, and nowhere is there an account of someone achieving spiritual power by making lists of needed improvements, and then working the list! They all did it by obedience to the voice of the Lord. You must also, there is no other way. Why is it more desirable to be obedient to a list than to the voice of God? Why would we try to accomplish a divine task without divine assistance?
The Lord knows the exact course our lives should take, which sin should be eliminated first, which weakness should be addressed first, and which blessings, we will need to accomplish these things. There is no need for us to create a list He already possesses. Ours could never be as complete as His, or as gentle and caring. If we yield ourselves to His direction He will show us what to do first, and give us the power to do it. He will direct us, step by step, all along the way home.
What is it you must obey? It is every word which proceeds forth from the mouth of God. It is the voice of the Spirit, which constitutes the words which are proceeding forth from the mouth of God unto you. Notice that I didn’t say the commandments? This is not because the commandments are to be ignored. Obedience to the commandments by sheer determination and willpower has its reward, but it can be overwhelming. When you set your life in obedience to the voice of God, you will naturally, joyfully, almost without notice, be obeying all the commandments-every single one of them.
How many commandments are there? If you include instructions to grow a garden, repair your fences, and paint your barn, then add all the written commandments-there are thousands. You won’t live long enough to obey them all. There are just too many barns that need painting in your life. So how do you ever become totally obedient when you can’t possibly get to every barn? It is simple, really. Listen to the voice of the Lord, and He will direct you. When you are totally obedient to the will of God, you are totally obedient-even if a barn or two remains unpainted. The reason you are totally obedient, even when a few things remain undone, is because you have an obedient spirit. If, and when, He sends you out to paint the barn you will obey. If He never sends you to paint the barn, you will also obey. You simply are obedient. In the end, the Lord will not judge us according to our barns, He will judge us according to our heart. When our heart is flawlessly obedient, we are judged as being flawlessly obedient, even if some obvious things never get done.” (John Pontius, “Following the Light of Christ”)
Thus, being obedient and faithful (and especially “exercising faith”) isn’t necessarily a matter of checking off boxes. Instead, it involves being obedient to what the Lord is telling you in our mind and heart:
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation;” (D&C 8:2-3)
This is where many get tripped up. Many are so single-mindedly focused on their checkboxes that they don’t hear the voice of the Lord. Not only do they not hear His voice, but they don’t even have a relationship with Him. Ask them when the last time was when the Savior made them laugh, or moved them to say an encouraging word to a stranger, or inspired them to say a prayer for someone suffering right there on the spot (as opposed to just saying you’ll do so later on), and they get quiet pretty darn fast.
“It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” (Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, IL Conference, April 7, 1844)
“Verily, I say unto you, It is not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
For the day soon cometh that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works.
And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:30-33 JST; emphasis mine)
In my opinion, 99.9% of “exercising faith” involves hearkening to God — in other words, hearing God and immediately acting on what you’re told.
“OK, great! What boxes do I check off to do that,” you ask?
To see God in action, you gotta step out of the box
A friend recently messaged me about how they corresponded with another well-known blogger about a spiritual experience. The blogger discounted the validity of my friend’s experience, saying they didn’t believe that kind of thing happened anymore.
And yet my friend’s experience was real.
Quite a few people (even accomplished bloggers / authors) often get this notion in their heads that something can only happen one way, or the way they’ve read in the scriptures, or the way that they themselves experienced.
“Receiving personal revelation can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”
“Baptism of Fire can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”
“The Second Comforter can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”
“The Gift of Healing can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”
What a bunch of horse manure! Who are we to determine the validity of others’ experiences, or that God does things ONLY in a certain way?
The fact is, God can do whatever He wants however He wants whenever He wants.
Case in point: The New Testament is filled with stories of how Yeshua did the unorthodox, the unanticipated, and was even considered not only a maverick, but also a rebel. When you read the archeological accounts of Yeshua, you’ll see that behavior exhibited in even more ways. I mean c’mon, seriously? A Jewish rabbi? Speaking with a Samaritan woman? ALONE? And she’s had five husbands? You wanna talk about doing something off the beaten path! How about a Jewish rabbi forgiving a woman caught in adultery? Changing water into wine? Feeding 5,000+ with a few loaves and fishes? Telling church authorities that they’re vipers? Healing a Centurion’s child from long distance? Raising the dead???!!!
Do you see my point?
Yeshua is THE Beautiful Outlaw! And if you’re intending to be His disciple, then should you be any different? No.
If you want to be in sync with Yeshua, then you better get used to different. The unorthodox. Even the rebellious. If you let Him, He WILL challenge many things you’ve long considered fact.
And to many people, those facts, those truths, can be considered unfamiliar, weird, unorthodox and yes, even dangerous.
Let me make myself crystal clear: God lives out of the box. So should you. Wanna find God? Wanna see God in action? Then identify the traditions of men, then say bye-bye to them
Many avenues to healing which the Lord will introduce to you can and will be considered unorthodox. Keep yourself in a box, and you may not be healing very much at all.
When you start putting God in a box, the only person you’re really boxing up is yourself.
“There is no need for us to create a list He already possesses. Ours could never be as complete as His, or as gentle and caring. If we yield ourselves to His direction He will show us what to do first, and give us the power to do it. He will direct us, step by step, all along the way home.”
Yes, He does have a list. Sin is an entanglement.
Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
D&C 88:86 Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.
Spring is the time to think about getting the old yard in shape, getting that old hose out of the garage and getting it untangled and getting all the kinks out, so the water can flow freely.
If you are going to untangle a garden hose, you have to know where to start. If you don’t start in the right place, the tangle gets worse. It takes the Lord to see the entire hose of your life and get those tangles out one at a time. Then, get those kinks out that are blocking the flow of the living water.
I just finished the book Journey to the Veil II, by John Pontius. I want to post a couple of the great quotes from this book. Grace is not a concept that the LDS understand well. Frankly, I used to get the “creeps” when I heard people talk about it, because it sounded so “protestant”. But, the truth is, once you see that grace is mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon, and come to understand it, grace is really a beautiful principle.
There is a certain mindset among us in the Church that is hostile to our spiritual growth. This is that we must by our own discipline work out our own salvation—and then “after all we can do,” somewhere at the end of our lives, Jesus Christ will get involved and make up for what we were not able to do during our lifetime, and in the end we will be “saved by grace.”
The flaw in this thinking is that it places upon us mere mortals a burden we cannot hope to carry. We feel that we must keep every commandment, do every good thing, raise perfect families, pay our tithing, and fulfill a thousand other laws and rules, all by obedience and self-discipline, as best we can. We toil and toil and wait for the day when it is finally enough, and Jesus Christ at lasts steps in and fills in our blanks. This false belief sets us up for a lifetime of struggle that isn’t going to take us where we are anticipating. The truth of how this works is that we are given choices. We know right and wrong because of the Light of Christ, which we receive throughout our lives by grace. So, it is by grace that we even know what is good and bad. It is by grace that we know what to do. Thus it is by grace that we receive faith, truth, insight, inspiration, direction, guidance, truth, and power from the beginning to the end of our lives. Then, when we make a right choice, such as to say we’re sorry, go to church, or forgive someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it, Christ dispenses more grace and we are changed. We become more like Him by His grace. We receive “grace for grace”—our grace for His grace—and we are changed in our inner man by a small degree every time we obey Christ’s voice.
Thus we live by grace every moment of every day. The falsehood is that we must be perfect, even as God is perfect, in order to be saved in the end and at last be exalted. The truth is that we are not able to self-perfect ourselves for any part of the journey. The real requirement is that we become obedient to Christ’s guiding voice, and then He changes, upgrades, and purifies us until we are like Him—until we become “perfect in Christ.” When we come to the end of our lives, having walked in His grace, having partaken of His upgrading and empowering Atonement, we will be “saved by grace”—not in that moment alone but throughout our entire lives.
Pontius, John; Pontius, Terri. Journey to the Veil II (pp. 150-151). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.