[Editorial Note: This article created quite a spirited discussion on the LDSAnarchy Website.. There were some rather unChristlike comments that were generated and I felt a little uncomfortable with the low vibratory frequency that some people were generating… including the taking the Lords name in vain. Hence, in the spirit of Anarchy.. I decided to relocate this article. Everyone that wants to discuss doctrine from a scriptural point of view and not attack individuals are welcome to comment.
There are some components of this article that strike at the heart of the New Age Movement and New Age Teachings and therefore it really struck a nerve with certain people who have accepted the belief that “all people are perfect just the way they are”.
The thought that man is in a fallen state in need of the atonement of Jesus Christ is abhorrent to those who are claiming their own divinity. Ironically, when the Vision known as section 76 was given to the Church, many members apostatized because the concept of three degrees of glory resulting from how Gods children respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the atonement was so foreign to how they wanted things to be.” ]
Years ago I attended an interesting tax and wealth generating seminar that made a huge impression on my mind.
The tax attorney that was speaking began his presentation by stating something similar to this;
“There are two completely different tax systems or sets of tax laws in the United States.
Both of them are completely legal.
One of them has been developed for the wealthy and for those who want to accumulate wealth. It is used by those who are knowledgeable.
It allows them to control the use of their gross income and to make their purchases and investments FIRST and then pay taxes on whatever money is left over.
The other tax system is for the masses those that don’t understand how to play the game.
It was devised to keep them poor and in financial bondage.
It requires them to pay taxes first on their gross earnings and then whatever is left over may be used for purchasing the items they need, seldom is there anything left over for serious investments and the accumulation of wealth.”
The opening statement was pretty good at catching the attention of the audience.
The tax attorney went on to explain the difference in how tax law treats W-2 wage earners verses 1099 individuals and corporations, etc.
Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but by and large, most poor people in America are W-2 wage earners while most of the wealthy who own businesses and real estate by-pass that system altogether using 1099 status or at least use 1099 “straw man” entities to recoup money withheld from W-2 earnings.
The moral of the story according to the tax attorney was that knowledge is power.
Interestingly, the majority of the attendees went away shaking their heads at the information that was provided because they either didn’t understand it, felt the concepts presented were immoral, or worried that they were illegal.
Of course the intricacies of the tax system and the goal of accumulating wealth are a moot point since the accumulation of wealth is contrary to the commandment to be equal.
Besides, now that Mistress Babylon is on life support, before long the masses and also those who have excelled in the money game in the past will be much more preoccupied with where their next meal is coming from than how to accumulate wealth.
I mention the tax seminar because, in some ways, the reaction of many of the attendees was not unlike the next seminar experience I want to mention.
Years ago a fellow by the name of James Cox began holding seminars entitled “How to Qualify for the Celestial Kingdom today”
A dear friend of mine by the name of Tom, who is always searching for the deeper truths, called me and said;
“you need to come hear what this guy is speaking about. He is having a profound effect on many lives, including my own”
The provocative title of the seminar made my wife and I curious, and with the endorsement of a trusted friend, we decided to see what all of the chatter was about. This particular seminar was designed to be a series of seminars.
The seminar was a little bit similar to the tax seminar in that many people who went responded the same way. After attending once or perhaps twice many would shake their heads in disbelief and reject what was being taught.
Some simply couldn’t comprehend the simplicity of the doctrines being taught, other felt the concepts sounded to good to be true and others just couldn’t shake loose from the traditions of their fathers.
I suppose some people felt President Cox was teaching heretical doctrines.
As I recall, Brother Cox had been a born again Christian who converted to the LDS Church.
He gained a strong testimony of the restored gospel yet he didn’t buy into the saved by works spin that many LDS people ascribe to. He retained his strong belief in being saved by grace through faith that he had learned in his protestant background;
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2: 8
Not to long after his conversion, Brother Cox became a Stake President.
One evening after a long day of counseling so many LDS women in his stake who were struggling with depression he became alarmed at what he was observing and posed the following question to himself;
“Why are so many Latter day Saints overcome with stress, depression and fear? If we really are Gods people and are the recipients of the fulness of the Gospel, we of all people should be the happiest and most confident people in the world!”
He realized that one of the problems the sisters he was counseling were having is that they were trying so hard to satisfy a works oriented religion and meet a standard of perfection that resulted in greater feelings of guilt about their shortcomings.
There have been many articles about the “perfect mother in Zion” syndrome over the years that address the huge pressure that some LDS women feel.
(of course the male population of the Church, in my humble opinion has similar issues as the female population, we are simply too proud or delusional to seek help.. and in some cases we just realize that our priesthood leaders have the same issues)
Another article states that;
“The release of a recent study that found Utah is the most depressed state in the country is leading to controversial questions about whether there is a correlation between depression and the Mormon faith.
Ultimately, the reason behind Utah’s mass depression is unknown. However, Dr. Curtis Canning, a psychiatrist and former president of the Utah Psychiatric Association, believes there is a cultural factor involved, especially with Mormon women who may feel that in order to be a good mother and wife, they “have to put on this mask of perfection. They can’t show their tears, depression or agony.”
In addition to these articles, I am reminded of a very disturbing post about the perfect mom syndrome written by a non Mormon that provides a very revealing look at how some non-Mormons perceive their Mormon friends.
Critics charge that the rate of antidepressant use is much higher among Mormons than the general population. They claim this is evidence that participation in the LDS Church is inordinately stressful due to pressure for Mormons to appear “perfect.”
Others have provided studies to challenge the notion that the Latter day Saints experience more stress in their lives. Whether or not those claims are true is really not the point in my opinion. The point is that the Saints of God should not be having the same problems and showing forth the same fruits as the worldly.
Apparently President Cox felt, from his vantage point, there was a direct correlation between the pressures that the LDS religion puts on the importance of being “perfect” and the large number of unhappy, fearful, depressed members that he was counseling.
President Cox felt that part of the problem he was seeing as he was counseling the Saints in his Stake was related to a lack of understanding of the true principles of the gospel.
He therefore put together the seminar that I previously mentioned.
Perhaps only 10% of the people who attended the first of a series of seminars that he was putting on caught the vision of what he was talking about and continued through the whole series. There seemed to be a huge fallout from people that just couldn’t accept his version of faith vs works, nevertheless the ultimate numbers of those who did embrace what he was teaching increased until the chapel of the stake center could no longer hold those who kept coming back for more.
Ultimately, the course which he taught evolved into a book which was sold at Deseret Book by the same name; “How to Qualify for the Celestial Kingdom Today”
I am not going to try to encapsulate all of the concepts he addressed in his seminars in this article, but one of the most powerful ones that he taught was that our focus should not be on trying to be “perfect” right now but rather it should be on being “justified” in the eyes of God.
While it is not possible to become perfect anytime soon he taught, you can become justified through faith in the Grace of God RIGHT NOW by realizing and accepting the power of the atonement and following the spirit.
When people would ask him what justification is he would define it as being clean before God.
When they would ask him how to tell if you are clean, his response was “if you are feeling the holy spirit dwelling in you”.
He would teach that the holy spirit cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle and therefore, if you are feeling the companionship of the spirit, you are clean. Not perfect, but clean, and therefore, justified.
That is the goal he stressed, don’t try to become perfect in one day, that will only frustrate and depress you. Simply concentrate on feeling and following the spirit.
He even stressed that if you are focusing on trying to live all of the commandments perfectly, you will loose the spirit.
One time he actually took 45 minutes in class to list all of the commandments and acts of good works that a good latter day Saints should be living and it was stressful just watching the list grow and thinking what a poor job I was doing.
Many of those that took his counsel and implemented the concepts began to experience a huge change in their lives.
The burdens they had been carrying were lifted as they began to focus on walking in the spirit instead of trying to be perfect in living the letter of the Law and trying to live up to what they or others felt the perfect latter day Saint should be.
The promise; “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” began to take on a very real and personal meaning to those who changed their paradigm.
I am sure I am not doing justice to what President Cox taught, so if you find the concept intriguing and would be interested in learning more about the other things he taught you might want to order his book..
After pondering the faith vs works doctrine over the years and hearing several persuasive arguments from both sides of the issue, I have come to the conclusion that both doctrines are true but they have to do with two separate and distinct gospel laws.
Yes it is true that straight is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth unto life eternal and therefore only one Lord one faith and one baptism and therefore only one Gospel. But that is only true if you are speaking about the Fulness of the Gospel which pertains to the highest kingdom of glory.
There are, nevertheless multiple gospel laws leading to multiple glories.
Section 88 speaks of three different gospel laws that result in three separate and distinct glories;
“And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.”
The scriptures reveal that both celestial and terrestrial law will ultimately result in the gift of salvation in a kingdom of glory and their redemption comes before the millennium begins.
“Celestial Law” was created for the elect of God. It is also referred to as the “Law of Christ”. The Book of Mormon also identifies Celestial Law as the GOSPEL OF GRACE or the GOSPEL OF MERCY.
“Terrestrial Law” is also referred to in the scriptures as the LAW OF JUSTICE.
These two laws enable people to come forth and be redeemed in the first resurrection while those who live Telestial Law cannot be redeemed until after receiving spiritual therapy for the space of 1,000 years.
Those who live Celestial Law are redeemed in the “morning” of the first resurrection while those who live Terrestrial Law are redeemed in the “afternoon” of the first resurrection.
Those who live Celestial Law are those who repent of their sins of their own free will and choice after hearing the gospel.
Those who live Terrestrial Law are those who don’t truly repent until after they feel the chastening hand of the wrath of God.
The scriptures identify those who live terrestrial law as the honorable men of the earth who are blinded by the craftiness of men. They also identify the Jews who are finally redeemed after their pain as living terrestrial law.
For centuries Christians have argued over faith vs. works.
Everyone agrees that faith and works are part of the salvation equation. The question is, how do faith and works interrelate with each other.
You can make a strong case that the gospel is predicated upon faith in works and you can make a strong case that the gospel is predicated upon faith in the grace of God which produces good works..
I believe the reason this argument exists between gospel scholars is because you can indeed prove the existence of both laws in the scriptures. Both of them are clearly there.
Some Latter day Saints contend that the two are really compatible and not in conflict with each other.
I must disagree.
Although faith brings forth good works and although the effort to do good works requires faith, I would suggest that faith and works each, when identified as the main component of salvation, represent two different gospel laws.
Those that see the law of the gospel as being predicated upon works are correct. There is indeed a gospel law predicated on faith in works. It is the law of Justice or Terrestrial Law.
Those that see the law of the gospel as being predicated upon the grace of God through faith, with good works as the fruits that follow are also correct. There is such a gospel law predicated on faith in the Grace of Jesus Christ. It is called the Law of Mercy, Gospel Law and Celestial Law.
The Law of Justice is unforgiving, rigid and exacting
Those that choose to put their faith in outward works always fall short because no matter how righteous you feel you are, the law of Justice always weighs you in the balance and finds you wanting.
No matter how righteous you are, you can never satisfy the demands of justice;
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Rom. 3: 23
Those who are living the gospel of personal improvement get beat up pretty good by the law of justice. The harder you try the more exquisite your pain is as your shortcomings are only made all the more manifest to yourself and others.
Let me say that one more time, those that chose the terrestrial gospel of works always fall short. There is no human being that has been righteous enough to satisfy the demands of justice in their own behalf; only a perfect atonement by a perfect God can satisfy the demands of justice.
Yes, if they are good honorable people who believe in God, they are ultimately saved, but only as a result of the atoning sacrifice of Christ and after they have been humbled by the almighty power of God.
Mercy vs. Justice
I love the way the Book of Mormon so clearly explains and distinguishes between the law of Justice and the Law of Mercy;
“And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atonement for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” Alma 34: 15-16
“And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be fjudged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.” Alma 42: 13, 15, 21-25, 30
Those that are judged according to their works are those that fall under the law of justice because they are not repentant and not penitent. Interestingly, Justice is a He.
Mercy claimeth the penitent and repentant through the merits of the atonement. Those that Mercy claimeth avoid being judged according to their outward works. They are shielded from the demands of justice. Interestingly, Mercy is a She.
Again, the word of God assures us that the Savior broke the bands of death and atoned for our sins and by doing so, satisfied the demands of justice;
“Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satified the demands of justice.” Mosiah 15: 9
There are scriptures that give us reason to believe that all of those who lived terrestrial and telestial law during probation will be returned to the earth in the flesh to experience the judgments of God during the end times.
Yet it appears from the scriptures that those living celestial law repent and enter into the rest of the Lord even while in the flesh;
“And now I, Mormon, speak unto you, my beloved brethren; and it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy will, because of the gift of his calling unto me, that I am permitted to speak unto you at this time.
Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” Moro. 7: 3
Those living terrestrial law live in fear and pain and ultimately need to be chastened by the Lord before they repent sufficiently to lay hold upon the atonement and be redeemed before the millennium.
Those that fall under telestial law are subject to the demands of justice for the space of 1,000 years. President Cox used to refer to this as a thousand years of therapy.
“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your suffering be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.” D&C 19: 4, 15-18, 20
We know from the infallible word of God that those who live telestial law and fail to repent during probation will be exposed to the demands of justice and have to suffer for their own sins.
Even the terrestrial spirits seem to require the chastening hand of God to humble them into a true state of repentance.
So, again, how does know that they are living the celestial law of grace and that they will avoid being exposed to the demands of the Law of Justice?
As mentioned earlier, President Cox claims you need to feel the Holy Ghost in your life and follow his promptings.
One of my favorite quotes by the Apostle Paul is as follows;
“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
What a fascinating statement. I suspect that many gospel scholars would interpret this statement to mean this;
“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law [of Moses].”
I don’t necessarily disagree that there is an application to the Law of Moses, however I think there is a deeper, more global meaning to be applied to Paul’s observation.
I have often wondered if perhaps he was saying;
“But if ye have taken the Holy Spirit as your guide, ye are not under the Law [of Justice].”
Perhaps a longer version of the scripture might be;
“But if ye have been born of God through the atonement of Christ and received the Baptism of Fire, having taken the Holy Spirit as your Guide and by so doing, have accepted the grace and mercy of God, you are no longer under the Law of Justice. It no longer has any power or claim over you.”
To me, this is how one avoids the consequences of the law of justice when the fullness of the Gospel is on the earth.
Terrestrial definition of Works
Celestial Definition of Works
Indeed, while the definition of works to those living terrestrial law could refer to anything from baking bread for a neighbor, comforting the sick, doing home teaching, paying tithing, participating in the ordinances of salvation and doing temple work, etc., the definition of works according to Celestial Law is quite different and quite simple;
“Then said they unto him, what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 5: 17, 20, 36
From this we find that believing on Christ is the ultimate works that God requires of us. Definitions of Celestial Law are much simpler than those of terrestrial law.
Terrestrial Law of Repentance
Celestial law of Repentance
As a missionary, I used the following flipchart page to teach prospects the itemized steps of repentance that were required in order to keep the commandments so that they could live eternally with God in joy and peace;
Yes, I still think those are the steps of repentance, but I now tend to think they are the steps of repentance according to terrestrial law.
If you think that doing those steps will shield you from the demands of justice, you have a painful surprise awaiting you. No matter how complete your works of “restitution” are, the demands of Justice is never totally satisfied by the works of man.
So what is the Celestial Law of Repentance?
According to the Greek lexicon the word repent means;
“A change of mind”
That’s right. To repent is to simply have a change of mind. Notice how restitution is absent in that definition.
I believe the scriptures amplify this definition by revealing that the spirit is what changes the mind and heart of man.
How does one return to God while in the flesh during probation? By having his spirit dwell in you, guiding your thoughts and by thus doing, give you a change of mind! Is that not what the sacramental prayer speaks about?
“That we may always have his spirit to be with us”.
Each Law has it Fruits
Furthermore, the scriptures seem to identify the fruits of Celestial Law in the state of Grace as LOVE. The Love of God and Love for our fellow men.
The fruits brought forth by those living Terrestrial Law who are putting their faith in works is FEAR.
Once you have tasted of the love of God and have entered into a justified state, you have unconditional love for your fellow man. The Book of Mormon gives a delicious explanation of how those who hold on to the word of God, make it to the living waters and the tree of life which represent the love of God;
“And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.” 1 Ne. 11: 25
With this understanding, it is not surprising that the Lord simplified the gospel and reduced the first two commandments down to love;
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls” Mosiah 4: 11
Again, lets review my interpretation of what Paul said;
But if ye have been born of God through the atonement of Christ and received the Baptism of Fire, having taken the Holy Spirit as your Guide and by so doing, have accepted the grace and mercy of God, the Law of Justice no longer has any power or claim over you.
I would submit that the above interpretation describes how one enters into the rest of the Lord even while in the flesh… even before becoming translated, when the fullness of the Gospel is on the earth.
But what about those who live during darker times?
What about those who only have access to the preparatory gospel?
What about those who have the scriptures and water baptism but don’t yet enjoy the full gifts of the spirit and miracles and the baptism of fire and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?
I would submit that the spirit of Christ and the intermittent companionship of the Holy Ghost can still enable true believers to become justified and clean before God and therefore avoid the devastating consequences of the Law of Justice.
True to the form of a heretic and at the risk of squabbling over semantics, I would take Cox’s definition and explanation of justification one step further. I believe that you can become more than just justified today, I suggest that you can actually become perfect today, right now, through the mystical grace of God. By totalling accepting the atonement of Jesus Christ and by entering into a state of Grace as documented by the spirit of God dwelling in you.
The gospel of Grace actually enables a person to become perfect immediately by proxy, through Gods perfection.
Isn’t that really what justification is? Isn’t it the ability to become clean before God as a result of his atonement and grace instead of our own ability to make ourselves clean through works?
Why not become perfect through Christ’s perfection?
As we accept the fullness of the Gospel and become spiritually born again, be become justified and perfectly clean before God, not because of our own outward works, but because we are swallowed up in the grace of God through our faith in his atonement.
We become spiritually clean and perfect by proxy, through his perfection.
This is quite mystical because we continue in mortality outwardly showing forth our outer mortal imperfection and yet if we are walking in the spirit as Paul says, we are no longer subjected to the law of justice.
We are told time and time again in the scriptures that the gospel makes our burdens light;
“And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.” Alma 33: 23
I therefore want to suggest that not only can we qualify for the Celestial Kingdom today by becoming clean and justified before God, we can actually become perfect today through Christ’s perfection;
“come unto Christ
PERFECTED in him”