Facts supporting the truth of the Book of Mormon

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The Profile of a Prophet

Hugh B Brown, The Profile of a Prophet, BYU Speeches

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Hugh B Brown
Brigham Young University Devotional
Oct. 4, 1955

I should like to dispense with all formality, if I may, and address both faculty and students as my brothers and sisters. I adopt that form of salutation for several reasons: first, practically all who are here are members of the Church that established and maintains this university; second, I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; and third, I do not intend to give a lecture, certainly not an oration or even a sermon, but simply wish to bear my testimony to my brothers and sisters.

I should like to be for a few minutes a witness in support of the proposition that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in our day and that this is His Church, organized under His direction through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I should like to give some reasons for the faith I have and for my allegiance to the Church.

Perhaps I can do this more quickly by referring to an interview I had in London, England, in 1939, just before the outbreak of the war. I had met a very prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, formerly one of the justices of the supreme court of England. In my conversations with this gentleman on various subjects—“vexations of the soul,” he called them—we talked about business, law, politics, international relations, and war, and we frequently discussed religion.

He called me on the phone one day and asked if I would meet him at his office and explain some phases of the gospel. He said, “I think there is going to be a war. If there is, you will have to return to America and we may not meet again.” His statement regarding the imminence of war and the possibility that we would not meet again proved to be prophetic.

When I went to his office he said he was intrigued by some things I had told him. He asked me to prepare a brief on Mormonism.

I may say to you students that a brief is a statement of law and facts that lawyers like President Wilkinson prepare when they are going into court to argue a case.

He asked me to prepare a brief on Mormonism and discuss it with him as I would discuss a legal problem. He said, “You have told me that you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. You have said to me that you believe that God the Father and Jesus of Nazareth appeared to Joseph Smith. I cannot understand how a barrister and solicitor from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence, could accept such absurd statements. What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic, but I think you should take three days at least to prepare a brief and permit me to examine it and question you on it.”

I suggested that we proceed at once and have an examination for discovery, which is, briefly, a meeting of the opposing sides in a lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant, with their attorneys, meet to examine each other’s claims and see if they can find some area of agreement, thus saving the time of the court later on.

I said perhaps we could see whether we had some common ground from which we could discuss my “fantastic ideas.” He agreed to that quite readily.

I can only give you, in the few minutes at my disposal, a condensed and abbreviated synopsis of the three-hour conversation that followed. In the interest of time I shall resort to the question-and-answer method, rather than narration.

I began by asking, “May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?”

“I am.”

“I assume you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testaments?”

“I do!”

“Do you believe in prayer?”

“I do!”

“You say that my belief that God spoke to a man in this age is fantastic and absurd?”

“To me it is.”

“Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?”

“Certainly, all through the Bible we have evidence of that.”

“Did He speak to Adam?”

“Yes.”

“To Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and on through the prophets?”

“I believe He spoke to each of them.”

“Do you believe that contact between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?”

“No, such communication reached its climax, its apex, at that time.”

“Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?”

“He was.”

“Do you believe, sir, that after Jesus was resurrected, a certain lawyer—who was also a tentmaker by the name of Saul of Tarsus—when on his way to Damascus talked with Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, resurrected, and had ascended into heaven?”

“I do.”

“Whose voice did Saul hear?”

“It was the voice of Jesus Christ, for He so introduced Himself.”

“Then, my Lord—that is the way we address judges in the British Commonwealth—I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to man.”

“I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.”

“Why do you think it stopped?”

“I can’t say.”

“You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?”

“I am sure He hasn’t.”

“There must be a reason. Can you give me a reason?”

“I do not know.”

“May I suggest some possible reasons? Perhaps God does not speak to man anymore because He cannot. He has lost the power.”

He said, “Of course that would be blasphemous.”

“Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps He doesn’t speak to men because He doesn’t love us anymore and He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.”

“No,” he said, “God loves all men, and He is no respecter of persons.”

“Well, then, if He could speak, and if He loves us, then the only other possible answer, as I see it, is that we don’t need Him. We have made such rapid strides in science and we are so well educated that we don’t need God anymore.”

And then he said—and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war—“Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why He doesn’t speak.”

My answer was: “He does speak, He has spoken; but men need faith to hear Him.”

Then we proceeded to prepare what I may call a “profile of a prophet.”

Perhaps you students would like to amplify what I must condense today and draw your own standard or definition of a prophet and see whether Joseph Smith measures up.

We agreed between us that the following characteristics should distinguish a man who claims to be a prophet:

1. He will boldly claim that God had spoken to him.

2. Any man so claiming would be a dignified man with a dignified message—no table jumping, no whisperings from the dead, no clairvoyance, but an intelligent statement of truth.

3. Any man claiming to be a prophet of God would declare his message without any fear and without making any weak concessions to public opinion.

4. If he were speaking for God he could not make concessions, although what he taught would be new and contrary to the accepted teachings of the day. A prophet bears witness to what he has seen and heard and seldom tries to make a case by argument. His message and not himself is important.

5. Such a man would speak in the name of the Lord, saying, “Thus said the Lord,” as did Moses, Joshua, and others.

6. Such a man would predict future events in the name of the Lord, and they would come to pass, as did those predicted by Isaiah and Ezekiel.

7. He would have not only an important message for his time but often a message for all future time, such as Daniel, Jeremiah, and others had.

8. He would have courage and faith enough to endure persecution and to give his life, if need be, for the cause he espoused, such as Peter, James, Paul, and others did.

9. Such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. He would generally be rejected or persecuted by the people of his time, but later generations and descendants of his persecutors would build monuments in his honor.

10. He would be able to do superhuman things—things that no man could do without God’s help. The consequence or result of his message and work would be convincing evidence of his prophetic calling: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

11. His teachings would be in strict conformity with scripture, and his words and his writings would become scripture. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

Now I have given but an outline that you can fill in and amplify and then measure and judge the Prophet Joseph Smith by the work and stature of other prophets.

As a student of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith for more than 50 years, I say to you young men and women: by these standards Joseph Smith qualifies as a prophet of God.

I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because he talked like a prophet. He was the first man since the apostles of Jesus Christ were slain to make the claim that prophets have always made—viz., that God had spoken to him. He lived and died like a prophet. I believe he was a prophet of God because he gave to this world some of the greatest of all revelations. I believe that he was a prophet of God because he predicted many things that have come to pass—things that only God could bring to pass.

John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, declared, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). If Joseph Smith had the testimony of Jesus, he had the spirit of prophecy. And if he had the spirit of prophecy, he was a prophet.

I submit to you, and I submitted to my friend, that as much as any man who ever lived, he had a testimony of Jesus, for, like the apostles of old, he saw Him and heard Him speak. He gave his life for that testimony. I challenge any man to name one who has given more evidence of the divine calling of Jesus Christ than did the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I believe the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prophet because he did many superhuman things. One was translating the Book of Mormon. Some people will not agree, but I submit to you that the Prophet Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon did a superhuman work. I ask you students to undertake to write a story on the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source of material. Include in your story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, and 55 chapters on visions and prophecies. And, remember, when you begin to write on visions and prophecies, you must have your record agree meticulously with the Bible. You must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here, too, you must check every statement with the scriptures or you will be proven to be a fraud. You must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything you claim He said and did and every testimony you write in your book about Him must agree absolutely with the New Testament.

I ask you, would you like to undertake such a task? I would suggest to you too that you must employ figures of speech, similes, metaphors, narrations, exposition, description, oratory, epic, lyric, logic, and parables. Undertake that, will you?

I ask you to remember that the man who translated the Book of Mormon was a young man who hadn’t had the opportunity of schooling that you have had, and yet he dictated that book in just a little over two months and made very few, if any, corrections. For over one hundred years some of the best students and scholars of the world have been trying to prove from the Bible that the Book of Mormon is false, but not one of them has been able to prove that anything he wrote was not in strict harmony with the scriptures—with the Bible and with the word of God.

The Book of Mormon not only declares on the title page that its purpose is to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, but this truth is the burden of its message. In 3 Nephi it is recorded that multitudes of people testified, “We saw Him. We felt of His hands and His side. We know He is the Christ” (see 3 Nephi 11:14–15).

Joseph Smith undertook and accomplished other superhuman tasks. Among them I list the following:

He organized the Church. (I call attention to the fact that no constitution effected by human agency has survived 100 years without modification or amendment, even the Constitution of the United States. The basic law or constitution of the Church has never been altered.)

He undertook to carry the gospel message to all nations, which is a superhuman task still in progress.

He undertook, by divine command, to gather thousands of people to Zion.

He instituted vicarious work for the dead and built temples for that purpose.

He promised that certain signs should follow the believers, and there are thousands of witnesses who certify that this promise has been fulfilled.

I said to my friend, “My Lord, I cannot understand your saying to me that my claims are fantastic. Nor can I understand why Christians who claim to believe in Christ would persecute and put to death a man whose whole purpose was to prove the truth of the things they themselves were declaring; namely, that Jesus was the Christ. I could understand their persecuting Joseph if he had said, ‘I am Christ,’ or if he had said, ‘There is no Christ,’ or if he had said someone else is Christ. Then Christians believing in Christ would be justified in opposing him.

“But what he said was, ‘He whom ye claim to serve, declare I unto you,’ paraphrasing what Paul said in Athens: ‘Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you’ (Acts 17:23). Joseph said to the Christians of his day, ‘You claim to believe in Jesus Christ. I testify that I saw Him and I talked with Him. He is the Son of God. Why persecute me for that?’

“When Joseph came out of the woods, he had at least four fundamental truths, and he announced them to the world: first, that the Father and the Son are separate and distinct individuals; second, that the canon of scripture is not complete; third, that man was created in the bodily image of God; and fourth, the channel between earth and heaven is open and revelation is continuous.”

Perhaps some of you are wondering how the judge reacted to our discussion. He listened intently; he asked some very pointed and searching questions; and, at the end of the period, he said, “Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?” He said, “If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ.”

This was a judge speaking—a great statesman, an intelligent man. He threw out the challenge: “Do you appreciate the import of what you say?” He added, “I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,” he said, and he wept as he said it, “that some man could appear on earth and authoritatively say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’”

As I intimated, we did not meet again. I have brought to you very briefly some of the reasons why I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. But undergirding and overarching all that, I say to you from the very center of my heart that by the revelations of the Holy Ghost I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Although these evidences and many others that could be cited may have the effect of giving one an intellectual conviction, only by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit can one come to know the things of God. By those whisperings I say I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I thank God for that knowledge and pray for His blessings upon all of you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Hugh B. Brown was assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was delivered at Brigham Young University on 4 October 1955.

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Seven Reasons Why the Mormon Faith Is Not a Cult

Seven Reasons Why the Mormon Faith Is Not a Cult

By James T. Summerhays
In the common lexicon of the past few decades, the word “cult” has conjured up images of fiery leaders and fanatical adherents indulging in all manner of religious excesses that often end in death. When we hear of cults, we think of Texas compounds burning, mass murders within Charles Manson’s “family,” and suicides in Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate. Cults are generally thought of as bizarre, isolationist, anti-government, fundamentalist, controlling, and on the extreme fringes of society.

Sociologists once used the term “cult” to refer to small and distinctive religious movements such as the Amish or Mennonites, but since then, the word has become so politicized that they generally avoid its use in academic discourse. The term today has such negative connotations that it has become a universal insult designed to discredit any group it might be hurled at.

It is little wonder then, that Mormons find being labeled as a cult particularly irksome, perhaps more irksome than any other label imaginable. Thankfully, an increasing number of citizens across the United States, once they become more familiar with the Mormon faith, recognize that the moniker of cult is unreasonable and unfair.

However, many others, from the BBC’s This World to Pastor Robert Jeffress to Real Time with Bill Maher, have leveled the convenient (and politically savvy) epithet at the Mormons. The cry of cult has only accelerated in some quarters since Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential nomination.

Because of past violent persecutions against them, Mormons can certainly get a little defensive when criticized. Greater public scrutiny can be an opportunity for Mormons to humbly look inward and find ways to improve. Critical self-analysis that leads to improvement is a religious tenet within the Mormon faith, a tenet we would all do better to live by. However, the smack-down of “cult” is hardly constructive criticism. And besides, it is simply not accurate.

The following seven reasons explain why Mormons are particularly anti-cultish:

INTEGRATION

First, Mormons believe in integration. They not only have a religious obligation to mix and mingle with the world, they generally seem to appreciate the opportunity. They go to public schools, work in public corporations, and are encouraged to become involved in their communities. “I know cults. I have studied them and taught about them for a long time,” says Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in Pasadena, California. “Religious cults are very much us-versus-them. Their adherents are taught to think that they are the only ones who benefit from divine approval. They don’t like to engage in serious, respectful give-and-take dialogue” as do the Mormons, Mouw says.

Certainly there are Mormons who would rather isolate themselves altogether because of various social evils, but this is in spite of, not because of, recent counsel by a Church president: “We must not become disagreeable as we talk of doctrinal differences. There is no place for acrimony. . . . We can respect other religions, and must do so. We must recognize the great good they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith.” This hardly sounds like the ravings of a cult leader.

WELL-BALANCED SECULAR KNOWLEDGE

Second, the Mormon religion admonishes adherents to stay well-balanced by seeking out secular knowledge. Mormons study anthropology, physics, music and dance, evolutionary biology, astronomy, psychology, quantum mechanics, and a host of other fields in the liberal arts and sciences. They earn more PhDs or similar degrees per capita than the greater population. And, strangely enough, the more education they obtain the more devout and active in their faith they tend to be. That’s a total anomaly in socio-religious trends. It reveals the enthusiasm Mormons tend to have for discovering truth in widely divergent intellectual traditions.

Cults do not “promote the kind of scholarship that works alongside others in pursuing the truth,” Mouw says. Mormons have many “professors who’ve earned doctorates from some of the best universities in the world. Several of the top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have PhDs from Ivy League schools.” He continues, “These folks talk admiringly of the evangelical Billy Graham and the Catholic Mother Teresa, and they enjoy reading the evangelical C.S. Lewis and Father Henri Nouwen, a Catholic. That is not the kind of thing you run into in anti-Christian cults.”

14.4 MILLION MEMBERS

Third, Mormonism has 14.4 million members in well over a 150 countries, resulting in tens of thousands of ethnically and culturally diverse congregations worldwide. Scholars in religious studies today are arguing whether Mormonism should be considered the next world religion, not whether it is some parochial oddity.

POLITICAL NEUTRALITY

Fourth, the Mormon faith maintains a politically neutral stance. As a result, Mormons often vary widely in political opinion. There are conservative Mormons, moderate Mormons, and progressive Mormons; some cheer for Mitt Romney and others for Harry Reid. While in America a strong majority of Mormons are conservative, European Mormons are often proudly socialistic who point to Mormonism’s “brother’s keeper” mentality as naturally aligning with their own political ideology.

CHECKS AND BALANCES OF POWER

Fifth, Mormonism’s organizational structure places elaborate checks and balances on its leaders to guard against abuses of power. “We have learned by sad experience,” said Joseph Smith, “that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, that they will immediately begin” to exercise various abuses of power. In reaction to this male egoistic tendency, Mormons have redefined the traditional meaning of the word “priesthood” to mean something that operates in a service-oriented or cooperative paradigm; in fact, “leadership” is not a very accurate term to describe Mormon priesthood. Bishops are selected and appointed from among the members of their local congregation, and most bishops I know have accepted the call to serve with a certain amount of trepidation. There are no particular honors involved, and they work completely without pay. Plenty of heavy responsibility and long hours of volunteer service is just about their only consolation.

Along with this, leaders are not to act unilaterally; members sustain them by vote, and they are placed in councils and are expected to act only after consensus is reached. This practice of conferring in councils is designed to guard against extremism and other ill-advised, cultish enterprises. And when priesthood leaders finally do exercise authority, they are to act according to the Mormon scripture “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile.” If they do not act thus, “Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man.”

Such checks and balances, along with the fact that there is zero venue in the Church for applying to or campaigning for leadership positions, ensure that leaders do not arise to power by the force of their charisma (which is of course a rather anti-cultish way of running a church). Despite all this, sometimes abuses do occur, and Mormon followers sometimes become disillusioned. It is not an easy thing to completely stamp out men behaving badly, but that fact hardly makes the Church a cult.

SUBJECT TO RULE OF LAW

Sixth, Mormons believe in the rule of law. Their twelfth Article of Faith states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” The Articles of Faith further state that we worship “according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” One of the most distinguishing features of cults is there rejection of governmental authority over their lives. In contrast, Mormons are generally very careful—uptight even—about playing by the rules.

RELIGIOUS CLOTHING & SYMBOLISM

The seventh and final point is that Mormons really are not as weird as they may at first appear. Much has been said about their secret magic underwear and their secret temple rituals. Yet wearing religious symbols as a reminder of one’s commitment is a common practice among all religions. Jews wear Yarmulkes and Christians wear crosses around their necks. The Mormon garment is essentially the same thing: a simple reminder of their devotion to God. (By the way, Mormons themselves never talk of the garment in terms of magical powers. Calling it magic underwear sounds just as silly to them as it does to you.) As to the temple ceremony being a great secret, all the world has access to all the same books that Mormons have that explain their temples. In fact, any non-Mormon who reads Temple and Cosmos by Hugh Nibley or Sacred Symbols by Alonzo Gaskill may come away understanding temple symbolism better than some Mormons.

Indeed, the Mormon temple ceremony employs such elaborate ancient symbols, dating back thousands of years, that the ritual may seem strange especially to Mormons themselves. That may seem an unreasonable claim, but think of it: Mormonism tends to be a very literal religion; when the Bible says God has a body, they take it literally and not metaphorically. Their weekly worship services are very Protestant in feel and approach: it’s all very straighfoward, understandable, pedestrian, and literal. Suddenly, a Mormon at nineteen or twenty-one years old goes to the temple for the first time, and they are blindsided by a massive symbolic liturgy, one that seems to have little relevance to present-day ways of thinking. It can be unsettling and bewildering at first, even to an insider. So Mormons themselves often join with others in admitting that the temple is peculiar, especially to our postmodern sensibilities.

But if we can get past the ancient and the unfamiliar, we learn that the temple points, simply and elegantly, again and again, to a common theme—Jesus Christ and his final passion and crucifixion. The ritualistic periphery in Mormonism that has people thinking Mormons are cultish is all secondary to this Christ-centered core—a core belief shared by Protestants and Catholics alike. Mormonism’s founding leader explained it well: “The fundamental principles of our religion,” he said, “is Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

James T. Summerhays is an editor with the journal BYU Studies Quarterly.

A Remarkable Journey to Mormonism

Annmarie Worthington At Home Blog

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I was a confident, conservative, reformed evangelical. Reformed protestants have a Calvinist bent in theology. I was married, with three incredible children, and very active in the church of my faith. I taught Bible studies, was a mentor in our women’s mentoring program, sang in the choir, was a soloist, a member of a six person ensemble, and a violinist in the church’s orchestra. I was also a full time homeschooling mom. My oldest child, Dillon, wanted to be a concert pianist. He was only eight when he made that decision, but was extrememly gifted. He was currently taking piano lessons from a professor at a university in the next city. I began to pray about what to do for my precious son. We lived in Arkansas, which is not a mecca of classical music opportunities, and I needed direction.

A few weeks later his teacher informed me that Dillon needed a more advanced teacher. I disagreed. She was a piano professor. How much more advanced could we get? She explained the differences in levels of pedagogy, even at the collegiate level, and told me that in six months to a year, she would no longer be qualified to instruct Dillon and he would get frustrated with his lessons. She recommended a colleague of hers and told me he was really the only option for my son. There were a few obstacles she warned me about. First, he rarely takes children. Second, he is known for being a monster to his students, and third he is very expensive.

I started with the third obstacle. When I found out the price I decided then and there I couldn’t do it. The cost of piano was solely my responsibility and I had very few resources. When Dillon was five I asked my then husband if he could take piano lessons. He said yes, only if I paid for it myself. It was not to come out of the household budget. So, I started tutoring math and freelance writing. That worked fine when the lessons were $20 an hour, but now, if we switched to this new teacher, they were going to be $60 an hour, and his sister was now old enough for lessons as well. I had no idea how to afford it. But, I figured it might not even get that far given the first two obstacles.

Because of the cost issue, I made the decision to stay with his current teacher for as long as it seemed useful to Dillon and then worry about switching. Sure enough six months later, Dillon hit a wall. He was frustrated with piano and his lessons, and his teacher reminded me it was time for a more advanced pedagogy. As it happened, Dillon was in a piano competition at a local University and we met the professor his teacher wanted us to transfer to. A few weeks after we met him, we decided to attend a public concert in which he was performing.

He remembered Dillon’s performance at the competition, approached us after his concert, and invited Dillon to attend and perform at a piano party he was holding at his home. When we went, I prayed for an opportunity to discuss the possibility of teaching Dillon with him. At the end of the party, he asked if I could give him a lift into Little Rock. That was the opportunity I needed. I told him of Dillon’s current teacher’s suggestion of Dillon studying under him and asked if he would be willing to take Dillon. I also explained that my schedule is pretty tight, so I would also need him to take his sister. This way I didn’t have to travel to two teachers. He graciously agreed. Hurdle one down. I decided to hit hurdle two head on. The conversation went something like this:

“I feel a little awkward asking you about this, but feel I must. Right now Dillon absolutely loves piano and I want that to continue. However I have been told you can be kind of ruthless with your students.”
Neil (the professor) looked at me with a mischevious grin and replied, “That’s true. But, I do know the difference between a Master’s candidate in piano and an eight year old boy. Why don’t we do the first month free, and you decide if you like my teaching style.”

I agreed and hurdle two was over. For the last hurdle, I doubled the number of tutoring students, and took a job proof reading a magazine from home. All the hurdles were cleared and we settled in to new lessons. Life was moving along as comfortably as I thought possible. Then three things happened which turned my world upside down. First, we discovered Neil was Mormon. Secondly, my family came to love him greatly. Thirdly, my conscience would not allow me to care about someone and not discuss eternity with them.

You see the church I attended taught that Mormonism was a cult, its members deceived and condemned to an eternity in hell. How could we say we loved this man, and just sit back while he goes to hell? It was a real struggle for me. Now it shouldn’t have been that hard to talk to someone about eternity, but I was afraid he would get angry and stop teaching Dillon. We became dependent on his teaching. Dillon was blossoming under his tutelage, and there wasn’t another teacher within a two hours drive that was even close to his capabilities. The fact is Neil has quite a temper. I was afraid Dillon would lose him as a teacher. Pretty sorry excuse, I know, but it felt very real to me. Dillon means the world to me. I didn’t want to do anything that would hurt his future. So, I wrongfully put off the conversation.

Soon I was pregnant again, and all thoughts of Neil’s eternity conveniently went out the window as I made preparations for our new arrival. During that time, our friendship with Neil grew. We regularly had outings together, and my conscience began to bother me almost continuously. Soon after my fourth child (which we named after Neil) was born, I began studying about Mormonism. I checked out every book our church library had on the subject, and borrowed a few from one of our pastors. The more I read, the more frightened I became for my dear friend. I would weep on my bed and pray for Neil. It seemed so awful, so satanic, so deceptive. I could not sit back without any attempt at rescuing him. So, I set an appointment for the dreaded conversation, deciding that if Neil got angry and dropped Dillon, perhaps God would look mercifully on my dear child and move another qualified teacher into the area.

When the night for our conversation finally arrived, I tried to get my husband to go in my stead, to no avail. So, I packed up my little Neil and drove to his namesake’s home. It was the longest drive of my life. I had a basic plan, but was still not completely sure what to say. Bringing a peace offering of homemade chicken pot pie, I made him eat it before I brought up Mormonism, hoping he’d be more pleasant on an full stomach. When he finished eating I took a deep breath and asked him why he thought Joseph Smith was a prophet.

He responded, “Because he is.” We bantered back and forth for a while, with me trying to explain some of the things I’d read and attempting to show him from Scripture where it was wrong. But, each time he cut me off.

After about fifteen minutes of this, he held up his hand and said, “Listen, Annmarie, I should probably tell you that I’ve been expecting this conversation. I can also tell you that you won’t get far with me by talking about things you read in Anti-Mormon literature. I know the books you’ve read. Do you really think it is intelligent getting all your information on a subject from opposing sources? You wouldn’t teach someone about Protestantism by using material written by a Muslim would you? Have you considered studying our literature to see what we believe?”

Aside from the slight dig on my intelligence, I had to admit he was right. It was not an honest way of investigating something. I told him I would investigate further, using actual Mormon reading material. At that moment his doorbell rang and two female missionaries entered the room. Neil explained they were going to be meeting with someone at his house, but it would not interrupt our conversation. He then told the ladies why I had come. I was already feeling pretty stupid, and now I had two missionaries in the room. They offered me a Book of Mormon, which I accepted. I then packed up my sweet baby and took off out of that house as fast as I could.
If the drive to Neil’s house seemed long, the drive home was even longer. I now had to face my husband Brent and explain that not only did I not convert Neil, but that I agreed to read the Book of Mormon. I was pretty sure that would not go over too well. I was right. Brent was furious and told me that book was not staying in the house. I tried calming him down, by telling him I knew it was a false religion. But, I explained, the only chance we have of helping Neil was by using his literature. I also said that truth has nothing to be afraid of. If what we believe is true, then this will only serve to display that truth more readily. He calmed down and agreed to let me read it, only to show Neil where it violates the Bible.

That process both destroyed my life and saved it. I began a three year journey that ended in excommunication from my former church, ostracism from every friend, a divorce after an 18 year marriage, and loss of all means of financial support.

The day after I received my Book of Mormon I began studying it. I would set aside one to two hours each day to read it and compare it with the Bible, writing down any questions or what at first appeared to be contradictions. Then, each Thursday evening, after my children’s piano lessons I would sit down with Neil, their teacher, and ask my questions. The first thing I remember was that the Book of Mormon was not what I expected. It was much more in line with the Bible than I thought it would be. Although, I couldn’t understand how it could have been so much more specific than the Bible. The skeptic in me decided that Joseph Smith was just taking information from the Bible and writing a “New” testament, until I read the story about Joseph Smith’s reaction when Martin Harris lost some of the manuscript translations. I then realized that he was no scam artist. He truly believed everything he was writing was true. That left two options: Either Mormonism was true, or it was a cleverly designed scheme of Satan. I had to know which.

So, I thought the first issue to be settled was the fact that there were no new Scriptures. If the canon was closed, as I had been taught, then the Book of Mormon was false doctrine. I remember early on calling one of my pastors for help. I just couldn’t figure out where in the Bible we derived the fact that the canon was closed. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find a passage that even hinted.

To the contrary, I found verses such as I Thessalonians 5:19-21 “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.”, and Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”, and Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” To me it looked like there was still precedence for God to speak. After a brief conversation with one of my pastors he admitted there is no Scriptural support for the closing of the canon.When I asked why we believed that his response was church tradition.

Church tradition? Really? Isn’t that in part what the whole protestant reformation fought against. Didn’t Luther himself say he had to be convinced by Scripture to change his mind on his beliefs? Now I’m supposed to go to Neil and cite church tradition. Not likely. That conversation opened up the possibility to me that there could be new Scripture. Now my job was to find out if it was. Just as Thessalonians taught, I needed to “Prove all things”.

As we met, there were several differences in doctrine that I had to examine and try to discern which was true. Some of the first that came up were the need for baptism as a requirement of salvation, the doctrine of the trinity, the continuation of an actual line of priesthood, as well as the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Ghost. There were many others, but those are the main ones that come to mind. I would ask my questions and Neil would photocopy chapters from Articles of Faith andJesus the Christ by James Talmage. Eventually he just handed me both books to borrow, siting the need to save trees. Funny guy. Now I had more material to read as I studied.

One Thursday afternoon Neil called me on the phone and asked if he could invite some sister missionaries to come and watch my children while we talked, so we wouldn’t be so distracted. I agreed, not knowing there was a rule that missionaries couldn’t watch children. When I arrived for lessons that evening with my list of questions Neil casually mentioned that he also invited a couple of elders. So, by the time lessons ended, the children were playing quietly in the back room by themselves, and I was sitting around Neil’s kitchen table with five Mormons, four of which were missionaries. It was slightly intimidating to say the least. I was afraid my questioning things would come across defensive, or worse offensive, but the missionaries were always gracious and understood my motives.

This went on for close to three years. I went through many wonderful sets of missionaries, some of whom I became quite close to, such as Sisters Trachmann and Plourde. Occasionally Neil would invite some other ladies from his ward to sit in on the discussions to introduce me to some women from the church as well. One of those ladies, Vicki Lorimer, later became a lifeline for me.

There were times I had a greater understanding of things than others. I still remember the day I was reading my Bible and realized we are supposed to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, the only prerequisites seeming to be repentance and baptism. Well, I didn’t want there to be any part of the Bible I wasn’t at least trying to obey, so I came up with what to me was a simple solution.

I emailed Neil and told him I now understood that we had to receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Seeing as I had repented and was baptized, and he held the authority to lay hands at his church, maybe he could confirm me after lessons that week. Then I’d be set. Looking back at the naivete of that suggestion, I wish I could have seen Neil’s face when he first read my earnest email. Neil tried hard to explain to me why that wouldn’t work, but I just wasn’t getting it. However I did realize that Neil would be breaking some rules to comply to my request and I certainly didn’t want to get him in any trouble. I would just have to content myself with continuing to study and determine the truth.

When this all began, I was sure I was right. I would faithfully ask my companions in my ladies ensemble group to pray for “my Mormons”. Hoping they would come to my faith. Eventually, however, I began to realize there was a very strong possibility that they were right. I didn’t dare say anything to anyone at church about my doubts. It would get me in a tremendous amount of trouble. The boldest I would get in sharing my doubts was to change my prayer request from praying for “my Mormons” to asking for wisdom. My daily prayers changed from, “Lord, please help Neil understand the truth” to “Father, please show both of us what is true.” I figured that covered it either way. I began to grow uneasy. I felt my whole foundation crumbling underneath me and I didn’t know where to put my feet. My whole life revolved around my faith. I realized I had started on a path that could not be retracted. I now HAD to know which was true.

In the meantime my friends began to notice my uneasiness. Some of them wondered if Neil had too strong and influence over me. They knew I thought highly of him, and that my marriage was not easy. I assured them that was not so. Still, they were uncomfortable by what they now considered my fascination with Mormonism. Brent, my husband, also became concerned. Not about me and Neil, but about what he perceived as my defense of Mormonism in our discussions about what I was learning. When one evening I refused to say I was convinced Mormonism was a false religion he hit the roof.

He told me I was no longer to read, study, talk about, or even think about Mormonism again. I was ordered to return all the reading materials and limit my conversations with Neil to life and piano. Religion was not to be brought up again. I was devastated, but I submitted. The church I attended taught that wives were to submit to their husbands in all things. There was a clause in there that said we could not be ordered to sin, but I wasn’t sure this fell into that category. I returned everything to Neil (except my Book of Mormon which I kept hidden under my mattress) and explained to him we would no longer be able to discuss theology. Neil took that in stride and went back to our discussions revolving around piano. I however, did not fare so well.

I was truly confused about what to believe. What if God was different than I had been taught? What if there was more Scripture, and a whole line of priesthood authority and blessings that came with that? If that was so, I was not obeying God as He wanted. Possibly I didn’t even know him at all. What if I was teaching my children incorrect theology? Every decision I made was now suspect. Plus, so much of our daily lives revolved around the teaching opportunities I had with my children. Even our academics in our homeschool were saturated in theology. Every part of my life was shrouded in doubt. I began to fall apart and didn’t know how much longer I could continue in that state of mind.

I begged my husband to allow me to continue to study. I pleaded with him to understand I had to know what to believe. He kept saying he would tell me what to believe. As submissive as I am by nature, I knew that wouldn’t work. I explained to him it had to be my beliefs, not his, but he wouldn’t budge. I felt close to a nervous breakdown. He grew angrier and more resentful of me because I could not seem to get past this desire to study further. Things kept getting more and more tense in our home. I was still submitting and not studying or discussing things, but I was absolutely miserable and felt completely pulled into tiny pieces.

Eventually one of my friends, ironically the colleague of Neil’s that told me to go to him in the first place, went to the leadership of my church and told them she was concerned about a relationship I was in with a Mormon male. Brent and I were summoned to one of the elders homes to meet with he and his wife. There I was told of my friend’s concerns. I was also told that I was no longer to take my children to piano lessons.

Brent and I were both furious. First they implied that there was impropriety going on, which we all knew to be untrue. Brent said if the husband of the home was not concerned about the friendship than neither should they. They said it was their final decision. Either I discontinued taking the children to Neil, having no further communication with him, or I would be kicked out of choir, orchestra, ladies ensemble, and my teaching responsibilities.

I was devastated again. Who could I replace Neil with for my son? There wasn’t another qualified teacher within hours of driving. This time I dug in my heels. I told them if they could find a suitable replacement for Dillon’s instruction that I would switch teachers. But, I certainly didn’t think they had the right to determine who was to be a family friend. They disagreed and I was officially kicked out of the ministries at church. They replied that even if there was no impropriety, which we all now agreed there wasn’t, it was irresponsible for me to expose my children regularly to a Mormon. I left the meeting angry and feeling completely defeated and hopeless. The fact of the matter was, I wasn’t even sure Mormonism was true, but I certainly felt the need to find out.

When Brent and I left that meeting we were both in agreement that the church leadership were overstepping their bounds. They didn’t have the right to determine our piano teacher. It was a few short weeks later that we were summoned to another meeting. This time I was to face the entire elder board, which consisted of about 16 men, both vocational and lay leaders. In the meantime, the pastors kept busy by interviewing my friends, asking them if I had ever said anything to them that could be deemed suspect regarding my beliefs on Mormonism, or my friendship with Neil. They really couldn’t find anything except the fact that I spoke of him highly.

Once in the meeting, they began by reading a passage for the purpose of “setting the tone”. The passage they chose was one on church discipline. I knew from that moment on I was in step two of the excommunication process. I was flabbergasted. In the fifteen years I had served at that church, I had not so much as even gave the appearance of causing problems. Why were such drastic measures being taken?

The meeting itself was humiliating. The men were hostile, and treated me as someone unworthy of even decent kindness. Every innocent action, or word ever spoken was scrutinized and looked at with the most vile slant possible. I was asked to defend how I could justify allowing someone to mentor my son who was Mormon. It didn’t matter how many times I said he was teaching piano, not theology, they still disapproved. Next I was asked to defend my interest in Mormonism. I didn’t want this fight. I wasn’t even sure Mormonism WAS true. I explained to them that Brent had told me to return the materials and stop studying, and I had submitted. Still they were unsatisfied. The meeting went on for about three hours, with the conclusion that I was to renounce anything to do with Mormonism, including taking the children to piano, or they would go forward with my excommunication. I was frustrated beyond belief.

Whenever I tried calling a friend to talk about the situation, they would tell me that the elders had already contacted them, and they were not allowed to discuss the situation with me. I was also told if I needed to talk about it, they were to tell me the elders were available for me to speak with. I felt trapped. In the meantime, the elders (and remember, this is different than LDS elders) summoned me to another meeting. I had no intentions of repeating round one, and said that my position had not changed and refused to attend. Brent, however, grew frustrated with my inability to say Mormonism was false and decided to attend the meeting himself.

At that meeting, Brent’s leadership of our home was called into question. He was even advised to disable my van, so that I could not take the children to piano. They told him, it sounded to them as if the Mormon in Conway was leading our home. Brent came home from that meeting more hostile than ever, and was now was in full agreement with the leadership. I was under immense pressure. My whole life was falling apart, and I wasn’t even sure it was for a good reason. Brent went to work in silence, and then came home and yelled at me for not submitting to the elders. When I went to church, I was not allowed to participate in any of the ministries, and I was whispered about and avoided. I had finally reached my breaking point.

I wrote a local Mormon Bishop who had heard about my situation and asked Neil if there was anything he could do to help. I told him in the letter that I had so many questions and wished I could speak to him about them. I knew I wouldn’t be permitted to, so just asked for him to pray for me to have wisdom. Brent apparently had been going through my computer files because he found the file of the letter and went ballistic. I was now to give him my email password so he could check all of my computer correspondence. He also would not allow me to have a phone conversation without him listening in. I was falling apart. There were days I did not feel as if I could continue. I went about the house barely functioning, superficially going through the motions with the children’s school work, and then going to my bed to cry. Several times I came close to suicide, but thoughts of my children kept me from following through.

I tried explaining to my husband how desperate and alone I felt. I even told about wishing to die. He responded by saying my sin brought all of those feelings upon my head. If I would simply repent, it would all go away. I knew I was completely alone. My husband wouldn’t help, my friends wouldn’t speak to me, and I wasn’t sure which God was real, the one from my church, or the one from Neil’s.

My one lifeline was a woman Neil introduced me to from his ward, Vicki Lorimer. She must have sensed how desperate I felt, because she would email daily checking on my state of mind. Because she knew Brent was monitoring my emails, she would often put the subject heading as Scrapbooking, or some other girly thing, so as to not bring it to his attention. Those emails helped me feel as if there was another human somewhere who cared about me. I’m not sure if I could have gotten through those months without them.

Things were now getting so tense at church, that I began to refuse to go. I couldn’t bear it any longer. Brent continued to attend and take the children, meeting with the elders regularly about my “lack of repentance”. One Wednesday evening Brent took the three oldest children up to church. I kept our two year old home, who had a 102 degree fever. A few minutes after Brent pulled out of the driveway, three elders (one full time pastor and two lay leaders) showed up at my door. They were there to give me one final chance to repent.

So, while trying to comfort a very sick toddler, I spent the next two hours again having to defend my desire to study Mormonism. I realized throughout the evening, to my surprise, that every time they brought up some Mormon “heresy”, I had a response as to why it could be a true doctrine. I was honest with them that I wasn’t sure what was true, but did feel I had the right to figure that out for myself. They strenuously disagreed, and truly could not understand my refusal to submit. I was handed a letter that told me I had until the following Tuesday to repent and submit to the elder board, admitting Mormonism was a false religion or my excommunication would go public.

I truly didn’t know what to do. I just couldn’t agree to what they were asking. One afternoon, while Brent was at work, Vicki called and explained to me about Unrighteous Dominion. She helped me understand that it would not be a sin for me to disobey Brent and figure out what I believed. I knew I couldn’t continue in the state I was in anyway much longer without having a nervous breakdown, so I came to a decision.

I announced to Brent one Sunday afternoon, that if I was going to get in trouble for Mormonism anyway, that I might as well study it and figure out if it was true. He was not pleased, to say the least. I was told it was time to make a decision- him or Mormonism, because he could not stay in our marriage as it currently stood. I was angry. I told him time after time that I wouldn’t even be able to join the Mormon church without his permission. I wasn’t asking to be a member, I just wanted to figure out what I believed. He still patently refused to allow me to study. I had submitted to him our entire marriage, even obeying when he told me what I was allowed to watch, or what I could eat. The one time I needed to disobey for the sake of my conscience and well being, he couldn’t give in. I decided I could not continue to live like this.

We agreed to a divorce. I was to file, because divorce is forbidden at our church and I was getting excommunicated anyway. Shortly after our agreement, my excommunication went public. At my former church, excommunications are finalized in front of the entire congregation. The pastor spent about twenty minutes speaking about me, telling the congregation I was under the influence of a Mormon male and had abandoned my family. They were told that the elders had loved and pleaded with me to return, but I had refused. There instructions were to now treat me as an unbeliever. Any communication they had with me should be designed only to call me to repentance. I was ostracised.

A few weeks later Brent moved out. For the first time in over eighteen years, I was alone. I felt that way too. I was so scared. I had no means of support, four children I loved more than life itself, and I had no idea which theology was true. I think if I had an idea of who God really was it would have helped. At least it would have given me some direction in where to place my trust. At that moment I wasn’t sure who to trust. For three years I had prayed and studied faithfully (until forbidden). The missionaries had assured me if I prayed sincerely, God would tell me what was true. I could not understand why He didn’t answer. I was as sincere as it was possible for any human to be. Was there something wrong with me? Was I not good enough? Was I committing some sin I was unaware of that kept Him from answering me? I didn’t have any answers, and I really needed some fast.

During my 3 + years of study I read A LOT of material. Not only did I go through the entire book of Mormon, but I read Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ, The Inevitable Apostasy (probably the most helpful book to me), and countless talks that my friend Vicki would send me to try to help answer questions.

It was during one of these talks that I first experienced what I now understand to be the “burning of the bosom”. I would often get frustrated in my conversations with missionaries when they’d ask me questions such as, “How does that make you feel?” I kept thinking, “Who cares how I feel about it? All that matters is whether it is true. I can think something sounds wonderful, but that doesn’t make it true.” I was so frustrated. Plus, I came from a doctrinal background where feelings were taboo. Discernment was done strictly through the Scriptures. If the Bible says it, than it is true. Period. No feelings can verify anything. Having the Spirit affirm something was completely foreign to me. Gradually, the Lord helped me understand. Although revelation is something that I am coming to learn will be a life long process.

One of the first things that helped me, occurred while reading one of the talks my friend Vicki sent by email. I don’t even remember the topic of it. All I remember is standing at my computer, reading the talk, and feeling my whole chest burning in a way I will never forget. It was a beautiful feeling, and every ounce of me felt like the Spirit, or something, was affirming the words of the talk. The topic wasn’t new doctrine for me. Everything in that talk my former church would have agreed with. But, the experience was new for me, and was the beginning of me learning what it means to have the Holy Ghost commune with you. It startled me at first because it strengthened my suspicions that there was much more validity to Mormonism than I ever considered. I knew what that would mean for me and I was frightened.

The second big milestone for me occurred while reading The Inevitable Apostasy by Tad Callister. If you’ve never read that book, I highly recommend it. I knew there was an “elephant in the room” regarding Mormonism that I had yet to address….exaltation and godhood. I tried addressing it that first night I spoke with Neil about his faith. I asked him if he believed he would be a god. He didn’t answer my question (no big surprise there). Instead he asked me what would happen if he asked Dillon to play Tchaikovsky’s hardest concerto. I said it would be too discouraging for him. He said that is what would happen if I tried to understand deep doctrine, before getting the basics. To be honest, I wasn’t convinced. I thought he was avoiding answering me. But, I knew Neil well enough to know that if he didn’t want to deal with something, there was no point in continuing to try. So, I dropped it.

However, privately, I knew that would have to be addressed before I could make ANY decision regarding Mormonism. In the meantime, as I was praying and studying, I realized that I tended to read the Scriptures through the lens of the theological interpretations I had been taught and personally developed. We all have bents and biases that affect how we interpret things, even our Scriptures. I then began making a very conscience effort to re-read my Scriptures with a blank slate. I tried to pretend I had no theological knowledge or background and was coming at the Scriptures fresh. I was amazed at the difference in understanding you can have if you just took Scripture for what it literally said, without spinning it through your preferred, or learned doctrinal preferences. That prepared me for what I was about to learn.

I was sitting on my couch reading Tad Callister’s book, when I got to a chapter on deification. It was amazing! He did such a great job taking you through the Scriptures and the ante-Nicene father’s writings in such a clear way. It opened up that doctrine for me in a way I had never previously understood. I also learned that the doctrine is not quite the same as what we are taught in anti-Mormon literature. However, it was still in its actual form quite different from anything I had ever been taught before. As I was sitting there, I suddenly said aloud, “I believe this.” And then I thought, “Oh no! I believe this.” I knew there was no turning back. I had to follow through and see if it was all true.

All during this time, I felt like I was on one of the scariest roller coaster rides of my life. I would read and study the Scriptures and other books and really feel like things were true. Plus, I fell in love with the faith itself. It is so beautiful, so heavenly. So there I was riding the coaster up, feeling the tension the whole time between the two belief systems. Then, I could have a five minute conversation with my husband and come plummeting down. I was terrified that he was right and I was falling for a cleverly devised Satanic deception. I was trapped between belief and fear.

If Brent was right, and I believed Mormonism, I would be condemned to an eternity in hell. If Neil and Vicki were right, and I didn’t believe Mormonism, I would not know or obey God as He intended for us to know Him. I was being completely overcome by fear in both directions. And that was the state I was in when my husband moved out.

I still remember my first weekend without my children. I had never really been without my children for any significant period of time before. In the eighteen years of our marriage, Brent (my ex) and I had been on a total of four dates, and they were short. The longest I had been away from any of my children were the times I was in labor having another one. Try as I might, I have a hard time counting that as time away.

I spent the entire weekend crying. I did NOT want to be alone, but no longer had any friendships to call on. Neil is not the comforting type, and Vicki had family obligations that weekend. Coincidentally, that was the same weekend as General Conference. I did try to watch some of the talks on my computer, but always ended up crying so much I couldn’t see or hear anything. I remember several of the talks being about trials, but was having a hard time applying them for some reason. To be completely honest, I was still afraid I had made a wrong decision by refusing to submit. What if it turned out Mormonism was not true and I had sacrificed everything for nothing?

Soon I started receiving letters from members of my former church. All calling me to repentance, and telling me I was taking myself and my children on a path to hell. It was very frustrating. Not one person was willing to hear my side of the story. They felt they knew all the information they needed from my excommunication announcement at church. When I ran into church members in a public arena, I was either ignored completely, or told to repent. Even the woman who had been my best friend for quite a few years, pretended we had never even met when we unexpectedly ran into each other. It was infuriating, but I had too much on my plate to focus on their behavior.

The next emotion to hit me was panic. How was I going to provide for my family? I didn’t even have a college degree. When Brent and I first married we were both going to school. Brent, however, made the suggestion that only one of us go at a time. (I no longer remember why, because he didn’t want me working outside the home anyway. Maybe to cut down on tuition costs?) Our agreement was that he would finish first, as he would be the primary breadwinner. When he was done, I could return. I agreed because, at the time, it seemed to make sense. The problem was he took seventeen years to go, and then quit with nothing left but his master’s thesis. As a result, I never got to return. Plus, there is NOTHING more important to me than my children. I did not want to give up raising and educating them. I needed to find a way to earn money and still be their mother.

To add fodder to my fear, all my math students were from my former church, with the exception of one family. All the families from my former church dropped my classes. I remember calling one of the mother’s in desperation, begging her not to drop my class. I wasn’t teaching theology, I was teaching math. She absolutely refused, citing there was no way she would let her children study under me now that I was Mormon. I reminded her I wasn’t Mormon, I just felt I had the right to study it and examine my belief system. She told me I lacked character and this would be the last I heard from her. I was angry and afraid. In frustration I snapped back, asking her if it showed character to allow my children to starve because she didn’t agree with my theology? She hung up.

Her attitude was not uncommon. I heard the same things time and time again from the parents. They didn’t feel I would be a good influence on their children. On top of that, the general manager of one of the two magazines I wrote for every month was a former member of my old church. I thought because he was a former member, there wouldn’t be any issues, but once word of my excommunication leaked to him, suddenly there were no more articles available for me to write. I called and asked if I could do advertising sales, volunteering to work on straight commission. That would not cost him anything. He refused even that.

I spent nearly every waking minute trying to find ways to earn money and still raise my children, but was not having much success. At some point a couple of things began to work out. The other magazine I wrote for was also run by a woman from my former church, but she was kind of dependent on me. She decided to keep me on. That was at least some income. Then an acquaintance who owned a recording studio agreed to let me do some odd jobs for him, as they became available. With those two things, and me querying other magazines for work I should be able to squeak by. We’d need food stamps temporarily, but we would survive.

I began to relax, and could now focus on whether this church really was true, or if it was time for me to reserve my spot in hell. At first it felt funny reading the Mormon scriptures in my living room. It had been forbidden for so long at that point, that part of me still felt like I was doing something naughty. Eventually I got past that, and in my spunkier moments would say aloud, “Oh look, Brent, I’m reading the Book of Mormon.” I decided it was time to take the next step. I was going to attend a Mormon church service. In order to take all precautions with my children, I waited until the next weekend they were with their father.

I was shaking like a leaf that first Sunday morning. I did not know anybody (Vicki and Neil attended a ward in a different city) and none of them knew me. It never even occurred to me to call that Bishop that had contacted Neil those many months ago. When I went into the chapel, I sat quietly by myself and looked around at the people. There was one woman in particular, Lanniece Lewis, who had the most radiant smile. Looking at her helped me relax a little. I spent the entire sacrament service praying, begging God not only to help me know what was true, but to help me know how to order my family correctly and provide for them. (Things had gotten a little out of control with the children while I was trying to drum up work). I was very concerned about order and provision.

The next significant memory of that day was relief society. My shaking was getting a little worse, and I felt very alone. One thing I remember very clearly was the practice hymn. They sang Be Still My Soul. I had never heard that hymn before, but my heart nearly leapt out of my chest when we sang the line: “Leave to thy God to order and provide”. That was exactly what I had been praying about just that morning. It made me feel like God was listening to my prayers. Maybe I would even know soon, whether or not the church was true.

The lesson ended up being on Joseph Smith and the trials and sacrifices he went through when he told people of his newfound faith. Tears began streaming down my face uncontrollably as they talked about Joseph’s struggles. There was something in his unshaken confidence I longed for. I wanted this church to be true. I thought it was beautiful, but I could not join a church on that alone. I would need to know that was what God wanted me to do. I wanted his confidence. I was becoming more obvious (to my great dismay), as my sobs grew. I couldn’t stop the tears. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was so embarrassed. The teacher kept looking at me with compassion and I just didn’t know what to do. Finally, I raised my hand. I told the ladies I wanted so much to know if the church was true. Before I knew it, all the fear and agony came pouring out of my mouth. I told them everything. I told them I was scared. I wanted to know, if I was going to have to sacrifice everything, that it was for righteousness and not deception.

The ladies were so gracious. Many of them came up to embrace me and tell me why they knew the church to be true. Even if my testimony did not become sure as a result of their comments, it was at least comforting. I went home renewed in my efforts. I began studying with great vigor and began meeting with the missionaries. They came over at least once a week and would answer questions and eat dinner with us.

With my husband gone, there was no longer anyone telling me on a daily basis that Mormonism was a satanic deception. Gradually, my fear began to lessen, which opened up my ability to feel assurance from the Spirit. We are told all the time that fear and faith cannot co-exist, but it is so hard to get rid of fear sometimes. At least it is for me. I began to long to get baptized, but was afraid that I could not without 100% assurance. One night after dinner, Elder Bird looked at me and said, “Annmarie, why haven’t you gotten baptized yet?” I replied I didn’t want to make God angry. I thought it would be hypocritical to get baptized without a 100% assurance and understanding.

Elder Bird replied, “Annmarie, I am a representative of God, and I can completely assure you that God will not be angry with you if you get baptized.” He then told me he felt led to read a verse to me. Turning to Ether 12:6, he read, “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” At first I cringed, “until after the trial of your faith”. Wasn’t this enough of a trial? Was there to be more before I received a further witness? Then, suddenly, it hit me. The trial for me is not having 100% knowledge. I’m the kind of person who wants ALL the information. I want to study everything out ahead of time. I would never go to a test unprepared, and what could be more important than eternity?

For me, the trial would be going forward without every piece of the puzzle put together. It occurred to me, I was doing to Mormonism what I would never have done to the Bible. I did not have to work out every verse in the Bible to believe it was true. I believed the Bible was true, because something told me it was. The same could be true of the Book of Mormon. So, I took a deep breath and said, “Ok. Let’s set a date.”
The days leading up to my baptism were ones of great excitement. I felt like a huge burden had been taken off my shoulders. I was excited and ready to go. Neil was going to baptize me, and Vicki would give a talk on baptism. I was thrilled. This day was going to be amazing. Anticipation was welling up inside me. For some reason though, when I woke up the morning of my baptism, I was overwhelmed with fear. What if I WAS being deceived? I was panicked. Desperately I picked up my Bible and prayed. My prayer went something like this, “God, I know this is really bad theology, but I need to be sure right now if I am doing the right thing. So, I am going to open my Bible. If I need to cancel my baptism, please show me in the Scriptures now.”

I opened up my Bible, and the first verse my eyes laid upon was, “Beware of false prophets.” My heart stopped. Then something said to read on, so I did. Later in the passage it said, “You shall know them by their fruit.” It was as simple as that. Peace flooded my soul. I have studied this faith and the life and teachings of Joseph Smith for years now, and I knew the fruit. I went to my baptism with 100% confidence. Something I never thought I would have. Nothing felt as good as being submerged in that water. I became a Mormon on May 9, 2009, and was confirmed on Mother’s Day, May 10th.

Worthington Baptism

One of my baptism pictures. This is a picture of me and Neil (the man I tried to convert)

It hasn’t been easy since then. A few months ago, the magazine I wrote for on a monthly basis fired me. She was the majority of my income. I knew her attitude toward me had changed after I got baptized, but she was happy with my work, so I felt safe. Apparently she was biding her time until she found a replacement. Eventually, when she found one, she stopped assigning me articles. When I asked her about it, she said she needed someone with a college degree. She even admitted my writing was better than her new staff member.
My only guess, as I had not needed a degree previously, is that the pressure, or guilt, became too much for her to handle at church, and it was easier just to let me go. So, I’m back to square one in earning money.
There are other pressures too. It is hard being a single parent. I’m tired all the time, and the loneliness can be overwhelming. But, I can say with total assurance, that I am right where God wants me to be. I have learned so much in the last year, that my heart often feels like it is already in heaven. Of course, the realities of life quickly remind me I’m still in the telestial world, but I won’t always be.

I love being Mormon.

Have You Been Saved?

Dallin H. Oaks, “Have You Been Saved?,” Ensign, May 1998, 55

As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings.

Dallin H. Oaks

What do we say when someone asks us, “Have you been saved?” This question, so common in the conversation of some Christians, can be puzzling to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it is not our usual way of speaking. We tend to speak of “saved” or “salvation” as a future event rather than something that has already been realized.

Good Christian people sometimes attach different meanings to some key gospel terms like saved or salvation. If we answer according to what our questioner probably means in asking if we have been “saved,” our answer must be “yes.” If we answer according to the various meanings we attach to the terms saved or salvation, our answer will be either “yes” or “yes, but with conditions.”

I.

As I understand what is meant by the good Christians who speak in these terms, we are “saved” when we sincerely declare or confess that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. This meaning relies on words the Apostle Paul taught the Christians of his day:

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10).

To Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation in this teaching signify a present covenant relationship with Jesus Christ in which we are assured salvation from the consequences of sin if we are obedient. Every sincere Latter-day Saint is “saved” according to this meaning. We have been converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have experienced repentance and baptism, and we are renewing our covenants of baptism by partaking of the sacrament.

II.

As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5) or as conditioned upon a future event (e.g., Mark 13:13). But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ.

First, all mortals have been saved from the permanence of death through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

As to salvation from sin and the consequences of sin, our answer to the question of whether or not we have been saved is “yes, but with conditions.” Our third article of faith declares our belief:

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3).

Many Bible verses declare that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world (e.g., John 1:29Matt. 26:28). The New Testament frequently refers to the grace of God and to salvation by grace (e.g., John 1:17Acts 15:11Eph. 2:8). But it also has many specific commandments on personal behavior, and many references to the importance of works (e.g., Matt. 5:16Eph. 2:10James 2:14–17). In addition, the Savior taught that we must endure to the end in order to be saved (see Matt. 10:22Mark 13:13).

Relying upon the totality of Bible teachings and upon clarifications received through modern revelation, we testify that being cleansed from sin through Christ’s Atonement is conditioned upon the individual sinner’s faith, which must be manifested by obedience to the Lord’s command to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37–38). “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” Jesus taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; see also Mark 16:16Acts 2:37–38). Believers who have had this required rebirth at the hands of those having authority have already been saved from sin conditionally, but they will not be saved finally until they have completed their mortal probation with the required continuing repentance, faithfulness, service, and enduring to the end.

Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints who give this answer of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, “For we labor diligently … to persuade our children … to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “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” (Moro. 10:32).

We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).

The question of whether a person has been saved is sometimes phrased in terms of whether that person has been “born again.” Being “born again” is a familiar reference in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. As noted earlier, Jesus taught that except a man was “born again” (John 3:3), of water and of the Spirit, he could not enter into the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). The Book of Mormon has many teachings about the necessity of being “born again” or “born of God” (Mosiah 27:25; see Mosiah 27:24–26Alma 36:24, 26Moses 6:59). As we understand these scriptures, our answer to whether we have been born again is clearly “yes.” We were born again when we entered into a covenant relationship with our Savior by being born of water and of the Spirit and by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We can renew that rebirth each Sabbath when we partake of the sacrament.

Latter-day Saints affirm that those who have been born again in this way are spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 5:7Mosiah 15:9–13Mosiah 27:25). Nevertheless, in order to realize the intended blessings of this born-again status, we must still keep our covenants and endure to the end. In the meantime, through the grace of God, we have been born again as new creatures with new spiritual parentage and the prospects of a glorious inheritance.

A fourth meaning of being saved is to be saved from the darkness of ignorance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and of the purpose of life, and of the destiny of men and women. The gospel made known to us by the teachings of Jesus Christ has given us this salvation. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus taught; “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 12:46).

For Latter-day Saints, being “saved” can also mean being saved or delivered from the second death (meaning the final spiritual death) by assurance of a kingdom of glory in the world to come (see 1 Cor. 15:40–42). Just as the Resurrection is universal, we affirm that every person who ever lived upon the face of the earth—except for a very few—is assured of salvation in this sense. As we read in modern revelation:

“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings …

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

“Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him” (D&C 76:40–43; emphasis added).

The prophet Brigham Young taught that doctrine when he declared that “every person who does not sin away the day of grace, and become an angel to the Devil, will be brought forth to inherit a kingdom of glory” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 288). This meaning of saved ennobles the whole human race through the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this sense of the word, all should answer: “Yes, I have been saved. Glory to God for the gospel and gift and grace of His Son!”

Finally, in another usage familiar and unique to Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation are also used to denote exaltation or eternal life (see Abr. 2:11). This is sometimes referred to as the “fulness of salvation” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:242). This salvation requires more than repentance and baptism by appropriate priesthood authority. It also requires the making of sacred covenants, including eternal marriage, in the temples of God, and faithfulness to those covenants by enduring to the end. If we use the word salvation to mean “exaltation,” it is premature for any of us to say that we have been “saved” in mortality. That glorious status can only follow the final judgment of Him who is the Great Judge of the living and the dead.

I have suggested that the short answer to the question of whether a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been saved or born again must be a fervent “yes.” Our covenant relationship with our Savior puts us in that “saved” or “born again” condition meant by those who ask this question. Some modern prophets have also used “salvation” or “saved” in that same present sense. President Brigham Young declared:

“It is present salvation and the present influence of the Holy Ghost that we need every day to keep us on saving ground. …

“I want present salvation. … Life is for us, and it is for us to receive it today, and not wait for the Millennium. Let us take a course to be saved today” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 15–16). President David O. McKay spoke of the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ in that same present sense of “salvation here—here and now” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 6).

III.

I will conclude by discussing another important question members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked by others: “Why do you send missionaries to preach to other Christians?” Sometimes this is asked with curiosity and sometimes with resentment.

My most memorable experience with that question occurred some years ago in what we then called the Eastern Bloc. After many years of Communist hostility to religion, these countries were suddenly and miraculously given a measure of religious freedom. When that door opened, many Christian faiths sent missionaries. As part of our preparation to do so, the First Presidency sent members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to meet with government and church leaders in these countries. Our assignment was to introduce ourselves and to explain what our missionaries would be doing.

Elder Russell M. Nelson and I called on the leader of the Orthodox Church in one of these countries. Here was a man who had helped keep the light of Christianity burning through the dark decades of Communist repression. I noted in my journal that he was a warm and gracious man who impressed me as a servant of the Lord. I mention this so that you will not think there was any spirit of arrogance or contention in our conversation of nearly an hour. Our visit was pleasant and cordial, filled with the goodwill that should always characterize conversations between men and women who love the Lord and seek to serve Him, each according to his or her own understanding.

Our host told us about the activities of his church during the period of Communist repression. He described the various difficulties his church and its work were experiencing as they emerged from that period and sought to regain their former position in the life of the country and the hearts of the people. We introduced ourselves and our fundamental beliefs. We explained that we would soon be sending missionaries into his country and told him how they would perform their labors.

He asked, “Will your missionaries preach only to unbelievers, or will they also try to preach to believers?” We replied that our message was for everyone, believers as well as unbelievers. We gave two reasons for this answer—one a matter of principle and the other a matter of practicality. We told him that we preached to believers as well as unbelievers because our message, the restored gospel, makes an important addition to the knowledge, happiness, and peace of all mankind. As a matter of practicality, we preach to believers as well as unbelievers because we cannot tell the difference. I remember asking this distinguished leader, “When you stand before a congregation and look into the faces of the people, can you tell the difference between those who are real believers and those who are not?” He smiled wryly, and I sensed an admission that he had understood the point.

Through missionaries and members, the message of the restored gospel is going to all the world. To non-Christians, we witness of Christ and share the truths and ordinances of His restored gospel. To Christians we do the same. Even if a Christian has been “saved” in the familiar single sense discussed earlier, we teach that there remains more to be learned and more to be experienced. As President Hinckley recently said, “[We are] not argumentative. We do not debate. We, in effect, simply say to others, ‘Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it’ ” (“The BYU Experience,” BYU devotional address, 4 Nov. 1997).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers all of the children of God the opportunity to learn the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored in these latter days. We offer everyone the privilege of receiving all of the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.

We invite all to hear this message, and we invite all who receive the confirming witness of the Spirit to heed it. These things are true, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

My Maturing Views of Grace

E. Richard Packham, “My Maturing Views of Grace” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 22-25

What is the relationship between grace and works? The answer to this question has taken me a lifetime to appreciate.
The Christian doctrine of redemptive grace has been an enigma to me. And for more than 50 years my view of it has evolved. I wonder if my story is somewhat similar to what you have experienced.

Already Saved?

My journey began as a young man during my full-time mission. I frequently encountered people who denied any interest in the message of the restored gospel by claiming they had already been saved. The reasoning behind this point of view went like this: God loves whomever He chooses to love. He calls us to His grace, saying, “I love you the way you are. Why can’t you learn to love yourself? I accept you as you are.” Thus a person who lives by grace becomes who he is truly meant to be, while a person who lives by law—seeking to be saved by his works—becomes a phony. He seeks to accelerate his own righteousness and achievement instead of God’s. It is wrong to expect God to save us because we are living by His law or to think that by changing our life we will merit the love of God and find happiness.
As a young missionary, I countered this view of grace by quoting James 2:14–26, which concludes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (v. 26). Whereupon, my contacts often opened their Bibles and responded with a few scriptures of their own in support of their belief in unconditional grace. One verse they commonly used was the Apostle Paul’s statement, “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” (Eph. 2:8–9). They reasoned with me that grace is a gift of God that freely comes when we accept Christ.
For the first time in my life, I realized how easily we can become confused about any doctrine if we focus on a single verse and don’t take into account the whole of gospel teachings. I also formed the opinion that people gravitated to the doctrine of unconditional grace because it was so easy to accept. After all, life can appear a whole lot simpler when all one has to do for salvation is “accept Christ.”

Saved by Obedience?

I had taken a book written by a Latter-day Saint author with me on my mission. It stated a common understanding of grace embraced by many Church members at the time, that the grace of Christ brought to pass the Resurrection of all mankind, but that salvation from sin and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God came primarily through good works and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. This doctrinal point is what I and many others of that day used to argue against the doctrine of unconditional grace.
During my mission I discovered hundreds of Bible references that I could use to show that obedience to the laws of God is necessary. For example, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Jesus later told the rich young man, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” including the Ten Commandments, love of God and neighbors, and giving all his wealth to the poor (Matt. 19:17; see also Matt. 19:18–21).
The clear and fundamental message of the New Testament is that we must repent, be baptized, and live the teachings of Christ. Furthermore, as the Apostle John taught, we must all eventually stand before God and be “judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:13).
Before returning home from my mission, I felt keenly that I had an understanding of the doctrine of grace, both what it is and what it is not. I received a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration. My mission truly changed my life and helped me come to know much about the Savior.

A Deeply Personal Topic

A significant change in my approach to the doctrine of grace came during my graduate studies at Brigham Young University. My roommate was a fellow graduate student who had digested the Book of Mormon more completely than anyone I had ever met. He helped me understand that the Fall of Adam was much more than an academic subject. He helped me see the impact it had on me personally. He also helped me comprehend that Christ’s Atonement was far more than an exercise in solving the problems caused by the Fall. I came to know the Savior in a very real and personal way from the Book of Mormon. The scriptures seemed to open up to me, and I was able to speak and teach the gospel with greater effectiveness.
This experience caused me to study more intensely, and I began to look at the doctrine of grace through different lenses. It was no longer a theoretical topic but a deeply personal one. I never questioned that the Resurrection was an unconditional gift from Christ, but I began to consider other aspects of grace.
I sought out opportunities to discuss my concerns with close friends and family. We searched for answers to such questions as: Is our obedience sufficient to cleanse us from sin and negate its consequences? How do we become clean from our sins? How does forgiveness come? What does it mean to suffer for sin?
We found several scriptures that seemed to answer our questions. For example, in 3 Nephi 27:19 [3 Ne. 27:19] the Savior offers this explanation of the balance between grace and works: “And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.” Furthermore, Lehi taught that Christ “offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Ne. 2:7).
From the words of the modern prophets we found this insight from President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918): “Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future and so far their acts are acceptable before the Lord and worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ, the sins of the repentant shall be washed away.” 1
We concluded that the cleansing or forgiveness of sin always comes from a divine source. We discovered that while sanctification comes through Christ, the Holy Ghost is the actual cleansing agent and that the manifestation of this renewing power is conditional (see 3 Ne. 9:20). Our discussions expanded my perception of grace and deepened my feeling of dependence upon the Lord.

Divine Grace

As I have studied the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of grace has become even clearer to me. He withstood every temptation and buffeting Satan and his legions could throw at Him. He showed His love for the Father and for us by living the perfect life, thus enabling Him to be the source of all divine assistance.
The definition and explanation of grace in our Bible Dictionary has been a great help to me: “The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ. … Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the Fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, ‘It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Ne. 25:23). It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible” (p. 697). And what is “all we can do” referred to in 2 Nephi? We can have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure faithfully to the end (see 3 Ne. 27:19–21).
Recent teachings from our living prophets and apostles have also helped solidify my understanding. For example, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we obey, no matter how many good things we do in this life, it would not be enough were it not for Jesus Christ and His loving grace. On our own we cannot earn the kingdom of God, no matter what we do. Unfortunately, there are some within the Church who have become so preoccupied with performing good works that they forget that those works—as good as they may be—are hollow unless they are accompanied by a complete dependence on Christ.” 2
I have thought many times of how I answered the people on my mission who claimed to have already been saved by grace. My answer today would be quite different from what I said 50 years ago. If asked, “Do you believe we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ?” I would answer with a resounding yes.
If it were not for the Atonement, nothing mortal man could do would matter (see 1 Ne. 10:6; 2 Ne. 9:8–12). I have concluded that while works, such as obedience to gospel principles and ordinances, play a key role in accessing the full benefits of the Atonement, it is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved.

After All We Can Do

James E. Faust

“I am profoundly grateful for the principle of saving grace. Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23; emphasis added).
President James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18.

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