Episodes

225: A Nuanced View of The Church and God’s Plan

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For the Orthodox Believer who holds that everyone needs to join Mormonism in order to be be exalted by God, It is not that simple.  Let’s explore.

We often refer to our Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as

“The Only True and Living Church with Which the Lord is Well Pleased”

We also speak at great Length about being the only place God has Authorized its children to “hold” Priesthood and to administer saving ordinances.  Below are some ways God has given us to see these things.

1.) Church – And how God defines that word.

D&C 10 has God saying several things – one of which is

Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

There is this idea that no matter what God promises, whosoever is in his Church shall inherit his kingdom or exaltation….. hmmm.  Do we currently believe all members of the Earthly institution called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will inherit God’s kingdom?  Is there another way that God defines Church that we are missing?  Consider just a few verses later God says

Behold, this is my doctrine, whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

Now consider that.  Also consider that this revelation was given before out Church was organized in 1830, before there even was a earthly institution.  God seems to be defining Church another way…. That in essence who ever is making positive changes in their life and pressing forward towards a more Christlike life is of his Church.

2.) That God wishes for us, as member missionaries, to convert all nonmembers to his earthly organized Church in order to save them and bring them into his plan and set them on the path. Otherwise what is all this Missionary work about right?

Except that members of the Church only make up “point two percent” of the current world population.  And this doesn’t even take into account that 65% of that “point two percent” that are inactive members.  Or that when one considers all who have lived, are living, and will live versus all the members of the Church there has been makes the number even exponentially smaller than that.  If one need be Mormon the plan is actually very ineffective at the surface.  I know what your thinking…. Yeah but we do work for the dead and so we provide a way for all those folks.  I hear you and I validate that.  But I am asking a different sort of question that progressive Mormons like myself dare to ask.  Does being a member of the LDS faith in mortality increase my chance of receiving exaltation?  Think about that.  Are my non member friends and family at a spiritual disadvantage because they are not in the Church?  As you let that question just sit there lets see a quote from Elder Orson F. Whitney regarding non-members.

Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else.

Consider that.  That God may consider non-members as auxiliary members of his Church.  That they do more good for administering his plan outside the Church than in.  He continues

Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the Truth; while others remain unconverted—for the present; the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time.

That their not being placed into the Church is for a Wise Purpose of God’s and that he will in his own due time open their eyes to the fullness of the gospel.  This brings in another point.

3.) The Church is his official organization that is called to carry out his plan right?  This is where those who are called and authorized to do his work are found correct?

Elder Orson F Whitney also said

God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.

Consider that.  God is not just using our Church to carry out his work.  What is his work?

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

This work is to vast, too arduous.  why?  The only explanation is that God is working to bring every single child of his home and The earthly institution is too small and too ineffective to accomplish it on its own.  But hasn’t God already told us that?

The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

In this way are not inspired men like Mohammed and Confucius “Called” and “Authorized” to carry out God’s work. Don’t we already in our faith make the assertion that men like the reformers such as Luther, Tyndale, Wesley and others were called and authorized by God to carry out parts of his plan?  Don’t we already assert that Christopher Columbus and the George Washington and a whole host of others were “called” and “authorized” by God to carry out parts of his plan?

Elder Whitney finished by saying

Again I say, the Lord’s Work has need of auxiliaries outside as well as inside, to help it along.

And I argue he is absolutely right.

So why can’t a Latter-day Saint hold the belief that Pope Francis, the Catholic leader, is “called” and “Authorized” by God to be assisting this work?   And Once we come to grips that Mormon theology permits individuals who are “called” and Authorized” and “inspired” to be moving God’s work forward we are left with a very inclusive, expansive view of Mormonism.

4.) But we as members of the Church have the Priesthood and the Saving ordinances by which all must enter, right?

Yes and No.  We have the only earthly institution in this dispensation that has “offices” within the priesthood.  But are we the only people using Priesthood on the earth?  Elder Oaks already has acknowledged that our sisters have “Priesthood Power” and “Priesthood Authority” when he stated.

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?

that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.”… Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.

Isn’t that what Priesthood is?  The POWER and AUTHORITY of God given to his children to carry out his work.

We have already discussed how many outside the Church were “Authorized” by God to carry out parts of his plan.  In other words we have already acknowledged the Church teaches these mean had “Authority” from God.  Now the Question is if they operated under God’s power.  Take Christopher Columbus for example.  Here is what Nephi says about him

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

And then consider what our faith teaches about how Columbus felt 

The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring He gave me in abundance. …Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?

Was he not operating with God’s power?  We can ask the same about others.  When God blesses those in other faiths to be healed in their acts of faith, for example a Catholic Guatemalan Mother Praying for her sick child calling down the powers of Heaven…. is that not Priesthood Power?  When Martin Luther and John Wesley and William Tyndale worked to reform their faith and make room for the restoration were they not in effect operating under Priesthood Power to do what they did?

So yes, we as an organization have been blessed to be delegated by God to be guardians and administrators of the sacred and saving ordinances and have been blessed with offices within the Priesthood to administer those ordinances but consider this.  Every person who has taken on a mortal tabernacle on this earth receives those ordinances and every male receives a priesthood office.  Think about that every ordinance required will be given to every single son and daughter of God.  And While Priesthood offices to males seem exclusive to males in the Church, every male who has ever lived will receive a priesthood office.   Baptism may be the gate but all who have ever and will ever live pass through that gate.  When one ponders on the straight and narrow path I am left wondering if that path began in the premortal life.  That the only way we can step off the path for a time or forever is to stop trying and to personally choose to move away from God.  That as long as we are facing him and willing to be better and trying to be better that we, as in all of God’s children, are on the path.

I hope as you ponder these thoughts you will see that God is working to bring all of his children home.  His gospel is not exclusionary.  Rather it is inclusive.  He is working both within the Church but also through many other people, organizations, and faiths to influence his children and to encourage them onward.  That God has provided a way for all of his children to come home.  God is working directly in the lives, of not .2% of his children, but 100% of his children equally manifesting his Power, Inspiration, Encouragement, Mercy, and Grace.

Lastly may I revisit the question asked at the beginning.  If my chance at salvation is not increased by being a member of the Church in mortality then why the push to join and to remain in the Church?  I simply look at this questions from the perspective of a loving Father.  In the lives of my children, I want them to be happy, I want them to be supported by others.  I want them to be challenged and have opportunities to grow.  I also want, when those challenges get to difficult, for them to have others around them who care for them and think of them as brothers and sisters and who they can depend on to strengthen their feeble knees and Lift their hands when they are hanging down.  I can think of no organization on earth that does this as a whole better than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For that reason I am honored to stand with the Saints and to serve them and be served.  I am honored to be a Mormon and ride out this mortal journey within this Church.

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13 thoughts on “225: A Nuanced View of The Church and God’s Plan

  1. Brother Reel, this article is confusing, maybe you can clarify. Problem 1) You wrote that D&C 1 was written before the Church was organized in April of 1830. The header to D&C 1 declares that this was a revelation given on November 1, 1831. That’s over a year after the church was established.

    2)You wrote “D&C 1 has God saying several things – one of which is-

    Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
    This is nowhere found in D&C 1, please clarify where you found this. I’m not saying it’s not found written anywhere in scripture, but it’s nowhere to be found in D&C 1.

    3. You also wrote “Consider just a few verses later God says

    “Behold, this is my doctrine, whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.”
    Neither is this to be found in D&C1. Again, where is this written.

    4. The lord does state this in verse 30 “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually”
    Sounds evident to me that the Lord is calling the LDS church his one and only true and living Church. Could you please clarify these things for me, according to your understanding. I’m a huge fan and love the Podcast! Take care, Brother Martin

    • I am sorry I didn’t respond sooner
      1.) You saw I already fixed D&C section 1 to D&C section 10
      2.) & 3.) also are corrected by referring to section 10
      4.) I actually see nuance here. That when the Lord says he is speaking to his church collectively and not individually one could take that to mean he is speaking of his CHURCH COLLECTIVELY (Those who repent and come unto him) and not INDIVIDUALLY (any individual denomination including the LDS Church)

    • 4. The problem with this is that it’s contradictory. You can always play the God card, but the God portraited by the LDS church is a human god, who constantly changes his mind, contradicts himself and allows confusion to rise within his church (either by allowing his messengers/prophets to misinterpret his word/revelations or mistake them. i.e., Joseph Smith wanting to sell the copyright of the BoM).
      The way the God described in the D&C operates, leaves much to desire of a celestial/perfect god with perfect understanding and thinking.

      Just my opinion. I am an active member, but I do see huge inconsistencies happening in the D&C, BoM, PoGP, and OT.

  2. I believe in a loving god that is more inclusive and less exclusive. I also have a hard time believing that our god, in all of his infinite wisdom and omniscience would have created a major part of his plan, this mortal existence, where only .2% of his children (and actually much less than this when one takes all of history and all of mankind into account) reap the blessings of the Gospel. This thinking is both of elitism and of naïveté. It is the community college football player giving praise to his god for helping his team win the game. Are we God’s team? His only team? I believe there are many ways that are pleasing to Him. It comes down to us and the spirit we feel to follow one path or another in life to simply be good people, help our fellow man, and love unconditionally. Mormonism is a good way. But Mormons need to start having a larger scope on how small and virtually insignificant it is, and appreciate and respect other religious and non-religious pathways that people are on in this world, just trying to be good. It’s podcasts/essays like this that push our members to open their minds to how closed our minds have been for way too long. Thanks, Bill.

  3. Every person who obtains exhalation whether in their mortal existence or in the after life must receive the ordnances which includes baptism or membership in God’s true and living church.

      • I’m with George on this one from a doctrinal point of view.

        The ordinance to be made available to everyone living and dead. This is part of God’s love. Hence we don’t need to stress ourselves over the essential ordinances, all that is required is that we develop the essential Christlike attributes.

        We have the restored Gospel in it’s fullness to the degree that God has revealed his plan for us. Granted their is more to be revealed and increase on it’s fullness which is a never ending process, but it is our responsibility to preach the Gospel according to the extent of our understanding and fullness which we have.

        You are pointing out that there is missing elements that need to be added, revised, or upgraded; but we should always note that God’s plan is meant for everyone, and not just 0.2% of the population.

          • We agree, being Mormon is ultimately for your benefit, but this doesn’t need to be done strictly speaking during Mortality.

            But ultimately, if you want to go where God is we must be Christlike or Mormonlike, having the gateway ordinances that God has been offering to you… is just a stepping block we each should take.

  4. Our faith will always be incomplete if we cannot accept that God can be found outside of our own faith. There is a wonderful book you might want to read when you have the time entitled “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian” by a Catholic academic named Paul Knitter. One of the most wonderful experiences of my life has been the years I spent in a Buddhist meditation group, studying with Muslims, and learning about Hinduism, Judaism, and other forms of Christianity. In the same manner as Dr. Knitter, I could not be Mormon, could not serve in my callings, in the Temple, or in my family, without the examples of the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists who have taught me so much about spirituality, scriptural study, spiritual practice, and simple Christlike charity.

    And, while I cannot stand Mormon apologetics (I am not interested in proving I am right or that someone else is wrong, but in finding common ground) in LDS circles I find my calling in being a Muslim apologist most of the time because of the unusual level of vitriol directed to Muslims and other non-traditionally American religions. Our faith should be, is not but should be, strong enough in our own theology that we are not afraid of others, but comfortable enough to explore differences and celebrate them.

    Could we be Mormon, without Luther, Muhammad, Calvin, or even Henry VIII? Could we be Mormon without a Presbyterian school teacher, or a Jewish community leader? We are who we are because of non-Mormon leaders of the past, the present, and the future, not in spite of them.

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