One of the things I love about blogging is the ability it gives me to share my thoughts and feelings with others. I'm a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon. I love my religion, but I totally understand that others do not. What I would like to do today is take a moment to explain one area of Mormonism that seems to be misunderstood by those of other faiths. I'm not offering this up in an attempt to convert anyone or to start any arguments. I'm sharing it just so those who are interested can learn more about it for their own curiosity's sake. That's all.
When I have heard those of other faiths speak about their concerns regarding the LDS Church, one thing I hear mentioned frequently is their perception that we disregard the saving power of Jesus Christ and instead are trying to get to heaven on the merits of our own good works. This is the issue I would like to explain more clearly in this blog. Please keep in mind that I don't speak for the Church - I only speak for myself, in my own words.
First off, please let me begin by saying that I am grateful every single day for the saving power of Jesus Christ. I know that He made it possible for every one of us to return to live with Him, if that's what we want. His Atonement makes everything else possible. He is my Savior, He is my friend, and I honor and praise Him. In no way whatsoever do I discount anything He did for us - I am forever grateful for it. And I know that it is only through Him that I will be able to have eternal life. There is nothing I can do on my own that would ever make that possible.
So why do Mormons perform good works? Why this emphasis on service, if we don't think that's what's going to get us into heaven?
Christ spent His life serving others. That was a major part of His ministry. He blessed the sick, he comforted the sad. He reached out to those around Him. We want to become like Christ, and so we perform good works as He did. We don't think there's a giant scorecard - that if we just take around one more batch of cookies, it's straight to heaven for us. We serve others because it's what Christ would have us do, and because it makes us feel good. Then, at the end of our lives, it is the saving power of Jesus Christ that determines our exaltation.
In addition, I've always believed that if you're gonna walk the walk, you should talk the talk. If I'm not willing to serve my fellow man, I shouldn't call myself a follower of Christ. It's just how I feel about it.
And serving others takes our attention off ourselves and helps to purify us. The more time we spend doing good things, the less we want to do bad things, and we become better people.
So why do we need to be purified?
We believe that heaven is the place where God dwells, and that He is holy. We believe that in order to be able to abide His presence, we will need to be significantly better people than we are now. Picture it like wiping the mud off your shoes before stepping on a white carpet. If you stepped on that carpet and left a mark, you'd feel awkward, right? Well, we don't want to feel awkward around our Heavenly Father. We want to know that we did our best. That's why we seek to become better people. Again, not because we think that our 'goodness' will 'earn' us a spot in heaven. Spots can't be 'earned.' We want to prepare ourselves to be more comfortable in His presence and less ashamed.
One of our scriptures tells us that "no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God" (3 Nephi 27:19). He helps us to become more clean as we live the commandments.
What about repentance?
We believe that because we make poor choices frequently, we need to recommit frequently. Repentance is basically a way of saying, "I kind of goofed today, but I'll do better tomorrow." It's a way to take responsibility for our actions.
If you made a promise to a friend and you broke it, wouldn't you want to apologize to that friend? Or would you say, "He knows I'm sorry. I don't need to say anything to him." Repentance is apologizing to the best friend we'll ever have. Of course He already knows we're sorry, but as we apologize, it helps us to become better people.
To summarize, the gospel as taught by the Mormons not only teaches the saving power of Christ, but it embraces it. We know that He is the key that unlocks the gate, He is the source of all light and truth and joy, and He is the only true way. Because we believe these things, we want to develop a closer relationship with Him. We want to behave how He would have us behave. We want to try to be better every day. That's why we do good works and repent. We know we'll never get to heaven on our own - we just want to be properly prepared to receive it. We want to appreciate it. We want to understand what it is we have been given.
I know that there will always be differences between the different religions, and that's more than all right because we each need to decide for ourselves what we believe. Again, I didn't post this to try to convert anyone, but rather, to offer some information that might or might not be useful. It's my hope that it is.