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RS/MP Lesson 35: “Redemption for the Dead” (Joseph Smith Manual)

Posted by joespencer on May 31, 2009

I don’t want to say I was disappointed in this lesson, but I was disappointed—a bit—in this lesson. The topic excited me, and I was eager to get to work on it. But as it turns out, the entirety, more or less, is taken from a single periodical in the Times and Seasons that was likely written by W. W. Phelps (ghostwriting for Joseph Smith), not by the Prophet himself. And, of course, I recognize that that does not mean that (1) it is uninspired, (2) it is incorrect, or (3) that it is not necessarily representative in important ways of Joseph’s own thinking, I still find myself wondering what Joseph himself would have said, primarily because I find myself endlessly fascinated by Joseph’s logic, style of argumentation, approach to scriptures, etc.

All that said, my modus operandi for this lesson will be as follows. I will first offer a few comments on the first two paragraphs on page 405, since they came directly from Joseph, so far as we know. I will then offer a few comments on the remainder of the “Teachings” section of the lesson, interpreting the teachings in light of the two short paragraphs analyzed first. Finally, I will return to the “From the Life” section to draw on especially one moment there, which gives us Joseph more directly and intimately than anything else in the lesson.

From Page 405

The first of the two paragraphs in the “Teachings” that would seem to have come (more or less) from Joseph Smith (rather than from a ghostwriter) is quite short: “God judges men according to the use they make of the light which He gives them.” If this is straightforward enough, let me double it with a bit of the second paragraph: “Men will be held accountable for the things which they have and not for the things they have not. . . . They are required to yield obedience and improve upon that and that only which is given.” What does Joseph give us here?

Most striking, I think, is the formula “Men will be held accountable for the things which they have and not for the things they have not.” This, I think, sets up two parallel models of judgment, one that God employs, and one that God does not employ (and, it is implied, this latter is the one that human beings employ). I’ve tried to diagram these two models of judgment here in a Word document. The following exposition will make reference to the two diagrams.

To judge by what one has not is, ultimately, to judge one according to one’s circumstances: what one has (and here, as is clear from the one-sentence paragraph that opens page 405, Joseph means what light one has) is always a consequence of the aleatory circumstances of one’s life—where one was born, who one’s parents were, whom one encounters during life, etc. In other words, what one has, or how much light one is granted, is entirely a question of circumstance, of whatever events one happens to pass through. To judge one by what one has or what one has experienced is to determine that one’s accidental circumstances are actually the essential. As I hope the first diagram on the Word document makes clear, this can only be done by doing two other, very important things. First, some standard of what one should have must be determined (however murkily); second, the negative space between that ideal “having” and the individual’s “having” must be measured. Judgment then proceeds on the basis of that negative space between what one has and what one should have. Judgment amounts to an identifying of what one has not received (even, say, the gospel—remember that the topic in question here is the redemption of the dead who did not receive the gospel!), a measuring of what one is not, rather than a measuring of what one is.

Now, as odd as this might sound, this model of judgment is the one that is associated with the model of salvation that Paul identifies as being “saved by works.” For Paul, to be saved by works is to find oneself in debt to some ideal projection—to find oneself measured, in essence, by the negative space between what one has and what one “should” have. And this is why Paul so harshly rails against the “salvation by works” idea: it suggests that one’s accidental circumstances and the aleatory events through which one passes—in and of themselves—determine one’s salvation (here equivalent to exaltation: I’m not drawing distinctions between salvation and exaltation here, since I don’t think Paul does). And here is the great irony: whereas the accusation is usually made that “salvation by grace” takes salvation entirely out of the hands of the individual, it was actually Paul’s contention that “salvation by works” does that: under the works-based model, if one is born in the wrong nation (not a Jew, say, or not a Mormon), one is without hope—there is no possibility of salvation.

Over against this, then, Joseph offers God’s model of judgment—and so, implicitly, God’s model of salvation. In the second diagram in the Word document, I attempt to formulate this one as well. Here, there is no ideal “having” that one is supposed to get to. Rather, one simply experiences what one experiences, has what one has, finds oneself in whatever circumstances one finds oneself. The disappearance of the ideal further makes it impossible to measure the negative space between what one actually has and what one “should” have: judgment can no longer proceed on the basis of that negative space. Instead, judgment is now a critical interpretation of what one has done with what light one has. In other words, judgment now pays careful attention to the relationship between one’s experience (the light one receives) and one’s response to such experience (one’s fidelity).

This model of judgment, again perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is tied inherently to the model of salvation that Paul describes as “salvation by grace,” this though one is now, at last, judged by one’s works. The trick is that no one is held to any kind of ideal or abstract standard. Rather, whatever events or experiences one has passed through—whatever has come to one without one’s having earned it or anticipated it, whatever has come to one as a gift, as grace—becomes the basis for judgment. If one has responded to grace by being faithful to the truth revealed—however little, however much—in the events of one’s life, then one is saved. But if one has militated against that grace, rejected it in the name of saving oneself by one’s works, in the name of chasing after some ideal “having,” in the name of looking to other like one has what one “should” have, then one will be judged accordingly.

Formulaically: if we are saved by grace (and grace alone), then we can truly say that we shall be judged by our works; but if we are saved by our works (even we try to add a dash—however large—of grace to those works), then we would have to confess that we shall not be judged by our works.

In other words, the crucial difference between salvation by works and salvation by grace is the difference between end and beginning. Salvation by works (equivalent to judgment by what one has not) posits an end toward which everyone is striving but which can never (“at least not in this life,” we will say) be achieved—and so we obsessively work for salvation, always in dread because we know we have not achieved it. Salvation by grace (equivalent to judgment by what one has) instead recognizes the actuality of so many beginnings, so many events in which truths (however local, however limited) have been revealed and to which one must be faithful—and so we joyfully construct the truth of the truths revealed to us, allowing them to strip away our jealousies and fears, our ideologies and lusts, our pride and selfishness.

The model of judgment Joseph attributes to God is thus all important, especially in the context of the theme of redemption for the dead. Only a salvation-by-grace soteriology, coupled with or indeed equivalent to a model of judgment that takes one’s actual circumstances as foundational, leaves space for the redemption of the dead—and this because only such a model actually overcomes death itself. This deserves a bit of explanation.

If a person is judged by what she or he does with what he or she has—if a person is judged, that is, by her or his fidelity to the truths revealed to him or her in so many events—then death ceases to be an end, and becomes instead an actual (that is, an experienciable) event. Truth—eternal, unchangeable—is what death cannot conquer, and inasmuch as one faithfully constructs the truth of the truths revealed to that person through so many actual happenings, one passes through and beyond death without pausing in the pursuit of truth. Truth distracts us from death, just as death—what Socrates/Plato called the care or practice of death—distracts us from truth. How, then, are the dead to be redeemed? If a given dead person was pursuing truth but never experienced events in which the peculiar truths pertaining to, say, the ordinances or theology of the temple were revealed, then that person will eventually get around (in the spirit world, we would say) to hearing the truth of the gospel, and so would be quite ready to receive through proxy work what she or he—because of the lack of a body in the meanwhile—would have faithfully received on earth.

On the other hand, if God judges one on the grounds only of what one has not, then every person who has died without having received every revelation is irredeemable. And that would include, if I understand things right, everyone.

In short, it is only in a salvation-by-grace model that the dead can be redeemed: by grace we are saved, whether dead or living, and so we praise God.

Teachings

As I’ve already pointed out, the remainder of the “Teachings” portion of the lesson is drawn from a single article in the Times and Seasons that was most likely written by W. W. Phelps. The ideas are beautifully argued, and they are roughly similar to what Joseph outlines in the two short paragraphs analyzed above.

Thus Phelps-as-Joseph-Smith describes “the Great Parent of the universe” as judging “without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men,” but instead “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.” Further along in the same paragraph (this is from page 404), he says, as Joseph did in the paragraphs discussed above, that God “will judge them, ‘not according to what they have not, but according to what they have.'” Hence he can say that “when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (This last allusion to Genesis 18 is fascinating, but I won’t take it up at any length here.)

Phelps-as-Joseph-Smith also goes on to point out (now on page 405) the erroneous “opinion which is generally received, that the destiny of man is irretrievably fixed at his death,” something he combats with a few interestingly employed proof texts. This idea is, he goes on to say, “too foolish for an intelligent man to think of” (p. 407), but because it is all that is offered in Christianity, “neither Jew nor heathen can be culpable for rejecting the conflicting opinions of sectarianism, nor for rejecting any testimony but that which is sent of God” (p. 408). The honest in heart will instead have to wait for those holding “the everlasting priesthood” to visit them (p. 408).

And for Phelps-as-Joseph-Smith, this recasting of things at last “justifies the ways of God to man” (p. 409).

Beautifully constructed, as I say. But let me finish things up by returning to more from Joseph.

From the Life

The whole introductory part of the lesson dwells on the dead of Alvin Smith, Joseph’s older brother, and then on the vision Joseph had in 1836, in which he saw Alvin in the celestial kingdom. All of this is meant, quite nicely, to set up the topic of the redemption of the dead, since Alvin died in 1823, seven years before the Church was organized. The story is, I think, generally familiar to Latter-day Saints (though it is perhaps not quite so well-known how much Joseph was affected by this death). So I will move right to the theological crux of the story: the vision recorded in D&C 137.

On page 403, D&C 137:7-9 is quoted, the verses in which the Lord offers an explanation to Joseph of Alvin’s being in the celestial kingdom: “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.”

It seems to me that, after the discussion of Joseph’s doctrine of God’s judgment that I wagered above, this passage is easier to interpret than it might otherwise have been. Especially key is the last bit: “I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” It would seem quite obvious, in light of the theological distinctions made above, that this underscores what has already been said: to be judged by one’s works is to be judged in terms of one’s fidelity to whatever is gracefully revealed, and this means that it is to be judged according to the desire of one’s heart. That is, if judgment-by-works is a question of being judged according to one’s relationship to grace, then what one is ultimately judged by is one’s desire. If one has had an essentially lustful relationship with grace (lusting after grace), then one has not truly desired it; but if one has had a genuinely loving relationship with grace, then one will be restored to love and grace.

Of course, it is necessary to spell out what this difference amounts to. And I think this can be done best by pointing to what seems to me to be the most common, but terribly erroneous, interpretation of the passage here under consideration.

The way I generally hear especially D&C 137:9 appropriated is as follows (I’m spelling out the logic that is too often hidden in the way it is discussed): we are saved by our works, but of course none of really does everything we should, so God is merciful and only really judges us by our desires, meaning that part of us that really wants to do good works, even though we don’t. On such a model, we have (1) decided that we are saved by works, not by grace; (2) recognized that salvation-by-works excludes everyone from happiness or salvation; (3) found a passage that might get us out of being damned by our works without undoing the idea that we are, ultimately saved by our works (if we have good desires), and so (4) tried to console ourselves by claiming that, even if we don’t do good works, at least we want to do good works; and (5) decided that this way out of our sins is what we ought to call “grace.” Every one of these five steps is, I think, misguided, except for number 2:

(1) We are actually saved by grace, not by works, as the scriptures make abundantly clear.
(2) Salvation-by-works indeed excludes everyone from happiness or salvation.
(3) The passage in question does not get us out of damnation, but rather asserts that our works and our desires cannot be separated from one another (our works can be interpreted [“judged”] so as to see what our relationship to grace [“desires”] ultimately is).
(4) I don’t believe that if we don’t do good works, we at least want to do good works; my experience is actually that we tell ourselves this to try to get ourselves to believe that we don’t really desire to do bad, that we aren’t really tempted, that we aren’t so bad as we generally appear.
(5) When we call this tacked-on, last-minute escape from damnation “grace,” then, in Paul’s words, “grace is no longer grace”; and yet, because we call it grace and teach it in our lessons and talks, we raise an entire generation to believe that they are, ultimately, saved by grace, but only if they have done all the appropriate works, etc.

We have, then, two approaches to the passage, and so two approaches to grace itself. The one approach loves grace: it confesses that one is saved by grace (and grace alone!), that one must be (and is!) faithful to whatever is graceful, and so that one will be faithful in all things, doing the works of the Kingdom. The other approach lusts after grace: it determines that one must be saved by one’s works, fails to do those necessary works, and so lusts after the grace it has rejected and continues to keep at a safe distance—and it continues in its lust by claiming that grace will, once one has done everything necessary, finally come and fill the gap that makes up for one’s deficiencies.

Or something along those lines.

At any rate, O the grace and mercy of our God!

24 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 35: “Redemption for the Dead” (Joseph Smith Manual)”

  1. Clark said

    It’s interesting reading this along with D&C 137 & 76. We didn’t cover this in priesthood but we did in SS and I was a bit annoyed at the superficial way it was treated. I think there are some tensions here. Of course D&C 76 was received quite early in the history of the Church. 1832. D&C 137, which is arguably the more important revelation (IMO) comes four years later. So I think one has to be careful about how to read D&C 76 here. I think it unarguable that 76:73 and D&C 137 contradict each other. It’s a result of further light and knowledge coming. Some might have trouble with this due to a kind of naive quasi-inerrancy of the text. But I think if one points out D&C 76 is a vision that is described by Joseph we can see how his limited knowledge affects how he describes things. (Indeed I think this a useful place to discuss hidden “gotchas” in revelation can pop up due to the prophet’s limited perspective)

    Regarding grace, what is interesting is that the extension of our probationary period in the spirit world is in effect grace in that it is what allows a righteous judgment to take place. Likewise, as you note, grace is the judgement of the heart which can modify the judgment of works. Unfortunately in the SS lesson only a quote by McConkie on what being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” Sadly the quote just lists all the things we have to do (everything) without mentioning the justification by grace angle. (Which I know McConkie elsewhere discusses) The unfortunate implication is that unless we are perfect we aren’t valiant. So this is one of those places where the manual can be a bit misleading theologically. (I found the discussion of D&C 131 a bit misleading as well – the manual takes the “three degrees within the Celestial kingdom” angle without mentioning it might just be three degrees)

  2. joespencer said

    Clark,

    In an earlier version of this post, I took up D&C 76 and D&C 137 in some detail. I abandoned it for a number of reasons, but I’ll give a summary here. I think it is significant, at the very least, that D&C 76 deals with knowing the law and D&C 137 with knowing the gospel. I don’t know how to tease that out, but I think it is a project worth taking up.

  3. CEF said

    Hello Joe,

    Thank you for taking the time to put this post together, perhaps in time, more Mormons will come to better understand the divide between grace and works. I think you did an excellent job here.

    Just for the record, I have read many books by other Christians that talk about the importance of doing good works, but they “never” try and tie it to salvation. And to me, that makes all the difference in the world.

  4. joespencer said

    Well put, CEF. Grace gets us working, but it is grace that delivers us from death and sin, not the works that follow from grace.

    I continue to be baffled by the bafflement of many saints on this point.

  5. Definitely a surprising angle but thank you for spelling out your ideas here. I can see where judging by the “have not” method not only stresses us out like crazy, but affects the way we “judge” others. If we let grace save us, then when we meet others we are not seeing where they are better than us or where we beat them, but see what truths they have learned and been faithful to. I imagine that would make for much better conversation than normal chit-chat anyhow. :)

  6. joespencer said

    Nice point, Karen: judging another by what s/he has opens the possibility for community and communion.

  7. Ethan said

    Mormons do believe Christ was divine. Also, Don’t confuse the LDS doctrines of salvation vs. exaltation.

    Actually, Mormons believe all mankind is SAVED by the GRACE of God, even Hitler will end up in a degree of glory (for Mormons hell is a lesser glory relative to the higher state where God dwells and family units are eternal). Conversely, Evangelicals believe a person must perform the WORK of physically “accepting Jesus” vocally to be saved. For them, not all will be “saved.”

    Therefore, mormons believe in being saved by grace and Evangelicals believe in salvation by works (act of being born again).

  8. kimmatheson said

    Joe, could you please explain how “it is only in a salvation-by-grace model that the dead can be redeemed”? I believe that most church members would disagree–where’s the flaw in their logic?

  9. joespencer said

    Kim,

    These are the two paragraphs of explanation I gave for this point:

    “If a person is judged by what she or he does with what he or she has—if a person is judged, that is, by her or his fidelity to the truths revealed to him or her in so many events—then death ceases to be an end, and becomes instead an actual (that is, an experienciable) event. Truth—eternal, unchangeable—is what death cannot conquer, and inasmuch as one faithfully constructs the truth of the truths revealed to that person through so many actual happenings, one passes through and beyond death without pausing in the pursuit of truth. Truth distracts us from death, just as death—what Socrates/Plato called the care or practice of death—distracts us from truth. How, then, are the dead to be redeemed? If a given dead person was pursuing truth but never experienced events in which the peculiar truths pertaining to, say, the ordinances or theology of the temple were revealed, then that person will eventually get around (in the spirit world, we would say) to hearing the truth of the gospel, and so would be quite ready to receive through proxy work what she or he—because of the lack of a body in the meanwhile—would have faithfully received on earth.

    “On the other hand, if God judges one on the grounds only of what one has not, then every person who has died without having received every revelation is irredeemable. And that would include, if I understand things right, everyone.”

    To summarize, though: if God judges by what we don’t have (the works model), then all who have died without having received a knowledge of the gospel would be lost; but if God judges by what we have (the grace model), then whatever truths one has encountered in life—whether religious or otherwise—have give one the opportunity to demonstrate one’s fidelity to the truth and so have given one the means to show that one would have received the gospel will full purpose of heart had it been given. Only grace opens a way for the dead to be redeemed.

  10. kimmatheson said

    But why must death be the cut-off for God’s judgment? Why can’t Judgment Day (whatever that means, but generally understood to be after the millennium) be the point at which God judge?

  11. Robert C. said

    Kim #8, I’d like a stab at restating Joe’s point as I understand it.

    By saying that the dead will be judged by what they did in light of what they were given (what Joe is calling the saved-by-grace model), then we can believe that the dead will be judged by their works, and that they are saved by grace (specifically including the work of others who perform temple baptism for them).

    If, however, we have an “objective” measure of what constitutes good works, that is not focused on the context of what someone was given), then it seems we don’t have a coherent way to think about the dead being redeemed: their works did not objectively measure up, so they will be damned.

    It thus seems to me that the distinction Joe is getting at might be characterized as follows: if we are saved by grace, we are judged based on how we receive and respond to what is given to us (by grace); if, we are saved by works, we are judged by some objective, non-context-based measure of our good works.

    How much violence does that restatement do to your point, Joe?

  12. joespencer said

    I think that’s fair, Robert. But I think Kim’s response still outstrips it, so let me respond more directly to her concern.

    First, I think it is important to note that it is only for Mormons that death can be distinguished from judgment. For the rest of Christianity, these are one and the same event. It is only we who have this notion of post-mortal repentance, etc.

    But since I’m not speaking as a non-Mormon, I have to face up to your question. And I think I would have to do so in the following way:

    I think our notion of post-mortal repentance follows from rather than leads to the idea that we are saved by grace and not by works. We begin with the (Christian) idea that death is equal to judgment, that there is no repentance beyond the grave. But then we are given this word about being saved by grace and not by works, about being judged by our works and not by what we have not received. This makes us realize that those who have responded faithfully to whatever truth they have received are worthy of exaltation.

    All of this is what Joseph Smith caught in 1836 when he had his vision of Alvin, etc. But because he did not yet have any conception of the work for the dead (Elijah would come later) or of the possibility of repentance in the spirit world, he still, I think, equated death with judgment.

    Sometime between 1836 and 1839, Joseph must have gone through a process of thought along the following lines:

    (1) Alvin will be exalted, and yet he was not baptized.
    (2) Hence, either (a) baptism is not necessary for exaltation or (b) baptism can occur after death.
    (3) If the former, then the restoration of priesthood keys means nothing, but if the latter, the restoration of priesthood keys must mean more than we understood, because it can even baptize the dead.
    (4) Hence, the dead can be redeemed through priesthood ordinances, and this would seem to imply the existence of a post-mortal probation.

    I think we come to distinguish judgment from death, but we don’t begin that way. And so I think it is only the grace model that allows us to come to see things that way.

    Does that help? I know it’s poorly written….

  13. kimmatheson said

    Yes, thanks, Joe.

  14. Jason G said

    I know I’m a little late here…we had stake conference on our second Sunday lesson. I would like to just add Elder Oaks’ perspective from his great talk “The Challenge to Become”.

    After some scriptural discussion, he states the following. “From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

    I believe this clarifies the grace vs works argument. We are judged on what we are, based on what we have been given. The standard then for judgment is what we could have become with the light we were given. The entire talk can be found at this link: (you’ll have to copy and paste, I’m not good with HTML)

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=f0b26169b62fe010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    Let me know what you think. Thanks.

  15. Nameless said

    I am very late to this discussion as our ward has not yet had this lesson. As I read the OP, I thought of the parable of the talents. Could this be applicable? That in the end we will all be judged upon what we have done with what we have been given? Both of the servants that increased were praised–despite the fact that the second increased less than the first while the servant who did not increase what he was given was condemned.

  16. Sandra Claiborne said

    Where can I find your word doc. version of this lesson? I would like to see if I am mapping out your version of judgement the same way you are. I think it could be a good visual when teaching this lesson.

  17. joespencer said

    Sandra,

    If you look in the fourth paragraph of the post above, where the Word document is mentioned, you’ll see that the word “here” is blue. If you click on that word, your computer should download the file.

    Hope I got this up in time for you!

  18. GM said

    Hi Joe-

    I’m supposed to be preparing my lesson for tomorrow, but found myself re-reading this one. I’m curious about your take upon the different perspective that we find in Nephi “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). It would seem that this teaching is quite different from the grace and grace alone theory. Your thoughts?

  19. joespencer said

    GM,

    I haven’t the time this morning to spell out my reading of that verse, but I will at least point out that there are many ways to read that verse that break with the “grace comes as a kind of topping off of everything I have to do to save myself verse” interpretation.

    So, for now, let me just point out two other Book of Mormon passages that are key:

    2 Nephi 10:24 (which clarifies the reconcile business)
    Alma 24:11 (which clarifies the “all we can do” business)

    More soon, I hope….

  20. joespencer said

    GM,

    Getting back to your question with a few more minutes this morning….

    I think the simplest way to put the issue is this: I don’t at all think that Nephi breaks with Paul’s unapologetic “by grace and not by works.” I think the passage from Alma (24:11) makes this clear: it is “all we can do” just to repent, and repentance is not a work we perform that earns us salvation—it is a recognition precisely that we cannot save ourselves, a confession that it is God’s grace that offers the possibility of salvation to us. In fact, I think the Alma passage clarifies the way we should read 2 Nephi 25:23. The “for” that introduces “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” clearly indicates that the “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” cannot be disconnected from “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” And this seems to indicate, especially in light of the Alma passage, that all we can do is be reconciled to God. This is precisely what 2 Nephi 10:24 says: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”

    This last passage, it should be noted comes from (Nephi’s reporting of) Jacob’s words. And I think it is safe to assume that Nephi, in 2 Nephi 25:23, is drawing on Jacob’s teachings as a source. The doctrine Nephi is trying to teach, it therefore seems very clear, is that being reconciled to God is “all we can do.”

    Of course, that means that we need to think much more seriously about what it means to be reconciled to God—something that would require a lengthy foray into Paul, especially into 2 Corinthians 5, where reconciliation is expounded at the greatest length and in the greatest detail, and where it is emphatically connected with death, of all things. But at the very least, I think it is safe to say that reconciliation is not a positive work we do to earn salvation, but rather a negative getting rid on our part of something that is keeping us from the salvation God is offering to us without condition. In other words, the very language of reconciliation in 2 Nephi suggests that it is we who have imposed conditions on our salvation, and the “work” of reconciliation is the work of removing those conditions so that we no longer bar ourselves from grace, from what God gives, from the given as such.

    Does that help? I hope it’s not too convoluted an explanation. :)

    • GM said

      Hi Joe-

      Not convoluted at all.

      In fact, tremendously insightful. I really appreciate your wonderfully thought out and truly enlightening work. Thanks very much.

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