Sunday morning I listened to Shawn McCraney (of Born again Mormon fame) talk about being, a child of God. Then at church, the Sacramento temple president spoke and he too talked about, being a child of God. They both had different takes on it, I wonder if they could both be right?
Shawn told of his "born again" experience; he was listening to a preacher on the radio while driving to pick his daughters up. The preacher asked, "if you can make yourself righteous why haven't you done so"? On his mission he had tried, through his callings he had tried, through strict obedience he had tried, by talking with his bishop he had tried. Then the preacher said, "the reason that you haven't made yourself perfect and presentable before God is because you can't." This made sense to Shawn because he thought, no matter what I do, what rites I perform, or how I dress, or clean shaven, nothing was going to change the inside of me, because I can't do it on my own. The message from this preacher was that it was Jesus and His life and His righteousness and atonement, His suffering, and by having Him in your life you become a new person. He pulled over and prayed to Heavenly Father, telling Him that he was a sinful man, and "I can't get over myself no matter what I have tried. Will you forgive me of my sins through Jesus Christ. Jesus will you come into my heart and take over my life from this time forward, I will do anything if you will do this. I'll wait for you to do it."
The temple president in his talk explained that there is a big difference between being a child of God as opposed to being a creation of God. He said, when we are baptized our sins are washed away and the Holy Ghost is the companion to those who are faithful to their covenants and will have inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom. Without the ordinances there is no power of Celestial Glory. Baptism and the Holy Ghost are the gateway to that. There are three levels and the highest is exaltation. Our ordinances lead to living the kind of life God lives. The love of God is to return to him and live in his presence.
Could they both be right?
I get what Shawn McCraney is saying, and I completely agree with him. He's talking about a born again experience; and if you have never had that experience you don't know what he's talking about and if you have you know exactly that he's talking about. Oh, let me finish explaining to you what he said. He said he was willing to wait on Jesus in his prayer. And when he finished his prayer, he hoped he would be a changed person, but he wasn't. When he got to the gym, he was early, so while he waited, he remembered four instances in his life when people had testified to him about Jesus and his love. By the time his daughters reached the car, he had a new heart. I believe him, I have experienced this change of heart too. It completely changes your thinking, you become a new creature in Christ. Your nature has been changed. Some may wonder how it comes so quickly, in reality it wasn't quick, it had been a lifetime of preparation, and when Shawn had suffered enough, and humbled himself and went to the right source, which is God, he was born again!
Had the temple president experienced that? Probably not, he most likely would have talked a bit differently, not relied so heavily on the ordinances, talked more about Christ like he knew Him, and may have had a personal story to tell, like Shawn. I know Shawn's story is true, it's a story of someone who is humble and confesses his sins to God and acknowledges that he needs Him, he tried but he can't change who he is on his own. It's a beautiful story of how the Savior changed him, And I agree with all of that. If you don't humble yourself before God and really give everything to Him, and know that you are nothing, you will never have this experience. And Mormon's do miss this a lot. They have the tools to take them there, but seldom use them to get to Christ. They get so caught up in the "tools" that they don't use them to find out what Christ can do, how He really can change them, really and truly be born again. But it's a journey and no one is finished with their journey yet, even in the next world. I don't think God worries about this, He knows this and allows us to grow at our own pace, learning as we go. He is a very loving father and very understanding and patient.
So, what was the temple president saying? He said there was a big difference between being a creation of God and a child of God. I agree with that. A child of God is someone who has been born again. He said when we are baptized our sins are washed away and the Holy Ghost is the companion of those who are faithful to their covenants. Baptism is symbolic of a new creature that emerges when you are born again and Christ has saved you. Saved you from what? It's a good question. Saved comes from the Greek word "sodzo" which means to be keep safe, to save a suffering one. Could it be that Christ keeps you safe in His watchful care, in His kingdom, while he saves you from suffering for your sins? That Christ on the cross, through his infinite atonement, by turning to Him and trusting in his ability to change you, clean you up, transform you into a new creature, saves you from having to suffer for your sins. He did that for you, you don't have to suffer for your sins to pay the price of justice. Justice is served through Christ. That's His love for us, that's his gift. We can live this life and learn as we go without being held to the justice that would require us to suffer for our sins. If we don't accept His offer, we will suffer, not as a punishment per se but as a school teacher. Our suffering becomes the school teacher. We already live that principle, maybe not knowingly, but we do live it. We either learn through our suffering, and change, or we continue to suffer. If you give that some careful thought you will know that it's true.
The temple president also said, without the ordinances, there is no power of Celestial Glory. It can easily be argued, from the scriptures, that there is more than one heaven or at least levels to heaven. From a Mormon's point of view, the Celestial Glory is the highest heaven or level of heaven. I believe what he's saying is, that it's necessary to be faithful to the covenants that you make to be able to go to the Celestial Glory. Again, where I think most Mormon's miss the mark, is that they fall in love with the covenants and forget that they are tools. They are not the saving device, they are a reminder of the saving device, which is Christ. But Mormon's are a lot like the Jews at the time of Christ, they loved their law and forgot that it was a tool, not salvation in and of itself. I believe that's why the temple president, loves the ordinances, believes in them, and hopes in them, but doesn't have a personal story to tell about how they led him to Christ, to be born again, because I think he's still on that journey. Which by the way, I might add, he has every right to still be on that journey, as God patiently waits for him to figure it out.
I take issue with that.
Now, I do have to take issue with the mission president. He says, "our ordinances lead to living the kind of life that God lives". Well that's true, BUT only if we find Christ; and that's the problem, that's why Shawn McCraney was so miserable! He kept thinking that living his ordinances were going to make him Christ like. Which they don't do, unless we can gain ears to hear and eyes to see and learn that these ordinances are nothing in and of themselves, they are only symbolic and the real path to Christ is through humility, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The problem with ordinances today, is the same problem with ordinances in the past, living them requires a little sacrifice, so it's easy to think that your little sacrifice has value, and it's easy to become prideful of your sacrifice and the ordinances take over as your salvation. Because in reality living those ordinances is easier then humbling yourself and finding Christ, so instead we fall in love with the ordinances.
Again, can they both be right?
Can they both be right? I think so. I think they both tell of paths they have traveled. One has a born again story to tell and the other has the hope of a born again story to tell, he just doesn't fully understand that yet. And I think God is very patient with us on our path. Anyone that says, "I have the exact way", or "your Christ is a different Christ then the one in the Bible", I just reject that outright. Who gave them the right to define that? And who has the right to say, "our church is the only way, our ordinances are what you need to be saved." But if you have found love and peace, and a tolerance for your fellowman, and are able to grasp the good in them and learn from others, then you are probably on the right path. And may your life be filled with peace and love.