Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Are We Saved? (Part II)

In part one, I wrote about the idea of cleanliness.  I want to now look at our role and the role of the Savior, and what this means about a famously misunderstood scripture.  Nephi made the following statement:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, 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 Nephi 25:23)
I think that many people read too much into this scripture.  There is some kind of idea that we save ourselves partway and grace makes up the rest.  I don't believe that's what Nephi meant.  But he's right, we do have to do something.  We can't be saved unless we repent.  In part one, I used an analogy involving a child playing in the mud.  It is clearly impossible for such a child to clean their faces using their muddy hands.  The child's responsibility is to get out of the mud.  The parent with the hose does the actual cleaning.  Similarly, the atonement is what does the cleaning.  All our efforts to save ourselves are like a child trying to clean themselves using their muddy hands.  It gets nowhere.  But if the child refuses to leave the mud, the hose does little good.

All we can do is repent, and remove ourselves from situations that lead to sin.  The actual saving, that which cleanses us and makes us worthy, is done by the grace of Christ, through His atonement.  So Nephi is exactly right.  It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Are We Saved? (Part I)

When Amulek was teaching in Ammonihah, the need for a Savior became a point of contention.  What would the role of the Savior be, if He was even necessary?  We get this passage:
And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word. (Alma 11:34)
Zeezrom takes great umbrage at this, asking what use would the Savior be if he didn't save the people.  But Amulek responds that God "said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins."

I hear similar ideas being bandied about today.  The concepts of worthiness and cleanliness are being portrayed as evil.  We all sin, so the thought goes, and we cannot be perfect in this life.  So the focus of the church on worthiness and cleanliness is destined to bring misery to its members who can never reach such lofty goals.  It's like Zeezrom's thought that a Savior that doesn't save the people in their sins doesn't do us much good.

But to those who read carefully, the answer to this conundrum becomes much clearer when several generations later, Helaman teaches his sons the following:
And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.  (Helaman 5:10)
I love that scripture.  The way I think of it, imagine a child who wants to eat dinner, who is playing in the mud.  A parent has a hose with which to clean the child off.  But to clean up for dinner, the child must leave the mud.  The hose doesn't do much good if the child stays in the mud.  And the child will not be allowed to eat in such a filthy state.  Similarly, to be saved, we must repent, and leave our sins.  Yes, everyone sins, and we don't need to feel despair about having sinned.  However, we also shouldn't feel so comfortable in this sinful state that we remain there, and fail to achieve the blessings of the atonement.  Like the child, we need to get out of the mud so the hose can do its work.  That's what it takes to be worthy, to be clean.  We have to repent often and remove ourselves from sinful situations so the atonement of Christ can clean us.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I'm sure lots of people have heard the news that a gentleman was fired from an English language learner site for an article about homophones.  Evidently, the owner didn't want to be associated with homosexuals.  My first question is why someone who teaches English doesn't know what a homophone is.  That's like a math teacher not knowing the definition of "quotient".

Then there is the inherent homophobia in this firing.  The owner is so afraid of homosexuality that he is disturbed by the use of the "homo-" prefix.  This reminds me of the man that had to quit his job because he used the word "niggardly" and people were offended by its similarity to a taboo word.

Anyway, here's a link to the article.  I enjoyed all the comments about homo sapiens and homogenized milk.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Language and Culture

I have always been extremely uncomfortable when people use terms such as "gay" and "fag" in the often heard derogatory manner.  They were extremely common terms in the vocabulary of my acquaintances at school when I was a high school student.  For someone with a gay orientation, I suppose my disdain for these terms is perfectly natural.  Stepping back, it's interesting to see what our language says about our culture.  While I think the term "homophobic" is tossed around haphazardly which dilutes its meaning, it still is a good word to describe a culture where "gay" and "fag" are used as swear words.

Other terms that were prevalent among high school students that seem to be growing in popularity, like the so-called "f-bomb" have strong sexual underpinnings, and are indicative of a society that tolerates sexual harassment and misogyny.  Recently I read an article decrying such a culture, but it was laced with f-bombs that made it hard for me to take the author seriously.  On the one hand, the author decried the sexism of institutions that protect sexual harassment, while on the other hand the author used language that is designed to shock through its sexual indecency.  It would be like saying "homophobia is so gay" or something like that.  If we want to change the culture, we need to change ourselves, including how we communicate.