I just needed to remind myself of that. And I figured y’all, fellow contributors and readers, might appreciate the reminder as well.
I recently watched an episode of “The Jim Gaffigan Show” with a bit of dialogue that perfectly encapsulated a thought that’s been bouncing around my head for a while. For those who aren’t familiar with Jim Gaffigan, he’s a “clean” but still very famous comedian who is basically a stereotypical Irish-American Catholic dad from the post-War era; his wife is more devout than he is, but he still is fully supportive of raising his kids as Catholics, with all that entails. He plays himself on the show, which is based on his real life.
In this episode, Jim’s wife invites their local parish priest, a gregarious young man from Africa named Father Nicholas, to go to Jim’s next stand-up, without asking Jim first. Jim hates the idea because he’s convinced that having a priest in the audience will kill the mood, but he gives in and takes Father Nicholas anyway. Right before they walk into the comedy club, they have the following exchange: (more…)
While once trying to explain to a non-Mormon friend why missionaries had such a strict dress code, I talked about showing respect for others, about norms of economic equality between rich and poor missionaries, but none of it seemed to register. Finally I said, “Look, becoming a missionary is like joining the Army. They have a collective goal, and everything is focused on that goal, to the point where things that you might otherwise find bothersome really don’t matter. If you are so concerned about individuality that you resent having to wear a uniform, then you are probably out of place there.” That made sense to him.
That sparked a years-long reflection on my part about how many aspects of Christianity in general, and Mormonism in particular, make more sense if you remember the words of the hymn, “We are all enlisted ’til the conflict is o’er.” As I’ll explain in more detail below, points of doctrine or Church history that might be troubling and confusing become less so when one realizes that we are in a spiritual war.
Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers—Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19 (though those aren’t their real names)—attempted to scale a sheer canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in my native southern Utah. Near the top of their laborious climb, they discovered that a protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over it, but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering, John found enough footing to boost his younger brother to safety on top of the ledge. But there was no way to lift himself. The more he strained to find finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles began to cramp. Panic started to sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life.
Unable to hold on much longer, John decided his only option was to try to jump vertically in an effort to grab the top of the overhanging ledge. If successful, he might, by his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety.
What happened with the Atonement of Christ has proved to be a controversial topic over the past two thousand years. The situation is, for many or most Christians, that while Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection is known to be the central fact; a satisfactory and satisfying explanation of the Atonement is something each person may have-to sort-out for himself.
Here is a framework.
1. Establish God’s ultimate aim and hope for Man – What does God want Man to become?
2. Christians know that Jesus Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection was – in some way – essential to the fulfilment of that hope.
3. So, the explanation of what exactly Christ’s Atonement was, and how it worked; must be provided with reference to God’s ultimate aim for Man, and Christ’s essential contribution to the achievement of that aim.
Did he also experience all the small acts of kindness, and service, where people went out of their way to “lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees”? Did he experience the joy that the lonely feel when one reaches out to them to let them know they matter and are cared about? Did he feel the hope restored when we visit someone who is sick or in prison and cheered their hearts? Did he feel the relief of the overwhelmed when someone paused to share their burden with them? Did he feel the relief we feel when someone forgives us of our screwups and mistakes, or when someone shows us undeserved mercy?
-thus Jon Goff. Read the whole thing.
Reading a Catholic priest’s sermon here, I ran across this interesting point. Both aspects of the atonement, in the garden and on the cross, took place outside the walls of Jerusalem. That is, symbolically, outside the domain of order and civilization, and in the domain of chaos and disorder. In other words, in both, Christ put himself in Satan’s power. The sermoner doesn’t realize, of course, that Gethsemane was part of the atonement, but that makes his argument all the stronger. (more…)
Repentance is recognizing reality
–from Bruce Charlton (paraphrased)
One thing that quote means (not the only thing) is this: the reality is that sin is really bad. Sinful, in fact. Not least among the ways Christ made repentance possible through the atonement is simply by showing in his person how serious sin is. Sin required the Son of God to suffer. The human character is mostly incapable of taking a transgression seriously if it can simply be waved off.
After Jesus was resurrected, his Apostles were different men. They were nobodies before. Then they shook the earth. What changed them? They had seen Jesus resurrected, that’s what changed them.
When they changed into Apostles, a crowd of Jesus’ followers also suddenly transformed into a church. What changed them? Most of them probably wouldn’t have seen Jesus alive again.
There is an answer in the scriptures. If we liken the scriptures unto us, we’ll discover it. (more…)
When Joseph Smith gave his witness, “last of all,” of the risen Savior, he was only the first of this dispensation. There have since been many of others, some of whom have given their witness publicly. Some have been collected here.
As Man is, God once was.
As God is, Man may be.
There is lots of scriptural support for the second half of Lorenzo Snow’s couplet. There is little support for the first half, the way President Snow meant it.
There are alternate meanings, though. The couplet is quasi-scriptural. Scripture usually has more than one layer of meaning. (more…)
Mormon Christianity has a lot of odd little teachings that don’t seem to add up to anything at first glance. Resurrected beings have bodies of flesh and blood. Heaven has three main degrees. Satan rules over the water. And Christ atoned twice, first in the Garden, second on the cross. (more…)
The presence of God is eternity. (more…)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: all things before my face, atonement, eternity, Jesus Christ, LDS, Mormon, Mormonism, quotation and aphorism