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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Graceful Faith, Willful Works &c » Graceful Faith, Willful Works &c

Graceful Faith, Willful Works &c

Velska - September 26, 2008

My wife and I have 5 kids. Our daughter (one of them, not the one who has a 5-month-old son) is serving a mission in England now and despite being busy she writes faithfully enough. As she was growing up, we would have discussions around the dinner table during long dinners, family home evenings and any other time the family was together. We talked about everything. So it’s natural that she’s telling us about things.

One of the things she tells us about are the people she runs into who are “saved”. She meets them often, because these people come and tell her she’s on a highway to hell. Her analysis of their spiritual state is much more upbeat. She believes that they have actually had a strong spiritual experience. She can relate to that, because she’s had spiritual experiences, too. So she’s asked more about it to understand it better. The answers have caused her to ponder her own relationship to the Savior and what she can do to become more like him. See, those people say that it is impossible. She can’t do a thing.

That, of course, is a common theme in talking about religion. It had started when Paul was writing his epistles. We all have heard that we are saved by Faith/Grace, not Works. The most common counters to that are the passages of James saying that faith without works is dead (for example, James 2:17-24) and Nephi saying that we are saved by grace after all we can do (in 2 Nephi 25:23). The latter has been taken to mean that grace is applied when we have exhausted our efforts – we don’t save ourselves by our own effort (works), but we have the opportunity to show faith and thus be worthy of grace.

Faith is also said to be a gift from God. The protestant theology has dwelt much upon this issue and more has been written on predestination and election than most other subjects. It is natural, as it is somewhat confusing to think that God picks one person to have faith, and, thus, to be saved, and another not to. On what grounds? Latter-Day Saint teachings diverge on this point from common protestant views by holding that faith can be cultivated (see for example Alma 32:21-41). Alma talks about nourishing the seed for it to grow into a tree, which yields the fruit of eternal life. In this view faith is an act of will. We excercise our free agency by accepting the words of Christ as our guide, and as we act accordingly, we receive confirmation that we are on the right path (for example John 7:17).

A little while ago we stumbled on the idea that, as well as faith being dead without works, so also works without faith are dead. This is not a new idea, I think, but it somehow crystallized in my heart so that I could see it clearly. Faith is a great motivator. Think about the volunteer fireman or someone paying their own way while saving starving children or helping victims of hurricanes, earthquakes and the like. A favorite story of doing things with faith is Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan on their way to the Promised Land (see Joshua 3:9-17). As the bearers of the Ark of the Lord, we too have to get our feet wet before miracles can happen.

But faith can also be seen in everyday, little things. Pick up the Scriptures. Pick up the discarded wrapper and put it in a trash can. Help someone find their way in the city. Any little thing you can do to make the world a little brighter, better place. It may not stop global warming, but never mind. Some say you have to dream big. But I think we should be humble enough to dream small, too. By starting with little things we can grow and be able to do bigger things. I’m an optimist in that regard.

I wrote this by way of introducing my thinking. In the most likely case that you haven’t been following me around where I have commented on different blogs, I can tell you that: I’m European; I was baptized in 1979 at the tender age of 19; served a mission in England 1981-83. I was raised pretty much areligious – although I had to sit through religion classes because I was inducted into the state church as a baby. My family were very much against me joining the Church despite never having an interest in religion before. But my wife and I have tried to build a “faithful posterity“.

–velska

9 Comments »

  1. This is good stuff, Velska. I look forward to reading your posts.

    Comment by Rusty — September 26, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  2. Great post. I love the “dream small” mentality.

    Comment by Susan M — September 26, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  3. Thank you Velska. “faith is a great motivator” You are right this is the mark of a sincere Christian. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 26, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  4. I will try to be a bit more provocative next time. ;)

    Comment by Velska — September 28, 2008 @ 9:05 am

  5. Thanks for the bio, Velska, I was longing to know more about you from the post welcoming you.

    But faith can also be seen in everyday, little things. Pick up the Scriptures. Pick up the discarded wrapper and put it in a trash can. Help someone find their way in the city. Any little thing you can do to make the world a little brighter, better place. It may not stop global warming, but never mind. Some say you have to dream big. But I think we should be humble enough to dream small, too. By starting with little things we can grow and be able to do bigger things. I’m an optimist in that regard.

    This is exactly how I feel, as well. I have been thinking that these things are why we are here, as much as anything. Purpose and faith can be found in doing the dishes, if you do it with the right spirit.

    I think the attitude of the Church about the faith/works dichotomy has evolved over time. The evangelicals emphasis on grace alone has made us historically defensive about this subject, placing all our emphasis on works. But lately you can hear Church leaders talking more about the obvious fact that our salvation comes by the grace of God, in that nothing we can do would make any difference if not for the gift of the atonement.

    Comment by MCQ — September 28, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  6. My mission president used to always say, “Do the little things and the Lord will take care of the big things.” If we take that action with that expectation, that is, I think, the essence of faith.

    Comment by MCQ — September 28, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  7. Quite often a thoughtful post like this one may not generate a firestorm of numerous comments, but instead stirs in the reader’s heart a greater witness in the mighty work of God. Your post will stay with me longer than a highly commented political post.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 28, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  8. I agree with JA Benson. And now I’m off to read your next post!

    Comment by cheryl — September 29, 2008 @ 6:06 am

  9. [...] Graceful Faith, Willful Works October 29, 2008 This post was first published at Nine Moons, where you can go and read comments and post your own. [...]

    Pingback by Graceful Faith, Willful Works « Velska’s Blog — October 28, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

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