"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 15, 2015
Mothers and Grace
by Jeff Lindsay

Some of the most troubling conversations I've had about religion were with evangelical ministers and their devotees intent on denying that Mormons are Christians. In their eyes, my personal love for the Savior and my witness of His divinity counted for nothing and left me as a pathetic lost soul because I didn't have the same definition for the oneness of God, or failed on some other point of metaphysics mingled with theology.

It struck me as rather callous to dismiss someone's faith as unchristian because of some doctrinal difference (if you don't agree with me on doctrine X, then you're worshipping a different Jesus, you pagan loser!), especially when the difference often makes us closer to early Christianity than their allegedly "mainstream" sect with its emphasis on post-biblical creeds.

Yet their version, dating back to the 16th century, is somehow the definitive standard for "historic Christianity," and those who disagree aren't even allowed to call themselves Christians.

Even Arius, the man on the losing side of the debate about the Trinity that concluded with the Athanasian Creed, was not said to be non-Christian for his allegedly errant views on the Godhead. He and his followers, though condemned for a heresy, were still recognized as Christians.

Such courtesy is not available today in some Christian circles. You've got to get a perfect score on the Great Theological Quiz or you're not a Christian and will lose any hope of salvation.

That's an exam you better start cramming on now because your soul depends on a perfect score. Achieving doctrinal perfection may sound daunting, but it can be done if you, uh, work hard enough.

Having have some other evangelical challenges in the past few weeks from people who sorely misunderstand our faith, I was wondering how to help them past the simple caricatures of our faith that they tend to get from their ministers (e.g., "Mormons try to do works to earn salvation instead of relying on grace" or "Mormons obey God to try to earn salvation; Christians obey God out of gratitude for grace already received").

This past Sunday, as I reflected upon Mother’s Day and my relationship with my mother, I saw a potential opportunity to clarify a common misunderstanding about the LDS perspectives on grace and obedience.

Over the years, my mother has given me a lot of commandments. Some were very basic, like "brush your teeth," "do your homework," and, "don't throw lemons at your brother when he's standing in front of my china cabinet!" (Sorry, Mom! Had no idea he would duck. I am amazed at how quickly you forgave me after that fiasco.)

Other commandments were more difficult or annoying. "No R-rated movies? But Rollerball just has a little violence, and a lot of my LDS friends are going!" (I'm grateful that I obeyed on that count, though. Thanks, Mom.)

One of the most important commandments or recommendations, though, was very easy: "You really should marry Kendra." Wisest commandment/suggestion ever.

Sometimes my obedience was driven by fear of punishment or desire for reward. That was in my early years. But as I grew in maturity and in respect and love for my mother, my loyalty and obedience was no longer driven by considerations of risk or gain, but of love and respect.

I listen to her and respect what she says and make sacrifices for her not because I want something for me, but because I love her. She's my mother. She's given me life and so many blessings that have made my life wonderful. I can't repay her, but I can listen, talk, obey, and look forward to being with her in the eternities.

God gives us commandments. He teaches us with warnings and rewards. But as we learn to love and follow Him, our repentance and our service becomes natural, motivated by aligning our interests and desires with His will, driven by a desire to be a good son or daughter of God, whom we love and choose to serve.

We are grateful for His commandments. Some challenge us, some are easy, but we strive to grow closer to Him by serving, loving, and obeying. Not because we are in some kind of master/slave relationship, but a relationship of a child to a loving parent who has given us everything, whom we can never repay, but whom we can increasingly love and serve.

Mother's Day can teach us a little about grace.

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For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.

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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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