Posts Tagged ‘atonement’

The Pros and Cons of LDS Perfectionism

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

We are commanded in the scriptures to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And so, many people, in particular religious people, seek for ways to live a life that is considered “perfect.” However, is the idea of being “perfect” even remotely possible? The question that begs an answer is, “How does a person go about living a perfect life in an imperfect world?” According to a new study, our quest to answer that question has significant bearing on our mental health.

Defining the Terms

When we hear the words “perfect,” “perfectionist,” or “perfectionism” what thoughts come to mind? The philosophical definition of perfectionism is “a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.” The Apostle Paul addressed the subject of being perfect in his treatise to the saints of the church at Philippi. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul exhorts:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

What Paul is telling the saints is that he is not perfect, but he lives his life in such a manner as to daily strive to become perfect or more Christ-like. He further explains that he has left behind those things in his life which he once thought would gain him favor with God, and instead continues to look ahead and set the attaining of a Christ-like life (a perfect life) as his spiritual and moral target.

High Expectations and Striving for Perfection

Mormon FamilyMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to have high expectations and to strive for perfection, a task which frequently leaves members finding themselves falling short of the mark. This often leads to feelings of discouragement, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and stress. However, Professors G. E. Kawika Allen from the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, and Kenneth T. Wang at the Fuller Theological Seminary, argue that perfectionism, or striving for high standards, is not the problem.

In a recent study published by the American Psychological Association in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality which focused specifically on Latter-day Saints, they surveyed approximately 267 active members of The Church of Jesus Christ in Utah which consisted mostly of young adults in their mid-20’s, and asked questions ranging from their satisfaction with life to inward and outward commitment to their faith. From their study they were able to categorize the responses into three main groups:

The first group, 22% of people surveyed, were not perfectionists, that is, they don’t believe they hold themselves to high personal standards. The rest were considered perfectionists, but had an interesting split among them – a new type of perfectionism. Of the perfectionist group, 30% were classified as what Allen and Wang labeled maladaptive perfectionism, while 47% were classified as adaptive.

Allen admits that the populace surveyed for the test was perhaps the most appropriate as it is at that crossroads in a person’s life when they feel the most pressure to live up to the high standards of perfectionism as they contemplate going on a mission, getting married, and pursuing a higher education.

The study indicated that over half of the 267 LDS members surveyed could be classified as adaptive perfectionists which can be described as follows:

Adaptive perfectionists are likely to feel acceptance of themselves and their efforts, even when they fail or fall short of the high personal standards they have set for themselves. They are also more inwardly and outwardly committed to their LDS faith, which supports previous peer-reviewed findings that religious commitment plays a role in achieving better psychological health. That means adaptive perfectionism is actually healthy.

Taking this into consideration, the Apostle Paul would be classified as an adaptive perfectionist.

By contrast, however, members who were classified as maladaptive tend to feel less satisfied with their lives, and often experience depression and anxiety. They also tend to have a deeper fear of being punished by God for their sinful behavior. The study renders the following explanation about maladaptive perfectionists:

Maladaptive perfectionists are those folks who have high standards and high expectations for themselves, but when they are unable to meet those expectations, whether it’s school, family, or personal expectations, they struggle a little more with feelings of failure, feelings of not being good enough, disappointment, discouragement, and they feel down about themselves because they’re not able to meet those high standards.

Allen further commented that “adaptive perfectionists are more resilient to discouragement and create a ‘buffer’ for themselves if they fail —allowing themselves a chance to simply try again and again and again and do their best. He relates this to the repentance process.

How Members Can Achieve a Healthier Perfectionist Behavior

LDS Young Man Studying the ScripturesAllen offers three basic suggestions for helping members to become adaptive perfectionist versus maladaptive perfectionists. He states that the first step is for a member to figure out the type of perfectionist that he or she is. For those who struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, Allen states that, “Knowing that they have this negative tendency is half the battle. Then they can begin practicing more patience with themselves and studying the Atonement – both key steps to becoming an adaptive perfectionist.” He also states that it can be encouraging for adaptive perfectionists “because it reinforces the ‘Okay, I can be perfectionist in an adaptive way, and I can feel good about myself when I’m not able to meet those expectations.”

The second step in the process is to not allow fear to rule how the gospel is lived. Allen states,

Oftentimes we find ourselves doing things out of fear and anxiety rather than wanting to do it out of the love and out of faith—our own faith. When we’re driven by fear and anxiety, that’s when we need to take another look at the meaning of the Atonement and grace and our testimony of the living Christ.

He further emphasizes that adaptive perfectionists are motivated by love for the Savior more than they are by fear of repentance or punishment.

The third step is to apply the atonement in daily living and remember the unconditional love that God has for each of us. Allen commented:

As we let go of fear, we also need to strive to understand the Atonement and God’s love. When we understand that the Atonement allows us to strive for perfection simply by doing our very best and we remember that we are already imperfect, it helps us pick up the pieces and start again when we make a mistake.

Each of Us Strive for Perfection

Mormon Youth PrayingNone of us are perfect. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The psalmist also declared, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3).

The only One who is perfect is Christ Himself. He is our Exemplar. As mortals, being perfect is an impossibility, but yet we should continue to strive towards becoming perfect. If we would keep that as our perspective and goal in life, we will be able to become adaptive perfectionists, continuously working to improve ourselves. Allen concludes with this counsel:

The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, and that achieving perfection is impossible, take a step back, pick yourself up, and remember that the beauty of the Atonement is our ability to frequently fail, but always be able to move forward, a little better than we were before.

Are Mormons Saved?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The answer to the question, “Are Mormons saved?” is yes, but a simple yes doesn’t really answer the question. Mormons use the term “saved” a little differently and the answer might depend on your definition of the term. The Bible uses the word “saved” to mean many different things, all of which the Mormons, a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accept. To understand the Bible, we have to consider the way the scriptures fit together and not look at single scriptures in isolation.

The atonement of Jesus Christ mormonMormons believe that we cannot save ourselves. No one can live a perfect life—only Jesus Christ was able to do that. He met all the requirements of a Savior and was the only One who could save us. What does it mean that He saved us?

Mormons teach that the atonement has two aspects. Some portions of it are given freely to all, regardless of the choices they make on the earth. For instance, because Jesus atoned for our sins, died on the cross, and was resurrected, we all are resurrected and live forever—even the wicked receive that particular gift. (more…)

Do Mormons Believe in Blood Atonement?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, recently issued the following statement:

The atonement of Jesus Christ mormon

Mormons believe we are saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives.

However, so-called “blood atonement,” by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.” (See Mormon Church Statement on Blood Atonement.) (more…)

Do Mormons Believe You Can Work Your Way to Heaven?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

mormonThis question is often asked by evangelicals, and is, in general, a misunderstanding of the Mormon teachings on what happens after death and how we control that.

Many evangelicals teach that a person gets to heaven by being “saved.” This involves the act of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. At the same time, they teach that acts cannot get you into Heaven. The Mormons also believe that a person must accept Jesus Christ as His Savior in order to return to God’s presence after death. Both groups agree that at least one act is required of all of us in order to be with God.

The confusion over the number of acts required to be saved comes from the differences in terminology used by Mormons. Mormons believe everyone is saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ, even if they never accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, grace and eternal life, to a Mormon, are not the same thing. To understand this complex issue, let’s look at several essential points.

Do Mormons Do Stations of the Cross?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Stations of the Cross is a Catholic tradition that grew out of a desire to replicate pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Today, they help Catholics remember the final days of the life of Jesus Christ as they move through a series of wooden crosses that have been blessed by a person with the authority to do so and pray. Some consider it reparation for the suffering and loneliness of the Savior’s personal Via Dolorosa. Pope Pius XI considered it an obligation for Catholics and John Paul II praised those who make an effort to stand by the endless crosses the Savior endures even today through abuse and mistreatment from those who do not honor the Sacrifices He made for them.

Although Mormons don’t participate in a formal ceremony, they do teach the principle behind it. As Pope John Paul II said, we must stand beside the Savior.

Crucifixion Christ Cross MormonIn the April 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , whose members are often called Mormons, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a powerful talk on this subject, called “None Were With Him.” He spoke of how the Savior was abandoned during much of the challenging last days. He spoke of the abuse and denial not just of those who did not personally know and love Him, but also of the treatment from those within His personal circle, beginning with Judas, who knew Him, traveled with Him and taught the gospel. Peter, James, and John slept while the Savior atoned for the sins of everyone who ever had and ever would live, including those who slept outside the Garden after being asked to stay awake. In the final moments, Elder Holland wrote: (more…)

What Do Mormons Believe About Adam and Eve

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Mormons see Adam and Eve very differently than most of the Christian world. Rather than blaming Eve for all our problems, we celebrate her as the mother of all living and honor her for making the hardest choices. Through the scriptures of the restoration and modern revelation, we have learned more about these two first ancestors.

Adam and Eve MormonAdam and Eve were created by Heavenly Father and placed into a peaceful place to begin their lives. We can think of this as replacing the protected childhood of most people. Here they had everything they could want and only one request to obey. This allowed them time to settle into their marriage and the unfamiliar world in which they were placed, and they could have chosen to stay there forever, had they wanted to do so. However, their progress would be very limited if they did so. They would not have children or progress through a normal lifespan. This would also mean they could not fulfill the purposes for which they were sent.

The story of Adam and Eve really begins long before their birth. Prior to the creation of the world, God createdspirits. These spirits had the form of the people who live on earth today, but did not have bodies. They did, however, have personality, talents, and the right to make choices. Each developed in his own way, becoming something of the person he would be on earth. (more…)

Do Mormons Abstain From Meat on Fridays?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Catholics teach that Christ died on Friday, and for that reason, they follow special penitential observances on Fridays, willingly suffering as He suffered, and traditionally, this has required the sacrifice of the eating of meat, something many people enjoy. They use Friday as a special time to draw closer to God, to become aware of their sins, and to work to overcome them. Although the bishop’s counsil suggests this is now voluntary, but encouraged, Catholics are still asked to use Friday as a day to draw closer to God and can substitute other penances. (Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 18, 1966)

Mormons do not abstain from meat, but there are other ways in which they too and focus on seeking forgiveness of and abandonment of their sins.

Mormon ChurchOne such method is the weekly taking of the Sacrament. Mormons are baptized for the remission of their sins at age eight, which Mormons consider the age of accountability. Thereafter, sins are repented of as they occur. Each week, during the Sacrament Service (the basic worship service), Mormons partake of the Sacrament of bread and water, in remembrance of the death of the Savior. At that time they renew the covenants they’ve made with him. While they needn’t be perfect to partake, they are expected to prepare themselves for the taking of the Sacrament by having examined their lives and repented of their sins. (more…)

Do Mormons Have Mass?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Catholics have mass to show adoration to the Savior. They teach Jesus offered Mass at the Last Supper and that the bread and wine offered during mass are literally transformed into the Savior’s blood and body.

Mormon Church MeetingMormons have a similar celebration, called the Sacrament. It is offered during a weekly Sacrament Meeting, which is the primary worship service. There are differences between the Catholic and Mormon service, however.

Mormons use bread and water in the Sacrament. Although wine was used when Christ held the first Sacrament, Mormons teach that the bread and water only represent the blood and body of the Savior, rather than being transformed into the actual blood and body, and therefore, it is not important that water is used instead. (more…)

What does the Sacrament mean to a Mormon?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Personal Response by Bethany

To a Mormon, the Sacrament is very personal because it provides an opportunity for members to think about the great life, ministry, and Atonement of the Savior and how it applies and affects their individual lives. As written in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “the Sacrament focuses attention on the sacrifice for sin wrought by the Savior and the need for all those who have been baptized to maintain their lives constantly in harmony with his teachings and commandments.”  The word “Sacrament” refers to the Lord’s Supper in which Christ used emblems in similitude of the sacrifice He was soon to make.  Christ met with His Apostles and instituted the sacrament as written in Luke 22:19-20:

Mormon Sacrament19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which    is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

The broken bread reminds Church members of the Savior’s body, His suffering, and that through His mercy everyone will be resurrected and given the opportunity to obtain eternal life.  The water is symbolic of the Savior shedding His blood in suffering and anguish which started in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross. (more…)

Why do Mormons believe in baptism by immersion?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he stipulates that Christ’s true church should have “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”; the particular form of baptism he is referring to is baptism by immersion. How do we know this? Well, we can infer that Paul’s instructions held a particular regard for baptism by immersion, mainly because it is the only form of baptism the gospels tell us about and the only form Christ himself participated in and subsequently approved of. Let’s take a look at Matthew 3:16 which recounts the event, and indicates immersion specifically:

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.”(Emphasis added)

Mormon BaptismBecause Christ was baptized in the Jordan River, and “went up straightaway out of the water”, we know that John was performing his baptisms by immersion. 1 Peter 2:21 instructs “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps”. This scripture, in conjunction with John 3:5, inform the sinner that in order to receive re-birth and salvation they must first be baptized, in the same manner that the Savior received the ordinance. Romans 6:3-5 further clarifies the point, giving specific instruction on how baptism is to be performed: (more…)