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What do Mormons really believe, part 3

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

3rd Article of Faith

Surely one of the most beautiful of beliefs and refreshing of realizations is the reality of the Atonement.  The third Article of Faith is meant to address the efficacy of the Atonement, and the profound role it plays in our lives.

We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved…  ALL mankind!  What more encouraging words could you possibly encounter?

That tells me that no matter where I am in life, no matter how far astray I may have gone, no matter what I’ve done, the atonement of Christ can save me from my sins.

How often Satan – ever our adversary – seeks to engulf us in the belief that we’ve gone too far, or done too much.  Enveloped with despair he tries to overwhelm us with our past, and blind us to the hope to which we are entitled because of the atonement.  But such is not the case.  Hope is ever ours to have.

Through the crucifixion of Christ and his unimaginable suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took upon himself the sins of the world, the sins of you and me.   All this that we might not have to pay the price for those sins – for indeed a price there must be, for mercy cannot rob justice.

But herein enters an important principle, the second part of this article of faith.  While the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for all mankind to be resurrected, a free gift with no prerequisite price to pay from us, the atonement of Christ is ours to have also, but is conditional.

For us to benefit from the Atonement, for us to “be saved”, we must first acknowledge and accept the Savior and His sacrifice.  He has cast us the lifeline, but we must exert ourselves to grab hold.  Said so simply, it sounds easy, but it requires genuine humility, which proves ever difficult for all.

And it doesn’t stop there… a portion of this principle that creates an unmistakable and compelling distinction between Mormonism and most other Christian beliefs.  The notion that after we have accepted Christ, and been baptized in His name, we must continue in the faith, abounding in good works, keeping the commandments of God, and continually repenting along the way.

But a life so led, where one struggles to stay on the path as he is frequently beset by the inevitable mistakes of mortality, is one that is acceptable in the eyes of God, and is one that leads to salvation.  We must first grab hold, and then endure to the end.

Rusty

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Faith Fitness – day 2 (Optimism)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

Thanks for joining me again.  I hope that your finding yourself invigorated by your newfound appreciation for your divine worth.  You are magnificent, and incomprehensibly capable of achieving anything.

Now you’re ready to move on to step two – building up just a little more momentum.  The second exercise in building your capacity to believe and exercise faith is all about optimism.

First, let’s discuss the principle upon which this exercise is based.

Faith and pessimism are antithetical.  You cannot simultaneously be pessimistic and faithful.  The perniciousness of pessimism cripples your ability to hope (a crucial component for active faith), and fills you with a spirit of negativity.

Many people believe that the optimistic can be too much so, forcing them to be unrealistic.  But we need to watch ourselves, for faith is not based on reality, but our hope for things which are not seen.

When Peter sought to walk on water, as long as his eyes focused on Christ he maintained his belief that what he was doing was possible.  But when he cast his eyes toward the waves and the depth of the ocean beneath him – what he saw was reality.  What we perceive as reality blinds us to what CAN be.  And because reality told him that standing on water was not possible, pessimism and doubt shattered his foothold of faith, and he started sinking.

But optimism forces us to look beyond “reality”, and not in an ignorant, self-disillusioned manner.  While our physical eyes are trained to see “reality”, or what things ARE, optimism is the lens that lets us see what CAN be.

With optimism we see the bright side of things; we see the good in all that surrounds.  I testify that as you begin to perfect the practice of optimistic living, your world will become brighter.  You’ll be lifted up to the view of a vista that is abounding in opportunity, flush with goodness, dripping with wonder, and that perspective will change your life forever.

Optimism is empowering, for it lets you see the world as it could be.  And as the clarity of that vision begins to replace the dull reality that surrounds you, you’ll find yourself capable of believing that you can make a difference.  You’ll start to see the role you can play to connect the realm of reality to the wonder of what could be.

Now, armed with the testimony of who you truly are, and looking through the lens of opportunity, you’ll be prepared to move to the next step… HOPE.  The brilliant and empowering, propelling principle of hope.

So today’s exercise, is to be optimistic.  Focus your mind on forcing out the negative cloud of pessimism, look at the world not at what it is, but what it could be.  See the silver lining.  Enjoy the wonder and glory of a much brighter world.

Rusty

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Radiating the glory of the Son

Rusty

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Don’t stare in your rear-view mirror

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/beware-the-rear-view-mirror/

The sufficiency paradox, understanding the atonement

The atonement is the single greatest event in history, nothing else even compares, and as the single most important and relevant event in each of our own individual lives, it deserves our attention.

Unfortunately, amongst the various Christian denominations, there are lots of differences and views about the atonement, and many inaccurate understandings of how, exactly, it works.

As I have endeavored to teach the doctrine of the atonement, and how it pertains to mercy and justice, and the role of works in achieving exaltation, there has understandably been a lot of “firm” disputations voiced here by followers of other Christian faiths (those outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS, or Mormons).

Their (and the traditional) view of the atonement is one of what they call “sufficiency”.  In short, Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, and we do nothing to deserve or earn it, and that the atonement in and of itself is sufficient for our salvation – nothing need be done by us.

We seem to agree right up to that last qualifier.  Mormons too agree that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, and that we do nothing to deserve or earn it.  But we do believe that we must accept it, for it to have efficacy in our life.  And in that regard, the notion of “works” enters the picture.  The idea that we must “do” something in order for the atonement to take effect (not mentioning the myriad biblical references to works as a requirement to salvation which I explore here:  What do Mormons believe about works?).

But this is where I always get met with opposition, for it flies in the face of the view that Mercy and the atonement is sufficient, and there is nothing we must do for it to take effect.  As these discussions continue, I inevitably ask the unavoidable question “If the Atonement is sufficient, and there is nothing we must do, then I am already saved, as are all Mormons (in truth, all humanity), correct?”  But that is always met with a “No”, and the statement that Mormons are not saved (as in the discussion on this post: How to tell if it’s the spirit or yourself). 

But to say in one breath that Christ’s atonement is sufficient without anything being required by us, and then in the next to say that it doesn’t work for one particular group of people, creates a belief paradox.  An irreconcilable contradiction.  For if one believes in “sufficiency”, but that a particular group of people isn’t saved, then it begs the question “Then why are they not saved?”

The answer must be because that particular group has not “done” something that they needed, that there is some unmet requirement, in short, that the necessary “works” have not been fulfilled.  So that in the process of attempting to refute the notion of works in salvation, they simultaneously validate the notion themselves.

There is one other possible explanation, which was presented in the comments of that last link (How to tell if it’s the spirit or yourself).   Jim B. who regularly posts very thorough doctrinal analysis about this topic, claims that we “can’t embrace the gospel without divine enablement”.

This implies, of course, that I because haven’t accepted their beliefs, I haven’t been divinely enabled.  Which would be to say that God plays favorites, and he loves some more than others, or seeks some, and not others, as opposed to loving all man equally, as one would expect from our understanding of the Character of God. 

Jim goes on in another comment to say “I am saved by grace, through faith, and it is all a gift of God’s grace.  I have merited nothing from God.  I did not desire God until he desired me.”  But then states that I am not saved.  Why?  Does God does not desire me?

But again, this creates a paradox, for in order to validate the belief in this doctrine of “sufficiency” (at least as it has been explained), you have to claim that all are saved.  But when they try to say that all are NOT saved, they’re left in contradiction to the first statement, which they attempt to explain by saying that either one hasn’t done the right things, or that God plays favorites – in either case defeating the belief of sufficiency.

But a true understanding of the atonement and its actual sufficiency doesn’t necessitate a rejection of the notion of works.  The two principles are perfectly harmonious.  Many mistakenly believe that this reconciliation between the atonement and works means that Mormons think that they earn their salvation.  But this is not true.

We too believe that no matter what works we do, no matter how hard we try, without the atonement salvation is impossible.  Only in and through the atonement of Christ can man be saved.  The Book of Mormon teaches this point repeatedly: “…remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come” (Helaman 5:9).  There is “no redemption for mankind save it were through the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood” (Alma 21:9), and many others.

But what then of works?  What about all these scriptures (listed here) that say “the dead were judged … according to their works (Revelation 20:12-15), and that salvation is “unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:5-10), and that only “doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13-16), and that God shall “render to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:5-11), and that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), and many others.  After all, they were “commandments”, not “recommendations”.

As I explain in detail here (“Picking the lock of salvation?“), the atonement of Christ made a gateway into the kingdom of God, but at those gates, we are required to present a key (symbolically speaking), we are required to have done certain things (e.g. baptism).  Without the gate, it wouldn’t matter what keys you have, and therefore, only “through” the atonement (or gate) can we enter the Kingdom of God.  But nowhere does it imply that the gate is sufficient in and of itself, to the contrary, the bible teaches that we must be baptized, keep the commandments, and do other things that qualify us, or give us the keys necessary to open that gate and enter the kingdom of God.

So you see, a true understanding of the Atonement of Christ need not create such a paradox.  We needn’t assume that these scriptures about works are somehow incongruous with the scriptures about Mercy.  As I explain here “The grand panorama of scripture” all scripture must be considered together (we cannot cherry pick only those doctrines that are most convenient).  And the principles and doctrines of Mormonism are sufficient to encompass the full breadth and depth of all scriptures, without such contradictions and paradoxes.  That’s the miracle of Mormonism.  That God, working today as he did in times of old, gave us prophets and apostles, inspired men of God who receive direct revelation to clarify such points of doctrine as this – even the most important.  To correct those beliefs that have mutated and changed over the years based on the philosophies of man and their committee-based cannon.

My invitation is to all people, to consider these things, to learn about the prophet Joseph Smith, to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray for yourself, if they are not true, that we all might glory in the beauty of clear doctrine, and avoid such confusing paradoxes, particularly as they pertain to the most important event ever to occur, even the very atonement of Christ.

Rusty

Why do Mormons believe in Works?

Daniel, in the post “Do Mormons have more than one God?” (page 3 of the comments), asked a very important question pertaining to the mercy, the atonement of Christ, and the role of works in achieving exaltation.

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter.  He accurately notes that there are scriptures that tell us that it is by grace that we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9), and therefore asks about Mormonism’s apparent focus on works.

The answer to this is simple, and scriptural, but is hard for many accept because so many denominations have chosen to latch on to the scriptures about mercy, while disregarding those about works (which are actually greater in number).

Here are a couple passages that adequately encapsulate this doctrine:

Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works

James 2:14-26 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

On my post “What do Mormons believe about works?“, I list over 20 of such scriptural (biblical) passages that teach the necessity of works in salvation, and on which we base our beliefs.  (Please check it out, and see for yourself).

Indeed, there is an abundance of evidence supporting this doctrine as true (and Christian).  But it requires that we consider all scripture, which is somehow something many denominations choose not to do.  It’s a topic I cover in the post “The grand panorama of scripture“, discussing the importance of considering the whole of all scripture, and not basing beliefs off extractions of convenience. 

It’d be simple to build a religion based on only those passages that create the most convenient to accept doctrines.  The ones that require us to do the least. 

Indeed, I think this is predominantly the reason why this notion of works has become so unorthodox, in spite of its clear biblical backing.  It’s a doctrine that sells well.  And for religions that have paid clergy, this is important.  So over time, the natural focus of orthodox Christianity has shifted from those scriptures that teach about works, to those that focus on mercy.  (which I cover in the post “the commercialization of religion“).

This “evolution” of doctrine is extremely important to understanding Mormonism, for it was precisely because of this apostasy, or “falling away” from Christ’s original doctrine, that necessitated the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Enough of the pure and simple principles of the gospel of Christ (such as this) have changed over time, that our ability to reach God based on Christianity’s teaching of scripture became impossible.

There came a time when the Lord had to step in and again call a prophet (a pattern also set forth in the Bible, but strangely absent from orthodox Christianity, which I cover and we discuss here).

So, you see, in truth, the notion of works, and the role they play in our salvation is not unique to Mormonism, but hails back to early Christianity… even the very teachings of Christ and his Prophets from ancient times, but is a doctrine that is disappointingly absent from orthodox Christianity today.

Rusty

P.S.  For additional study, see also the post and discussion on “The sufficiency paradox, understanding the atonement“, which covers the paradox created by Christianities current definition of “mercy” and sufficiency.  Also “Picking the lock of salvation“, in which I cover, and then we discuss, the role of Mercy and the unavoidable doctrine of works.

Also, and most importantly, www.josephsmith.com, to learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, and the pivotal role he played in the restoration of the gospel of Christ, and the organizing of His church on earth in these latter days.

I know that my redeemer lives

Today, instead of some flowery metaphor, or some humorous take on the news, or anything else, I simply wanted to bear testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that He lives.  That this mighty man born under such lowly circumstances in Bethlehem, was far more than just a man, and his life far more than just a sweet story of sacrifice and inspiration.

Rather, it laid the breastwork for our salvation.  It provided the foundation upon which we can build our own lives, overcome both sin and death, and be exalted with our families in the presence of our Father in heaven for all eternity.

His death on the cross, His atonement in Gethsemane, and the gospel truths that he taught are eternal, and were given specifically for your and my benefit because of his great love.  What’s more, the fullness of His teachings, of His gospel has been restored to the earth today.

I know of Him not because I’ve seen him in the flesh, but because I’ve been blessed to feel and observe the constant and unmistakable influence of His hands so regularly in my life that I would be blind to not recognize it.

I’ve felt the rich confirmation of the spirit as I’ve pondered His life, and the role of his life in my own.  I know that He cares about me and you in ways that we cannot possibly comprehend, and that he’s anxious for each of us to be able to unequivocally sing the words:

I know that my redeemer lives.

Rusty

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Trust in the Lord

Trust in the Lord,

For even a life
so battered and scarred by sin
can be made beautiful
if it’s he who we put our trust in.

For a larger version, to print, or to save as your desktop background, click on the image above.

Rusty

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Seeking for evidence

Recently the topic of evidence-seeking has come up frequently in comments on my posts, and I decided it warranted further exploration.

Is it weakness or folly to believe without evidence as Larry suggests in the comments here?  Or is it weakness or folly to require evidence to believe?

Must one have physical proof in order to believe something, or does that illustrate a crippled faith? 

Certainly the carnal man prefers evidence, as solid and irrefutable as we can get, for our minds seek naturally for such proof.  To proceed without proof, or evidence, is risky.  As such, throughout biblical history we find such sign seekers… those unwilling to believe without some sort of evidence or sign. 

But of these sign seekers we read… “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, this is an evil generation:  they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29).  And in Mark we find that when the Pharisees came questioning Jesus, they sought from him a sign from heaven, and Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12)

So should we seek for evidence?  In Hebrews 11 (the great dissertation on faith by Paul), we find that faith IS evidence:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Clearly, we need not see to believe. 

Verse 7:  “By faith Noah, being bwarned of God of things not seen as yet, cmoved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”

Did Noah require evidence before building the ark?  When God told him that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights, did he say “prove it”?  He didn’t need to, for his faith was sufficient for action.

Verse 8:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Did Abraham require proof, or evidence before he acted?  Or was his faith sufficient?

What about Sarah in v.10, did she require evidence to have a child?  Or in v. 17, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his very son, did he require evidence that this was necessary, or did he move on faith alone?  In v. 29 when Moses approached the Red Sea, did he need evidence that he could part the sea or did he simply believe?

Were these people weak for not requiring evidence, or strong for not needing it.

In life we progress line upon line, precept upon precept.  While the need for evidence might be a suitable start, there needs to come a time in our spiritual progression where we graduate from the requirement of such a crutch, where our faith becomes like that of Moses, Abraham, and Noah, enabling us to act based on nothing more than faith alone.  Enabling us to act based on a witness from the spirit, and not some physical manifestation that our path is sure. 

But even those who have asked such questions are coming close without knowing it.  For as the Lord said to Thomas, who doubted his resurrection “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Here the Lord not only confirms that more blessed are they for whom faith is sufficient, but that they themselves, having not seen Jesus, yet who believe in him, have shown themselves capable of belief without proof.

While God may find it within His wisdom to provide evidence where he may, far be it from me to require it of him. 

True faith does not require evidence.  And while the wisdom of the world might find this imprudent, or call it weak, the wisdom of the world is not what I seek, but the strength of the faith of Noah, Moses, Abraham, and of all the great prophets, for God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).

Rusty

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Are Mormons Christian?

Many honest and sincere people have asked this question of me, and so I wanted to ensure that I had a post that adequately answered this very appropriate and important question.

The answer is a resounding and emphatic YES!

Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that He is the Son of God.  We believe that He is our Savior and our Redeemer.  We believe that only in, and through, and of Him can we be saved. 

This is why our church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is named after him (and not after a man).  He is at its center, and at its head; He guides it with his own hands, and it is Him in whom we put our trust.

The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, witnesses of Him.  From within its profoundly divine pages can be found references such as the following: 

2nd Nephi 25:26:  “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

Mosiah 3:17:  “…there shall be no other name given nor any other means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”

We believe in the testimony of the prophets, of both ancient and latter-day, as they witness of Christ…

Doctrine and Covenants 76:22:  “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:  That he lives!

Here is the testimony of a living prophet, on the Lord Jesus Christ, given at this last General Conference.

 

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_Zpu-VeuCE]

 

And meager as it may be in comparison to these powerful witnesses, I add my witness to theirs, that Christ lives, that he is the Son of God, that he is our savior and our redeemer, and that it is through his unthinkable atoning sacrifice our salvation might be made possible, that this is His church, His work, and that most certainly, Mormons are Christian, in both word, and in deed.

Rusty

For further exploration of this important topic, as well as for focused segmented discussions, please see the post “Mormon Christians“.

Inspiring words for those who need them

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/inspiring-words-for-those-who-need-them/

What do Mormons really believe, part 4

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:  first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Gost.
4th Article of Faith

I can’t help but think back to one of the many things I’ve had to build in my life, you know, one of those projects that come with a list of instructions… furniture, doll houses, bikes, whatever it may be.  Being a guy, and the sort of person I am – a moron (that’s moron, not Mormon, although I am that too), I’ve often simply set to out trying to put it together… without looking at the instructions.

In truth, usually I glance at them and see how simple they appear, and then, confident in my ability to just figure it out, I often get several steps into the process before I realize that something is wrong.  The pieces just don’t fit together, or it doesn’t look quite right (which usually means I’ve been trying to just compare it to the picture on the box). 

Anyway, my first inclination is to curse the manufacturer.  It’s funny how often I’ve done this; you’d think I’d learn.  Now, forced into a corner, I end up going back and reading the instructions, usually only to find I missed some small, simple (but crucial) step.

So often this is the case with the gospel.  The first principles and ordinances are indeed simple, and because of their simplicity, they’re overwhelmingly overlooked. 

It’s the attitude of “Yeah, yeah, faith… I get it.  Repentance, Baptism, the Holy Ghost – great, now let’s get on with something more interesting…” that’s what dooms us.

These first principles and ordinances are foundational – that’s why they’re first.  They’re the basis upon which ALL other principles and ordinances rely.

When we’re so quick to move past them without the benefit of a thorough understanding, appreciation, and testimony of them, then how often we find ourselves, long after, realizing that something is not fitting.  We come upon a principle or doctrine or an event in life that just doesn’t “look right”, and finding ourselves in a corner, we blame the manufacturer.

When in reality, it was simply that we had failed in the first step, to understand the simplest points of the gospel. 

It’s much like the people of Moses, as they were set upon by serpents.  He raised the serpent staff and told his people that if they’d but look upon it, they’d be saved.  But so simple was the task that alas, many did not, and perished.

So too must we continually remember to focus on the core – faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost, if we want to be saved from the serpents of life.  Let not the simplicity or commonness of these betray our judgment – a foundation is only as valuable as it is solid.

So we should ask ourselves… how well do we understand the immeasurable power of faith, and how often do we implement it in our lives, and in the lives of others?  How often do we find ourselves in the process of sincere repentance, and how clearly do we understand and appreciate how it is even possible?  Have we been baptized and born of God, and if so, how regularly do we renew those covenants and how serious do we take them?  What role does the Holy Ghost play in our daily life?  How sensitive and perceptive are we to its promptings and communication?  How well established is our capacity to recognize His promptings?

These are the things that we must return to regularly, for all the remaining steps of life rely on how firmly we’re able to grasp these few things.

Rusty

P.S.  Because of the tremendous importance of these foundational elements of the gospel, I’m going to dedicate a post to each of them, both because each are worth an individual exploration, and also because there are bound to be numerous responses to each of these.  This organization will better allow us to explore each one independently. If you have comments about one of these in particular, please add them to the specific post to which they apply, and reserve comments on this post to the general direction/commentary about this article of faith.  I’ve gone ahead and added the post skeleton for each of these so you can go ahead and add comments now if you already know what they are (hehe), and I’ll fill in the commentary today and tomorrow.  Thanks, and I hope to enjoy some more healthy discussion on each of these!

Here you’ll find Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost

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