Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Progressive Gospel

In his talk in the final session of the April general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said this:

Obviously as the path of discipleship ascends, that trail gets ever more narrow until we come to that knee-buckling pinnacle of the sermon of which Elder Christofferson just spoke: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” What was gentle in the lowlands of initial loyalty becomes deeply strenuous and very demanding at the summit of true discipleship.

Elder Holland referenced the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), speaking of the gentle blessings of the beatitudes and the more demanding higher law of avoiding lust, not just adultery, of avoiding anger, not just murder.

There are those who claim that our standing with God is dependent only upon an attitude or a one-time confession of faith. While I agree that I cannot pave my own way to heaven with my good works, I also acknowledge that the Sermon on the Mount requires my effort to live as Jesus would have me live.

That way of living spans from my relationships with others (friends and foes alike) to my innermost thoughts to my treatment of the poor to my relationship to God.

A growth in the gospel leads, according to Elder Holland, to an increasingly steeper path. That’s no surprise to me. A growth in testimony leads to clearer understanding of what I don’t understand as much as what I do. A progression in the covenants and saving ordinances of the gospel leads me to increasingly poignant commitments with the Lord. And an increase in understanding leads me to greater responsibility for what I understand.

Fortunately the Lord provides iron rods and liahonas along the way. I may search the scriptures, learn from the living prophets and seek my own answers through prayer. But the fact is, I must search. learn and seek. I cannot simply rest on some plateau, satisfied that I’ve traveled far enough.

And I must also remember that I cannot save myself. My only choice is to rely upon the merits of Christ, who is the author and the finisher of my faith (see Moroni 6:4).


  1. Very nice thoughts, Paul. Elder Holland's description helps remind us that cheap grace isn't the Mormon view of salvation, but I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the path gets narrower and steeper. Spiritual elitism isn't the only alternative to cheap grace.

  2. As for the path, we know it is narrow and straight.

    Chapter 5 of the Sermon on the Mount does support Elder Holland's imagery, and my own experience is that the more I learn, the more I realize I have to do...not in an "earn my way to heaven" kind of way as in ticking boxes, but in a "this" is the path the Savior has given me and I understand it better.

  3. Dave,

    Can I ask specifically -- would you characterize what I have described in my OP -- or what Elder Holland did in his talk -- as spiritual elitism? Why?

  4. There is no stand still in our progression. We are either incerasing or decreasing. As you said one "cannot simply rest on some plateau." If we halt our progression then we will lose what we have gained.

  5. Zo-ma-rah,

    Your comment reminded me of a talk President Kimball gave late in his presidency. I think it was called "Give Me This Mountain," and was about just what you've said -- that we need to keep moving forward.