“our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate!” Elder Maxwell, Things As They Really Are, P.74
The Scriptures as well as modern prophets love to liken spiritual truth with food. Paul spoke of milk before meat. Christ taught that He is the "bread of life" and the "living water". In the Book of Mormon, Nephi invites us to "feast upon the word". And, a latter-day Apostle, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, loved to speak about remembering to eat our spiritual spinach. When thinking about the differences between the many Christian religions, it seems that many denominations and non-denominations serve a meal that is missing a food group or two. Only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers the completely balanced spiritual diet.
Some Christian denominations have been critical of the LDS Church for following Christ in offering the Christian sacraments of water baptism by immersion, the bestowing of the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and the offering of the emblems of the Lord's Supper. Other Christians have criticized the LDS Temple and its exercise of of the sealing power to bind marriages and families for "time and all eternity" and not just "for as long as you both shall live". Those critical of the LDS sacraments, claim that confessing Christ is all that is needed for Salvation, and that ordinances and covenants are just a bunch of unnecessary "dead works". However, I will use the Bible to show that the ritual ordinances given by Christ are a integral and critical part of of a balanced Christian diet.
Christ = Bread, Justification = Milk
Paul taught that milk should come before meat, and Jesus Christ taught that He is the "bread of life." While meat and vegetables are important, we cannot forget the the “stay” and “staff” of life. Jesus Christ is the only way to Salvation and Eternal Life. When the believer becomes born again, and truly accepts Christ as his Savior and Redeemer, he is justified. Justification means that judgment is postponed. Therefore, the justified individual is given a probationary time to prepare to meet God. During this time of probation, a just God considers him innocent until proven guilty. Also, Christ's righteousness is "imputed" upon him, enabling him the opportunity to enjoy the purifying presence of the Holy Ghost.
However, the Holy Ghost is easily offended by sin. So, the process of Justification must be renewed again and again. During the days of the Law of Moses, Israel continually offered up sacrifices which reminded them of their sinful natures. In the New Testament, believers continually partook of the bread and wine of Christ's Last Supper to receive the Justification of the infinite atonement. While, a person might subsist on a diet of milk and bread, thankfully the gospel of Jesus Christ does not end with Justification. Through the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all true believers can also enjoy the real Meat and Potatoes of the gospel.
Meat = Sanctifying Covenants, Vegetables = Consecration
The New Testament tells the story of a rich young man who asked the Savior what he should to to have Eternal Life. Jesus Christ answered by asking "what saith the Law?" In response, the young man began reciting the 10 Commandments, and then declared "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" Impressed, Christ taught, "If thou wilt be made perfect, sell all that thou hast, give to the poor and come and follow me." To be made "perfect" is to become "Sanctified".
While, it is wonderful to be justified and have judgment day postponed, sin still has very painful consequences. Thankfully, the Atonement of Christ possess both sufficient mercy to both forgive and overcome sin. Overcoming sin, the flesh, or "the natural man" is the power of Sanctification. Thus, through Christ, we are not just saved "in" our sins, but also saved "from" our sins. Sanctification is the purifying process whereby the Holy Ghost purges from us any desire or disposition to do evil (Mos 5:2). Therefore, as we receive the Holy Ghost more perfectly, like a refiners fire, we eventually will lose any and all desire for sin. When all desire from sin has been purged from us, we are then clean and prepared to dwell in the presence of Our Father in Heaven.
Heb 7: 11,19 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?. . . 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
In case you think Sanctification is too big a concept for you, consider that all believers of Christ in the New Testament where called "Saints". Saints is derived from the Latin "Sancts" and is short for Sanctification. With this in mind, the concept of Sanctification should be a central Christian principle for any "Latter-day Sanct".
The Promise of Consecration is Sanctification
We learn in the New Testament and through latter-day revelation that after we have accepted Christ and are Justified, Christ desires us to enter into a special covenant relationship with Him.. We enter into a covenant relationship with God through ritual ordinances such as Baptism, the Lord's Supper and in the Temple. Only through the ordinances of the Latter-day temple can Christians enter into the most sacred and sublime covenant with God; the covenant of Consecration. Just like the rich young man, Christ invites all believers though the temple to be willing to devote all we possess to serving Him and building up His kingdom. In return, we are promised to be made perfect, to become sanctified, and to be prepared to receive Eternal Life. Sanctification is composed of the principles of both obedience and sacrifice. As Samuel reminded King Saul, great sacrifice didn't preclude him from also being expected to keep the Lord's commandments.
1 Sam 15:22 Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
In the Old Testament, the temple was only built up to one kingdom, nation, tongue and people. But in the New Testament, John in Revelation saw an angel fly in the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel to preach to all kingdoms, nations tongues and people. So, while the blessing, priesthood, and the covenants in the OT were exclusive to one tribe and one people, today in the Last Days, the blessings and covenants of the temple are inclusive and available to all people. This is the message that the angel is sounding at the top of each LDS Temple.
Saved By Grace After All We Can Do
LDS Doctrine is a Christ-Centered, Sanctification-focused doctrine. Our message is always one of how we can, through Christ, try a little harder to do a little better. Many Christians have a difficult time with LDS Theology and feel we are teaching that we can somehow save ourselves, or meet God part way. This false perspective represents an unfortunate misunderstanding of LDS theology. Some of this mistaken impression can be traced to a misunderstanding of the words of Nephi in the Book of Mormon who says "we are save by grace, after all we can do." Evangelicals correctly argue that "we can do nothing without the grace of Christ." However, this interpretation takes Nephi's words out of context. What Nephi is explaining is why they bothered to observe the Law of Moses knowing that salvation was in Christ. Nephi was not saying he could do anything without Christ. What he was saying was that Christ gave the Law of Moses and they were going to joyfully and faithfully receive and apply what grace God had already given them, before asking for more. Going back to our food analogy, what Nephi is saying is, "don't asks for seconds before finishing your firsts".
2 Ne 25:23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
In the same sense, Moroni, at the close of the Book of Mormon, invites all men everywhere to "deny themselves of all ungodliness". Moroni then declares that if we would deny ourselves, then would "His grace be sufficient for us." Again, what Moroni means is that God has already given us the grace and power, though Christ, to overcome our sins. If we receive and apply the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become justified by his atoning sacrifice and sanctified though His Holy Spirit. Then we can have the faith and assurance that when He appears we will be like Him and we will see Him as He is.
Moroni 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;