Can we "buy" blessings?

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DarkJedi
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Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by DarkJedi » 09 Feb 2018, 07:21

I was in an email conversation with my missionary son about obedience. (What else, right?) In addition to talking about rules as opposed to commandments, we also talked about the idea that we can't buy our way to heaven. I kind of off offhandedly said "and we can't buy blessings." But then I got thinking about that - our doctrine/theology (or at least pseudo-doctrine*) would tend to indicate that we can buy blessings. That is, that by obeying certain commandments we get certain blessings ("There is a law irrevocably decreed...."). On the other hand I have encountered many, and several in faith crisis, where the promised/expected blessings have not come or at least not come in the expected way.

So what are your thoughts? Can we "buy" blessings by obedience?

*Pseudo-doctrine is what I am calling things that might be related to doctrine but are not actually doctrine. It can admittedly be somewhat subjective. That could actually be the subject of another post.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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SamBee
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by SamBee » 09 Feb 2018, 07:40

Ah the old faith vs works debate! With a bit of the bad things happen to good people thrown in.

In Romans it says,

"because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight . . . " (Rom. 3:20)

"for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom. 3:28)

"For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.'" (Rom. 4:3)

"Therefore, having been justified by faith . . . " (Rom. 5:1)

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." (Rom. 4:5).

In James it says,

"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:24)
" . . . so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:26).

The obvious answer that faith is prime here, but if you have faith and go around murdering folk, you are obviously the wrong side of the line.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
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nibbler
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by nibbler » 09 Feb 2018, 08:18

Buddhism might use words like cause, effect, and conditions. The effects may be the blessings we desire and the cause may be all the things we do in an attempt to earn them.

I'm throwing conditions into the mix as well. I believe they play an important role that often gets forgotten in the quid pro quo view of divine intervention in our lives.

Take the example of winning the lottery. The effect we desire is winning the lottery. The cause is purchasing one or more tickets. You aren't going to win the lottery if you don't purchase a ticket... but at the same time purchasing a ticket doesn't automatically produce the results of winning the lottery, there are conditions. In this case the conditions could be a one in 300 million chance of winning. Even if you do what's required, don't hold your breath to earn the reward, the conditions make the desired outcome unlikely. Maybe you could alter the conditions, say by buying 300 million tickets, but if you did that then you wouldn't need to play the lottery.

Taking a look at some of the blessings we talk about in Mormonism: Pay tithing, you'll never have financial problems. Be more obedient to the mission rules, you'll have greater success in the form of convert baptisms. I'll even toss get baptized, you'll open the gate to get into heaven onto the pile. When anyone starts talking about things we have to do to earn a spot in heaven I wonder how anyone can know that. Causes and effects as they span mortality (things we can measure and verify) and immortality (things we're in no position to measure or verify) all come across as best guesses or wishful thinking.

There's some truth to the causes and effects of Mormonism, otherwise I don't think some of our narratives would have survived this long, but again I think it comes down to conditions, which I feel are often ignored. The person that joins the church may or may not have joined if not for a member accepting the call to become a missionary and doing missionary things on their mission... but just because a person does those things doesn't mean the converts will flow. The conditions of a person's agency factor in. Certainly the missionary can influence the conditions, by putting in the hours, maybe saying the right thing at the right time, but those things may not have much bearing on producing the desired effect.

In short, I think there's value in trying to earn the blessings, but we shouldn't hold our breath. Especially considering how (IMO) there's often very little relationship between the causes and effects in Mormonism.

It could all go back to what we believe to be the blessings. Do we do the things we do to earn a heavenly reward (only then learning whether we did enough, whether we passed the test) or can the gospel pay dividends in this life? Like instead of paying tithing to not go to hell, pay tithing to learn how to detach from a love of money, or charity, or something else. Instead of doing the things we do to go to the highest kingdom in the CK, do the things we do to change our nature, become a better person today.
The night stared me in the face, amorphous, blind, infinite, without frontiers. Not a single star relieved the darkness behind the glass.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by DarkJedi » 09 Feb 2018, 08:32

Yeah, Sam, those all seem to me to be on the side of buying our way to heaven. I'm very firmly on the grace side there - I don't believe anything we do here (other than believe in Christ) can get us to heaven. No amount of obedience makes us better or worse than anyone else.

My question is more along the line of "If I do x, y will definitely happen as a result of x." If I pay a full tithe on gross I will never want. If I obey the Word of Wisdom to its extent (including no meat in summer, eating grains, etc.) I will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. I realize those are trite examples, but the tithing one especially is fairly prevalent. How do we know if we're "blessed" for obeying a commandment and is the perceived blessing actually directly related to the obedience? Are we really blessed for not murdering or not stealing, especially if we don't get caught by law enforcement? We all lie, so is there some blessing we're missing out on by lying?
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by DarkJedi » 09 Feb 2018, 08:40

nibbler wrote:
09 Feb 2018, 08:18
In short, I think there's value in trying to earn the blessings, but we shouldn't hold our breath. Especially considering how (IMO) there's often very little relationship between the causes and effects in Mormonism.

It could all go back to what we believe to be the blessings. Do we do the things we do to earn a heavenly reward (only then learning whether we did enough, whether we passed the test) or can the gospel pay dividends in this life? Like instead of paying tithing to not go to hell, pay tithing to learn how to detach from a love of money, or charity, or something else. Instead of doing the things we do to go to the highest kingdom in the CK, do the things we do to change our nature, become a better person today.
This is probably more along the lines of what I'm thinking. I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't try to do good and I do believe the two great commandments are probably real. And I believe the real value in commandments is as you say - we're making progress when we're obeying them because we want to rather than because we want to "earn" a blessing (like not burning). That's exactly where the question came from - Can we buy blessings? Is it even possible? (all doctrine/theology/pseudo-doctrine aside)
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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dande48
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by dande48 » 09 Feb 2018, 09:30

Personally, I'd say yes and no.

Yes, in that there are always consequences to our actions. If you eat healthy and exercise, you'll get fit. If you eat junk and lounge around, you'll get fat. If you are kind to others, they'll want to be around you and help you when you need it. If you're a jerk, people will reject you. If you are a good, faithful missionary and knock on doors for 12 hours a day, you'll find the "elect". But these are dealing more with probabilities that line things in your favor. You can eat healthy and exercise, and still be overweight. You can be kind, and have people reject you for other reasons. You can be a diligent missionary, and not get any baptisms. And the inverse is true as well. The president of the company I work for drinks an extra large coke from McDonald every morning, and that man is a beanpole. Some people will develop a liking for you because you're a jerk. And some lazy, rule breaking missionaries will wind up with more than their fair share of converts.

We're not really "buying" the blessings with good behavior. We're putting the odds in our favor. And with certain commandments, we're developing virtues that give us a greater sense of meaning and inner-peace. But I don't believe that God improves our fortune, for keeping a commandment unrelated to that fortune. Myself, for example: I have a great job that I love, and my income higher than 99.8% of people in the world (for perspective, if you make $8 an hour, you are in the top 6%). I have a beautiful wife and daughter. I have a car, good clothes, and a nice apartment. I am both comfortable, and at peace. I have been EXCEPTIONALLY blessed. To keep things simple, let's say that I am more blessed than 99.8% of all people in the world.

But am I really more righteous than 99.8% of all people? Have I really been more faithful in keeping the commandments than 99.8%? Does God love me more than 99.8%. HECK NO! I'd be the first to admit, I am completely undeserving. There are some people better than me who are much richer, but most people better than me are MUCH poorer. And there are worse people than me on both sides as well. I was simply born to into an exceptional position, led to some wonderful opportunities, which helped me develop skills, which led to further opportunities.

Point is, income is NOT a measurement of worth. Possessions are not indicative of righteousness. Prestige is not based on the value of our contribution to society. Life is GROSSLY unfair, and though it's been grossly unfair in my favor, doesn't change the fact. One of the greatest appeals of Christianity, is the belief that in the end, God will set things fair, and we'll be given in accordance with the worth of our souls, and the things we've done in this life (grace taken into balance). But don't expect the same sort of rewards in this life.
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AmyJ
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by AmyJ » 09 Feb 2018, 09:56

I love Robert Jordan's "Law of Unintended Consequences"...

It basically states that for every choice made with the view on 1-2 consequences, there is AT least 1 unknown and unintended consequence thrown into the mix as a matter of fact - like the law of gravity. This has been hugely helpful to me when something comes along that I didn't expect (ALL THE TIME) - now I can say in my mind "this is consequence x rearing its ugly head"...

In the case of WoW for example, choosing to obey 1 principle of it will have the known probable consequence of a) making the TBM person feel they are "keeping a commandment" as they understand it, and b) cause them to face peer pressure and evaluate their choice at some point... but c) living a higher life by decreasing their chance of dying of lung cancer.

By teaching our youth to abstain from sexual activity at an early age, we are setting up the environment so that a) they have less exposure to STD's, b) a lesser likelihood of putting off their education to raise children (or have grandparents raising children). The unintended consequence is that it can be a challenge later on in life when circumstances present themselves.

I think that dealing with the unintended consequences is a part of development here on earth. I have been thinking a lot about the 2,060 Sons of Helaman recently - how the parent's ban on weapons led them to relocate to raise their families, want to pay a tariff on the fruits of their industries, and then allow these sons to go to battle. I can see a multi-generational gathering at the sites the weapons were buried as they were recovered and cleaned up, fields where fathers gave hasty demonstrations regarding how to use the weapons (if needed), and specifics on how to use the weapons against other humans.
The unintended consequence of these stalwart sons being precisely obedient and focused on delivering death to the attacking Lamanites was how effective they were (pacifist family line for the last 15-20 years), and how none of them died. I think that another unintended consequence was how inferior the remaining Nephite soldiers would have felt. "Oh yeah - if we prayed hard enough, and obeyed our commanders just as much - how come they got to live and my buddy Joe Soldier here died last week? And what about my brother last year? We have been fighting these stinkin' battles for YEARS - and they [the Sons under Helaman] waltz into a few battles without any of their unit members dying - NOT FAIR." These Nephite soldiers were good soldiers, good men who knew the cause they were fighting for and knew about losses - and then comes these guys....

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DarkJedi
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by DarkJedi » 09 Feb 2018, 10:27

Dande and Amy I think you both point out another facet to this whole discussion - what exactly is a blessing? I think that most often members (and probably members of other faiths as well) think of blessings as being physical when they really mostly might not be physical/temporal/tangible but "only" spiritual. There certainly are natural and often physical consequences (good and bad) to every decision (good and bad). Are those blessings/cursings? Or are blessings (or cursings) something else altogether?

Related to this, and I pick this up in F&TM frequently, if we're obeying one commandment - and we're mostly obeying most of them at any given time - aren't we being blessed for keeping that commandment even though we have broken another? That is, does breaking one commandment negate the blessings of keeping the others? Following that line of thinking, I lie, therefore I am not blessed for not murdering or not stealing or vice versa I am blessed for not murdering or stealing anyway because every commandment has a blessing attached. (My own answer to the question is that I think not, but I also mostly don't recognize what a blessing is anyway except that no roof of any chapel has yet to collapse on me.)
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

AmyJ
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by AmyJ » 09 Feb 2018, 10:42

DarkJedi wrote:
09 Feb 2018, 10:27
Related to this, and I pick this up in F&TM frequently, if we're obeying one commandment - and we're mostly obeying most of them at any given time - aren't we being blessed for keeping that commandment even though we have broken another? That is, does breaking one commandment negate the blessings of keeping the others? Following that line of thinking, I lie, therefore I am not blessed for not murdering or not stealing or vice versa I am blessed for not murdering or stealing anyway because every commandment has a blessing attached. (My own answer to the question is that I think not, but I also mostly don't recognize what a blessing is anyway except that no roof of any chapel has yet to collapse on me.)
This conversation appears to connect each commandment with a specific blessing - which may or may not be the case. I personally am evolving to believe that keeping the commandments does not guarantee that blessing - but may set the environment for that blessing. I think the "blessings" of keeping the WoW are a) cultural unity (which may be overrated and found in other ways), b) self-discipline (I know that I can choose to avoid substances in the face of those who would not make that choice), c) study and decision making regarding what living the WoW means to me in light of gospel cultural interpretations/scientific theories/family stories (alcohol abuse runs in my family) and my experiences/experiments in some areas. These "blessings" set me in a place to take better care of my health - regardless of whether I am able to "run and not be weary" (yeah right - not with my toddler) or other promises.

I had an Aha moment a few years back when I realized that when Nephi was talking hellfire and brimstone and being "damned" - that "damned" really meant "stopped". Yes, I can make choices that "stop" my progress (I probably make them daily) - but that is all it is. I can "repent" or "change" my choices to start progress in a specific area again. Nephi was using these big scary words and images to pound home that being "damned" is not good, and the only way to change that is to make different choices. Since he may or may not have existed, and probably was not my MBTI (INFJ) type, does not have my brain wiring, I missed his message for years.... I don't think it is an all or nothing blessing area...

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DarkJedi
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Re: Can we "buy" blessings?

Post by DarkJedi » 09 Feb 2018, 11:42

AmyJ wrote:
09 Feb 2018, 10:42
This conversation appears to connect each commandment with a specific blessing - which may or may not be the case. I personally am evolving to believe that keeping the commandments does not guarantee that blessing - but may set the environment for that blessing.
I am of course basing that premise on D&C 130:20-21
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
I do agree with you though - this may or may not be the case. And the scripture, if read word for word, does not guarantee blessings it simply states that when we do obtain a blessing it's because of obedience. Perhaps we are not blessed for each day, hour or minute we don't steal or murder, perhaps it's much more long term. If one believes in an omniscient God, perhaps that God knows that we will never commit a specific sin and therefore blesses us for obedience to that commandment while withholding blessings for others until after we have repented. Maybe all the blessings are really withheld until a later time, maybe not even in this life and none of us are really blessed here. Or perhaps repentance is also different than what most of us understand and it's really about the complete change of heart Alma alludes to. And maybe it is something else altogether - I'm really just speculating. That's why I think this is a bit frustrating to me - my Pharisaical side wants a checklist or if-then situation when that's not how things really work.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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