Satan works through me at church when I hear people talk about all the “shoulds” and quote “faith without works is dead.” (Which I always wonder if it’s grammatically correct). Because I forget what I’m supposed to be about and then contention enters and it gets all ugly.

There’s been a flap about a childrens book by Wendy Watson Nelson, the wife of Elder Nelson (who, I think, is one of the sweetest apostles we’ve ever had). You can read about it here:

I loved this quote from Peggy Fletcher Stack’s column: “If only we can prevent people from performing wrong actions, we think, they can return safely to heaven, untouched by the world and I would add, untouched by Christ’s grace.” (Edward Jones, A Rational Faith)

I haven’t seen the book, but the criticisms sound apt to me and exemplify what is (to me) the great debate within Mormonism. Forget women holding the priesthood and SSM—although perhaps a paradigm shift to grace over works might benefit those movements, as well.

We miss the boat most of the time when we sit in Sunday School and Relief Society and Priesthood and discuss all things we can do to elevate and save ourselves. I get nervous and resentful when I’m told how critical it is to do family history work, even though I love it.

The message of the gospel should give us peace and joy. We can be together forever! (Although, those who know me know that isn’t my idea of heaven). I believe this is a matter of perception; we teach fear instead of faith. Rather than fearing the unwanted consequences of NOT doing something, we should teach the wonder of eternity and the Plan of Salvation. Which applies to everyone.

Rather than saying “Only those who are baptized into our church and sealed to families will go to the Celestial Kingdom” we should say “it’s available to all and only God will determine that; let’s focus on Christ and His salvation.” YOU CANNOT SAVE YOURSELF!

We teach our youth not to turn themselves into chewed-up gum; we harp on the righteousness gained from perfect attendance and we shun the different. Seldom in church classses do I hear the exhortation to love one another, period. Tasks are assigned. Much pats on one’s own back are heard, while some of us squirm guiltily.

I believe in Mormonism, warts and all. I believe in the Plan of Salvation, eternal life and the efficacy of temple worship. I also believe that God is more loving, kind and merciful than any of could imagine and those workaholics who have flocked to our church since it was first formed have us brainwashed into either trying to work ourselves into the kingdom or giving up the effort altogether.

Matthew Bowman’s book, “The Mormon People,” lends a wonderful perspective to the evolution of our collective Mormon psyche based on the mind-set of our leaders as much as inspiration from on high. This is why it’s important to find God in our own way in our own lives (we can lose Him in a New York minute if we focus on that to-do list we get in Relief Society).

The Apostle Paul understood this fully, I think, but he qualified his emphasis on grace to such an extent that his words are often used to justify works. For that reason, I choose to focus only on his words about grace (see Romans 5:1-10) and to keep my heart geared to the sentiments of John: “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” (1 John 3: 20); and this: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment.” (1 John 4: 18).

I probably won’t buy Larson Nelson’s book. A reasonable argument can be made for kids setting and keeping goals—-keeping their promises. Maybe it’s even well done. But I used the gospel to beat my kids into submission, to my eternal regret, and if I had it to do over, I’d teach my children about God’s love, grace and mercy. And if they didn’t get their Eagle or Young Womanhood’s recognition or graduate from seminary, well, those are temporal achievements. I’d feel much more pride if they loved themselves and accepted others—ALL others—as children of God and worthy of exaltation. Screw the details, that’s God’s job.