So this post is just to write down and sort through my understanding after a friend asked me yesterday what I thought about the phrase "calling and election made sure" (CAEMS), 2nd Peter 1:10,.and what that involves.
Much of CAEMS speculation has been influenced by some statements made by Bruce McConkie in his 3 volume set of “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” and which are cited in the “Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles” CES textbook. In light of the fact that on the cover page of that three volume set is written “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or of Deseret Book”, and that CES textbooks are definitely not scripture, I feel no compunction to automatically consider what is written there as truth. And my personal study which I did in response to the calling to teach the scriptures in seminary has led me to a different understanding.
What I have found:
2nd Peter 1:
CAEMS is closely tied to
Knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ (“Epignosis” is the word used for “knowledge” in this passage. See http://biblehub.com/greek/1922.htm for an analysis of what that word means.) (vs.2)
Which “epignosis” multiplies your experience with grace and peace. (vs.2)
That opens the door for us to “partake of the divine nature” and be disinclined to selfishness, self-indulgence and lust. (vs 4)
Peter also says that cultivating diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge (epignosis), temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity is essential to coming to and remaining in a knowledge (epignosis) of Christ because, without cultivating those attributes in our lives,
- we are unfruitful or barren in our knowledge (epignosis) of Christ.
- we become short-sighted instead of seeing the eternal perspective
- we forget our repentance and that we received forgiveness
- we fall(vs 5-10)
The “calling” is a calling to “glory and virtue” (vs. 3)
What is glory? It is working to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of others, not yourself. (Moses 1:39)
What is virtue? It is a high standard of moral goodness in all aspects of life.
Cliff note version: Knowing God in an “epignosis” way increases your experience with divine grace and peace and, by its nature and course of effect in your life, creates a calling and election (as in I'm calling you and choosing you to do something). In other words, an epignosis-based (knowing in a way that is more than just summarily “knowing about”), discipleship-based relationship with the Father and the Son brings a renewed personal divine invitation and appointment, a calling and election, to participate more fully in the work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of your fellow men and to continue to humbly and diligently seek to nurture in yourself the attributes of Christ in order to do so. We make it “sure” by responding to that call and doing that work with Him and continuing in grace and godly character.
What confuses some people:
I think what confuses people are the following:
- They think that what they are supposed to seek is the promise of having “made it into the celestial kingdom”. Instead it is that we are to seek to know, experience and love God, embrace and incorporate his virtues in their lives and with that, respond to a personal, divine call and appointment to work with God for the salvation of others. (See Cliff notes above.)
- They read the words of Joseph Smith “I should think that all faithful Latter-day Saints would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 5:388) And they think that that refers to a done deal. There were lots of debates and discussion about this being a done deal and what the parameters of that "doneness" were.Well, it seems that sealings are not a done deal when they are pronounced. (Though there are people who hope that this one is the exception to that rule and early church members thought it might.) Blessings sealed upon individuals are not done deals. They are dependent upon faithfulness in discipleship in all godly ways. They are not “you've made it, don't worry” or “you will get X, don't worry”. Rather they are profound, personal messages from God that say “I'm real, I'm with you, continue faithful and work with me, and light and love and glory will be possible” and those divine messages change us and move us to seek Him and work with Him more.
- They read Joseph Smith's words “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150) and and "After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands) ... then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,, p. 150) and they think that God is talking about a done deal based on meritBut a calling and election made sure is not a guarantee (see #2) nor is it a merit-based decree. A calling and election is a profound experience of being called, and being designated to DO AND BE (or continue to do and be) something (and not necessarily a specific calling in the church either). It is not a calling to receive a reward. We rise to that calling to do and be, ie: we “make it sure”, as we work to serve the Lord and as we seek to become like him as we do that work and with his grace and mercy become more one with Him.(The word "sure" has many different meanings. I believe the closest definition here is "act with unfailing dependability" or "constancy". We make a calling to do and be "sure" when we we act in it with devoted dependability and constancy.)Determination to serve God may start with a personal decision but I believe it moves from simple self-mastery to “real” determination as a result of epignosis of God and, with his grace, developing godly attributes and then encountering that personal divine testimony of the absolute reality of God and God's personal invitation/calling to serve. It part of the process of becoming like Him. And when we are like Him, through his grace and mercy, we may live with Him.
- They read Doctrine and Covenants 131:5-6 and think that sealed up means done deal. It's not a done deal. See #2 above. Also, 131:5-6 is not an exposition on the nature of the "more sure word of prophecy" but is actually an answer to a question about that phrase in 2nd Peter. The question was, "Can a man be have 'the more sure word of prophecy' without knowing that he does?". And the answer is in verse 6, no, he cannot. If you have experienced that sealing experience you would know you had.
Of course, since such an experience of “calling and election” and the process of “making sure”are, by their very nature and due to the nature of the one who experiences them (think “humble and loving and respectful of that which is sacred”) of a personally sacred nature, practically speaking, the ones who have experienced or are experiencing these, generally don't talk about it much. . Unfortunately that leads to lots of imaginative speculation and rumor. I expect that, since it is such a personal experience, it is likely that each experience would be different, and not exactly the same for each person.
I find no compelling reason to believe that it is only experienced in rooms in temples (one of the speculations I encounter every once in a while). Though that might happen for some. There are rarely, if ever, reports or discussions of "second annointings" (which were considered the highest temple ordinance and connected to CAEMS and oft discussed and, on occasion performed in the early LDS church) these days and the understanding of what they are has changed from what people thought they were and how they related to "calling and election made sure" in early church history. Reading the quotes from J.S. above or the words of Peter, it seems clear that this process of CAEMS is meant to involve solemn interaction with God, but I don't see enough there to state that it requires certain rites, though, who knows, some may feel like it should and for all I know, God may use that medium with them should they need or hope for that. He is, after all, a very personal God in spite of all of us humans constantly trying to institutionalize his work and reduce it to formulas.
Reading the history of early church "second annointings" in Nauvoo and Utah it seems that for many decades people felt like such rites were required for it CAEMS to happen, but it seems that as understanding of what "calling and election made sure" means changed and the problematical nature of discernment as to the best time for it to happen in a person's life (always a problem with rite that gets institutionalized) grew, second annointings were slowly reduced, leaving the CAEMS process the opportunity to be recognized in personal lives in more personal ways.. And, given the deeply personal nature of that a CAEMS experience, I think that general deinstitutionalization was wise. I have no problem with temple rites changing. Usually they change for the better.
Since those who do know from personal experience what a CAEMS process in ones life is like also, understandably, generally tend not to jump into conversations on the subject to share their experiences, we can all continue to believe what we believe about the experience just fine, whether we agree or not.
In the end, hopefully, we all will eventually, in this life or the life to come, find out for ourselves.