The word mainstream means: the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.
Now, let’s put this sentence together and see how it makes you feel.
God conforms to the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional, and He submits to the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, and the arts.
How did this sentence make you feel? If it didn’t feel right, why? If it felt uncomfortable to you, why?
I find it interesting that some Christians, even Latter-day Saints, are starting to entertain or adopt the idea that God’s gospel and church should, or eventually will, join the mainstream beliefs of the world. Simply because the knowledge of man has changed course and it seems to make sense to them, they automatically assume that somehow it hasn’t made sense to God and now suddenly God, Himself, will come around and make a change (Isaiah 55:8-9). “The Brethren will come around,” they say, “Policies will eventually catch up with reality,” they say.
Such Christians, I suggest, have not studied the scriptures, or if they have, they ignore the portions they don’t like and only adopt or preach the pieces they do like. As well, a study of the scriptures would also reveal that many societies have become as we are now, adopting and condoning all that we are currently adopting and condoning—in the name of enlightenment—and those societies eventually fell. Eventually God’s justice was served after such societies were unrepentant.
Such Christians, I suggest, are being “lulled carefully away” (2 Nephi 28:21). They have forgotten the doctrine, or never completely understood it, and thus, bereft of truth they are easily persuaded by others and led away—carefully—into other paths.
Come Follow Me—Literally
Many Christians misunderstand Christ’s invitation to “come follow me.” Though He invites all to come unto Him, and none are rejected (2 Nephi 26:33), He has specific conditions for following Him. To be a follower of Christ is to emulate Him in every way, not just in most ways, or in a few ways. To “come follow Him” means far more than saying we like Christ and giving His works in one section of scripture a thumbs up. It means far more than agreeing with much of what He taught. To “come follow Him” is to accept the call to “be like Him.” It is not a partial call, something that sounds nice or looks good on our wall. It’s not a piece of us that we give, it’s all of us.
Many Christians also misunderstand that God’s church is not a club. While all can join, they must join (or the act of joining is) based upon the God’s conditions; and only if they wish to embrace the process to become like God are they truly joining. Otherwise no matter what they may say, they are not God’s people (Matthew 7:21-22).
God’s church and kingdom is not for sale, it cannot be manipulated or altered to fit our few disagreeing points; it is not for everyone, even though all are invited. And simply because God has conditions that are hard for us to meet does not mean that He is excluding us. It means that He is teaching us that “His way” is available to us, but if it is not “our way,” then we can’t change it to be our way simply because we still want the label: Christian. If we want the label it comes only by meeting the conditions Christ has given. If we alter or ignore some or all of those conditions, we are something else than we profess to be. Our God is us or the person’s opinions to which we cling to as our personal mores.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is about faith, repentance, and baptism, which baptism signifies our intent, indeed our desire to follow Him, emulate Him, and become like Him. Baptism is about taking upon us the name of Christ, literally. To become part of His family is to seek His grace in the process of learning to emulate Him. Baptism is a gate that is as much a responsibility as it is a privilege. Baptism is not something we enter into just to be included, or to not feel excluded.
In fact, God’s church and kingdom are about sanctification and exaltation—to become as God is.
And, if we are to be frank, godhood is not for everyone. Not because they aren’t invited to pursue it, but because they don’t desire it. Other things are more important to them. Thus, to protect and preserve godhood (Doctrine and Covenants 88:34-39), God has established ordinances and covenants which separate out those who want to become godly and those who don’t.
The Path to Godhood is Not Exclusive, it’s Divisive
Many people get angry these days and condemn God’s church and leadership for being exclusionary. The policies, commandments and restrictions on ordinances, they say, are prejudiced, influenced by antiquated ideals, and hateful. Everyone, they say, if they really love each other, should be able to get a temple marriage. Everyone should be able to get baptized without restriction of any kind (lessening the sacred nature of Baptism, by the way, and making it a commodity to be purchased with ease). Everyone should be able to do all of the same things, etc.
However, what these people (many Latter-day Saints included) fail to remember or learn is that God’s commandments and policies for His church are in no way exclusionary. They are divisive—something that divides and separates. Think wheat and tares. Those who truly desire to become like God choose to meet the conditions for membership and the reception of specific ordinances and covenants. Those who don’t truly desire to become like God don’t meet the conditions for membership and/or the reception of specific ordinances and covenants.
Who God is and what He is like is the great dividing factor. We join only if we wish to be as He is. And to be like Him we are asked to sacrifice not only a few things, but everything. We are asked to lose our life that we might gain it (Matthew 16:25). We are asked to even choose God over family, if it comes down to it (Matthew 10:34-39). Abraham was asked, and had to be willing, to give his only son by Sarah to God (Genesis 22:12). God had to come first, even to someone as righteous as Abraham. No one is excluded from this condition to “have no other gods before [God]” (Exodus 20:3).
God gave His Only Begotten Son for us (John 3:16) to give us this mortal opportunity to attend godhood school (as I like to call it). We attend class every day whether we realize it or not. Ultimately, to pass has little to do with the success of our efforts. It has everything to do with our inner self, our inner desires, our intent in our efforts, and our heart.
We are asked to give everything up for Him: our temper, our possessions, our entertainment, our weaknesses, our addictions, our monetary resources, our genetic struggles, our infirmities, our psychological issues and needs, our relationships, our anger, our need for revenge, our hurts, our love, our heart, our mind, our soul…everything. We are asked to give it all because only God can matter; only being like Him can matter to us—above all else—before we can conquer all.
Have a struggle, weakness, problem, sin, or issue that you want to conquer? The first step is making God and His plan for you more important; to desire Him and His will more than you want anything else. Learn to find that and you will begin to find power to transcend anything.
When God comes first, all else finds its proper place in our lives…naturally.
Christ’s Atonement Allows Us to Become, Not to Conform
A serious study of the scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price) reveals very clearly that God has always been a god of law, consequence, ordinances, commandments, covenants, justice, and mercy. He has never conformed to the practices of any society merely to be accepted or liked or even wanted. God doesn’t worry about everybody liking Him. What He does worry about is all of His children learning what He is like and how they can become like Him. Everything…everything He does is to that end. That He works with our cultures as He slowly helps us to rise above them is not the same as making cultural and mainstream norms acceptable.
All that God does, ALL, is to help us learn about Him, what He is like, and how to become as He is.
The plan of salvation is not about making us merely good. With very few exceptions, every person ever to walk this earth was comprised of more good traits than evil, more weaknesses and struggles than a desire to be truly wicked or evil. The plan of salvation is in place primarily to help us achieve godhood. If we choose not to embrace this path, there are other paths and kingdoms of glory. But ultimately, grace (the atonement of Jesus Christ) is about granting us a spiritual scholarship and a temporary physical home in which to prove to ourselves if we ultimately want godhood or not.
That’s what this life is about. That’s what ultimately matters.
Could we truly suppose that Christ suffered in an infinite and eternal way simply to let us run around and have a good time down here on the earth; to enjoy a mortal vacation? Would God have given His only begotten Son (John 3:16) merely so we could succumb to our weaknesses, give in to temptations, give a half-hearted effort, even make a mock of the gifts of our physical bodies and lives, just so we could do things our way? I don’t believe so. The atonement of Jesus Christ is about God showing His love for us that we may believe in Him and embark upon the path to become like Him.
For me the atonement of Jesus Christ is so incredibly powerful, so immensely full of love and mercy, so priceless and eternal, that to offer such perfection for anything less than our potential to become like God would have been sacrilege, and indeed worthless. And so it is if we refuse to any extent the fullness of its capability to change, perfect, and sanctify us.
To say God should make us like Him with any mortal caveats or demands is ridiculous. Because what we are asking is for God not to be God. We are asking Him to alter His nature so that we might perpetuate ours.
To say that God should change His own nature that we might feel more comfortable in His presence is laughable. To ask God, indeed to expect God to give up His own celestial glory and become “mainstream” that we might not have to work so hard, or sacrifice so much, or endure so much, or have what we want now is pride and selfishness at its most satanic level. For that is what Lucifer demanded of God (Moses 4:1-4). Lucifer (i.e. Satan) wanted God would give him His power and glory without having to become godly himself. He wanted God to become “mainstream.”
Summing Up the Issue
- Learning to love people where they’re at spiritually, despite their addictions and weaknesses and struggles and sins…that is Christlike.
- Letting people believe how they wish and letting agency and consequences teach them…that is Christlike.
- Supporting those we associate with and love to the best of our ability without altering our own testimonies and standards…that is Christlike.
- Not manipulating or attempting to micromanage a person’s spirituality…that is Christlike.
However, assuming that all these spiritual advances in ourselves (and in the church) now means that God is suddenly going to change the conditions of godhood…that is foolish (2 Nephi 9:28).
We can’t make God or use God as a means to get what we want. We must learn to want God more than we want anything else.
C.S. Lewis states it best in his book, The Great Divorce, when the brother of Pam (who lost her son Michael to premature death when he was a boy), who has been sent to lead her God if she will but let go of an unrighteous and unhealthy love, says:
“Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”
“You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother,” says Pam.
“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”
“If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”
“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”
“I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life….” says Pam.
“Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.”
What C.S. Lewis is teaching in this fictional account is that all that we are, all that we love, is in place to lead us to a love for God. Every challenge, every weakness, every trial, every bane, every struggle, every blessings, every talent, every gift… That love for God will lead to obedience and covenant-keeping, and that covenant-keeping meets the conditions for a fullness of grace—the kind of grace that doesn’t simply cleanse sin or resurrect our body, but the kind of grace that goes beyond that and makes us into a godly creature (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually). The atonement of Jesus Christ can overcome any weakness, any tendency, any deformity, any psychology or feeling that is not godly.
Thus, God is never mainstream, because He’s not asking us for conformity to our mortal issues and short-sighted ideas. He’s asking us to transcend them, to see beyond them, through His gospel and His grace.
If we want to be mainstream…we can. Our agency is paramount to God. But, we can never expect God to become mainstream, or assume that His gospel will eventually become mainstream; nor should we demand it of Him or those that follow Him. We should only measure our own desires and decide if we would become like God, if we would invite others to do so, or if we would prefer to be mainstream.
God doesn’t change. It is only us who change…for the better, or the worse. God has never been mainstream and He never will be.