Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Part 34 - Have You Been Saved

There were close to twenty hikers at the KOA when I arrived at six in the evening, most lounging in chairs or sitting on picnic tables under a large shade tree at the entrance to the campground.  Aloha was there with his car, dubbed the Pickle Jar, and he had already made several runs into Acton for beer, pizza and Chinese food, as evidenced by the many empty beer cans and food containers piled high on the picnic tables.  

As I approached the group, several shouted out my name and said, “Hello and welcome.”  I returned the greetings and quickly scanned the faces of the friendly hikers trying to distinguish between known and unknown faces.  Some I had seen often, others less infrequently, and a handful were total strangers to me, but it didn’t matter; everyone was a friend, everyone was friendly, everyone was willing to lend a hand.
I asked a hiker about the procedures for the place and he pointed out to me the location of the showers, restrooms, swimming pool, hot tubs and camping area for the hikers.  He also indicated that there was a five-dollar camping fee.  I moved off to the grassy lawn area that had been designated as camping for the hikers and selected a spot that was close to the office and security lighting.  I chose the lighted area because I knew I would be leaving early in the morning and didn’t want to disturb sleeping hikers with my headlamp. 

On the way to the lawn area, I passed a picnic table that held the remains of a meal the KOA owners had provided for the hikers.  Oh, how I was sorry not to have been here early enough to have partaken of the meal; nevertheless, there were sufficient leftovers of a bean salad and a marshmallow pudding salad that I was able to eat my fill and not have to fix and eat my standard Mountain House dehydrated meal.  

With my campsite secured, I headed for the showers, and of course, there was a line ahead of me. 

The shower was a single-wide trailer that was specifically built to house restroom facilities as sometimes seen in state and national parks.  There were steps leading up to the door of the trailer, so I sat on the steps so as not to lose my place in line.  

While sitting there, a fortyish-age man walked by and engaged me in conversation.  He said he was a chaperone for a group of kids that were playing in the swimming pool, and he wanted to know if I was hiking the PCT.  I assured him I was.  After answering further questions about the trail, the question got around to my home state.  When I told him Salt Lake City, Utah, his next question was, and I could see this coming:  

“Are you a Mormon?”  

When I assured him that I was a practicing Mormon and not one in name only, the conversation immediately turned to questions about beliefs.  I never got around to asking the gentleman what brand or flavor of Christianity he belonged to, but from the questions he began asking, I could tell he was an evangelical of some sort.  After a few probing questions, he laid the big bomb on me: 

“Do Mormons believe in being saved by grace?”  

I was quite certain that he had already formed an answer in his mind, to the effect that Mormons don’t believe in being saved by grace, but by works; therefore, Mormons are not classified as  Christians, etc., etc.  I assured him most emphatically that being saved by grace is a central point in Mormon doctrine with the added caveat, “after all we can do.”
I could see that my answer deflated him a little bit, but then he responded with, 

“What do you mean by ‘after all we can do.’” 

As best I could, I patiently explained to him that the scriptures are quite clear that Christ himself, as well as his apostles, taught that faith in Christ, repentance and baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, were essential elements in the teachings, covenants, and doctrines of the Primitive Church.  

“The principle of being saved by grace,” I said, “has two major components to it; it’s not a one-size-fits-all.  The first component of grace is the resurrection, the reuniting of the mortal body with the eternal spirit, which is unconditional; every individual who has ever lived on earth will participate in this marvelous event,” I affirmed. 

“The second component is receiving eternal life, or the privilege of living in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and this is conditional upon having faith in Christ, repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 

I tried to assure him that the scriptures are quite clear on this point, that no unclean thing can live in the presence of God, nor would they want to, and the only way to become clean is through the repentance process, sort of like an alcoholic going through the AA 12-Step Program.
“No, no, no,” he said emphatically, "repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, they’re all works, and the scriptures say that salvation comes by grace alone, and anything else is an element of work.” 

“Therefore," he said, “because you Mormons believe in works being necessary to get into heaven, you are wrong. Period.”

He was getting a little hot under the collar when he could see that he wasn’t going to make a convert of me to his version of being saved by grace.  About this time, it was my turn to go to the showers, so I said,  

“Have it your way, nice talking to you.”  In retrospect, I should have said, “HYOH," which on the trail means, "hike your own hike." 

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