Archive for October, 2008




     Five seconds are left in the basketball game.  It’s not any game either – it’s the championship.  Your team is down by one point.  Your coach calls time out, looks down the bench to where you are sitting and motions you to check into the game.  As you pass him, he pulls you aside and tells you to take the last shot.  “We are counting on you.  It’s all up to you.”

     Talk about pressure.  Especially if you have sat on the bench the entire game to that point.  Few people would enjoy being in that situation.  Few people would succeed in that situation.

     But that is the position a lot of Mormons feel that they are in.  It is inaccurate to say that Mormonism teaches that people are saved by their works alone.  No, it talks about God’s grace.  But it doesn’t teach that people are saved by grace alone.  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)

     Pause for a moment and think of the tremendous pressure that exerts on many Mormons.  Imagine trying to live under that.  Even if we think that we have to contribute only 1% to our salvation – that opens the door to a whole lot of worry.  It’s like the sub coming off the bench being told that he has to make only one basket, the winning basket.  But with one big difference.  The pressure Mormonism places on many of its adherents doesn’t last just for a few moments – it’s there for an entire lifetime.

     How much better is the biblical message of Titus 3:4-7:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  There’s no work – and no pressure. 


“Faith and Works – A False Dichotomy”

     That is a title of an article in this week’s Meridian Magazine, a Mormon online magazine.  The premise of the article is that the controversy between Mormons and Christians about salvation by faith alone shouldn’t exist – it’s all one big misunderstanding. 

     This article caught my attention since the relationship between faith and works as been the subject of numerous posts and a lot of the discussion on this blog.  There have been more than enough quotations from Mormon sources (including one in my last post) that I could never accept as correct statements of biblical truth.  The difference between Mormonism and Christianity on “faith and works” is not just one big misunderstanding.

     Instead of citing more quotes to prove that, in this post I am going to mention something else that has dramatically demonstrated that difference to me.  And that is the reactions of Mormons I have spoken with.  My experiences have remained remarkably consistent over the last two decades.

     First, there is the reaction of total rejection of my position.  I’m not talking about when I am discussing Mormon teaching but rather when I am explaining my belief that I have to do absolutely nothing to be saved.  Years ago a member of the local stake presidency, after meeting with me for a couple of times, in all sincerity told me that my teaching about salvation was demonic.  Most Mormons have not reacted that strongly but he has not been alone in that reaction.  More than one Mormon has warned me about my being a pawn of Satan because of my belief about salvation.  The majority of Mormons have rejected, with varying degrees of intensity, what I believe.  I don’t think they are just misunderstanding me.

     Then there are the Mormons who rejoice to hear the wonderful news that Jesus has done it all for them – that they don’t have to do anything.  Over the years, I have gotten that reaction as well.  And often what accompanies that reaction is first the statement that they have never heard that before and secondly, anger at the LDS Church for not teaching that.  And these were not all inactive Mormons either.  Some were very active and from good hardy Mormon roots.  Did they just misunderstand what they have been taught all their lives by the LDS Church?  I don’t think so.

     Therefore when I saw that article in Meridian magazine, I found myself wondering if its author is being deliberately deceptive.  To me, the member of the stake presidency was being a whole lot more honest with me.  At least he was reflecting official Mormon teaching.  “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  Spencer W. Kimball quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 36)


General Conference


     This past weekend the LDS Church held their semi-annual General Conference.  Every six months the leaders of the LDS Church (called General Authorities) give a number of talks over two days.  Thousands of Mormons attend these talks in Salt Lake City, while millions of others listen to them through satellite feeds, the Internet, etc.  General Conference weekend is a very big event in Mormonism.

      How big?  Elder Mark E. Petersen, said:  “A general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far more significant than most people realize. . .

      . . .it is one of the most important events of the present day.  Many do not regard it, even among the Latter-day Saints.  But for those who appreciate its true significance, it is of transcending importance, for in it PROPHETS OF GOD SPEAK, living prophets.

      When God gives a message to mankind, it is not something to be lightly cast aside.  Whether He speaks personally, or through His prophets, He himself said, it is the same.

     And in this conference HIS PROPHETS SPEAK!”  (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 63.)

     These conference talks are published in the next month’s edition of the Ensign, the LDS magazine.  Many Mormons will faithfully study these issues.  As Ezra Taft Benson said, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. . .Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is that of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.”

      It is important for those Christians who are witnessing to Mormons to realize the importance of General Conference.  In line with that, it is beneficial to get the Conference editions of the Ensign and read them.  That is what many of your LDS friends will be doing.


Does Staying in the Faith Contribute to Salvation?

     One of the many differences that comes out in discussions between Mormons and Christians is what is all involved in faith.  Christians limit faith itself to trusting in Jesus’ work rather than in their own works to be saved.  We do see good works as resulting from faith and closely connected to faith but not part of faith itself.  We do that because the Bible not only says works are not part of faith – Ephesians 2:8-9 and other passages but also refers to them as fruits of faith – John 15:5 and other passages.  The relationship between faith and works was the subject of my post of August 8th.

     Another thing many Mormons include in the definition of faith is staying in the faith.  In this regard I would like to repeat an analogy I used in commenting on an earlier post.  Sqy that I was sleeping in my house when it caught fire.  The smoke made me unconscious.  A fireman rescues me without any help on my part.  After I’m rescued, I’m sitting on the sidewalk watching my house burn.  But then I remember a prized possession that is still in the house so I rush back into my burning house to try and get it.  This time I die.  If, however, I didn’t do that and stayed on the sidewalk could I then say that I had to do something to be saved?  I don’t think so.

     The Bible talks about believers having been saved with no works on their part – past tense.  It talks about believers possessing eternal life – present tense.  Both are accomplished facts.  Yes, we need to remain in the faith – an encouragement we often hear in the Bible.  But does that mean that my staying in the faith contributes to my salvation?  No more than my staying out of my burning house contributed to my rescue in the analogy above.  In fact, it would be an affront to the fireman who rescued me to claim any credit for my rescue.  So also it is an affront to Jesus to say that I did or have to do anything to be saved.  But that is exactly what Mormonism teaches.  As Robert L. Millet, a BYU professor wrote, “Therefore acting alone, the grace of Christ is not sufficient for salvation.  The works of man – the ordinances of salvation, the deeds of service and acts of charity and mercy – are necessary for salvation.”  It’s teachings like these that cause us to say that Mormonism is a very dangerous religion.




      Early this morning I was at our local Rec Center playing racquetball when the man I was playing with noticed some commotion right outside our court.  The courts are right next to the weight room and there was a man lying on the ground with staff working feverishly over him.  Soon the paramedics arrived.  For long minutes they performed CPR.  Finally the got his heart started and quickly transported him to the hospital.  It is my prayer that he survived.

     Understandably, that makes a person stop and think.  Am I prepared for death?  Am I ready to meet my Maker?  As I thought about those questions, I am so thankful to Jesus that I can answer with a resounding yes to both of them.  Because Jesus had died for all sins and triumphantly rose, death has lost its sting.  Now the Grim Reaper is nothing more than the doorkeeper humbly ushering me into Heavenly Father’s presence.  Now Judgment Day is something I am looking forward to knowing that there will not be one charge leveled against me because all my sins has been drowned in the depths of the seas. 

     Unfortunately, I have met far too many people who can’t answer those questions so confidently.  They don’t see themselves washed perfectly clean by Jesus.  They don’t see death as the gateway to living eternally with Heavenly Father.  They wonder if they are worthy enough.  They question if they have done all they need to do. 

     To reassure people that Jesus has done it all for them is my reason for writing this blog.  If you have any doubts about your worthiness to live eternally with Heavenly Father, see that Jesus has done everything for you.  See that and confidently look forward to the day of your death.


The Atonement


     The March 2008 edition of the official LDS magazine, Ensign, was a very special issue.  It focused entirely on Jesus.  The LDS church said it spent two years producing it.  They made many extra copies and it is now listed as one of its resources.  It would be a good resource to have for those wanting to witness to Mormons.

     It contains an article on the Atonement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles.  In it he repeats much of what Mormonism says about the Atonement.  He talks a lot about Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and writes:  “Through this suffering Jesus redeemed the souls of all men, women, and children.”  He does bring in Jesus’ suffering on the cross, something that is being mentioned more and more in LDS writings.  But the emphasis is still on Jesus’ anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane.

     He also talks about how the Atonement provided both unconditional and conditional blessings.  The unconditional blessings he list are ransom for Adam’s original transgression and bodily resurrection of all.  He then writes:  “Other aspects of Christ’s atoning gift are conditional.  They depend on one’s diligence in keeping God’s commandments.”  Again that is not new.  But then he uses a couple of phrases that I can’t remember running across before.  He writes:  “Obviously the unconditional blessings of the Atonement are unearned, but the conditional ones are not fully merited either.  By living faithfully and keeping the commandments of God, one can receive additional privileges; but they are still given freely, not technically earned.”  (my emphasis)  What does “not fully merited” and “not technically earned” mean?  “Not fully merited” implies that they are partially merited.  “Not technically earned” implies what?  Often when that word is used it is used in contrast to reality.  Technically you still have a job but in reality you better start looking. 

      Some Mormons say that Mormonism doesn’t teach salvation by faith and works.  I think articles like this demonstrate otherwise.  Maybe the word “works” is not used, but the idea is definitely there in phrases like “conditional blessings”, “not fully merited” and “not technically earned” and the repeated emphasis on keeping the commandments.

October 2008

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