Archive for November, 2008

29
Nov
08

The Insidious Cancer of Sin

     I recently read the following from a popular Mormon author.  He was talking about mankind’s condition after the Fall.  “No matter how noble his own efforts to overcome spiritual death, to love and serve others, or to keep the commandments of God, man will forevermore fall short of the divine standard.  His works, though acceptable to God, will always be insufficient to save him.” (Robert Millet, Grace Works, p. 70)

     Compare that to what Scripture says:  “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;  10As it is written,  There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  (Romans 3:9-17)

     There’s no indication there that God considers their works noble – that there works are acceptable to God.  On that Scripture is consistent.  As God said after the Flood, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  (Genesis 8:21)

     The most deadly types of cancer are the ones that don’t make the person sick.  About this time last year I went to the doctor for a check-up.   I felt good – it was just time to get checked over.  In the course of the examination the doctor felt my thyroid and thought it was enlarged.  A long story short – last December I had two surgeries because I had thyroid cancer.  My point is that I felt great – even though I had cancer.  In many ways, it would have been better for me to not feel so good.  Then the doctor would have caught it earlier.

     Sin is like spiritual cancer.  Sometimes we see signs of it as it causes people to act badly.  But many times it doesn’t cause people to outwardly act worse.  In fact, it often causes people to outwardly act better!  Scripture says that the devil loves to portray himself as an angel of light.  He also loves to make people act outwardly better – because then they won’t realize that they are infected with the cancer of sin.

     Contrary to what Mormonism teaches, our works, in and of themselves, are not noble.  On the contrary they are sinful through and through.  “For whatever is not of faith is sin.”  (Romans 14:23)  People often need to see their desperate straits before they cry out for help.  Instead of highlighting those desperate straits, Mormonism obscures them.  That is another reason why it is so deadly.

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25
Nov
08

JOYFULLY PAYING OFF THE DEBT

 

     One of the greatest feelings in the world is making your final house payment!  That calls for celebration!

     But imagine the following scenario.  A couple has a large balloon payment tacked onto their mortgage.  For years they have been salting away extra money for it.  Finally the day arrives to make that payment.  They eagerly go to the bank.  They are grinning ear to ear as they lay their money down on the banker’s desk.  But as he examines it, he begins to frown.  After further examination he informs them that all their money is counterfeit.  Not only are they still in debt, but the time to pay off that debt has now expired.  They are ruined!

     That is what will happen to people on Judgment Day – to people who – in any way – rely on their own works to get to heaven.  Salvation rests entirely on Jesus’ payment for sin.  All those who mix in their works with Jesus’ work are adding nothing but counterfeit money – worthless money that causes them to default on their debt.

    This is why Mormonism is so dangerous.  It does talk about salvation by grace, but it denies the teaching of salvation by grace alone.  We see that even in the LDS author who speaks the most about grace, Robert L. Millet.  I’m presently reading his book, “Grace Works”.  His whole premise is, as the back cover of the book quotes him as saying, “We have an obligation to cooperate with God in the salvation of our souls. While the ultimate power of change is in Christ, we can do our part and choose to be changed.”

    But the Bible says God’s grace and man’s works don’t mix when it comes to salvation.  “And if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.”  (Romans 11:6)  It’s like the scenario above.  It doesn’t matter what percentage of the mortgage is paid by counterfeit money.  As long as any of it is paid with counterfeit money, the couple is still in debt.  As long as a person is relying on what he does to be saved – no matter what percentage of his salvation he attributes to his efforts – he is still in debt and thus in deep trouble.  Talking about grace is not enough.  The issue is all about salvation by grace alone.

20
Nov
08

Outer Darkness and Hell

 

      When witnessing to Mormons, it’s helpful to remember another distinction that Mormonism makes, namely the distinction between outer darkness and hell.  The manual True to the Faith states: “Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways.  First it is another name for spirit prison.”  That makes hell temporary for almost everybody. Even those who do not accept Mormonism while they are in spirit prison will go to the lowest kingdom of heaven.  “Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory.”

     It goes on to say, “Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness.”  Outer darkness consists of permanent punishment but only a few people will go there, namely, the sons of perdition.  Although Joseph Smith said that many of those who apostate from the LDS church qualify as sons of perdition, I have had many Mormons say that very few people will qualify. 

     Be that as it may.  The point I want to make is that Mormonism, by redefining hell and making it temporary for almost everybody, takes much of the sting out of hell.  Many find this much more attractive than the thought of people suffering eternally in hell.  I understand that.

     But there is one big problem with that.  It’s wrong.  The Bible clearly talks about those who do not rely solely on Jesus’ work as suffering eternally.  (Mormonism gets around that by defining eternal punishment as punishment coming from an eternal God – not as punishment that lasts for all eternity.)  Even though the thought of people suffering eternally sends shivers down my spine, I can’t reject it.  That is what the Bible teaches.  Nothing emphasizes the seriousness and repulsiveness of sin more than the fact that it merits eternal punishment.  Neither does anything impress upon me more the urgency to tell others about perfection in Jesus mre than this. 

    On the other hand, any dismissal of an eternal hell plays right into the devil’s hand.  The last thing the devil wants us to have is a clear picture of the agonies of hell.  That, in a very real way, would scare the hell out of us. 

      Again I don’t like to think about or talk about hell.  Neither do pro-life people like to talk about the details of abortion.  But sometimes they have to especially when talking to sometimes who is ignorant of its hideous nature.  So also we.  We need to talk about the hideous nature of hell.  But we also need to talk about the only way to escape it – being covered with the perfection of Christ.

12
Nov
08

Keep the Commandments

 

     I just finished reading the November Ensign with all the talks from General Conference.  A phrase that was used repeatedly was “keep the commandments” or something similar.  For example, Elder Neil L. Andersen talking about a person’s spiritual journey said:  “We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality.  At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough’ – enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right.” (p. 13)

     This emphasis on keeping the commandments reflects a Book of Mormon passage, 1 Nephi 3:7.  “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”  In other words, every command of God is achievable.

      Including the command to be perfect.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  (Mt. 5:48)  Apostle Russell M Nelson, in a General Conference address in 1995, said:  “These words were given additional intensity in the Joseph Smith Translation.”  That says: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect.” 

     Neither is there any thought in these translations of becoming perfect.  If that is the case, then I could say that about every one of God’s commands.  “I can eventually become chaste.”  “I can eventually sometime in the future not commit adultery.”  “I am in the process of quitting stealing.”  If “be” means “become” that opens the door wide open.

     Many Mormons have responded by saying that talking about perfection as something attainable now is ridiculous.  At this point, a quote from the LDS manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, is pertinent.  “Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people.  Some people say, ‘Perfection?  Why, that is impossible!’  Others say, ‘Perfection!  I get discouraged just thinking about it!’  Yet, would the Lord give us a commandment that was impossible for us to keep?  And when he gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands? The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection.”  (p.57)  I find it striking that this manual ties the command to be perfect together with 1 Nephi 3:7.  Therefore, according to Mormonism, it is possible to keep the command, “Be perfect.”

     According to Mormonism, the way that the Lord has prepared to keep the commandment “Be Perfect” is Matthew chapters 5-7.  That means one lustful thought (5:28) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments.  That means one unkind word (5:22) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments.  That means anything less than consistent love of enemies (5:43) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments.  On and on it goes.

     One more quote from General Conference.  “Only He can bring us back into His presence.  And He will do all of that and much more if we but remember Him to keep His commandments.  What then shall we do?  We will remember Him to keep His commandments.  It is the only intelligent thing to do.” (p35)  That, my friends, is a big “if”. 

     I prefer Romans 4:6-8:  “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are coved.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

10
Nov
08

judgment day

 

     I can’t wait for Judgment Day to come.  That will be the best day of my life.  On that day, God will not bring up one charge against me.  He will not bring up one instance when I failed him.  Instead of condemning me, he will commend me – without any reservation.  There will not be any hesitation on his part.  There will not be any qualifications in his verdict.   Instead he will welcome me into the wonderful bliss of living with him for all eternity.

     Jesus gets every ounce of credit for that.  He is the one who washed away all my sins.  He is the one who gave me his perfect righteousness.  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Is. 61:10)  Jesus did it all.   Because my living eternally with Heavenly Father depends entirely on what Jesus has already done for me, I can’t wait for Judgment Day to come.

     Mormons I have talked to don’t have the same perspective.  More than one has told me how they were taught that Judgment Day would be like sitting in a huge auditorium filled with people as every one of your thoughts and actions were shown on a giant screen.  That agrees with what Gospel Principles states:   “Stored in our body and mind is a complete history of everything we have done.  President John Taylor taught this truth:  ‘The individual himself tells the story himself, and bear witness against himself. . .That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind – that record that cannot lie – will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who sit as judges.” 

     For all those who have covered themselves with Christ’s righteousness and disdained trusting in any of their own righteousness, Judgment Day will be a most glorious day.  For all others, it will be a most horrible day.  What we are trusting in will make all the difference in the world – in the world to come.

07
Nov
08

defintions

 

      Mormonism often defines words differently than everybody else.  I gave an example of that in my blog of October 24th, where I talked about the unique definition Mormonism gives faith.  There I asked on what basis can Mormonism add works to the definition of faith when I found no dictionary or other non-LDS source doing that.  The comments went in a different direction, therefore nobody answered my question.

     Therefore I am asking it again, yes in regard to the specific definition of faith (see my post on Oct. 24th) but also more generally.  Here are my questions:

            1) What right does Mormonism have to define words differently from everybody else?  Does it claim Joseph Smith or subsequent LDS prophets received revelations stating that the common definition was incorrect and then furnishing them with a new definition?

            2) Do most Mormons even know that many of their definitions differ from common definitions?

            3) If Mormons know the difference in definitions, don’t they have the responsibility to alert non-Mormons to those differences in order to aid in clearer communication?  I see Christians making this point but I rarely have had Mormons make this point.  (A side point to any Mormons reading this post:  if you want to understand Christians better please realize that this is one of the reasons why some Christians say Mormons are being deliberately deceptive.  Many Christians feel deliberately deceived when Mormons, without explaining these differences, use words like faith but with a different definition.)

     I would really like more discussion on the definition of faith so I hesitate to give another example.   But I will.  Take the word “damnation”.  Most people would not think that people in heaven would be suffering damnation.  But that is what Mormonism teaches.  “All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges and hence be damned to that extent.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)  As I understand Mormonism, that will apply to the vast majority of people in heaven.  But I don’t think that is what most non-Mormons would think of when they think about the damned.  Where else, outside of Mormonism, is damnation a term used to describe people in heaven?

05
Nov
08

PLAYING WITH FIRE

 

    “Don’t play with fire or you are going to get burned.”  That advice is often given when people are flirting rather than fleeing from temptation.  In our area, there is a set of TV ads that make that point about drug use.  It shows a girl saying that she will use meth only once. That is followed by sobering scenes of what drug addiction does to people.  Although these ads don’t actually use the words, I’m sure that many who see them think of the words, “don’t play with fire”.  Unfortunately, many in our society are not following that advice – and they are getting burned.

     Sadly, I see the same thing happening quite often in the Christian world.  More and more I see people tolerating errors in belief by thinking those errors are not serious.  They see differences in beliefs as good fodder for healthy discussion but not as things that could seriously hurt or even destroy people.  Unfortunately many are getting burned.

     That is why the Bible speaks so strongly against false teachers and prophets.  Jude surely didn’t pull any punches talking about false teachers:  “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. . .” (Jude 12-13)  And that is just a portion of what he wrote.

     Neither did Jesus pull punches when he talked to the Pharisees.  Read the 23rd chapter of Matthew and hear all his woes ring out.  What is so striking about that is that the Pharisees were highly moral and religious individuals. But Jesus still pronounces woes on them.

     The incident that really strikes me is the one recorded in Galatians 2.  There Paul relates how he publicly confronted Peter because he was acting hypocritically by not eating with the Gentiles.  Paul shows how that action was supporting the false belief that circumcision was still required – therefore he comes down hard.  For even a “little” error is dangerous.  “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  (Galatians 5:9)  False belief – no matter how “little” we consider it – is dangerous and is not to be tolerated.

     There are two applications that dovetail with the purpose of this blog.  One is that Christians should not do anything that gives the impression that they are tolerating the false beliefs of Mormonism or that those beliefs are not serious.  The second application is that members of the LDS Church who believe that there are errors in the LDS Church should not remain in the LDS Church.  In both cases the saying is true:  Don’t play with fire or you are going to get burned.




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