Archive for December, 2008




      I just read an article in the Mormon Times about the top Mormon-media news stories of the year.  Ranked #4 was the confusion over the FLDS (the fundamental polygamists) being identified as LDS.  The columnist was lamenting the fact that many in the media, even though they made clear that it was not part of the LDS Church, still described it as a “Mormon sect” or as a “Mormon splinter group”. 

     As I read the article, I couldn’t help see some irony in the situation – especially when this was compared to the #2 story – Mitt Rommey’s presidential bid and the confusion in the media over whether the LDS Church was a Christian Church.  There are less doctrinal differences separating the FLDS from LDS than there are separating the LDS from Christianity.  Therefore if the LDS Church strenuously fights to be identified as Christian, why is it upset when the media identifies the FLDS as Mormon?  It doesn’t seem right, in one case, to fight for identification, while, at the same time, in the other case fighting to deny identification.

     At the very least, maybe the situation with the LDS and the FLDS will help individual Mormons understand the feelings of Christians who don’t like the LDS Church to be identified as Christian.  If the LDS Church wants to be identified as Christian, it should be consistent and not resist the identification of the FLDS as Mormon.


Have A Wonderful Christmas in Christ


     For many people, Christmas is a wonderful time.  But for a lot of people, Christmas is not so great.  Without fail, every Christmas, I, as a pastor, have people contacting me because they are struggling with the holidays.  This year is no exception.

     So how can we help people who are having a blue Christmas?  Downplaying their problems isn’t very effective – or realistic.  Giving them a self-help program usually only increases the pressure they are feeling.  Telling them to buck up often results in their giving up. 

     What helps is turning them away from themselves to Jesus.  Showing them that the name Jesus means Savior “for he shall save his people from their sins”. (Luke 1:21)   Showing them how Jesus saved them by keeping the law perfectly for them and washing all their sins away with his blood.  Showing them the tremendous light at the end of the tunnel – a wonderful life of living with him for all eternity in heaven – a light that he lit by coming to earth as our Savior.  Showing them that he has promised to make all things work out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  The more we focus others to Jesus, the more we focus ourselves to Jesus, the more we will be filled with peace and contentment – even when storms are raging around us. 

     It is my prayer that you have a wonderful Christmas in Christ – in his love, in his forgiveness, in his salvation, in his coming.


The Mormon Source of Authority


      The manual, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith”, is currently being studied in the Mormon Church.  Chapter 16 is entitled, “Revelation and the Living Prophet.  That chapter contains the following two paragraphs.


Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church, reported: “I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made … with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. … A leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’


“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the [living] oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’ ”16


     This is significant for two reasons.  One is that it gives the testimony of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that the living prophet is even more important than scripture.  As Brigham Young said, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants are “nothing” compared to the living prophet.  Joseph Smith gives his assent to that.  That’s significant.

     But is just as significant is that the LDS Church saw fit to make this part of this new manual.  This is not a dusty doctrine from the dim Mormon past.  In fact they emphasize it with the following study question.


• On pages 198–99, read how Joseph Smith and Brigham Young responded when a man said we should confine ourselves to the revelations written in the scriptures. What would be missing from your life if you confined yourself to the standard works, without hearing the words of the living prophet? What can we do to follow the spirit of Brigham Young’s counsel?


     Does this not say that THE ultimate source of authority in the LDS Church is not the Bible, or the Book of Mormon, or D&C, but the current president, Thomas S. Monson?  As Brigham Young said above:  “I would rather have the living oracles than all the writings in the books.”


Jesus’ Birth


     As Christmas approaches, it is timely to point out another difference between Mormonism and Christianity, namely the circumstances of Jesus’ birth.  Christianity teaches that Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Luke 1: 35 (“that holy thing which shall be born of thee”) could be translated, “that holy one being conceived”.  The verb in the Greek is in the present and the word translated “born” also has the meaning “conceive”.  In other words, it was happening as the angel was speaking.

     Mormonism, however, teaches that Jesus was not only the spirit child of Heavenly Father, but also his literal physical child.  “That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof.”  (Talmage quoted in The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 23)  “We believe that he came into the world, born of Mary, literally and actually, as we are born of our mothers: that he came into the world, born of God the Eternal Father, the Almighty Elohim, literally and actually, as we are born of our earthly fathers.”  (McConkie, quoted in Sharing the Gospel, p. 74)

     That Jesus was the product of a union of Mary and the Eternal Father has been the subject of unjust caricatures by some Christians.  I personally have never seen or heard Mormons talk about it the way some of those caricatures have portrayed it. 

     But, on the other hand, that doesn’t mean it is not part of Mormonism.  My reason for bringing it up is to highlight how it illustrates the different view Mormonism has of both God the Father and Jesus.  This ties in with Mormonism’s teaching that God is an Exalted Man (“As man is, God once was”) and that Jesus was half –Deity.  “She. . .was about to give birth to half-Deity.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p.10)


Robert L. Millet – continued


     In the discussion following my post of December 10th, I was asked what might be something specific that the average Mormon might struggle with in Robert Millet’s writing.   Millet answers that question himself.  For example, throughout his book, Grace Works, he sprinkles in examples of how grace is not emphasized much in the Mormon Church.  He talks about how a person’s comment that the LDS Church is willing to talk about mercy and grace makes the brethren nervous and uncomfortable. 

    He also relates how his father reacted when he, before going on his mission, asked him about being saved by grace.  “He stared at me for a moment and then said firmly, ‘We don’t believe in that!’  I responded, ‘We don’t believe in it?  Why not?’ He said promptly, ‘Because the Baptists do!’”  He continues by saying that that statement speaks volumes to him now.

    I know many LDS people today who would still respond as Millet’s father did.  And I submit that they would respond that way with good reason.  They would respond that way because Mormons still don’t hear about grace very much from the church.  For example, I did a word search on the word grace in the last General Conference.  It was mentioned only once and that mention was not even in the context of salvation.  Millet’s emphasis on grace is not only not being echoed by Church leaders, it is often repudiated by grass-roots Mormons.


God’s Forgiveness and Our Forgiveness


    A passage that often evokes discussion between Mormons and Christians is Matthew 18:35:  “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”  Does this passage say that God conditions his forgiveness on our forgiveness?  That he doesn’t forgive us until we are forgiving?  That is what Mormonism teaches.

    As is soon often the case, so also here – the order things happen is terribly important.  What is the order here?  God forgives us and then we forgive others?  Or is it we forgive others and then God forgives us?  The order in which you put these two things makes a huge difference.

    The context of this passage clearly identifies that the order is that first God forgives us and that then enables us to forgive others.  First Jesus spoke this to Peter, who had already experienced God’s forgiveness.  He already was a disciple.  He had asked how forgiving should he be – see v. 21.  Basically Jesus told him to have limitless forgiveness.  

     Then, to make the point Jesus told a striking parable.  In that parable the king unconditionally forgives the enormous debt of his servant.  The servant hadn’t even asked for forgiveness – he just had asked for more time.  But the king forgave him everything.  That came first.  The king didn’t wait to forgive him until the servant demonstrated forgiveness.  The servant’s desire or ability to forgive are not even in the picture.  It’s only after the servant was forgiven and then showed an unforgiving spirit that the king became angry. 

     The point is clear – and it agrees with the rest of the Bible.  Believers are changed people.  One thing that changes is that they now have a forgiving heart.  Their forgiving others doesn’t merit God’s forgiveness – it is one of the outward evidences of the inward change.  Therefore when the outward evidence is lacking, it indicates that the inward change hasn’t taken place.

     God forgives us – without waiting to see if we will be forgiving.  In fact, without first experiencing God’s forgiveness we don’t have the ability to be truly forgiving.  It’s impossible.  Therefore God forgives us just as the king forgave his servant.  That forgiveness changes us – a fact that is seen in our being forgiving.  If we aren’t forgiving it is signaling something else – namely, that we aren’t changed and thus haven’t been touched by God’s forgiveness.  The true miracle of forgiveness is that God acts first. 


Robert L. Millet and the LDS Church


     The most prominent Mormon author that writes about grace is Robert L. Millet.  Some Mormons rely on his work quite extensively. But do his views represent official LDS teaching?  A couple of his books that I have read include a statement like the following:  “This work is a private endeavor that does not presume to speak for either Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

     So how much of his work does the LDS Church recognize?  I did a search on and found some articles that he had written for the Ensign in the 80’s and 90’s but nothing since.  Especially noticeable by their absence were any articles written by him on grace – one of his key topics.  I did find him mentioned in a couple of footnotes by other authors in some later editions – but that was about all.  I don’t see his emphasis on grace being echoed or even recognized by the leadership of the LDS Church.  The disclaimer that he puts in the front of his books is accurate – his work does not speak for the LDS Church.

     Therefore, when speaking with Mormons who refer to Millet it is important to establish the fact that his ideas do not represent official Mormonism.  In fact, he relates in the preface of his book “Grace Works” how one Church leader told him how some of the brethren were quite uneasy and uncomfortable with this emphasis on grace.  He says that he does not presume to speak for the LDS Church.  The LDS Church hasn’t said that he represents it.  Therefore it would be wrong for us or anybody else to say that his words represent official Mormonism.  If we want to see what the LDS Church officially says we need to study the sources it says represents it – especially its scriptures, living prophet and apostles.

December 2008

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