In my last post about Paradise I quoted a couple of LDS sources concerning Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross. For convenience sake I quote them again: “To the thief on the cross who asked to be remembered after death, the Savior responded to give him what hope he could: ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, ‘ That is to say, today you shall be with me in the world of spirits, where you will be taught the gospel and your inquires will be answered. (See Smith, Teachings, p.309) Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance or (sic) the malefactor. What Jesus did do was give recognition to the seeds of faith and repentance which were evidenced by a penitent man. As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto that everlasting light.” (Life and Teachings. . .p. 186, emphasis added)
The LDS Bible Dictionary says this: “For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’, the Bible rendering is incorrect. The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the word of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.”
I especially want to focus on two things in those quotes. The first is the statement that Jesus’ words to the malefactor do not give any credence to a death-bed repentance on the part of the malefactor. I assume that this statement was made in response to the common Christian teaching that people can repent on their deathbeds and, as a result, enjoy living Heavenly Father for all eternity.
The second statement is one from the LDS Bible Dictionary stating that the thief was not ready for paradise.
Numerous Mormons here and elsewhere have stated that Mormonism teaches that salvation is all about Jesus and what he has done – that the differences in how Mormonism and Christianity view salvation are really not that major. It is has been my position, and the position of many other Christians, that the differences are major. I submit that the quotes above illustrate that difference.
As a Christian pastor, I have had the privilege of ministering to people on their deathbeds – including some who had shown no interest, much less, faith in Jesus. But staring in the face of death does something to a person. On more than one occasion, I had the extraordinary privilege of bringing people the message that Jesus had paid for all their sins – that, through Jesus, they could live with Heavenly Father – that they were saved by grace alone. And the Holy Spirit caused them to trust that! Through Christ, they were ready for Paradise – the Paradise of living eternally with Heavenly Father.
Mormonism – “did not lead any credence to a death-bed repentance, . .”not ready for paradise.”
Christianity – believe and you will be with God forever – because Jesus has done everything for you.
To me that’s a big difference.