Archive for July, 2009



              As is evidenced by comments on this blog, there exists a communication problem between Christians and Mormons.  Mormons complain that Christians don’t understand them.  Christians say the same thing about Mormons.  Charges of misunderstanding and misrepresentation fly back and forth.  Therefore I offer the following in the hope that is will both help Christians understand Mormonism’s plan of salvation and help Mormons understand some of the difficulties Christians have with it.

     Although, in Mormonism, it is referred to as the plan of salvation, from a Christian perspective it is easier understood as a plan of maturity.  Salvation, to a Christian, means going to heaven.  In Mormonism, as is evidenced by its plan, very few people don’t go to heaven.  Therefore, from a Christian perspective, almost everybody will be saved, even if they have no belief in Jesus.  The lowest kingdom of LDS heaven is the telestial kingdom.  “Telestial glory will be reserved for individuals who ‘received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus’ (D&C 76:84, 106).” (True to the Faith)  In other words, if a person rejects Jesus, in Mormonism, they will still be saved, according to Christian terminology.

     Why then does Mormonism have such a detailed plan of salvation?  Seeing it as a plan of maturity rather than as a plan salvation helps clear up some of the confusion for Christians.  The plan takes a person from being a spirit child in pre-existence, to growing maturity on earth as they overcome bodily temptations, to more maturity in the spirit world, until finally, the worthy ones reach exaltation and become gods.  Instead of talking about maturity, however, Mormonism prefers talking about a person’s progression. 

     Another Mormon expression that fits into this description is the description of themselves as “gods in embryo”.  Consider the following quote from the LDS manual, “Achieving a Celestial Marriage”.  The heading of this section is entitled “MEN ARE GODS IN EMBRYO.” 

     “’Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God.’ (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1908, p.81.)”

     If we truly think the differences between Mormonism and Christianity are substantial, then it is is important to try and communicate clearly with each other.  Hopefully this is one step in that direction.




     Over the years, a number of Mormons have quoted to me the beginning of Moroni 10:32.  “Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him.”  They then have said that Mormonism also teaches that we become perfect in Christ.  But is that passage saying the same thing Christians say when they claim to have perfection in Christ?

      Here’s the entire passage.  “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and IF you shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, THEN is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”  (My emphasis)

     I have emphasized the “if” and the “then” because they are a significant expansion of this verse.  “If – then” commonly denote a cause and effect relationship.  If somebody does A, then B follows.  But B doesn’t follow if A doesn’t happen.  If I go to work, then I will get a paycheck.  It follows therefore to say that if I don’t go to work, then I won’t get a paycheck.

     Note the A and B in the verses above.  The A has two parts:  1) If you deny yourselves of all ungodliness and 2) if you love God with all your might, mind , and strength.  The striking word in both is the word “all”: “all ungodliness”  “all your might, mind, and strength”.  By the repetition of all, this verse is emphasizing a totality – not just of effort – but of results.  It doesn’t say try with all your might to deny ungodliness.  It says “deny yourselves of all ungodliness”.

     It’s only then that the “then” happens.  “THEN is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”    

     This is completely different from what the Bible teaches.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”  (Hebrews 10:14)  A few verses before he addresses who are the sanctified when he writes:  “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10)  There are no if. . .then clauses here.  All there is here is the offering of Jesus Christ.  The wonderful news of the Bible is that perfection is not based on our denying ourselves or loving God with all our might, mind and strength.  According to the Bible perfection is based entirely on what Jesus did for us.  And for that I am eternally grateful.


Is Sin Only a Willful Act?


     One of the things I have noticed in my reading of the Ensign and the LDS Church Manuals is that they use often words like mistakes, bad choices, etc. for things the Bible labels sinful.  In True to the Faith, a manual recommended by the First Presidency of the LDS Church as a companion to scripture study, under the heading sin it reads:  “When we willfully disobey God’s commandments, we commit sin.  We also commit sin when we fail to act righteously despite our knowledge of the truth (see James 4:17).”

     Is sin really only a willful disobedience of God’s commandments?  In the majority of the world’s society, morality has been on the decline with the result that more and more people have a weakened sense of right and wrong.  Does this mean that Islamic suicide bombers aren’t sinning especially if they see their actions as following God’s will?  Does this mean that if a person doesn’t know that God commands us to lead chaste lives that he or she isn’t sinning by being unchaste?  

     The Bible doesn’t limit sin just to willful disobedience.  Take Jesus’ prayer as he was being nailed to the cross:  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  He would not have had to pray that if sin was limited to willfully disobeying God’s commandments.  Especially sobering is this passage:  “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23).

     Neither does the Bible limit sin only to our actions.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly talked about the sinfulness of thoughts.  One example:  “But I say unto you, That whsoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in her heart.”  (Matthew 5:28)  And we see this not just in the Sermon on the Mount.  The Bible repeatedly talks about evil thoughts, about sinful lusts, etc.

     But True to the Faith. mentions none of this under the heading sin.  In that, it is quite representative of LDS teaching.  Mormonism drastically diminishes sin.

     It is vitally important for people to see the extent of their sinfulness.  The more limited and restricted people’s view of sin is, the less desperation they will feel for a Savior.  On the other hand, the more accurate their knowledge is of how of how much they do sin, the more they will be inclined to despair of their works and trust solely in Jesus’ work for them.  That is what I am doing.


Christ Our Righteousness

    A Bible passage that has become increasingly precious to me is 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  What I especially treasure is its teaching that Jesus has become our righteousness.

     Righteousness is an important biblical word, but one that a lot of people aren’t that familiar with because it is not used that often outside of religious discussions.  I confirmed that by googling it.  Almost all the references that came up placed it in a religious context.  My dictionary defines it as acting according to what is right, being upright.

     That is why I so treasure the above quoted passage.  As the years go by, I am increasingly aware of my failure to always act uprightly, to act righteously.  The battle between flesh and Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians is something I feel regularly.  (“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” 5:17). No matter how hard I try to lead a Christ-centered life, I find myself putting self in the center.  No matter how hard I try to always be patient and joyful, I find myself still being impatient and moody.  On and on it goes.

     What a relief – what a joy it is, then, to be told that Jesus has become our righteousness.  Not only did Jesus die in my place, he also lived in my place – as my Substitute.  All his perfect and righteous thoughts, words, and actions are credited to my account.  Not only did he undo what I did, he also did what I didn’t do.  As God now looks at my account, He doesn’t see any debts since they were erased by Jesus’ blood.  Instead all he sees is righteousness – the righteousness of Jesus that has been credited to me.

     No wonder the Bible says, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  To Jesus, my Savior, my Righteousness, – be all glory!


The Parable of the Prodigal Son

    Of all the parables Jesus told, one of the most familiar is the Parable of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15.  It is a wonderful story of God’s forgiveness as the father rushes out and welcomes home his wayward son.  

      But, as we place it into its context, we see that the point Jesus was really making was the joy we are to experience whenever we see a lost soul saved.  H makes that emphasis in direct response to the Pharisees’ murmuring against him.  “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2).  In response, Jesus tells three parables about the lost – the parable of the Prodigal Son being the last of the three.  And all three emphasize the joy we are to feel when we see the lost saved.  (See Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 22-24) 

     In that setting it is obvious that the complaining elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son represents the Pharisees.   His anger over his father throwing a feast for his brother mirrors the murmuring of the Pharisees over Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  I’m sure that the Pharisees listening to Jesus as he unfolded this parable felt as if he had hit them with a two by four over their heads!  In essence, Jesus was telling them that, instead of murmuring, they should be rejoicing that he was reaching the lost.

     Therefore I found it interesting to see how Mormonism interprets this parable.  In the New Testament manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, it talks about the mercy and forgiveness of the Father.  But what I found interesting is that it talks more about the two sons than it does the father.  The point it emphasizes is that the father “did not have the younger son restored to all the privileges he had forfeited.”  He was received back but now “the farm” is gone.  “The ‘father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

     In striking contrast, the older son becomes the role model.  He is described as the “more dutiful” son.  “The father consoled him with the statement: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”   In other words, for him “the farm” was not gone.  Unlike the younger son, he did not forfeit his privileges.  There is not one mention made of the Pharisees and their ungodly murmuring against Jesus.

      A beautiful story of forgiveness is turned into a story of making choices.  “Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions.  When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.”  So much so, that “the ‘father’ cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

     The Bible teaches about a Heavenly Father who can undo the effects of foregone choices and has done so in Jesus Christ.  Through the saving work of Christ he has restored all the privileges that we have forfeited through sin.  Because of Jesus I’m looking forward to living eternally with Heavenly Father.

July 2009

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