Archive for August, 2009



       That is the title of the Visiting Teaching Message in the September, 2009 Ensign.  Most Christians, seeing that title, would naturally think that the article would center on the good news of free and full forgiveness earned for us by Jesus.

        But there is no mention of forgiveness in the article.  There is no mention of Jesus’ atonement. Rather the whole article is about what they need to do.  Following are two representative quotes from the article.    

Barbara Thompson, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency: “Sisters, now more than ever, we need women to step up and be strong. We need women who declare the truth with strength, faith, and boldness. We need women to set an example of righteousness. We need women to be ‘anxiously engaged in a good cause.’ We need to live so that our lives bear witness that we love our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ and that we will do what They have asked us to do” (“Now Let Us Rejoice,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2008, 116).

       2 Nephi 31:12: “Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “We must live the gospel in such a way that we will have the Spirit to ever be with us. If we live worthily, the Spirit will always be with us. We can then teach by the Spirit. … The reason we pray, study the scriptures, have good friends, and live the gospel through obedience to the commandments is so that when—not if, but when—the trials come, we are ready” (“Teaching by Faith,” Liahona, Sept. 2003, 10, 14–15; Ensign, Sept. 2003, 20, 24–25).


        As I said, that is so different from what Christians would have expected.  Understanding the gospel means understanding that Christ saved us by paying for our sins.  Living the gospel means reveling in his forgiveness, praising him for his forgiveness, giving him all the credit for our worthiness to stand before God.  The good news is seeing that Jesus saved us not by being our example but by being our substitute.


Outer Darkness and Hell


      Mormonism makes a distinction between outer darkness and hell.  The LDS 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 glory.  “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 fully 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.  But I don’t see it doing the same thing with the “eternal” in eternal life.)  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 more than this. 

    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-lifers like to talk about the details of abortion.  But sometimes they have to especially when talking to those who are 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.



     One important area where Mormonism differs from the Bible is in its view of the natural condition of the human race.  It has a much more optimistic view of humanity.

     This comes out in a number of ways.  It talks about how just the fact that we are on earth is an indication of our faithfulness in the pre-existence.  “You had the power to choose even before you were born. . .Your presence on earth confirms that you exercised your agency to follow Heavenly Father’s plan.”  (True to the Faith).

     At times, it describes people as “gods in embryo”.  (See the quote in the last post.)  That quote also is an example of how it teaches that people can become a God.

     Lying at the foundation of all this is the idea that Adam’s and Eve’s Fall was good.  “Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us.  Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life.  None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.”  (Gospel Principles, p.33)

     All of these things combine to give a picture of humanity that is quite optimistic.  That stands in stark contrast to what the Bible says.

     Instead of having the ability to choose between good and evil, God said:  “for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).  What is so striking about that is that God said that after the Flood – when Noah and his family constituted the whole human race!  Even then God did not have an optimistic view of humanity.  Instead of talking about an innate right to choose between good and evil, he said that even a person’s inclination is evil. 

     Other scriptures support this.  “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.  Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Psalm 53:2-3.)  That is all inclusive.  None were seeking God – all have become filthy – none does good.  Wouldn’t choosing the right be doing something good?

     Because of humanity’s inherent evilness, we couldn’t do anything to become worthy and acceptable to Heavenly Father.  Jesus had to do everything.  And he did!  He drowned my sins in the depths of the sea.  He completely covered me with his perfection.  I am saved, not by grace after all I can do as Mormonism teaches.  I am saved by grace alone as the Bible teaches.

August 2009

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