Archive for November, 2009



     One of the basic tenets of Mormonism is that we are on earth to be tested and to work to become worthy of life in the celestial kingdom.  The following quote from Gospel Principles is representative of this teaching.  “By following His teachings, we can inherit a place in the celestial kingdom.  He did His part to help us return to our heavenly home.  It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.”  (p. 16)

     As a result, many Mormons have scoffed at the idea of that salvation is God’s gift based completely in Christ’s work for us – that salvation is by grace, through faith, without works.  For example, an LDS prophet stated:  “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  (Spencer W. Kimball)

      But there is a whole class of people that Mormonism says will be saved in the celestial kingdom without having to prove themselves.  I’m talking about small children who die.  D&C 137:10 says:  “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”

     This sparks a couple of questions.  If it was so important, according to Mormonism, that we had the chance to prove ourselves by wisely choosing the right, then why does God allow children to die before they have a chance to prove themselves?  And if the idea of salvation as a totally free gift is so obnoxious, why then does God give small children salvation in the celestial kingdom?


What Qualifies People to Live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

     A topic that frustrates both Christians and Mormons is the topic of faith and works.  It usually creates much more heat than light.  Therefore I would like to approach this somewhat differently in an attempt, at the very least, to clarify some of the issues involved.  I would like to address the question in the title.  What qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

    I worded it that way because I have found that the phrase “living with Heavenly Father” is the best way to get Mormons and Christians thinking about somewhat the same thing.  When Christians hear that phrase, most think of going to heaven.  When Mormons hear that phrase, most think of going to the celestial kingdom.

    In this post, all I want to do is to try and express, as clearly, as I can, what I believe the Bible says qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father eternally.  The answer to that is quite simple.  The only thing that qualifies people is the vicarious work of Jesus –which the Bible breaks into two parts.   The first part is the perfect life he led, not just as our Example, but as our Substitute.  (1 Corinthians 1:30 and all the passages that talk about the righteousness we have in Christ.)  The second part is his sacrificial death which satisfied divine justice by paying the debt of sin.  In other words, Jesus not only supplied the payment for all sin with his death; he also supplied righteousness and perfection for us through his perfect law-keeping.  His complete payment and his perfect law-keeping are what qualify people to live with Heavenly Father.  Sinlessness and perfection is what Heavenly Father is looking for.  No more – no less.

     Yes, faith is essential but not because it is an additional qualification.  Rather it is the way that Christ’s work is credited to individual persons.  Faith is one of those words that cause great confusion between Mormons and Christians. For my Mormon readers, I would like to clarify what Christians mean when they talk about faith.  Faith is not just head knowledge.  It is trust.  Conversion, in Christianity, is abandoning the trust that your works and efforts in any way qualify you to stand before God and replacing that with trust that Jesus’ works are the only thing that qualifies you to stand before God.  When it comes to living eternally with Heavenly Father, it is not even believing that God exists, or so much believing in his Word, but it is trusting in Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death for us.  To a Christian, faith, in the context of living eternally with Heavenly Father, is very specific.

     Yes, faith without works is dead.  But again the works that follow faith are not additional qualifications for living eternally with Heavenly Father.  When people are converted, they cross over from spiritual death to spiritual life.  They become new creations.  They are filled with life and thus naturally want to do good works.  That is why the Bible often calls them fruits of faith.  They come after faith and are the visible proofs and evidence that people have living faith. 

     Christians are very careful to keep works in their proper place.  They abhor any thought that their works in any way qualify them to live with Heavenly Father.  That idea, to many Christians, dishonors Christ tremendously.  Not only that.  Since the Bible says grace and works don’t mix as causes of being accepted by God (Romans 11:6), Christians say any mention of works in the discussion of how people qualify for living eternally with Heavenly Father actually disqualifies a person to live eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Finally, yes, people have to endure in the faith.  It’s who people are trusting in that counts.  If people quit trusting in Jesus works, then they won’t be able to live eternally with Heavenly Father.  But again that is not an additional qualification.  If a fireman rescues me from a burning house and I stay on the sidewalk in safety rather than running back into the burning house, I wouldn’t say that I did something to be saved.  What an insult that would be to the fireman who risked his life to save me.

     I pray that in some small way this helps Mormons better understand Christians and also helps them understand why many Christians become greatly agitated at any thought that we have to do something to qualify to live eternally with Heavenly Father.



     Whenever there is interaction between people, there exists the real possibility of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.  Communication is difficult.  It’s difficult, at times, to express ourselves clearly.  It’s even more difficult to listen carefully.  Good listeners are few and far between.

     The importance of good communication is paramount when people of different faiths interact.  Such interactions demand clear speaking and careful listening.   Naturally, because of the nature of this blog, I am here mainly thinking of communication between Mormons and non-Mormons.  I would like to outline some of the issues that have made this difficult for me.

      1.  Who do I listen to when I want to get a true picture of Mormonism?  Do I restrict myself to its scriptures – do I include the words of the living prophet seeing that often they are also labeled as scripture – do I also look at the official church manuals as more than one LDS leader has encouraged me to do?  Or do I listen to what individual Mormons tell me?  And what do I do when they either contradict each other or some official sources? 

     Permit me one small recent example.  It is my experience that LDS sources are quite consistent in defining eternal life as equal to exaltation, life in the celestial kingdom.  More than one source goes out of its way to make it distinct from immortality.  As I said, this seems to be quite consistent.  Therefore I think it is only right for me to observe that distinction when talking to Mormons.  But recently that distinction was ignored by a Mormon and I was told I was misrepresenting Mormonism.  When that happens, that brings to mind a couple of questions:  Who should I be listening to understand what Mormonism teaches about eternal life?  And how can I get the conversation on track again when discrepancies like this arise?  In other words, suddenly the discussion revolves around the definition of a phrase, rather than the original topic.

     I hasten to add, that Mormons face the same problem when talking to Christians.  They too probably end up scratching their heads on who to listen to.  This is my two-cents worth of advice to Mormons.  If you want to know what a certain denomination of Baptists, or Lutherans, or others believe, look at what they have stated officially.  I will be the first to admit that many Christians don’t accurately represent all the beliefs of their churches.  Yes, if I want to know what an individual person believes, whether Mormon or Christian, I need to listen to him or her.  But I think it is also proper to point out to people where their beliefs differ from those held by their church. 

     2.  My second problem is when people don’t listen and, at the very least, seem to be intentionally misrepresenting the position of others.  Again, I will be the first to admit that this is something I have seen Christians doing with Mormonism.  But I have also seen it go the other way.  The one that I find irritating is when Mormons say that Christians think that because salvation is free, they can run amuck and sin all they want.  I know of no Christian church that teaches that.  I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain that, when it comes to being saved- being justified – works have no place.  In that context, the Bible and Christianity teach that works are deadly.  The only works that apply there are the works of Christ for us.  But the Bible and Christianity also teaches that, as a result of being saved, as a fruit of faith, Christians will do good works. 

         I have made that point repeatedly in this blog.  But I still have Mormons misrepresenting what I and others Christians believe.  At the very least, that doesn’t aid in communication.

     I will try my best to avoid misrepresenting the teachings of any church.  All I ask is that you do the same.



     Over the years I have met many people who view sin as an addition problem.  They see sin as a minus.  But they also believe that if they have more pluses (good works, etc.) those pluses will outweigh the minuses and they will be OK.  I also see this in Mormonism – especially in the thought that a person can progress to perfection and in their talk about the law of the harvest.

     But that is not how the Bible views sin.  Instead of viewing sin as an addition problem, it sees it as a multiplication problem, in the sense that even one sin (one negative) makes everything negative.  Even a long string of positives is negated by just one negative.  That’s the point James makes in 2:10:  “For whosever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  Just one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law.

     We see that same principle in courtrooms around the nation.  It is not uncommon to see a person, who had been law-abiding his entire life, on trial for a serious crime.  His previous law keeping doesn’t protect him from being sentenced and punished.  That one crime negates a lifetime of law keeping. For the rest of his life he will be seen as a felon.

     So also with sin.  There is no way that anybody can contribute to their perfection because “whosever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Whoever tries to contribute to their perfection will end up adding negatives (sins) to the equation.  That is nothing less than a formula for failure.

      The only formula for success is relying totally on Jesus and his sacrifice for us.    “By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”  (Hebrews 10:14)  If you are perfected forever, there is nothing left to be done.  And that is exactly what the Bible says.  “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (Hebrews 10:18).  To Jesus be the glory, honor and praise.

November 2009

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