Archive for March, 2010

30
Mar
10

REPENTANCE AND SUFFERING

   The April 2010 Ensign contains an article by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church.  It is entitled “The Atonement and Faith”. One emphasis he makes is that suffering is an important part of repentance.  Following is an excerpt from his article.

    “Does it also mean that a person who repents does not need to suffer at all because the entire punishment is borne by the Savior?  That cannot be the meaning because it would be inconsistent with the Savior’s other teachings.

    “What is meant by Alma 34:16 is that the person who repents does not need to suffer even as the Savior suffered for that sin.  Sinners who are repenting will experience some suffering, but because of their repentance and the Atonement they will not experience the full, exquisite extent of eternal torment the Savior suffered for those sins.

    “President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985), who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal sufferings is a very important part of repentance. ‘One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. . .If a person hasn’t suffered,’ he said, ‘he hasn’t repented.’”

     I will be the first to admit that there is often sorrow connected to repentance.  Once our eyes are open to how repulsive sin is to God – especially the sin of thinking that we can contribute anything to our salvation – we naturally are sorrowful.  Once we see all the things that God considers sinful – sins of both omission and commission – sins residing in our thoughts and not just expressed in actions – we are sorrowful. 

     But then when we hear the wonderful news of the Atonement – that Jesus did suffer the full price for our sins – the overwhelming emotion is not sorrow but joy – the overwhelming experience is not one of suffering but of relief, of a huge burden lifted.  It is the joyous reaction of Zacchaeus recorded in Luke 19:1-10.  He repents and throws a huge party.  He repents and becomes a joyful philanthropist.   But, according to Spencer W. Kimball and the LDS Church, he wasn’t repentant.  I can just hear them sternly telling Zacchaeus: “One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins.”

     Thank the Lord that is not what Jesus told him.  “And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

     This coming Friday the Christian church will again observe Christ’s death.  Yes, there will be a tone of somber sorrow as we again see the price Jesus had to pay for our sins.  But even more importantly there will be quiet joy as we again hear Jesus, “It is finished.”  With those words Jesus is reassuring me that he suffered for all my sins – that he alone suffered for them and therefore I don’t have to suffer for them.  That is why down through the centuries Christians have called this Friday, Good Friday.

16
Mar
10

Toyota and the LDS Church

     I’m sure you all have heard about the problems Toyota is having – not only with its cars but also with its image.   There are a lot of questions about when the company was first aware of the problems with its cars.  Some are wondering if the company put people into danger by not immediately recalling cars once they knew they were defective.  I have heard, more than once, the word criminal used to describe the company’s slow response.

    That got me thinking about the stance the LDS Church takes on the Bible.  It is increasingly promoting the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible in its TV ads and other promotions.  At first, that seems only natural because it is the version officially accepted as Scripture by the LDS Church.  But when you think about it, not only does that not make sense, it is disturbing.  It is disturbing because the LDS Church says that the KJV is defective.  I cited one example of that in my last post with the word “paradise” in the story of the thief on the cross.  The LDS Church says that it was mistranslated.

     What is even more disturbing is that the LDS Church claims to have a better translation – in fact, an inspired translation.  I’m talking about the Joseph Smith Translation or, as it is also known as, the Inspired Version.  It is something that is referenced in many church manuals.  The LDS edition of the Bible contains excerpts of it in the footnotes and an appendix.  But it’s not the version that they promote.

     That doesn’t seem loving to me.  Why promote a product that you believe is defective?  Why not promote the product that you think is superior – even inspired?  Why put, what you think is the correct translation, in the footnotes and not the main body of text. Isn’t that the normal procedure?  Especially when it deals, not just with people’s physical lives, but with their eternal lives!  That doesn’t just seem unloving, that seems criminal. 

      Why then does it continue to promote the KJV?  Could it all be about image?  Just think how much more difficult it would be for the LDS Church to claim to be Christian if it promoted the Joseph Smith Translation as its official Bible.

10
Mar
10

Paradise

     This week I am preaching on the story of the thief on the cross.  Unfortunately the word thief doesn’t convey to us how bad a person he was.  He was a very bad man.  He himself admitted that when he told the other criminal:  “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds.”  (Luke 23:41)    That’s quite a statement seeing that crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals.  It was not used for common criminals. This was an evil man.

     That makes all the more striking the brief dialogue between him and Jesus.  “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23: 42-43)

     First, what an amazing confession of sin when the man admits that he deserves crucifixion!  Then what an amazing confession of faith and trust in Jesus when he not only addresses him as Lord, but then boldly asks that he remember him when he comes to his kingdom!  Both his addressing Jesus as Lord and the mention of his kingdom show that this man had come to know who Jesus was.  Even more startling is his request that Jesus remember him.  He would only make that request if he knew Jesus was merciful and forgiving.  Otherwise being noticed by King Jesus would be the last thing he would want!

     Down through the centuries, Christians have treasured this story as a wonderful example that being with Jesus hinges on trusting in his mercy rather than on being and doing good. This man was evil.  He would die in a matter of hours.  He would have no chance to work a process of repentance.  But still Jesus reassured him that that very day he would be with him.  I repeat: what a wonderful example of the fact that our being with Jesus depends entirely on his mercy and not on our works.

     The LDS Church, however, sees it differently.  The LDS Bible Dictionary says:  “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.”

      Here is what its manual on the New Testament says: “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)

     What comfort is that?  What hope is that?  According to LDS teaching, couldn’t Jesus have said that same thing to the other criminal hanging there who was reviling him?  Doesn’t everybody, according to LDS teaching, go the world of spirits, when they die?  According to LDS teaching, didn’t the other criminal have the opportunity to have the gospel preached to him in the spirit world?    Mormonism’s explanation doesn’t even make sense in the context of its own teachings.

     I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take Jesus’ words at face value.  Once again this week I will praise the Lord who tells me that I will be with him for all eternity solely because of what he has done for me. 

            Amazing grace how sweet the sound-

            That saved a wretch like me!

            I once was lost but now am found,

            Was blind but now I see.

04
Mar
10

Complete Honesty is Necessary for our Salvation

     “Complete honesty is necessary for our salvation.  President Brigham Young said:  ‘If we accept salvation on the terms it is offered to us, we have got to be honest in every thought, in our reflections, in our meditations, in our private circles, in our deals, in our declarations, and in every act of our lives’ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 293).  (Gospel Principles, p. 179)

     The rest of the lesson in Gospel Principles gives examples of complete honesty.  Here are a couple of excerpts:  “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth.  Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

     “Copying music, movies, pictures, or written text without the permission of the copyright owners is dishonest and is a form of theft.  Accepting more change or goods than one should is dishonest.  Taking more than our share of anything is stealing.”

     These excerpts demonstrate that this lesson is quite thorough in its description of dishonesty.  I don’t know about you, but that phrase “intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look” etc. really hits home.  I will be the first to admit that my body language is not always an honest indicator of my feelings.  Or how about all the Brigham Young quote?  The more you consider each individual part of it, the more depressing it becomes.  Honest in every thought. . .in every act?

     But what really caught my attention was the last section of this lesson in Gospel Principles.  It is titled, “We Can Be Completely Honest”.  It states:  “To become completely honest, we must look carefully at our lives.  If there are ways in which we are being even the least bit dishonest, we should repent of them immediately.”

     “When we are completely honest, we cannot be corrupted.  We are true to every trust, duty, agreement, or covenant, even if it costs us money, friends, or our lives.  Then we can face the Lord, ourselves, and others without shame.”

    Here, my friends, is where I see the vast difference between Mormonism and Christianity.  Christianity, like the quotes in the beginning of this post, also talks about the many different ways we sin.  Right now we are in the Season of Lent – a time when many Christian churches encourage their members to take a good hard look at themselves for the express purpose of seeing their sins.

     But Mormonism and Christianity end up in drastically different places.  As this lesson from Gospel Principles so clearly demonstrates, Mormonism ends up by telling people that they can work and become completely honest.  Being completely honest, that is one of the most discouraging things I have ever heard.  I know myself.  There is no way that I can completely do what this lesson all says.  Being completely honest, I must confess that there is no way that I can work and become completely honest.  But that is the message of Mormonism.

     How different the message of Christianity!  Christianity, once it shows people their sinfulness, instead of pointing them to themselves, points them to Jesus.  Christianity takes people by the hand and shows them how Jesus was completely honest for them.  It takes people to his cross and shows them all their sins, including their dishonesty, being completely paid for – and forgotten!  (“Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17).  And Christianity doesn’t just do this once in awhile.  No this is its main message, this is its beating heart.  Day after day, week after week, year after year, it incessantly points people to Jesus’ perfect work for them.

     In other words, I cannot imagine having a lesson on honesty in my church not stress the wonderful comfort we have in seeing what Jesus has done.  But there was not a single word of that in this Gospel Principles lesson!  For me, that is an example of the stark difference between Mormonism and Christianity.




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