Archive for August, 2010



     When Mormons and Christians talk with each other, it is very important for both to realize that, although they often use the same words, many times they define them drastically different.  One example is seen in an article in the latest Ensign (the LDS monthly magazine).  It contains a brief article on the gospel.   It sums up the gospel with this statement about Jesus.  “His message was one of peace, love, and obedience to God’s commandments.”  A little bit later it says, “He also taught that ordinances, such as baptism, are necessary for us to return to our Heavenly Father.”  Finally it states:  “He taught the gospel clearly (see Matthew 5-7).”

     I don’t know if Mormons realize that, to a Christian, those words come off sounding like someone singing badly off tune.  For Christians, the first and only things that come to mind when they hear the word gospel are what Jesus has done for us – not what we are to do.  To a Christian, the gospel is not about our obedience, but his obedience for us.  It’s about his death on the cross as payment for all our sins. 

    That’s how the Bible describes it.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”  (1 Corinthian 15:1-4)  There is no mention here of what we are to do.  The gospel is good news precisely because it’s not about what we have to do – but about what Jesus has done for us.

     But there is none of that in this Ensign article.  Nothing about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Nothing about the Atonement or the forgiveness of sins.  Even its reference to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 underscores that – because that sermon is all about our response to the gospel – it’s not about the gospel itself.

     That brings us to the most sobering fact of all.  The different ways that Christianity and Mormonism define the word gospel highlights that they are teaching two different types of good news.  One focuses on what we do.  The other focuses on what Jesus did. Along with St. Paul I’m going to focus on what Jesus has done for me.  “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)



     In the September issue of the LDS’s magazine, the Ensign, President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor to the LDS President, refers to a teaching of Mormonism that warrants further examination.  He writes:  “The Book of Mormon also gives us confidence that we can become so purified in this life that we have no more desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5;2).” 

     This raises some questions.  Are there LDS members who presently fit this description – who have no more desire to do evil?  Mosiah 5:2, the Book of Mormon verse that he cites, expands by also saying that they “do good continually.”  Does that mean that there are LDS members who never have a selfish desire or never do anything selfishly?  Are there LDS members who never speak an unkind word after a bad day? Who never overlook an opportunity to help a fellow human being?  Who never act rudely?  If so, shouldn’t they be identified as such, so that we can be inspired by them?  For example, have all General Authorities reached this state of purfication?

     And if an individual LDS member hasn’t reached this state yet, what does that say about him or her?  President Eyring says that the Book of Mormon gives the confidence that this can happen.   What does it say if an LDS member isn’t confident about this happening in his or her life?  Shouldn’t every LDS member have this confidence?

     St. Paul didn’t agree with President Eyring or the Book of Mormon.  This type of purification wasn’t something St. Paul claimed for himself.  In fact, he claimed the opposite:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19)  But not only did he confess this about himself, this is also what he taught.  “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

     Which of the two do you identify with?  I identify with Paul.  Every day I find myself doing the evil that I don’t want to do and not doing the good that I want to do.  The Book of Mormon thought of not having any desire for evil is a completely foreign concept – and not part of my reality.  That is why each and every day I rejoice in knowing that all more sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.  That is the only purification I have confidence in.


Living Prophets

     I have found it interesting, and I must also admit frustrating, to hear the different values different Mormons place on the words of the living prophets.  More and more when I quote one of their sayings, some Mormons respond by saying that they don’t accept all their words as true – that they are only human and thus also make mistakes.  Other Mormons respond more traditionally and place quite a high value on them.

     But there is really no question how the LDS Church values its living prophets.  The Church manuals consistently hold them up as authoritative and trustworthy sources.  Those manuals even label their words as scripture.  Take, for example, the following quote from the teacher’s manual for the course “Preparing for Exaltation” – the course being taught this year to 12 and 13 year olds.  It says, “Explain that the scriptures (including the teachings of latter-day prophets, which are considered scripture) contain the word of God to his people.” (p. 87)

     Who then is more fairly representing official Mormonism?  Those Mormons who downplay the words of their own living prophets or Christians who use them to show what Mormonism truly teaches?  After all, Mormonism itself says that their words are scripture.

August 2010

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