Archive for October, 2010

14
Oct
10

CHRIST CENTERED CHURCH?

      I have been reading the LDS teacher’s manual for the 12 and 13 year old Sunday School course entitled “Preparing for Exaltation”.  I like to read materials for that age level because they stick to the basics of Mormonism and explain those basics quite simply.  In short, I think they give me a good and fair reading of basic Mormonism.

     The very first lesson deals with Mormonism’s Plan of Salvation complete with a simple diagram.  Here is the encouragement given to the teacher.  “Explain that Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation provides a way for us to gain a body, learn by experience, show that we will obey his commandments, and return to him stronger and wiser.  Emphasize that this plan is given because of Heavenly Father’s great love for us.”

     I found it incredibly striking that coming to know Jesus as our Savior is not even mentioned as one of the purposes of the plan of salvation.  In fact, in the five large pages of instructions for this lesson there is no mention of Jesus’ atonement or any reference to Jesus’ saving work.  To be fair, later on in the course there is one lesson on Jesus’ atonement.  But only a very small minority of the 45 lessons talks about what God has done for us.  A quick overview would say that well over 90% of the material is aimed at teaching what they have to do.

     I find that so depressing.  What a contrast to the Sunday School material my congregation, and thousands of other congregations, use.  Those materials put the emphasis not on what we have to do, but on what God has done for us.  They emphasize that God didn’t give us a plan of salvation which we have to work, but rather he gave us salvation complete in Christ.

     Over the years, numerous Mormons have confided in me that it bothered them that they did not hear more about Jesus in the LDS Church.  Manuals like this one back their comments up.  It takes more than having Jesus in your name to make you a Christ-centered church.  Christ centered churches center their talk on him.

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08
Oct
10

What a difference a “not” makes!

      One of my favorite Bible passages is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The whole context is brimming over with comforting statements reassuring us that God forgives us through faith.  For example, the very next verse says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  It is obvious that righteousness without works is Paul’s theme in this section.

      But that is not how Joseph Smith translated it.  His translation, also called the Inspired Version by the LDS Church, translates verse 5 this way.  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Besides having no basis for such a translation, it violates Paul’s line of thought.  In the very next chapter, for example, Paul speaks in a similar way about justifying the ungodly when he writes: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

     This is not the only time Joseph Smith did that either.  Another beautiful example of how quick God is to forgive us is seen when the prophet Nathan comes to King David to confront him about his adultery.  After he laid in on the line and also told David that there would be earthly consequences for his sin, we read:  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13)  It’s striking how quickly Nathan reassures David of forgiveness. 

     But not according to Joseph Smith.  He translated it, “hath not put away thy sin that thou shalt not die.”  Once again the little word “not” changes the sense completely.  It drains it of comfort for us.  It robs God of great glory.

     A lot of Mormons today shy away from statements like the following what Spencer W. Kimball wrote in his classic book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when.  It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you.  That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”  I don’t know why they shy away from such statements.  To me, such statements are accurately reflecting the way Joseph Smith translated the Bible. 

     The way Mormonism talks about forgiveness and the way the Bible speaks about it are totally opposite.  I rejoice along with St. Paul that God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.




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