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.