Archive for June, 2011




Both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus.  But, as with so many words and phrases, each means something differently by that.

James E. Talmage, who was an LDS apostle, defined faith this way:  “Primarily, and in a theological sense, we are considering faith as a living, inspiring confidence in God, and an acceptance of His will as our law, and of His words as our guide in life.”  Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin put it this way:  “We each should develop the faith of Nephi to do the things the Lord has commanded [see 1 Ne. 3:7] knowing that all commandments are given for our good.”

When Christians talk about faith in Jesus, however, they are not talking about accepting His will as our law or even His words as our guide in life.  The first and primary things Christians think about when faith comes up are not Jesus’ words but his works.  To Christians, having faith in Jesus means trusting that what Jesus did he did for us and because Jesus has done those things, we are already acceptable to God.  So much so that faith in Jesus, for Christians, includes the thought of abandoning any reliance on our own works.  But note that any mention of Jesus’ works for us is completely absent in James E. Talmage’s words – even though he is describing faith “primarily”.

Although both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus, they have two different objects in which they place their faith.  In order to understand each other and not talk past each other, it is important to see this difference.  It is not enough to agree that both talk about having faith in Jesus.  The telling question is: faith in Jesus’ what?


Is a man-centered gospel good news?

The word gospel means good news.  At the last LDS General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the 12 apostles, said this about the gospel:

“I believe there is one simple but profound—even sublime—principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God.  The Savior spoke of this principle when He answered the Pharisee who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–40).”

There are a couple of things to note about his words.  First, he is talking about a principle that “encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Second, he then quotes the two great commandments about love.

But nowhere does the Bible connect the word “gospel” with commands to us.  No, the biblical gospel (good news) is all about what God has done for us – not his commands to us.  Paul writing to the Corinthians said:  “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.  (I Corinthians 15:1-4).  He then proceeds to talk about Jesus’ resurrection appearances etc.  It’s all about what Jesus did – not about what we are commanded to do.

Down through the centuries, most Christians have considered John 3:16 the epitome of the gospel message:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Again it is all about what God did for us.

The good news of the Bible is all about God saving us through Jesus.  It is centered on him.  Compare that to Elder Ballard’s explanation.  There is not one mention of Jesus’ saving acts.  And he says he is talking about the principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  His good news is all about two commands that no one can keep!  For who would be bold enough to say that they love God as completely as is commanded?  Or that they love their neighbor as themselves – devoting as much time, money, effort on others as they do on themselves?  A man-centered gospel is no good news at all.

Thank God that that is not the gospel of the Bible.  Thank God that he has given us a God-centered gospel – the good news of salvation worked entirely by him.

June 2011

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