Archive for August, 2011

15
Aug
11

ONE WAY OF COMPARING MORMONISM AND THE BIBLE

There are many different ways Mormonism and the Bible can be compared.  One way is looking at how each describes the size of the gap between God and humans and then how that gap is bridged.

Very briefly, Mormonism makes that a relatively small gap.  It does that in two ways.  First it teaches about a God whom humans can understand.  The God of Mormonism was once a man, is now an exalted man, limited by a body – not omnipresence, omniscient, etc.   Secondly, Mormonism has a high view of humans.  We were God’s spirit children; sometimes referred to as gods in embryo.  We have the divine potential to become gods ourselves.  Both of these factors, a God that once was a man and humans that become gods, create a gap between God and humans that is not that great.

The Bible teaches something totally different.  It describes a God that is far beyond human comprehension.  He has no beginning and no end.  He is omnipresence, omniscient, omnipotent, etc.  His very nature of three distinct persons but one being boggles our minds.  Secondly, the Bible speaks in stark terms about the devastation sin has wrought on the human race.  It describes people as blinded by sin, dead in sin, enemies of God.  It says that, “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)  The result is that the Bible pictures the gap between God and humans as huge.

All this is foundational to the main and pressing question of how this gap can be bridged. Mormonism teaches that bridging this gap depends on the efforts of both God and man – something that it says is possible because the gap is not that big.  “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”  (2 Nephi 25:23)  This doesn’t even describe a picture of two parties meeting half-way.  Rather this describes humans taking the initiative, doing all they can, expending all their effort to bridge the gap – and then, only after they have exhausted all their resources, does God get involved and help out.

Again the Bible teaches something totally different.  Because the gap between God and man is so huge, it takes divine initiative and divine effort to bridge.  Not only that, but humans couldn’t do anything because they were dead in sin, “they have together become worthless.”  Therefore God did it all.  Jesus came not as a teacher or example to show people what they had to do to save themselves.  Rather he came as a substitute to do it all for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly and gave us the credit for it.  He died a horrible death as payment for our sins.  He didn’t wait until we had expended all our effort – he didn’t meet us halfway – he came all the way to us and did everything to bridge the gap.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

To sum it up:  Mormonism puts much of the burden of bridging the gap on humans.  The Bible gives God all the credit for completely bridging the gap himself.  To God be all praise and glory.

09
Aug
11

A template for gaining eternal life?

“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”  (Matthew 19)

When discussing how someone can gain eternal life, Mormons have frequently pointed to these words Jesus spoke to the rich young man – especially his words in v. 17:  “but if thou will enter into life, keep the commandments.”  They then often state that these words show that keeping the commandments are essential for gaining eternal life.  Case closed.

But does that interpretation even coincide with what Mormonism teaches?  As many Mormons are quick to point out, Mormonism does talk about grace.  Mormonism teaches that no one can gain eternal life by their own merits.  “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23) is one of the foundational passages of the LDS Church.  Mormonism teaches that it takes a combination of God’s grace and man’s effort to enter God’s presence.  “The phrase ‘after all we can’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)

But that is not what Jesus told the young man!  He doesn’t even hint at grace.  All he talks about is keeping the commandments.  If Mormons want to point to these words as a template for gaining eternal life then they had better not mention grace at all – because Jesus doesn’t.  Here Jesus says it’s 100% – not 50%, not 25%, not 1% – but 100% about keeping the commandments.

That is God’s consistent answer to the question:  “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  If the question is about what a person needs to do, then God’s answer is you have to do everything.  You have to perfectly keep all the commandments.  If that is the question, then grace is not part of the answer.

That, my friends, is a sobering answer.  It is one that can easily lead to despair.  And that is God’s exact intent!  He wants people to despair – of their own goodness and efforts.  That is what Jesus wanted to accomplish with the young man – he wanted the young man to throw up his hands at the impossibility of doing this.  He wanted that because only people who realize that they are in deep trouble look to him for rescue.

Suppose, for a moment, that there was a person who had to get across the ocean but didn’t realize how big it was.  He was a good swimmer so he thought he could swim across.  He was convinced that he could do it, even after many told him he couldn’t.  Finally they urge him to get into the water and start swimming.  They do that for the express purpose of proving to him that he will fail – so that he won’t try when nobody will be around to save him.

Jesus was doing a similar thing with this young man.  He wanted to impress upon him the impossibility of his keeping all the commandments.  Thus no mention of grace.  Contrary to what Mormonism teaches salvation is not a both/and proposition.  It is not both by grace and works.  It is an either/or proposition.  Either by grace or by works.  It’s one or the other.  Not both/and.  The story of the young man, contrary to what many Mormons state, does not support the both/and proposition, but the either/or one.  This is an important point to remember when this story is being discussed.

Even more important to see – and believe – is that our salvation depends 100% on what Jesus did and 0% on what we do.  To him be all the glory!

 

04
Aug
11

GODHOOD IS NOT AN OUTDATED LDS DOCTRINE

 

Over the years, numerous Mormons have told me I was wrong when I stated that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, while a smaller number of Mormons have said that I was correct.  This lack of agreement is understandable because this doctrine has been downplayed in recent years.  Just one example of that is the change made in Gospel Principles, the basic manual of the LDS Church.

The 1979 edition states:   “We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 290).  In contrast, the 2009 edition states:  “We can become like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 275).  Both, however, just a few sentences later, talking about those who are exalted, say:  “They will become gods.” That sentence alone indicates that present-day Mormonism still teaches this doctrine.

But, as I have stated, it is not mentioned nearly as much as it used to be.  Therefore, I was surprised to see a reference to it in the current (August 2011) issue of the Ensign, the monthly magazine published by the LDS Church.  Elder L. Tom Perry, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles, has a lengthy quote from Spencer W. Kimball, a past prophet of the LDS Church.  In reference to Peter and John, Kimball wrote:  “Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creations of worlds with eternal increase.” (p. 51)  Not only does President Kimball talk about their becoming gods but also refers to the LDS doctrine that part of godhood is the creation of new worlds which they then will populate “with eternal increase” or, in other words, with their own spirit children.

I have a couple of reasons for highlighting this quote.  The most obvious reason is as proof that the idea of people becoming gods is still a teaching of Mormonism – a fact that should be both known by Christians and acknowledged by Mormons.  (By the way, even some Mormons have told me that it bothers them that many of their fellow Mormons don’t acknowledge this or do so reluctantly.)

But another reason I am citing this quote is to offer another example of how Mormonism focuses the attention on people and not on Christ.  According to Kimball, it was Peter and John’s own righteousness that opened the door to godhood for them.  According to the Bible, however, it’s all about Christ’s righteousness.  In fact it says our righteousnesses are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

I, for one, am so comforted by the fact that my standing before God and my eternal destiny doesn’t depend on what I do or how good I am, but rests entirely on what Jesus has done for me and his perfect righteousness.  As Paul states, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)  That also is my desire.  To Jesus, not to myself, be all the glory.




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