Archive for December, 2011

28
Dec
11

The Book of Mormon

 

Starting with the near year, members of the LDS Church will be studying the Book of Mormon in their adult Sunday School classes, aka Gospel Doctrine classes.  This is part of a set four-year curriculum.  You can purchase the teacher’s manual for this class for a few dollars at LDS.org.  Look for the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual.

The lesson they will be studying this Sunday is entitled, “The Keystone of Our Religion”.  This refers to a statement Joseph Smith made about the Book of Mormon, a statement quoted in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon.  “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”  Sunday’s entire lesson explains and expands on this statement.

Calling it “the most correct of any book on earth” coincides with Mormonism’s low view of the Bible. After all the Book of Mormon itself claims that “many plain and precious things” were taken away from the Bible, (1 Nephi 13:28). Mormonism’s low view of the Bible has even been formalized in its Articles of Faith.  “We believe the Bible is to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (8th Article of Faith)

Although many different points could be made, I am going to restrict myself to just a couple.  The first is a reminder to both Mormons and Christians to use the word “scripture” carefully.  When Mormons and Christians talk with each other, confusion can easily arise if they aren’t careful with the term “scripture”. When Christians hear that word, they immediately think of the Bible.  Not so with Mormons.  They think of their four scriptures, only one of which is the Bible.  In fact, it has been my experience that many times the Bible is not what comes to their minds.  That is to be expected if you believe the Bible is faulty.  In fact one LDS manual states that the other scriptures should be given preference. (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p.3)

Secondly, I want to highlight how Mormonism’s high view of the Book of Mormon creates a huge divide in belief between Mormons and biblical Christians. I want to highlight that because so many today are claiming that that divide is quite narrow – sometimes almost to the point of being non-existence.  But how can this not create a wide divide?  On the one side you not only have people relying on multiple scriptures, but viewing as faulty the one that the other side holds dear.  On the other side you have people who rely on only one Scripture – who view it as God’s inerrant word and who, in addition, reject any other book claiming to be scripture.  From these two starting points, this divide in belief can only grow greater as individual doctrines are discussed.

The divide between Mormonism and biblical Christianity is huge.  It has been my experience that it is difficult to have any meaningful discussions between the two until that is openly acknowledged.  But once that is acknowledged, often an open and honest comparison of beliefs can be had.

24
Dec
11

Have a blessed Christmas

 

The Bible is full of passages of God’s tremendous love.  One that has again recently awed me is Isaiah 43:22-25.

Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.  You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices.  I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense.  You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.  But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.  I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

This paragraph is so rich in meaning.  I would like to share just a few thoughts about it.  Note especially the three “wearied”.  They didn’t weary themselves for the Lord.  Neither did the Lord burden and weary them with offerings.  Instead they burdened and wearied him with their sins.  How does he react?  He blots them out and remembers them no more!  What a wonderful Gospel gem that is.

But what makes it all the more brilliant is the setting in which Isaiah placed it.  All around it, from chapters 40 – 48, God is declaring his glory.  He is the Creator.  He is the Lord of History.  He predicts the future.  He alone is God.  Over and over he repeats such thoughts – often by contrasting them with the utter worthlessness of idols.  Fewer places does God emphasize his glory more than he does in these chapters of Isaiah.  It would be an interesting study to see how many times God says, “I” in them.  I’m sure it is well over a hundred times.

That God is incomparable and all-glorious is the setting.  But only the setting. In this setting Isaiah has placed brilliant diamonds of pure grace like the one above.  This incomparable, all-glorious Lord who deserves nothing but praise and worship from his creatures, instead receives from them their stinking sins and repulsive offense.  So much so that they are a burden to him.  Especially note that they did nothing to mitigate this.  No words of apology.  No acts of contrition.  Talk about audacity and stupidity.  Talk about irritating the Lion.  We duck for cover as we expect an unleashing of his wrath.

But instead what do we hear?  “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgression, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  Talk about undeserved grace!  If God would have punished us only partially for our sins – that would have been extremely merciful.  If he would have put us on probation – that would have been unbelievable.  But to blot them out and forget them – we can only believe that because God himself says it.

God has blotted out our sins.  That is why Jesus came at Christmas.  That is what the angel announced:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)  Honor him by being totally convinced that he has blotted out your sins and that he no longer remembers them.  Worship him by giving him every single bit of credit for your living with heavenly Father.  Praise him by telling others about his wonderful response to mankind’s sin – to their sin and your sin.  Have a joyous Christmas knowing God has done it all!

21
Dec
11

Christmas is proof of God’s commitment

 

There are so many different ways to view Christmas.  And I’m not considering all the totally false views that place Santa or something else at the center of it.  I’m talking about the many different ways that we can correctly view it, keeping Christ at its center.  Even when we do that we can view it from many different angles because it has so many different facets.

One angle that I like viewing it from is the perspective of God keeping his commitment to the human race.  It’s totally mind-boggling that he would do that – considering how mankind had treated him.  Just think of it.  God had created Adam and Eve perfectly and gave them a perfect home to live in.  In response, what did they do?  They disobeyed his direct command not to eat from the tree.  Their disobedience had horrendous consequences:  not only for them but for the entire human race.  Paul put it this way:  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)  Although created perfect, Adam and Eve became repulsive sinners and passed that repulsive nature on to all their ancestors.

What would you have done if you were God?  What do you do when something you created is ruined?  Although the analogy limps, think of how you would react to an employee that daily trashes your name and constantly works against you and your purposes.  I don’t think any of us would keep him around very long.  But that is nothing to what the human race did to God.  “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)  It is truly amazing that God didn’t wipe humans off the face of the earth.

Instead, for thousands of years, he gave them promise after promise of a rescuer.  And at Christmas he sent that rescuer.  That is mind-boggling – not only because of how the human race had treated him but also because of what it cost him.  Only God himself, in the person of the Son of God, could serve as the rescuer for all people.  Therefore the Son humbled himself “and made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was make in the likeness of men.”  (Philippians 2:7)  He willingly placed himself under the law to keep it perfectly for us.  And that is what he did for 33 years.  Then he “redeemed us from the curse of law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

As our rescuer, Jesus led the perfect life we could never and gave us the credit for it.  He then became the sacrifice for all our sins and paid for them all on the cross.  It was for those reasons, and those reasons alone, that he was born.  Christmas is when God put his rescue plan for us into action.  Even though we didn’t deserve it, God did it.  He did it because that was his commitment to us.

The best way to praise and honor him for that is to give him ALL the credit for your salvation and eternal life.  He deserves nothing less – for he did it

15
Dec
11

Worry

 

In the present economy there are a lot of worried people.  That is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: 25-34 are so comforting as he tells his disciples not to worry.  But these words also do something else.  They show us that worry is a sin.

More than once in these verses Jesus gives the command: “Take no thought”.  Take no thought about food or clothing or tomorrow.   Therefore every time we have “anxious concern” (LDS Bible footnote) about such things, we are going against his command.  We are breaking it.  We are sinning.

What is even more sobering is that we don’t even have to express those worries.  God knows everything.  He sees into every nook and cranny of our heart.  Therefore all we have to do is be worried – and we have sinned.  We are imperfect.

And that sin is serious.  Someone once described worry as a little form of atheism.  When we worry we are sending a message that we don’t trust that God will provide for us – that we don’t believe what Jesus says in Matthew 6.

Whenever I catch myself worrying, I find myself thanking Jesus for washing that sin away with his blood.  I find myself rejoicing knowing that I am completely forgiven in Him.   Because Jesus has given me his righteousness, I remain confident that God continues to see me as perfect.

Compare that to the message of Mormonism:  “Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people.  Some people say, ‘Perfection?  Why, that is impossible!’  Others say, ‘Perfection?  I get discouraged just thinking about it!’  Yet would the Lord give a commandment that was impossible for us to keep?  And when he gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands?  The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection.”  (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 57)  (Please note:  the command to “take no thought” is part of the Sermon on the Mount.)

I prefer Psalm 103:12.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”  Thank you, Jesus.

02
Dec
11

FAITH IN JESUS’ WHAT?

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?




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