The Futility of Playing Spiritual Whack a Mole


This Sunday, throughout the LDS Church, 1 Nephi 1-7 from the Book of Mormon will be studied in the adult Sunday School, or Gospel Doctrines class.  Probably the most quoted passage from this section of the Book of Mormon is this part of 1 Nephi 3:7:  “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”  Mormons have quoted it in many different settings and situations to urge people that they could do what was commanded of them.  After all, according to this verse, the Lord would never give a commandment to you unless he gave you a way to follow it.   And usually, at least with the Mormons who have explained it to me, the way the Lord has given to follow it is by giving you inner strength or ability to keep the commandment.  Therefore, if you aren’t keeping the commandment, it’s because you are not using what God has already given you.

Apply that now to one of the most famous commands in the Bible, Matthew 5:48.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  This is commanding nothing less than perfection – right now!  Although many Mormons over the years have tried to explain this as a command to become perfect, that is not what Jesus said.  He said “be” – not “become”.  Neither does the Joseph Smith translation say “become”.  It reads:  “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect.”  Therefore, according to 1 Nephi 3:7, God has given people a way to be perfect, not sometime in the distant future, but right now.  And if a person isn’t perfect right now, it’s because they are not using the way God has already given them.

And that’s serious because as James 2:10 says:  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  “He is guilty of all”.  Think of how a defendant in a courtroom feels when the judge says, “guilty on all counts”.  Talk about being devastated.

As strange as it may first seem, that is one of the main reasons God has given us commandments.  He has given them to devastate us.  He has given them to show us just how sinful we are.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)  The commandments are like X-rays that penetrate our spiritual being.  We might think we are spiritual healthy but those X-rays tell a different story as they reveal tumors of greed, and lust, and envy, and bitterness, and worry, and the list goes on and on.

And one of the things the commandments convince us of is that we don’t have the ability to keep them.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop sinning.  It’s almost like the arcade game, whack a mole.  We put all our effort into whacking down one sin, only to have a different sin pop in a different place.  I use all my efforts to stop worrying only to have pride pop up over there.  I focus on always treating my spouse in a loving way only to find myself trampling over my co-worker.  As the Bible says, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)

As I said, this is what God wants us to see as we consider his commandments.  He wants us to see our utter inability of keeping them.  He wants us to literally despair of thinking we can keep them.  He wants us to despair of ourselves so that we are eager, no, desperate for help.  The help he has given us in the person of Jesus.  What we couldn’t do, Jesus did for us.  He did it all.  He did it completely.  Yes, there is a way that we can be perfect right now.  And that is by being covered with Christ’s perfection.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

If you haven’t yet done so, take a serious look at yourself in light of God’s commandments.  Take them at face value.  Don’t water them down.  Don’t change “be perfect” to “become perfect”.  Don’t call sinful words just mistakes or slips of the tongue.  See how serious Jesus considers lustful, greedy, angry thoughts.  See your tumors of sin.  See that.  And despair.  Despair of yourself.  Trust totally and completely in what Jesus has already done for you.  That’s the only way that you will ever be able to stand in God’s presence.

8 Responses to “The Futility of Playing Spiritual Whack a Mole”

  1. 1 choosethechrist
    January 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    God gave Adam and Eve 1 command, do not eat the fruit. They ate the fruit. God gave the people the law of Moses. They couldn’t keep those laws either. God said hatred in the heart for another=murder. God said lust=adultery. God has said sin is more than the actual act of committing a sin, but that sin is also a matter of the heart. What happens when people become really good at keeping up the appearance of being a “good person”? After all, no one else knows what they are thinking or what’s in their heart right? God knows.

    Matthew 23:27
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

    1 Nephi 3:7: “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

    The Lord did prepare a way. That way is Jesus Christ.

    Galatians 2:21
    I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

  2. 2 wyomingwilly
    January 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Mark, that example of using the ” whack a mole ” game was fitting . It reminded me of how there used to
    be a exercise where a person would put a real plate on the top of a pole 5-6 high, and then spin it, then
    he would put another plate on another pole and get it to spinning all the while moving back to the first pole
    to keep that plate from slowing and falling etc. He would do this with 6-8 poles and plates constantly trying
    to keep each one spinning. It was very hectic . This also kind of pictures the Mormon gospel with all it’s
    laws , commands, requirements being the plates and with the effort at trying to be consistent in keeping
    them from failing off the pole etc. What makes this even worse is how Mormon apostles have added even
    more laws, commands, (plates and poles) from what they would claim is in the Bible or BofM . Sure seems
    like mission impossible . I don’t think 1 Nephi 3:7 offers any solace to the Mormon “plan of salvation”.
    Jesus offers a better way .

  3. January 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

    We need to be continually reminded that we aren’t obedient to God until we achieve sinless perfection. Tough as that is for our pride to swallow, it is indeed true.

    In order to gain eternal life, we need sinless perfection. We can’t achieve sinless perfection. Jesus died as our substitute and gave us the gift of sinless perfection right here, right now.

    Hebrews 10:14 “because by one sacrifice HE HAS MADE PERFECT FOREVER those who are being made holy.”

    “Sinners are lovely because they are loved; they are not loved because they are lovely” ~ Martin Luther

  4. 4 markcares
    January 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    That is another good illustration. What a joy it is to talk with persons who were Mormon but now are relying on Jesus for everything. I was talking with one such man this week. Not only did he say he was more joyful, but also he was producing far more good works. To the point that even his LDS relatives were commenting on the change in him.
    I pray that many more Mormons will experience that same joy and productivity.

  5. January 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    In Mormonism, a person is valued for what they do.
    In Christianity, a person is valued regardless of what they do.

  6. 6 JBR
    January 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Interesting analogy ….

  7. January 9, 2012 at 12:50 am

    I came up with those words after reading and reflecting on these words of Martin Luther…

    “Christian” verses “Non Christian” love by Martin Luther
    – as gathered from the Bible and from the love that God has for all of us…

    “This is and remains the difference, the true attribute of love – where it is genuine and, as its nature and character require, fervent – that it does not let itself be embittered and does not cease to love, to do good, and to put up with evil. In short, love cannot hate or be hostile to anyone. No one can commit greater evils than love can bear. No one can commit greater sins against it than it can cover. It cannot be so highly enraged that it refuses to forgive. It acts as a mother does toward the child. Love makes her blind. In fact, the eyes with which she looks upon her child as a beautiful fruit of her body given by God are so pure that she is unmindful of all imperfections and considers them as nothing. Nay, she even excuses them and adorns them. Behold, this is covering sins with love, a virtue peculiar to Christians, one which the world does not possess. The world neither has nor can have such a love, although its pretensions and claims in this direction are great. For no matter how noble this virtue is, it also must suffer the evil of being imitated, colored, and simulated by false appearance and sham. No one wants to be regarded as hating and envying his neighbor; and everyone, by words and gestures, can appear friendly – yes, as long as you are good to him and do what he likes. But when your love for him lessons a bit, he by chance is angered with a word; then he is “entirely through with you” Then he complains and rages about the great injustice done to him, pretends that he needs not put up with it, and praises and exalts the loyalty and love he showed toward his fellow man, how he would gladly have given him his very heart and is now so badly repaid that the devil may hereafter serve such people. This is the love of the world. Neither heart nor sincerity is in that kind of love. It is a mere will-o’-the-wisp, which shines but lacks fire. It does not last but is blown out by a breath of air and extinguished by a little word. This is because the world seeks only its own interests and wants only to be served and to receive benefits from others. But it does not want to do anything in return if it is expected to suffer and bear anything because of it”

    “Genuine, divine, full, and perfect love is the kind that excludes no one, that is not partial or selective but freely goes out to all. The other kind is a crafty love – when I am a good friend of him who serves me, is able to help me, and honors me, while I hate him who despises me and thinks nothing of me. Such love does not come from a heart that is thoroughly good and pure, the same to all men; it comes from one that seeks only its own and is full of the love of self, not the love of others. For such a person loves no one except for reason of self.”

    “This is a most profound command, and everyone must engage in a very diligent self-examination on this point; for by the expression “as thyself” (love others as thyself) all hypocritical love is excluded. Therefore he who loves his neighbor, but does so for the sake of wealth, honor, learning, favor, power, and comfort, and does not love him in the same way when he is poor, lowly, unlearned, hostile, subjected, and peevish, obviously loves him hypocritically. He does not love him but his[self] and he does so to his personal advantage. Therefore he does not love him “as himself”; for he who loves himself does so also when he is poor, foolish, and a complete nobody. For who is so useless that he hates himself? No one is so completely a nobody as not to love himself, while he loves others to a lesser degree. Therefore this command is very hard to keep – if correctly considered”

    “God does not say: Thou shall love the rich, the mighty, the learned, and the saint. No, this free love and this most perfect commandment does not restrict itself to, and select, certain people only; there is no respect of persons. For that is how the false, carnal love of the world acts. It looks only to the person and loves as long as it has hopes of some benefit. When hope and benefit cease, the love also ceases. The commandment, however, calls for free love toward everyone, no matter who he is, whether friend or foe; for it seeks neither benefit nor profit; rather it gives them. This is why it is most active and energetic toward the poor, the needy, the wicked, the sinner, the simple, the sick, and the hostile; for here it finds it necessary to endure, to suffer, to bear, to serve, and to do good at all times and under all circumstances.”

    “A Christian loves his neighbor as a brother, he makes no difference between persons or things. He does not consider whether he is serviceable or not, whether he is wise or unwise. As for the rest, the world loves differently (The common judge friendships by the usefulness). With the deaf, the weak, the unlearned, the ungrateful, no one desires to associate. But God loved all, even his enemies, without making and difference. Therefore, we, too, should love as brothers even those who are not lovable.”

    “The love of virtue and the hatred of vice are of two kinds. The one is pagan, the other Christian. For Christ, too, is an enemy of sin and a friend of righteousness, as Psalm 45:8 says of Him: “Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness” But this is to be understood in such a sense that it is also true what Moses says of Him (Duet 33:3) “He loved the people” But pagan love and hatred are an unreasonable sow, indiscriminately casting aside and picking up a man with vice or virtue. In fact, at bottom, pagan love is a friend to no one but itself. This may be discovered from the fact that as far and as long as a person is graced with good qualities, it loves him and draws him to himself. But where there is no good quality or where it has failed, pagan love rejects the person. Now this is the nature of Christian hatred of sin. It distinguishes between vices and persons; it endeavors to exterminate the vices only and to preserve the person themselves. Therefore it neither flees from nor evades nor rejects nor condemns anyone. It rather receives, freely interests itself in a person, and so treats him as to relieve him of his vices. It rebukes him, instructs him, prays for him, and endures and bears him. Christian love does nothing but what it would desire others to do if it were in similar imperfections.”

    “To love him who loves us is the law of nature; to love enemies sincerely is characteristic of the children of God.”

    “A man who is full of love cannot be enraged, no matter how much injury is done him; he covers all and acts as though he did not see it. So, then, the “covering” spoken of refers to my relation to my neighbor, not to my relation to God. No one and nothing shall be able to cover sin before God for you except faith. But my love covers the sin of my neighbor; and just as God covers my sin with His love if I believe, so I should also cover my neighbor’s sin. Therefore He says: You should love one another, so that one may cover the other’s sin. And love covers not only one, two or three sins, but all sins. It cannot suffer and do too much; it covers up all.”

    “Christian love cannot hold its tongue nor bear to see its neighbor err and sin. It must rebuke and improve wherever it can.”

    “Therefore the anger and censure which arises from such love are very different from the anger, hatred, and vengefulness of the world. The world seeks its own interest and will not put up with anything said or done against its pleasure. But love is angered only in the interest of its neighbor; and though it is not silent in the presence of evil and does not approve of evil, it is able to suffer and bear, forgive and cover, all that may be committed against it. It leaves nothing untried that may contribute to the reformation of its neighbor. Thus love is able to observe a clear distinction between the two; the sin and the sinner. It is hostile to the sin, yet it loves the person of the sinner”

    Galatians 5:14 “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    1 John 3:10 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

  8. 8 shematwater
    January 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm


    You have no understanding of the LDS if you honestly believe what you said. We do not value people by what they do. All people are children of God with a divine potential, and we seek that all should reach that potential. No one is valued by what he does.

    The difference is not in how we value a person, but how we accept them. What Martin Luther describes is acceptance it is not love. No parent who truly loves their child will ever excuse wrong behavior, and God, in his infinite love, will never excuse wrong wrong behavior in us.


    I agree the command is to be perfect, but your whole point is that we have to be perfect now, which isn’t the case. All commands are given in the present tense, but God makes room for progress and allows all to work out their salvation. I am not perfect now, but I can become perfect, and when I do it will still be ‘now’ and thus I will have fulfilled the command, and thus it is possible.

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January 2012

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