Archive for August, 2012

30
Aug
12

Such a different perspective

In the LDS monthly magazine, Ensign, there is a regular column entitled, “We Talk of Christ”.  Naturally with a title like that you would think that the focus would be on Jesus.  This month’s column carries the title, “Loving My Enemies”.

The article is written by a member who lived in an occupied country and relates the struggle he had loving the enemy soldiers.  He tells how he finally fasted and prayed for help.  And eventually he felt love for the soldiers.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

“I now know, like Nephi, that the Lord gives us no commandment save He shall prepare a way for us that we may accomplish the thing which He commands us (see 1 Nephi 3:7).  When Christ commanded us to love our enemies, He knew it was possible with His help.  He can teach us to love others if we but trust Him and learn from His great example.”

There are a number of things in this article that merit comment, but the thing that really struck me was the perspective that a few passing references to Christ’s command and his example (there were two other references to Christ’s command in the body of the article) merited the title “We Talk of Christ”.  That is so different from what you would see in most Christian magazines.  If they had a column entitled, “We Talk of Christ” it would be a pretty safe bet that the focus would be, not on his command and our need to be obedient to it, but on his actions.  And he would be viewed not so much as an example but as a substitute.

For example, in the case of loving our enemies, mention might be made of Romans 5:8:  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  In other words, as sinners we were Jesus’ enemies.  But, in spite of that, he loved us and died for us.  Or maybe his prayer at his crucifixion for the Father to forgive them for they know not what they do would be cited with the message that here Jesus was fulfilling the law for us – that we receive the credit for his perfect love.   However it would be done, most such articles would bring the comfort of Jesus’ acting in our behalf and the tremendous comfort that gives us.

Again how different is the Ensign.  Even when the title points to Jesus, the focus is on people and what they have to do.  The moral of this story is that you have to look beyond the title to see what is really being emphasized.

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23
Aug
12

THE ONLY SAFETY?

The following quotation is found in the teacher’s manual for lesson 32 of the Gospel Doctrines Class.  It is from President Harold B. Lee.

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Just before this the teacher is encouraged to write on the chalkboard, “Follow the prophet ‘with exactness’”.  This is just one example of many illustrating the fact that the LDS Church teaches that its final authority is not the Bible. It is not even their other scriptures.  The final authority in the LDS Church is the living prophet.

All this coincides with its belief in continuing revelation – that God needs to give revelation because the world and circumstances change.  This point was made to me years ago by a LDS leader who told me that he felt sorry for me because all I had to live by was the Bible!

A couple of things come to mind because of this emphasis on the living prophet.  One is that this is still another in a long list of proofs of how much Mormonism differs from Christianity.  Christians do not think that their only safety comes from giving heeds to the words of the living prophet.

Another thought is the question of why the Lord is not revealing more new things through his prophet.  The last official “new” doctrine was the proclamation in 1978 allowing blacks to be in the priesthood.  Now almost everybody is agreed that the world has seen more change in the last thirty years than ever before.  It would seem that if the reason why there has to be continuing revelation from God is because things change, then it seems that we should have expected a whole lot of new revelation these past 30 years!  If not now with all this rapid change, when?

But most seriously of all, if people follow the words of the prophet as he reinforces the LDS doctrine that eternal life in the presence of heavenly Father is not solely the work of Jesus but is something that people also have to earn – if they follow that teaching the gates of hell will prevail against them while the gates of heaven will remain close to them.

17
Aug
12

Keeping the Commandments

This is a phrase that is commonly heard in Mormonism.  Many people in Provo countered with it as I talked about already being perfect in Christ.  They could not conceive of perfection in Christ without our doing something also -without our also keeping the commandments.

This phrase also appears repeatedly in Chapter 15 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith, the manual currently being studied in the LDS Church.  The chapter continues the discussion of mission work and is entitled, “Advancing the Work of the Lord”.  The following quote from that chapter is especially telling.

“Zion will be redeemed and the world, which now misunderstands the work of ‘Mormonism’, will live to know that it is the power of God unto salvation to those who will keep the commandments of our Father.” (p.165)

Compare that to Romans 1:16.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  “It is the power of God unto salvation to” are identical in each quote.  But then what a difference! Mormonism points to a person’s keeping of the commandments while the Bible points to a person’s belief.

This illustrates what I heard repeatedly on the streets of Provo.  And not just there. This also illustrates what I have heard repeatedly from the LDS Church and its members over the years. The emphasis of Mormonism, even when the topic is salvation, is not on trusting and believing in what Jesus has done for us but rather on keeping the commandments.

Yes, it is the desire of every believer to try and keep God’s commandments.  LDS members grossly misunderstand Christians when they think that we believe that we can run amuck in sin because we believe that we are saved freely.  Nothing is further from the truth than that.  The key difference, however, is our motivation. Believers try and keep the commandments not as something we need to do to be saved, but rather out of gratitude for already being saved through Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death.

That difference in motivation makes all the difference in the world.  For any reliance on our works in the matter of salvation does nothing less than ruin that salvation.  You can’t mix God’s grace and our works.  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

10
Aug
12

My Second Week in Provo

We are wrapping up our second and final week in Provo.  Close to 50 people joined us as we went door to door testifying to our perfection in Christ.  We reached thousands of homes and had hundreds of good conversations.  Dozens of people expressed interest in our message and thanked us (sometimes with tears) for telling them that Jesus had done everything for them to be worthy and acceptable to God.  A surprising number of people gave us their contact information so that we can continue the conversation in the weeks and months ahead.

We found it interesting how varied were the initial responses to our message.  Some immediately stated that they believed that they had to keep the commandments to be worthy while others first responded by saying that they believed like we did.  It was only after we got deeper into the conversation did they acknowledge differences.  Most surprising was how so many agreed that they themselves or their close friends were very stressed out by their striving to be worthy.  More than one person just pointed to themselves when we brought that topic up.

Yes, we did meet some people who were angry at us because of our message.  But they were few and far between.  It was much more common for us to meet somebody who wanted to talk to us and learn more about our beliefs.

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will cause the thousands of seeds we sowed in Provo the last two weeks to blossom into the saving faith that trusts solely in Jesus’ works for acceptance by God.

02
Aug
12

A Week in Provo

I have been spending the week in Provo going door to door encouraging people to visit the website beyeperfect.org.  The people have been very courteous.  I have met some very nice people and have had some good discussions.  It has been a wonderful experience.  Many sincerely thanked us for our message.  Some were eager to hear more.

But I left some people with a great feeling of sadness.  As I write this I can think of the faces of various people I talked with.  They listened attentively and asked probing questions.  But they also stated with conviction that they had to do their part to be saved.  They were honestly taken aback by the thought that salvation and eternal life were entirely a gift of God.

I think of those people with sadness because the Bible is so clear that any reliance on our works ruins salvation.  “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.  But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)  That is so serious.  Such a mixture of grace and works is a formula for experiencing the eternal and total misery of hell.

As I walked away after having another one of those conversations I prayed that the Lord would open their eyes to the full gospel – the message that Jesus has done everything for us.  I prayed that when they struggled with sin and realized that they couldn’t abandon sin that they would remember our conversation and the message that Jesus was perfect in their place, as their Substitute. I pray that the Lord will cause the seeds of God’s Word that we planted in Provo this week to grow in their hearts so that they will trust completely in Jesus’ works for salvation and enjoy eternal happiness in his presence.




August 2012
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