Archive for September, 2012

26
Sep
12

TEMPLES – PART TWO

Last time I talked about the striking contrast between what the Bible says about temples and what Mormonism teaches.  According to the Bible, temples are where God dwells.  And the New Testament says that is in the body of each believer!  Mormonism, however, says that temples are where God visits and its emphasis is on the temples they build.

Now I want to compare what happens in each temple.  The Old Testament temple vividly emphasized how sin had separated man from God.  I say that because the temple was off-limits to the vast majority of Israelites.  Only the eligible priests from the one family of Aaron could enter it.  Everybody else, even the kings, were forbidden to enter.  Just think of coming to church each week and having to stay in the parking lot and never once being able to enter the building!

The other thing that emphasized the serious nature of sin was all the bloody sacrifices that were offered there.  The courtyard of the Old Testament temple had all the sights, smells, and sounds of a slaughterhouse as one animal after another was sacrificed on the altar.  Throughout the centuries, the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22) was vividly drilled into them.

All that changed with Jesus’ death on the cross.  In his blood we have forgiveness of sins. Through his work we have access to God.  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, to say, his flesh.” (Hebrews 9:19-20)  Because Jesus has removed our sins, God now dwell within believers – we now are the temples of God.

And we are to offer up sacrifices – sacrifices of praise.  “By him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips given thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How much difference the temples of Mormonism!  Access to them is gained, not by what Jesus has done, but what the person has done.  Members have to become worthy themselves to enter the temple.  And the ordinances done there have nothing in common with biblical temples.  For example, eternal marriages for both the living and the dead not only are not mentioned in the Bible, they contradict Jesus’ own teaching about marriage.  There is not one single aspect where LDS temples resemble biblical temples.

But many people don’t realize that.  One reason they don’t is because Mormonism often talks about their temples as a continuation of biblical temples.  Even numerous Mormons don’t realize the difference.  More than a few have vehemently objected when I have made this point.

Mormonism’s attempted linkage between its temples and biblical temples is confusing and dishonest.  There is no similarity between the two.

22
Sep
12

LDS Temples and Biblical Temples Compared

Temples and temple work hold a prominent place in Mormonism.  As it talks about their temples, it often links them with the temple in the Bible.  Therefore it is proper to compare the two.

The first comparison deals with whether or not the Lord is present.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, states:  “They are holy places of worship where the Lord may visit” (p.170, my emphasis).

The Bible, however, says that the temple was where the Lord dwelt. First in regard to the tabernacle we read:  “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:45-56, my emphasis)  Then, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon says:” The Lord hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever.” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2 my emphasis)

What is even more striking is what the New Testament says.  Peter, in his first letter, identifies the temple with the assembly of believers.  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  But that’s not all.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said:   “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor 6: 16-17).  In a similar way, Jesus said: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). Not only all believers taken together, but individual believers are the temple of God!

I take away two points from this. The first is that the Bible emphasizes that temples are places where God dwells.  Mormonism, however, sees God only visiting the temple.  That coincides with its belief that God has a body of flesh and bones and thus can’t dwell in numerous temples at the same time.  Thus Mormonism’s main focus in on the work they do in the temple – something I want to address next time.

More importantly, how much more exhilarating and glorious is the New Testament teaching on believers being the temple of God!  This becomes even more apparent when we see that the Greek word Paul used in I Corinthians was one used for the holy of holies.  We are the holy of holies.  In the Old Testament only one man, the high priest, could enter the holy of holies.  And he could only do it on one day each year, the Day of Atonement.  We, however, because Jesus has removed the sin that separates us from God (signified dramatically with the temple veil being torn at his death) have now become that very temple!  The more you think about it, the more thrilling it becomes.

And there are not some believers who are worthy to be temples and some who aren’t. No, all believers are God’s temples.  God, in his love, bestows this honor on each and every person who trusts that they are acceptable to God solely because of what Jesus has done for them.  To Jesus be ALL praise and glory.

12
Sep
12

FAITH AND SAVING FAITH

Chapter 17 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with faith and especially its power.  It cites example after example from both Scripture and LDS history of people doing great things through the power of faith.  It ends with the exhortation to nurture such faith through the keeping of the commandments.

This is how Mormonism most often talks about faith.  It defines it as “a principle of action and power” (True to the Faith, p. 54). The fact that Mormonism talks about faith is something many Mormons quickly point to when they are accused of not being Christian.  “We are Christian.  We talk about having faith.” This has led many non-Mormons to consider them Christian.

It’s right at this point, however, that it is important to make the distinction between faith in general and the specific faith that saves people from an eternity in hell.  What is vitally important in saving faith is its object.  Faith that saves is not just a general trust that God is good but the very specific trust that Jesus came as our substitute and did it all for us – keeping the commandments in our place and cleansing us from all our sins.

That type of faith is not what Mormonism talks about.  It is not mentioned once by President Smith in the chapter cited above.  Or take the following as an example.  It is from the manual, True to the Faith , and is its entire treatment about faith in Jesus.

     Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

            In order for your faith to lead you to salvation, it must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 4:10–12; Mosiah 3:17; Moroni 7:24–26; Articles of Faith 1:4). You can exercise faith in Christ when you have an assurance that He exists, a correct idea of His character, and a knowledge that you are striving to live according to His will.

            Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him –  trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though you do not understand all things, He does. Remember that because He has experienced all your pains, afflictions, and infirmities, He knows how to help you rise above your daily difficulties (see Alma 7:11–12; D&C 122:8). He has “overcome the world” ( John 16:33) and prepared the way for you to receive eternal life. He is always ready to help you as you remember His plea: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).

There are many good sounding statements in these two paragraphs.  But look at the object, at what they tell people to have faith in.  You can exercise faith in Christ when you have an assurance that He exists, a correct idea of His character, and a knowledge that you are striving to live according to His will.

And a little bit later:  trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. It includes believing His teachings. 

      Noticeably absent is any talk of trusting in his death for our sins.  But that is what the Bible says is essential.  “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:25)  Saving faith is very specific; it’s trusting that Jesus, through his life and death, has saved us.  It’s trusting completely in Jesus and not in our own works.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)

For all of its talk about faith, this is something Mormonism doesn’t talk about.  Therefore this is something we need to talk to our Mormon friends about. They need to hear that saving faith is trusting in Jesus’ works, not their own.

 

07
Sep
12

Keeping the Sabbath

Lesson 16 of the “Teachings of George Albert Smith” deals with keeping the Sabbath and taking the sacrament.  I have seen quite a few LDS members not strictly adhering to Mormonism’s Sabbath restrictions.  Some were bothered by this, some not so.  This particular manual doesn’t go into as much depth as some manuals do in explaining specifics.  Here are a couple of quotes from it.

“One of the first sermons that were preached in this (the Salt Lake) valley was by President Brigham Young, and he warned the people to honor the Sabbath day and to keep it holy, and no matter how difficult their circumstances they were not to go out and do manual labor on the Sabbath day.”

“I say to you that if the members of this Church, knowing better, persist in desecrating the Sabbath day in the pursuit of worldly pleasures, they will lose their faith, and the Spirit of our Heavenly Father will withdraw from them.”

The manual, Gospel Principles, lists some of those worldly pursuits.  “Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities that day.” It continues by saying:  “President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however, that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy.  The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts.” (p. 141)

I have often wondered how the dozens of Mormons who have played in the NFL over the years (Steve Young being one of the most notable) squared their playing on Sundays with Mormonism’s teachings.  And that is just one of numerous examples.  I have seen some of my Mormon acquaintances shopping on Sunday or eating out.   To be fair, I also know some who try to follow the Sabbath requirements to the letter.  There have also been a few who have told me about some of the less than truthful things they did as families to give the appearance that they were keeping the Sabbath.  (One of the my favorites is the family who played cards on Sunday and called the card game, genealogy, so that they could say they were involved in their genealogy if anybody asked.)

I made mention of this because this illustrates a number of unattended consequences when keeping the commandments become such a focal point.  Yes, some will try very hard to keep them but will also feel very guilty when they fail.  Others will just pick and choose the ones they want to keep.  And still others will feel forced to act hypocritically.

How much better it is to make Jesus and his perfect law-keeping for us the focal point!  That frees us from guilt and gives us the freedom to confess our sins and not try to hide them.  That further serves as a powerful motivation to glorify him in all that we do.  Focusing on Jesus and what he has done for us – and not on what we are to do – is the best way to honor and keep the Sabbath.

O, by the way.  The Bible also says: “ Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17)




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