Archive for December, 2012

20
Dec
12

The Significance of Pants

A couple of weeks ago a movement started among some LDS women to wear pants to church last Sunday. This movement gained quite a bit of attention in the blogging world in the days leading up to Sunday.  Since then even media outlets like the New York Times have commented on it.  More than one person has asked me if this is a sign of change in the LDS Church.

(It is only fair to note that the LDS Church has never officially adopted a policy that women can’t wear pants to church.  But, as is evident by how much ink has been spilled talking about, it is also fair to say that LDS culture has made this pretty much a taboo.)

Whether or not this signals a strong movement for women having a more prominent role in the LDS Church, including the attaining of the priesthood, no one knows.  I, for one, don’t think it does.  But it is impossible to predict what small event will trigger significant change.  Only time will tell.

But what is significant about all this is how this clearly illustrates how a “rules mindset” dominates Mormonism.  Non-Mormons are regularly taken aback at how many rules and regulations populate Mormonism. Furthermore they are surprised when their LDS friends don’t even recognize that because they have become so accustomed to it.

Most significantly of all, this rules mentality carries over into Mormonism’s teachings on salvation.  From the step by step process of repentance to the checklist for becoming temple worthy Mormonism focuses people on rules they have to keep in order to be acceptable to God.  Yes, Mormonism does mention Jesus’ atonement but when you step back and look at the whole picture, it usually does that only in passing.  What Mormonism emphasizes are the laws people must keep.

Mormonism instills a rules mentality in people and directs people to what they have to do.  The Bible instills a grace mentality in people and directs people to what God has done for them.  They are complete opposites.

It is my prayer that many more Mormons will simply read the Bible and take to heart its amazing message of God’s grace for all people.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but boldly share this amazing message with their Mormon friends and family.

 

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15
Dec
12

How Much Do We Sin?

One of the many significant differences between Mormonism and biblical teaching centers on how much a person sins.  The December issue of the Ensign contains an article that clearly illustrates Mormonism’s view.  It is entitled, “Repentance: Making the Inside Clean”.  The author summarizes the need for repentance this way:  “As we go about our lives, we occasionally com­mit sins. But if we want to live with our Heavenly Father again, we cannot be unclean. We need to repent, which includes forsaking sin, replacing it with righteousness, and cleansing ourselves from the effects of sin.”

Later in the article, to make his point about repentance, he gives this illustration.

    “During my time as a bishop, I used the following visual to help explain what we need to do after we forsake a sin. Picture in your mind a bucket of water. That bucket represents you and me, and the water represents the Spirit, which can reside within us. The water can also represent our pure, worthy state.

    Now imagine that you have a brick and have dropped it into the bucket. That brick is like sin—it’s hard and rough and impure. As soon as it enters the bucket, it causes some of the water to slosh out. When we sin, we displace some of the good things in our life, like our peace of mind and some of our capacity

to feel the Spirit.

     Repenting is like taking that brick out of the bucket of water and making the water pure and clean again. But the repentance isn’t complete by just removing the brick, because the bucket is still not full. We must add more water to fill the bucket again.”

The Bible speaks so differently.  Look at Romans 3.

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Note how all-inclusive these words are:  “none, none, none, all, together”.  There is no idea here of sinning occasionally; or of being in a pure state; or having just one brick at a time dropped into the bucket.  From the Bible’s standpoint the water in the bucket is already filthy and a veritable downpour of bricks falls continually into the bucket.  None are righteous – they have together become unprofitable.

That is emphasized throughout the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 laments about how unclean he is.  The apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about how wretched he is because of his failure to do the good.  The Bible pictures people not as occasionally sinning, but as constantly sinning.

This is no minor difference either.  If we think that we only sin occasionally then much of the burden falls on us to stop sinning and to make right the wrongs we have committed.  That is exactly what Mormonism does.  In the last analysis, even though it talks about Jesus’ atonement, Mormonism places the emphasis on what we have to do.

But when we see ourselves as the Bible pictures us, all we can do is plead for mercy and help.  We realize that all we can do is make the problem worse by piling up more and more sins!  And that is why Christmas is so special.  Christmas is God’s answer to our pleas for help.  Jesus came to earth so that we could go to heaven.  Jesus came to do everything for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly – not just to give us an example to follow – but much more importantly as our substitute – in our place.  Because Jesus kept the commandments perfectly for me, I can know say that I have kept the commandments perfectly.  And then he died to wash away all our sins.

Turning from emphasizing what I have to do and instead trusting that Jesus has done it all for me is what true repentance is all about.  This Christmas see that Jesus came – not to show you what you have to do – but to do it all for you.  See that and have a most joyous Christmas.

 

05
Dec
12

What is a Christian?

One thing that is endlessly debated between Mormons and others is whether or not Mormons are Christians.  One of the points that non-Mormons need to understand is that Mormons sincerely believe that they are Christians and are sincerely astonished when people say they aren’t.  One of the things that Mormons need to understand is that it is totally illogical to non-Mormons for Mormons to claim, on the one hand, that they are Christians just like us, while, on the other hand, saying that the LDS Church is the only true church and that the creeds that most Christians subscribe to are abominations.  I, along with many non-Mormons say that you can’t have it both ways.

But because this is such a hot-button topic, I usually don’t like to get into a discussion of it – because rarely does such a discussion reap any positive benefits.  I prefer focusing not on what people call themselves but on what they believe – especially on what they believe a person needs to do to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity.  If that is the case, however, you might be wondering, if I don’t like to talk about that, why I am bringing it up now.

The reason is because of a talk given at the last General Conference by Elder Robert D. Hales, one of the 12 LDS apostles, entitled “Being a More Christian Christian.”  He begins this talk by citing the reasons why the LDS Church is Christian.  I usually don’t like posting longer quotes but this time I’m going to make an exception.  This is how his talk begins.

     “What does it mean to be a Christian?

     A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement.

     A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.

     The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those holding His priesthood authority.

     A Christian knows that throughout the ages, God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus, accompanied by Heavenly Father, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and restored the gospel and the organization of His original Church.

     Through the scriptures and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.

     With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are Christian?”

There are a lot of things worthy of being addressed in those paragraphs. One wonders again, using these words of an LDS apostle as a guideline, how Mormons can claim that they are Christians just like us.  I say that because there are many things he cites that Christians don’t believe.  For example, how can they consider me a Christian if I have not been baptized by somebody holding priesthood authority?  The same question applies to my not believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the church was restored, or that the Father has a body of flesh and bone, or that Jesus is the only begotten in the flesh, or that the Godhead is unified only in purpose and not in being.

But not only that. There is a whole lot here that also enables us to make the judgment that Mormons are not Christians.  The foundational doctrines that he lists are not the foundational doctrines of Christianity.  His words are clear proof that the LDS Church is not Christian.

In this regard, I want to focus specifically on the third paragraph where he talks about grace.  Instead of defining grace as a characteristic of God, namely, his unconditional, amazing love for us that moved him to save us by sacrificing his Son in our place, Mormonism sees it as power given to us – power that enables us to do the things Elder Hales mentions:  repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, inherit eternal life.  As True to the Faith says, “The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The difference between “given to you” and “done for you” is huge.  When you see grace as a power given to you, then the burden is on you to use that power to do the things that need to be done to become acceptable by God.  But when you see grace as God’s love for you moving him to work for you, causing him to sacrifice his Son for you, then the pressure is off.  Because then you know it has already been accomplished for you.

That is why Christmas is such a wonderful Season.  At Christmas Jesus came for us – to do it all for us. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4: 4-5).  This Christmas honor God by boldly declaring and joyfully celebrating the wonderful truth that Jesus has done it all for you.  That is the Christian response to Christmas.




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