Archive for February, 2013

28
Feb
13

A LITTLE WORK – A LOT OF PRESSURE

Five seconds are left in the basketball game.  It’s not any game either – it’s the championship.  Your team is down by one point.  Your coach calls time out, looks down the bench to where you are sitting and motions you to check into the game.  As you pass him, he pulls you aside and tells you to take the last shot.  “We are counting on you.  It’s all up to you.”

Talk about pressure.  Especially if you have sat on the bench the entire game to that point.  Few people would enjoy being in that situation.  Few people would succeed in that situation.

But that is the position a lot of Mormons feel that they are in.  It is inaccurate to say that Mormonism teaches that people are saved by their works alone.  No, it talks about God’s grace.  But it doesn’t teach that people are saved by grace alone.  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)

Pause for a moment and think of the tremendous pressure that exerts on many Mormons.  Imagine trying to live under that.  Even if we think that we have to contribute only 1% to our salvation – that opens the door to a whole lot of worry.  It’s like the sub coming off the bench being told that he has to make only one basket, the winning basket.  But with one big difference.  The pressure Mormonism places on many of its adherents doesn’t last just for a few moments – it’s there for an entire lifetime.

How much better is the biblical message of Titus 3:4-7:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  There’s no work – and no pressure.  To God be all the glory.

22
Feb
13

Becoming a God

Over the years I have repeatedly discussed with LDS members Mormonism’s teaching about persons being able to become a god.  The reactions have been varied.  Some readily admit that this is LDS teaching and they wholeheartedly accept it.  Most, however, try to qualify it and downplay it.  They have done this in two different ways.

The first is by saying that Mormonism teaches that they can become like God.  They claim that even though LDS Scripture clearly says that people can become gods.  The classic passage is D&C 132:20:  “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power and the angels are subject to them.”

That passage clearly states, in a number of different ways, that people can become gods.  And over the years many LDS leaders have pointed to this passage to teach this doctrine.  That, I feel, is proof enough that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, or that when it talks about becoming like god – that is what it means.

The other way that Mormons have sometimes tried to downplay this teaching is saying that they would never become a capital G God.  Instead they say that they would be small g gods, thus implying a difference between the two.  But again, the question is: Is that what Mormonism teaches?  In the student manual on the Pearl of Great Price, a manual in current use, we find this quote:  “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.” (p. 4)  Note especially the use of the capital G – “evolving into a God”.

This quote is notable for two reasons.  One is that it is used in an official LDS Church manual.  Although all Mormons do not agree on the weight that such manuals carry, the LDS Church has repeatedly said that church manuals carry a lot of weight.  They state that they present the official teaching of the church.  That is only to be expected.  The normal practice is to consider official anything that is officially published by an organization.  It would be, for example, the silliest of arguments if an NFL player argued that the rulebook published by the NFL did not represent the official rules of the NFL and thus what he did wasn’t against NFL policy.

But this quote is significant for another reason as well.  It was given by the First Presidency of the LDS.  The First Presidency is the prophet and his two counselors.  It is the most authoritative body in the LDS Church.  Even though it was given in 1909 it is still pertinent as evidenced by it being quoted in a manual published in 2000.  Without a doubt we can say that Mormonism teaches that people can become a God.

Why am I making such a big point of this?  One is because it is denied by many LDS members today and thus it needs to be stressed to get an accurate picture of Mormonism.  Two is because it is another demonstration of the great gap that exists between Mormonism and the Bible.  But most importantly of all, I am pointing this out to illustrate the stark difference between the comfort given by Mormonism and the Bible.  Look again at that quote.  “Through ages and aeons” it says they evolve into a God.  That reminds me of one LDS man telling me that it would take him 10,000 eternities to become a god.

Compare that to the wonderful comfort the Bible gives.  As soon as believers die, they enter the mind-boggling bliss of God’s presence.  Instantaneously all pain and sorrow is replaced with perfect peace and joy.  There are no eternities of evolving and work.  Instead, instantaneously, there is absolute perfection and wonderful glory.

And the best part of it all is that Jesus accomplished all this for us.  He did everything to make us acceptable to God.  In him, right now, we are perfect and worthy in God’s sight.  This heavenly bliss is his gift to us.  To him, and to him alone, be all praise and glory!

14
Feb
13

A Sobering Scripture

In his third chapter, James writes:

          “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

         And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

7        For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9       Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so [can] no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

There are fewer passages that are more sobering than that.  It vividly shows that talk is not cheap – that the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is totally wrong.  We all can think of examples of how just a few words destroyed a person.  Words are powerful – and deadly.

What is even more sobering is that when, in the last paragraph James applies this to believers, he shows that, even after people have been brought to faith, they can’t completely control their tongues.  The best we can do is an unnatural inconsistency – as we talk out of both sides of our mouths.

That is something that I can’t argue with.  It’s not difficult to think of biting words I wished I would have swallowed; unloving criticism that I have gleefully offered, teasing that went too far.  This passage does a good job of fulfilling its purpose.  It vividly shows me my sin.

What a blessing it is that seeing my sinfulness doesn’t drive me to despair but rather drives me into the arms of my Savior.  As I think about this passage, I am filled with awe with the realization that Jesus never once spoke a wrong word.  Never once did his tongue cause him to sin.  Just try to imagine that.  As a boy playing with his brothers and sisters and the other kids in Nazareth, he never once said anything wrong.  As a  carpenter, never venting about a customer.  As a teacher, always giving just the right criticism to his disciples.  Even when he was abused, he didn’t strike back with wrong words.

And then! I realize that I get all the credit for that!  This is all part of the perfect robe of his righteousness – the robe that he has freely given me – the robe that makes me perfect in God’s sight.  But not only did he cover my sins with his righteousness, he washed them away with his blood!  All those unkind words – all that biting criticism – they have been separated from me as far as the east is from the west.  Because of Jesus, and only because of him, I am a perfect saint in God’s eyes.  Because of Jesus, and only because of him, I am totally confident that I will spend all eternity with him and the Father as part of their eternal family.  To him and to him alone be all praise and glory!

07
Feb
13

LDS Missionaries

At the last General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson, a LDS apostle, gave a talk entitled, “Ask the Missionaries!  They Can Help You!”  In it he talks about how the missionaries can help people in a number of ways.  Some of the things he mentions are family history, conquering an addiction, having no sense of purpose in life, family problems, and gaining greater knowledge.  And with each topic he has this refrain:  “Ask the missionaries.  They can help you.”

I thought of that talk recently because some good friends have had a number of talks with some LDS missionaries.  (Two sisters made the initial appointment but when they came they were accompanied by an older man – a pattern that continued over the visits.)  My friends were upfront about not wanting to convert to Mormonism but wanted to talk to them to hear about Mormonism from official representatives. (This is something that Mormons often encourage people to do.)  They remained pleasant with them – a fact appreciated by the missionaries.

But a couple of weeks ago one of the sisters was suddenly transferred to another city.  About the same time, the man arrived earlier than the sisters and told my friends that the missionaries couldn’t answer my friends’ questions and that he would be answering them.  What was so striking about this is that the questions they were asking were not that difficult.  They weren’t asking about obscure LDS doctrines or unfamiliar Bible passages.  Many of their questions were in response to things that the missionaries had asked them to read before the next meeting – questions like exactly what does this passage or this statement mean.  It soon became obvious that they had not really thought through the very passages they themselves were referencing.  Their experience was in striking contrast to what Elder Nelson had stated in General Conference.

I mention this as an encouragement to act kindly towards LDS missionaries and engage them in conversations – especially in conversations that dwell with the major question of what people have to do to live eternally with Heavenly Father.  It was obvious to my friends that the sisters were interested in what they had to say about Jesus doing it all for them.  In fact, we suspect that the one was suddenly transferred because she was starting to ask questions.  We suspect that because numerous returned missionaries have told us that that sometimes happened when they were on their mission.

More importantly, some returned missionaries have told us that it was conversations just like those that planted the seed that eventually blossomed into their believing that they were already worthy before God because of what Jesus had done for them.  God’s Word is powerful!  The more we make use of opportunities to plant that Word – even with LDS missionaries – the more the Lord is glorified and the more his kingdom will come to more people.

In order to help you do that, we have just produced a small brochure entitled, “Please Open the Door”.  If you would like a copy, just email me at mark@tilm.org and we will get it out to you.




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