Archive for August, 2013

30
Aug
13

One Consequence of Mormonism’s Small God

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man” (Joseph Smith, quoted in The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, p. 325).  One of Mormonism’s basic tenets is that God and human beings are basically the same.  God is just more advanced in his progression.  He was once a man.  He still has a physical body.  Because of that, he is limited to being in one place.  He has a spouse (or spouses).  We are his literal spirit children. We too can become gods.  We differ from him – not in kind – but in degree.

In striking contrast the Bible describes God as differing from us, not in degree, but in kind.  He is an entirely different Being from us.  He never was a man.  From all eternity he existed as the one and only God and that is how he will exist throughout eternity.  He is so different from us that we can’t even fathom his triune nature: that he is one God consisting of three distinct persons.  He is in a class solely by himself.  He and he alone is God. The God of Mormonism is pretty small in comparison.

This has many consequences.  The one that I would like to address here is how this impacts a Mormon’s view of sin.  Most Mormons don’t see just how serious sin is or how serious the consequences of sinning are.  They struggle to see the damning nature of sin – how one sin makes them guilty of all (James 2:10).  Many are blind to how sin makes even their righteousness nothing but filthy rags (Is. 64:6).

One reason for that, I feel, stems from their view of God.  When they sin it isn’t that serious, because God is like them – just greater in degree.  It’s like punching your older brother.  But when Christians sin, they realize how serious that is because God is so great – because he is different from us not just in degree but in kind.  It’s more like punching the President of the United States.  Same action as punching an older brother, but the consequences are so much more severe because the person is so different.  As someone once said, “Sin is so serious because of who we sin against.”

That is why we can’t contribute anything to our salvation.  If we try to add anything to Jesus’ works for us, all we accomplish is ruining his masterpiece of grace.  Sin is that potent.  Sin is that serious.  It’s that serious because God is that great.

Before we can clearly see the Savior, we need to clearly see our sin. I encourage you to make clear to your LDS friends how serious sin really is.  Show them how big God really is.  Show them how his greatness emphasizes sin’s seriousness.  Show them their sin and then show them the greatness of their Savior.

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22
Aug
13

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?

A thoughtful answer to that question has to go beyond the common response that it is indeed Christ-centered because it has Jesus Christ in its name.  That is like saying Dr. J of past basketball fame was a doctor because he had doctor in his name.  To truly answer that question one needs to examine what Mormonism truly focuses on.

Since the LDS Church publishes an extensive number of official manuals and makes many public pronouncements there is a wealth of material to examine.  Over the years, in past posts, I have cited many such manuals and pronouncements.  Today, however, I’m examining a manual I have never before referred to.  It is the official church manual for teaching nursery (ages 1 ½ to 2).  I recently picked it up because often seeing what a church teaches its very young is quite revealing of what it is emphasizing. To put it simply, we teach our young the basics of our faith.

So what does this manual reveal?  The thing that immediately jumps out from the table of contents is how many lessons begin with “I”.  “I Will Be Thankful”, “I Will Love Others”, I Will Obey” to name a few.

Further examination shows that this emphasis on the child and what he is to do carries through the whole manual even in the lessons that don’t begin with an “I”.   One example of that is the lesson entitled, “Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others”. In that lesson they are taught a little song called “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”.   The teacher is to share with them a few stories of how Jesus helped others and after each story the children are to say:  “Jesus showed us how to love others”.  Even though Jesus is mentioned in this lesson, what is stressed is their trying to be like Jesus.

The other thing that is striking about this manual is how little it talks about Jesus.  In all thirty lessons I could not find a single suggestion that the teacher should talk about the fact that Jesus has saved them.  Take, for example, the song taught in the lesson, “Heavenly Father Has a Plan for Me”.

I am a child of God

And he has sent me here

He has given me an earthly home

With parents kind and dear.

 

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me

Help me find the way.

Teach me all that I must do

To live with him someday.

Now some might be thinking that since this is a manual for teaching very small children big doctrinal issues have no place in it.  But that is not the case.  It talks about pre-existence, that Heavenly Father has a body, that the Holy Ghost speaks to them, Joseph Smith’s first vision, the importance of a living prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and so on.  It even has a lesson on the priesthood.  But it doesn’t tell them much about Jesus.  And, as I mentioned above, it never once even briefly touches on the fact that he saved us. Instead, for example, in the lesson on Christmas they are taught this song:

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?

He sent His Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.

 

How could the Father show the pathway we should go?

He sent His Son to walk with men on earth, that we many know.

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?  An examination of the basics that they teach their children says a definite no.  When he is talked about at all, it is exclusively as an example.  The teaching of Jesus as the Savior is conspicuous by its absence.

That is why it is so important for Christians to make use of every opportunity to share a Christ-centered message with Mormons -a message that centers on Christ, not as our example, but as our Savior.  That is what being Christ-centered is all about.

 

 

 

12
Aug
13

The Only Way to Eternal Happiness

When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Note how exclusively Jesus speaks.  He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way.  And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.

Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way.  No, it’s all about him.  Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence.  As Paul wrote to Titus:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not 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; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)

Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference.  “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father.  His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis).  That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said.  Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way.  Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times.   But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!

Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”.  Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings:  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)  Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!

His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us.  Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments.  But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness.  Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence.  To him be all glory.

07
Aug
13

Crushing Expectations

The following quote is from a LDS manual for young people interested in going on a mission.  It is from a chapter about conversion.   It quotes President Marion G. Romney in saying:  “In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 85, my emphasis)  Note how he not only says those who are wholly converted won’t have any more desire to sin but he also continues by talking about how this will be seen in their actions – by a determination to keep the commandments.

According to that statement, St. Paul wasn’t wholly converted. He famously confessed, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . .For the good that I would I do not:  but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:15,19) Over the years, Paul’s confession has given many believers great comfort.  It reassures them that becoming a believer doesn’t mean that they will be able to keep the commandments – no matter how strong their desire is to please God.  They won’t be able to also do the good that they want to do!   “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

That fact, however, doesn’t drive believers to despair.  Rather it drives them to Jesus.  That is why Paul concluded with the simple statement:  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 7: 24-25)  Our inability to refrain from sinning is a vivid reminder that the only way we will be able to stand worthily before Heavenly Father is when we solely on Jesus’ perfection for us.  If we continue with an “and” – if we try to add any of our own righteousness we spoil and ruin the whole thing.  How many of us would buy a new car that has a scratch on it?  How many brides would buy a wedding gown with a spot on it?  When it comes to being worthy to enter his presence, God demands perfection:  no spots or blemishes.  Nothing less will do.

But sole reliance on Jesus is not what Mormonism teaches.  2 Nephi 25:23 says that we are saved by grace “after all we can do”.  This is how one LDS manual explains that:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Later on it states:  “Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life (see Alma 11:36-37).  Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins (see Helaman 5:10-11).  To receive this blessing, you must exercise your faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.’ (p. 152)

The Bible clearly shows that we will inevitably sin.  Mormonism flatly contradicts that.  And in doing so, it puts people under the crushing pressure of becoming worthy to be in Heavenly Father’s presence.  But not only that.  By stressing what people have to do, they are ruining the masterpiece of salvation by grace alone.  This will result in the Lord, not welcoming them into his presence, but driving them out of his presence.

It is my prayer that many more LDS people will see that and rely totally and completely on Jesus’ work for them.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but firmly share their truth with their LDS friends and family.  There is no more liberating truth than  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)




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