One of the many things I love about Christmas is its simple message that God so loved the world that he deployed his Son to be our Savior. In these days before Christmas, I find myself repeatedly rejoicing over the fact that Jesus saved me by doing it all for me. The Son of God became flesh as our substitute, taking all our sins on himself and paying for them with his death – and also living that perfect life that we can’t – and then freely giving us all that perfection (righteousness) that he had accumulated. Christmas is all about the sending of a Rescuer – a thought that has been stressed over and over again this Christmas Season in my church.
That’s why an article in the January issue of the Ensign (the LDS Church’s official magazine) which recently arrived in the mail stopped me in my tracks. It is entitled, “The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Exemplar”. Following is the entire article.
“As we understand that Jesus Christ is our example in all things, we can increase our desire to follow Him. The scriptures are full of encouragement for us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To the Nephites, Christ said, “For the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). To Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“Today our leaders remind us to set the Savior as our example. Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, said, “When each of us has the doctrine of the Atonement written deep in our hearts, then we will begin to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be.”
“President Thomas S. Monson said, “Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Exemplar and our strength.”
Let us resolve to draw near to Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments, and to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”
Yes, the Bible does, at times, point to Jesus as our example. But that is not what it emphasizes. And that surely is not what it says his divine mission was! His mission was to save us, not by being an example and showing us what we need to do, but by actually doing 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) Jesus came to redeem us – to buy us back. And that is what he did. To use a simple analogy, he didn’t save us when we were drowning by showing us how to swim. No, he jumped into our world as a lifeguard and rescued us.
But notice there is nothing about that in this article, notwithstanding the brief mention of the Atonement. The whole article is about following Jesus’ example “to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.” And what is so sad about this is that this is the visiting teaching message for January. That means that this is the lesson LDS women are to teach each other as they fulfill their duties as visiting teachers. Throughout Mormonism this will be the emphasis of those visits.
How tragic – for a couple of reasons. One is that this will just increase the heavy weight many LDS women are feeling already. Following in Jesus’ footsteps is an impossible task! And secondly, such a message dishonors our Savior tremendously. It doesn’t glorify him as the one, who at tremendous cost, saved us. It puts all the focus on what they are to do, not what he has done for them.
It is my prayer that this Christmas more Christians lovingly and clearly share with Mormons the tremendous news that Jesus, our Savior who has done everything for us, has been born. Furthermore I pray that the Holy Ghost will open the eyes of many LDS to see this wonderful truth.
In Jesus, our Savior, have a wonderful Christmas.