Archive for the 'exaltation' Category

08
Mar
13

Becoming a God

Even though I have recently addressed this topic, I am revisiting it because it is the centerpiece of Chapter 5 of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, a chapter that will be studied in the LDS Church this coming Sunday.  This chapter begins by quoting the famous couplet President Snow authored,

“As man now is, God once was:

As God now is, man may be.”

It then talks about how he made this the theme for his life.  It was his “constant light and guide”.  But what I found especially enlightening is that it then says that, “in this chapter, President Snow teaches the doctrine that we can become like our Heavenly Father.”  That struck me because that clearly shows, and as the rest of the chapter demonstrates, that when Mormonism talks about the possibility of becoming like God it means that they can become a god.  In other words, in the official writings of Mormonism, the two statements are synonymous.

That is important because many members of the LDS Church have given me the impression that becoming like God is less than becoming a god.  And I don’t doubt that they truly believe there is a distinction between the two.  But even a cursory reading of this chapter says differently.  Following are just some quotes I pulled from that chapter to demonstrate that.  These quotes are all an explanation of becoming like God.

“There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization.”

“He has bestowed on us the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge.”  (my emphasis)

“We have divinity within ourselves.”

Heavenly Father says:  “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.” (my emphasis)

“becoming like unto Him in every particular”

But President Snow also states very clearly that all this is conditioned on a person’s obedience.  One quote will suffice:  “They are His children, made in His image, and destined through obedience to His laws to become like unto Him.”  Repeatedly he talks about how people can realize their divine potential IF they remain faithful and obedient.

What a contrast to biblical teaching! It speaks of a God that we can’t begin to fathom – a God that is so superior that even the angels cover their faces in his presence.  The God of the Bible is one whose both nature and works leave us speechless.  The God of the Bible stands unequalled from eternity to eternity.  Nowhere does the Bible state that we will possess the same glory as God.

But his greatest glory is his love.  The love that moved him, not to give us a plan of salvation, but salvation itself.  The love that he put into action by sending Jesus as our substitute, to do everything necessary for us to live eternally with him.  And that is what Jesus did!  He was perfectly obedient and then bestowed that righteousness on us through faith.  And then he died – not for any sins he committed – but for all the sins we have committed.  He paid the full price.  And because Jesus did it all there are now no conditions, no ifs, for us to fret over.  Instead of making eternal life with Heavenly Father conditional on our obedience, God offers it to us as his free gift.

O, what a blessing that is.  Because Jesus has already done everything for me, I am positive that right now that, in Christ, I am completely worthy and accepted to God.  Because of Jesus, I can’t wait for Judgment Day because there I know I will be lovingly accepted by God.  Because of Jesus, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will be living with Heavenly Father forever.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts, about it.  To Him be all praise and glory!

 

28
Nov
12

Eternal Life: Reward or Gift?

One of the things LDS members are studying and will continue to study for the next few months are the talks delivered at last October’s General Conference.  One of those talks, entitled “What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?”, was given by Elder Robert C. Gay.  In it he made the following statement:

     “This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.

     Brothers and sisters, remember that this charge is more than just not doing bad things. With an engaged enemy we must also act and not sit in “thoughtless stupor.” Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.”

Note how he explicitly says that eternal life is a reward – a reward for a person overcoming both sins of commission and sins of omission.  In that he is accurately reflecting the teachings of Mormonism and its heavy emphasis on what people have to do.  In fact, his words easily could convince many that, in order to have eternal life, they would have to become sinless.

How different this is from what the Bible says!  It explicitly says that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  Whereas Mormonism continually and repeatedly focuses people on their work, the Bible continually and repeatedly focuses on Jesus’ work for us.  Eternal life is based entirely on what he did for us – his keeping the commandments perfectly as our Substitute and his bloody payment for each and every one of our sins.  Because eternal life is based entirely on what Jesus has already accomplished for us, God can now give it as his gift to us.

There’s a huge difference between a reward and a gift.   A reward puts the focus on the recipient and his or her accomplishments.  A gift puts the focus on the giver and his generosity and love.  A reward creates a lot stress for the recipient who has to struggle to earn it; who can easily worry wondering if they will do enough to earn it.  A gift creates gratitude in the heart of the recipient and the joy and confidence of knowing that they possess it – because it doesn’t depend on them but on the giver.  In short, a reward glorifies the recipient; a gift glorifies the giver.

I thank God daily that he doesn’t talk about eternal life as a reward but as his gift to me.  Thank you, Jesus, for earning it for me.  And may many more see this wonderful truth.

08
Mar
12

“As man is God once was; as God is, man may become.”

This Sunday, in Gospel Doctrine Class, the study is on 2 Nephi 31-33.  One of the summary statements in the heading of chapter 31 says, “Eternal life comes to those who kept the commandments after baptism.”  Since I posted about eternal life just a couple of months ago (see the post for 1-13-12) and there showed that the Bible says eternal life is the present possession of believers through faith, I thought I would, in this post, explore what Mormonism says about eternal life.  I’m going to do that with quotes from the last chapter of their basic manual, Gospel Principles.  If you would like to read the entire chapter, you can do that on lds.org.

The first thing to note is that Mormonism equates eternal life with exaltation.  “Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (p. 275)  Note that this says eternal life is not only equal to the kind of life God lives but also to becoming like him.  That is illustrated with the list in the middle: great glory, perfection, possessing all knowledge and wisdom, Father of spirit children, creator.  In other words, Mormonism teaches that people will be able to possess all knowledge and wisdom, that they will become creators etc.

This is expanded a couple of paragraphs later.  (The italics are my emphasis).

“These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).

2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).

3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.

4. They will receive a fulness of joy.

5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20).

Mormonism plainly teaches that people can become gods.  I’m emphasizing that because many Mormons have told me that Mormonism doesn’t teach that.  I don’t know how many told me that it says that they will be like God, but not become a god.  But note what this official manual states.  “They will become gods.”  Gods who have everything that Heavenly Father and Jesus have.  And lest we forget, that is what Mormonism is talking about whenever it talks about eternal life.  Eternal life and exaltation are the same thing.

This chapter also includes a couple quotes from Joseph Smith. (Again the italics are mine)  “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 268).”

“Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 345–46).”

I highlighted that last part because again many Mormons have stated to me that Heavenly Father never was a man. Some have told me that the famous couplet, “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may become”, no longer applies.  When I explored that with them, they said it wasn’t just that this wording is not used that much anymore, but that is not what Mormonism teaches.  It’s obvious that this chapter of their basic manual says otherwise.

The bottom line is that when Mormonism talks about eternal life, it means something vastly different than when Christians talk about it.  (See my January 13th post for a full look at the Christian view.)  This is a point both Mormons and Christians need to keep clearly in mind when talking with each other.

13
Jan
12

Eternal Life

This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrines classes, Mormons around the world will be looking at 1 Nephi 8-11.  This section from the Book of Mormon describes the vision of the tree of life.  The Book of Mormon supplies identification for the various elements in the vision.  I am going to concentrate on the fruit of the tree which, according to it, symbolizes eternal life.

The first point that needs to be made is that Mormonism defines eternal life differently than Christianity does.  It equates it with exaltation.  “Eternal life, or exaltation, is to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where we will live in God’s presence and continue as families (see D&C 131:1-4).  Like immortality, this gift is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  However, it requires our ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ (Articles of Faith 1:3).” (True to the Faith, p. 52)

D&C 131:1-4 referenced in that quote says that celestial marriage (temple marriage for time and eternity) is essential for exaltation.  The next section of D&C (132) is also pertinent because it describes exaltation as nothing less than becoming gods!   In verse 19 it states: “they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things.”  Then in verse 20 it says, “then shall they be gods” not once but twice.

In short, Mormonism defines eternal life as becoming a god.  To obtain it requires “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”.  One such ordinance is celestial marriage that can only be performed in Mormon temples.  Thus, according to Mormonism, many LDS members, not to mention non-members, will not have eternal life.

What does the Bible say?  John wrote:  “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)  Note that he says “ye may know that ye have eternal life”.   The tense is very important.  It is a present tense, not a future (will have).  They already had it!

They had it through believing.  John is echoing the words of Jesus that he himself recorded.  “That whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:15)  Eternal life then is the present possession of believers.  It’s the new spiritual life we now have with God through faith.  And most importantly, it is not something that we obtain through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.  It is God’s gift to us.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)

“Through Jesus Christ our Lord” – the key is not my obedience and my work, but Jesus’ obedience and his work.  As my Substitute, he obeyed God perfectly.  As my Substitute, he performed many wonderful works.  He died – as my Substitute.  He did it all – 100% – for me.  Faith is nothing more, or less, than humbly acknowledging that and totally relying on that.  And through faith we have the tremendous joy of having true eternal life – right now!

02
Jan
12

Attending the Heavenly Wedding

As I mentioned last week, the LDS Church has a set curriculum for its adult Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine classes.  It also sets much of the curriculum for what is studied during Relief Society (women) and priesthood quorums (men). This year, on the second and third Sundays of each month, they are continuing a series entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.  This year they are studying the life and words of George Albert Smith who was president of the LDS Church from 1945 to 1951.  As with the Book of Mormon manual I mentioned last week, you can obtain a copy of this book for just a few dollars from LDS.org.

The first lesson, which will be studied this coming Sunday, is entitled, “Living What We Believe”.  Being worthy is the theme that runs throughout the lesson.  The following quote reflects the tenor of the lesson.

“I would like to say to the Latter-day Saints, if we are worthy to be called Latter-day Saints, it will be because we are living the lives of saint, and it is the purpose of the Gospel to qualify us in that way.  The world has gotten into such a condition and has been deceived by the adversary for such a long time and has declared that the mere belief in God is all that is necessary, that I am fearful for it.  That is only a trick of the adversary.” (p. 3)

But what I want to focus on is its treatment of the parable of the wedding feast recorded in Matthew 22.  It focuses on the man who was thrown out because he didn’t have a wedding garment on.  It then makes the point that we have to be prepared if we will be welcomed by God.  “The adversary has so deceived them as to make them believe that no preparation is necessary, anything will do, but in this message that the Savior gave in a parable to his associates we are informed that there must be some preparation and without that preparation no one will be permitted to partake of the more precious gifts of our Heavenly Father.” (p.6)  The way we prepare, according to this lesson, is to keep the commandments. “The Lord will be merciful, but he will be just, and if we want any blessing there is only one way we may obtain it, and that is to keep the commandments that will entitle us to the blessing.” (p.7)

Is that really the message the Savior gave with this parable?  What is so instructive about that parable is that the custom at royal weddings was that the king would supply a wedding garment for the guests.  It would be his gift to them.  We don’t know, but the man who was cast out might have been well-dressed.  But he wasn’t dressed in the wedding garment that the king had supplied.  By not wearing that garment, he dishonored and angered the king.  He was thrown out into outer darkness.  The thought that these wedding garments were gifts of the king also fits into the context of the parable because the king’s servants went out into the highways and byways to get guests – guests who would not have had the time or even the means to get a wedding garment of their own.

It’s obvious the point Jesus was making is that in order to enter God’s presence you need to be wearing the clothes he has given us.  These are the clothes Isaiah talked about when he said:  “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful to my God; for he hath clothed me with garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (61:10). Note that Isaiah said the Lord clothed him – the Lord covered him with the robe of righteousness.  Isaiah’s robe of righteousness was given him by the Lord.

That robe of righteousness is the robe Jesus wove for us when he kept the commandments perfectly for us.  It’s all about his works, not our work.  It’s all about his gift to us, not our obtaining his blessing by living worthily.  It’s all about me not making or obtaining my own wedding clothes, but rather being clothed by the Lord.

And notice how high the stakes are.  Anyone not wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness is cast into outer darkness (Matthew 22:13).  A couple of times this lesson mentions that the adversary (Satan) has deceived people.  I agree.  But the sobering truth is that Satan’s deception is the teaching that we, in any way, merit or obtain the blessing of living with heavenly Father for all eternity.  That is God’s gift to us.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

15
Sep
11

ARE ANY SINS MISDEMEANORS?

 

It sure seems like some sins aren’t very serious; at the most being on the level of minor crimes, misdemeanors.  But that isn’t how the Bible portrays them.  Sin, all sin, is extremely serious because of the person whom we are sinning against.

For example, if I took a swing at my friend, there would be consequences but we wouldn’t even make the news.  Taking that same swing at a police officer, however, might get me into the papers – and into jail.  Same swing – different consequences -because of whom I swung at.  Take it a step further.  Say I took that same swing at the President of theUnited States.  That would get me national attention – and serious jail time.  Same swing – different consequences – because of whom I swung at.

Sin is serious because we are sinning against God.  For example, after committing adultery, David cried out to the Lord:  “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”  (Psalm 51:4)  All sin is against God because all sin breaks God’s law.  That means all sin is serious. That’s why James wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  Sin, all sin, is serious.  There are no misdemeanors when it comes to sin.  In fact, sin is more than a felony – sin, all sin, is a capital crime.  “The wages of sin is death.”  (Romans 6:23)  It’s not just the blatant sinners who have a big problem.

The only solution to that problem is Jesus.  How wonderful it is that this verse continues:  “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Eternal life is more than immortality.  Eternal life is living eternally with Heavenly Father.  (The LDS Bible’s Topical Guide recognizes this by referencing exaltation and eternal family under the heading, eternal life.)  Jesus died for our capital crimes.  He paid the penalty for all our sins.  His blood washes away all sin.  So much so that God gives eternal life as his gift to us – with no strings attached.  To Jesus be all praise!

04
Aug
11

GODHOOD IS NOT AN OUTDATED LDS DOCTRINE

 

Over the years, numerous Mormons have told me I was wrong when I stated that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, while a smaller number of Mormons have said that I was correct.  This lack of agreement is understandable because this doctrine has been downplayed in recent years.  Just one example of that is the change made in Gospel Principles, the basic manual of the LDS Church.

The 1979 edition states:   “We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 290).  In contrast, the 2009 edition states:  “We can become like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 275).  Both, however, just a few sentences later, talking about those who are exalted, say:  “They will become gods.” That sentence alone indicates that present-day Mormonism still teaches this doctrine.

But, as I have stated, it is not mentioned nearly as much as it used to be.  Therefore, I was surprised to see a reference to it in the current (August 2011) issue of the Ensign, the monthly magazine published by the LDS Church.  Elder L. Tom Perry, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles, has a lengthy quote from Spencer W. Kimball, a past prophet of the LDS Church.  In reference to Peter and John, Kimball wrote:  “Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creations of worlds with eternal increase.” (p. 51)  Not only does President Kimball talk about their becoming gods but also refers to the LDS doctrine that part of godhood is the creation of new worlds which they then will populate “with eternal increase” or, in other words, with their own spirit children.

I have a couple of reasons for highlighting this quote.  The most obvious reason is as proof that the idea of people becoming gods is still a teaching of Mormonism – a fact that should be both known by Christians and acknowledged by Mormons.  (By the way, even some Mormons have told me that it bothers them that many of their fellow Mormons don’t acknowledge this or do so reluctantly.)

But another reason I am citing this quote is to offer another example of how Mormonism focuses the attention on people and not on Christ.  According to Kimball, it was Peter and John’s own righteousness that opened the door to godhood for them.  According to the Bible, however, it’s all about Christ’s righteousness.  In fact it says our righteousnesses are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

I, for one, am so comforted by the fact that my standing before God and my eternal destiny doesn’t depend on what I do or how good I am, but rests entirely on what Jesus has done for me and his perfect righteousness.  As Paul states, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)  That also is my desire.  To Jesus, not to myself, be all the glory.




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