Archive for the 'exaltation' Category



25
Jun
10

Deadly Damnation

   In the June 2010 Ensign, David A. Bednar, one of Mormonism’s apostles, mentions Mormonism definition of damnation.  Talking about Satan he writes, “Just as water flowing in a riverbed is stopped by a dam, so the adversary’s eternal progression is thwarted because he does not have a physical body. . .One of the potent scriptural meanings of the word damned is illustrated in his inability to continue developing and becoming like our Heavenly Father.”  (p. 18)

    This agrees with what the LDS Bible Dictionary states:  “Damnation is the opposite of salvation, and exists in varying degrees.  All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and hence be damned to that extent.”  Thus, according to Mormonism, everybody in heaven, except those who are exalted by becoming a god, will also be damned!

    To a Christian, describing people in heaven with the word damned is incomprehensible.  Heaven and damned are direct opposites.  This then is just another of numerous examples of how Mormonism defines words uniquely.  I don’t know any dictionary that defines damnation this way.  All the dictionaries I consulted cite as synonyms words like cursed. 

     But what really makes Mormonism’s definition deadly is how it incredibly weakens what the Bible says about being damned.  Insert Mormonism’s definition into Mark 16:16 and it isn’t too frightening.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  Instead of eternal hell coming to mind when you hear that, you can think of heaven.  And that is exactly what Mormonism does.  According to it, in order to get to the lowest kingdom of glory, a person doesn’t have to believe.  And some Mormon authorities have described that kingdom as ten thousand times better than life here on earth.  That’s not a bad picture of damnation.

     The only problem is that it is totally false – and extremely dangerous.  Satan loves it when the consequences of sin are minimized.  He loves it when no one is talking about eternal hell.  He loves it because then people don’t become overly concerned about going there – until it is too late. 

     Hell is real.  Damnation is horrible.  There is nothing good associated with it.  And there is only one way to avoid it.  Accept God’s gift of eternal life.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)

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24
Nov
09

MORMONISM’S FREE GIFT OF SALVATION

     One of the basic tenets of Mormonism is that we are on earth to be tested and to work to become worthy of life in the celestial kingdom.  The following quote from Gospel Principles is representative of this teaching.  “By following His teachings, we can inherit a place in the celestial kingdom.  He did His part to help us return to our heavenly home.  It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.”  (p. 16)

     As a result, many Mormons have scoffed at the idea of that salvation is God’s gift based completely in Christ’s work for us – that salvation is by grace, through faith, without works.  For example, an LDS prophet stated:  “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  (Spencer W. Kimball)

      But there is a whole class of people that Mormonism says will be saved in the celestial kingdom without having to prove themselves.  I’m talking about small children who die.  D&C 137:10 says:  “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”

     This sparks a couple of questions.  If it was so important, according to Mormonism, that we had the chance to prove ourselves by wisely choosing the right, then why does God allow children to die before they have a chance to prove themselves?  And if the idea of salvation as a totally free gift is so obnoxious, why then does God give small children salvation in the celestial kingdom?

17
Nov
09

What Qualifies People to Live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

     A topic that frustrates both Christians and Mormons is the topic of faith and works.  It usually creates much more heat than light.  Therefore I would like to approach this somewhat differently in an attempt, at the very least, to clarify some of the issues involved.  I would like to address the question in the title.  What qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity?

    I worded it that way because I have found that the phrase “living with Heavenly Father” is the best way to get Mormons and Christians thinking about somewhat the same thing.  When Christians hear that phrase, most think of going to heaven.  When Mormons hear that phrase, most think of going to the celestial kingdom.

    In this post, all I want to do is to try and express, as clearly, as I can, what I believe the Bible says qualifies people to live with Heavenly Father eternally.  The answer to that is quite simple.  The only thing that qualifies people is the vicarious work of Jesus –which the Bible breaks into two parts.   The first part is the perfect life he led, not just as our Example, but as our Substitute.  (1 Corinthians 1:30 and all the passages that talk about the righteousness we have in Christ.)  The second part is his sacrificial death which satisfied divine justice by paying the debt of sin.  In other words, Jesus not only supplied the payment for all sin with his death; he also supplied righteousness and perfection for us through his perfect law-keeping.  His complete payment and his perfect law-keeping are what qualify people to live with Heavenly Father.  Sinlessness and perfection is what Heavenly Father is looking for.  No more – no less.

     Yes, faith is essential but not because it is an additional qualification.  Rather it is the way that Christ’s work is credited to individual persons.  Faith is one of those words that cause great confusion between Mormons and Christians. For my Mormon readers, I would like to clarify what Christians mean when they talk about faith.  Faith is not just head knowledge.  It is trust.  Conversion, in Christianity, is abandoning the trust that your works and efforts in any way qualify you to stand before God and replacing that with trust that Jesus’ works are the only thing that qualifies you to stand before God.  When it comes to living eternally with Heavenly Father, it is not even believing that God exists, or so much believing in his Word, but it is trusting in Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death for us.  To a Christian, faith, in the context of living eternally with Heavenly Father, is very specific.

     Yes, faith without works is dead.  But again the works that follow faith are not additional qualifications for living eternally with Heavenly Father.  When people are converted, they cross over from spiritual death to spiritual life.  They become new creations.  They are filled with life and thus naturally want to do good works.  That is why the Bible often calls them fruits of faith.  They come after faith and are the visible proofs and evidence that people have living faith. 

     Christians are very careful to keep works in their proper place.  They abhor any thought that their works in any way qualify them to live with Heavenly Father.  That idea, to many Christians, dishonors Christ tremendously.  Not only that.  Since the Bible says grace and works don’t mix as causes of being accepted by God (Romans 11:6), Christians say any mention of works in the discussion of how people qualify for living eternally with Heavenly Father actually disqualifies a person to live eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Finally, yes, people have to endure in the faith.  It’s who people are trusting in that counts.  If people quit trusting in Jesus works, then they won’t be able to live eternally with Heavenly Father.  But again that is not an additional qualification.  If a fireman rescues me from a burning house and I stay on the sidewalk in safety rather than running back into the burning house, I wouldn’t say that I did something to be saved.  What an insult that would be to the fireman who risked his life to save me.

     I pray that in some small way this helps Mormons better understand Christians and also helps them understand why many Christians become greatly agitated at any thought that we have to do something to qualify to live eternally with Heavenly Father.

11
Nov
09

Misrepresentation

     Whenever there is interaction between people, there exists the real possibility of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.  Communication is difficult.  It’s difficult, at times, to express ourselves clearly.  It’s even more difficult to listen carefully.  Good listeners are few and far between.

     The importance of good communication is paramount when people of different faiths interact.  Such interactions demand clear speaking and careful listening.   Naturally, because of the nature of this blog, I am here mainly thinking of communication between Mormons and non-Mormons.  I would like to outline some of the issues that have made this difficult for me.

      1.  Who do I listen to when I want to get a true picture of Mormonism?  Do I restrict myself to its scriptures – do I include the words of the living prophet seeing that often they are also labeled as scripture – do I also look at the official church manuals as more than one LDS leader has encouraged me to do?  Or do I listen to what individual Mormons tell me?  And what do I do when they either contradict each other or some official sources? 

     Permit me one small recent example.  It is my experience that LDS sources are quite consistent in defining eternal life as equal to exaltation, life in the celestial kingdom.  More than one source goes out of its way to make it distinct from immortality.  As I said, this seems to be quite consistent.  Therefore I think it is only right for me to observe that distinction when talking to Mormons.  But recently that distinction was ignored by a Mormon and I was told I was misrepresenting Mormonism.  When that happens, that brings to mind a couple of questions:  Who should I be listening to understand what Mormonism teaches about eternal life?  And how can I get the conversation on track again when discrepancies like this arise?  In other words, suddenly the discussion revolves around the definition of a phrase, rather than the original topic.

     I hasten to add, that Mormons face the same problem when talking to Christians.  They too probably end up scratching their heads on who to listen to.  This is my two-cents worth of advice to Mormons.  If you want to know what a certain denomination of Baptists, or Lutherans, or others believe, look at what they have stated officially.  I will be the first to admit that many Christians don’t accurately represent all the beliefs of their churches.  Yes, if I want to know what an individual person believes, whether Mormon or Christian, I need to listen to him or her.  But I think it is also proper to point out to people where their beliefs differ from those held by their church. 

     2.  My second problem is when people don’t listen and, at the very least, seem to be intentionally misrepresenting the position of others.  Again, I will be the first to admit that this is something I have seen Christians doing with Mormonism.  But I have also seen it go the other way.  The one that I find irritating is when Mormons say that Christians think that because salvation is free, they can run amuck and sin all they want.  I know of no Christian church that teaches that.  I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain that, when it comes to being saved- being justified – works have no place.  In that context, the Bible and Christianity teach that works are deadly.  The only works that apply there are the works of Christ for us.  But the Bible and Christianity also teaches that, as a result of being saved, as a fruit of faith, Christians will do good works. 

         I have made that point repeatedly in this blog.  But I still have Mormons misrepresenting what I and others Christians believe.  At the very least, that doesn’t aid in communication.

     I will try my best to avoid misrepresenting the teachings of any church.  All I ask is that you do the same.

13
May
09

Exaltation and Eternal Life

     Once again in the recent General Conference there were a number of references to exaltation and eternal life.  For example, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,   “If we are faithful to the covenants made there, we become inheritors not only of the celestial kingdom but of exaltation, the highest glory within the heavenly kingdom, and we obtain all the divine possibilities God can give (see D&C 132:20).”

     D&C 132:20 says:  “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 aren’t subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” 

     In a similar vein Elder Quentin L. Cook said:  “The desire of our hearts, of course, is not only to acquire salvation and immortality but also to attain eternal life with a loving Father in Heaven and our Savior in the celestial kingdom with our families.”  This is in the same vein because eternal life equals exaltation and thus equals becoming a god.  (For example, as the True to the Faith Manual explains eternal life it simply says, “eternal life, or exaltation.”)

     With eternal life and exaltation regularly referred to and striving for it is regularly encouraged, it is puzzling to me that a common reaction I have received from Mormons when I asked them are they striving to become a god is denial!  Some have been quite fervent in saying that if they remain obedient, they might become like god, but they don’t think that they will become a god.  In fact this reaction has been so common that I find it refreshing when a Mormon agrees with this foundational teaching of Mormonism!  When that happens, we can at least talk about that issue and not debate whether or not Mormonism teaches that.

     Do me a favor.  The next time you are with your LDS friend or family member, ask them if they are striving to be a god.  I would be curious if you get the same reaction I often get.

     And to my LDS friends – is asking that question in anyway offensive – if it is asked sincerely and politely?

01
Nov
08

ETERNAL FAMILIES

 

     I use to see them more often, but I still sometimes see the bumper stickers that say, “Families are Forever”.   Even though I don’t see as many bumper stickers spending all eternity with your family remains one of Mormonism’s more attractive teachings.

     But what I have found is that a lot of Mormons don’t see the connection between having an eternal family and becoming a god.  But that is the connection Mormonism makes.  “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)” True to the Faith, p, 52.  Note how the quote includes a reference to D&C 131.  That’s the same section that links exaltation with godhood.  “they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, to their exaltation. . .Then shall they be gods.”  (v. 19-20)  It’s obvious that official Mormonism links having an eternal family with being a god.  “Exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity.”  (Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 130.

     Many Mormons, in the course of a discussion, have mentioned to me how they are looking forward to having an eternal family.  I then ask them if they are then also looking forward to becoming a god.  That is something almost every single one has quickly denied.  After I show them the link Mormonism makes between the two, they often don’t know what to say.

     But what many Christians don’t realize is that the subject of eternal families offers us a wonderful window through which we can witness Christ to our Mormon friends.  According to the Bible, one result of faith – of trusting that Jesus has done everything for us – is becoming a child of God – becoming a member of God’s eternal family.  That, my friends, is a lot more glorious, a lot more attractive, than having my own eternal family.  There is one family that is forever – God’s family.  And you don’t have to get married in the temple to become part of it.  It’s God’s gift to us. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

15
Oct
08

Becoming gods

 

     I have just returned from a five-day trip to the Midwest where I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people about witnessing to Mormons.  (By the way, that’s why I haven’t been on the blog for the last five days.)  More than once people expressed confusion whether or not Mormonism teaches that people can become gods. 

     That confusion is understandable.  Many Mormons have told their Christian friends that Mormonism doesn’t teach that.   I have had many LDS members say that very thing to me.  And maybe they honestly don’t know that is what Mormonism teaches.  I have also had the experience that when I pointed that teaching out in D&C 132 and other sources some who denied that Mormonism taught that, reluctantly admitted that it did.

     There is no question that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods.  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 to them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”

     Presently Mormons are studying the manual about Joseph Smith in their series,  Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.  On p. 221-22 of this manual which was copyrighted in 2007 it quotes Joseph Smith:  “you have got to learn to be gods yourselves. . .To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.”

     Even though it is not as prominent as it once was, the old Mormon couplet coined by President Snow is still official LDS teaching.

              “As man now is, God once was

               As God now is, man may be.”

    That this is still good solid Mormonism is seen in the fact that it is quoted in the official manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles. 

    With these and numerous other proofs why do so many Mormons not know or deny that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods? 




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