Archive for the 'faith and works' Category


Why witness to Mormons?

I recently listened to a man speaking about the importance of eating correctly and exercising regularly. He talked about how important this was – even for those in the audience who appeared quite physically fit.  For example, there was one young man who ran half marathons but who admitted he didn’t watch his diet that closely.  The speaker said that he too should take the talk to heart because the inside of his body might not be looking as good as the outside.

That is just an example of two things that were very evident.  1) The speaker took being in good health very seriously and 2) he was concerned for everybody in the room.  Some might not have bought into the extremely strong emphasis he put on correct eating and exercising, but nobody denied that he thought that these were very important issues.

What does this have to do with witnessing to Mormons?  Just like people have many different motivations for speaking on good health, so there are many different motivations for witnessing to Mormons.  I can only speak for myself.  The reason I witness to Mormons is because I believe that the teachings of Mormonism pose a grave, eternal danger to people – that Mormonism isn’t a path leading to life with heavenly Father but one that leads people to outer darkness.  I write this with the full realization that many don’t agree with me – that this infuriates many people.  But I don’t say that to upset people – I say that in spite of the fact that I know it will upset people.  I say that because I am totally convinced that people need to be warned.  In fact, I feel that if I didn’t do this, I would be unloving.  Not warning people about a danger you know is approaching is nothing less than criminal.  It was obvious that the above-mentioned speaker felt that way about physical health.  That is how I feel about spiritual health.

Again let me repeat that I know many of you don’t agree with my assessment of the dangers of Mormonism.  Disagreeing with my assessment is one thing.  But if this is what I truly believe – and I’m telling you this is what I truly believe – then at least respect my motivation.  But attributing wrong motives to me or calling my character into question don’t do that.  To be honest, I think that says more about the person making the comment than it does me.

Why do I witness to Mormons?  Because Mormonism, in many ways, states that people, to some degree, have to contribute to living with heavenly Father.  One example:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)   The Bible, however, teaches that it is all by God’s grace and that grace and works don’t mix.  “And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more works.”  (Romans 11:6)  To God – and God alone – be all praise and glory.




Both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus.  But, as with so many words and phrases, each means something differently by that.

James E. Talmage, who was an LDS apostle, defined faith this way:  “Primarily, and in a theological sense, we are considering faith as a living, inspiring confidence in God, and an acceptance of His will as our law, and of His words as our guide in life.”  Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin put it this way:  “We each should develop the faith of Nephi to do the things the Lord has commanded [see 1 Ne. 3:7] knowing that all commandments are given for our good.”

When Christians talk about faith in Jesus, however, they are not talking about accepting His will as our law or even His words as our guide in life.  The first and primary things Christians think about when faith comes up are not Jesus’ words but his works.  To Christians, having faith in Jesus means trusting that what Jesus did he did for us and because Jesus has done those things, we are already acceptable to God.  So much so that faith in Jesus, for Christians, includes the thought of abandoning any reliance on our own works.  But note that any mention of Jesus’ works for us is completely absent in James E. Talmage’s words – even though he is describing faith “primarily”.

Although both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus, they have two different objects in which they place their faith.  In order to understand each other and not talk past each other, it is important to see this difference.  It is not enough to agree that both talk about having faith in Jesus.  The telling question is: faith in Jesus’ what?


Does Staying in the Faith Contribute to Salvation?

One of the many differences that come out in discussions between Mormons and Christians is what is all involved in faith.  Christians limit faith itself to trusting in Jesus’ work rather than in their own works to be saved.  We do see good works as resulting from faith and closely connected to faith but not part of faith itself.  We do that because the Bible not only says works are not part of faith – Ephesians 2:8-9 and other passages but also refers to them as fruits of faith – John 15:5 and other passages

Another thing many Mormons include in the definition of faith is staying in the faith.  But is that true?  Say that I was sleeping in my house when it caught fire.  The smoke made me unconscious.  A fireman rescues me without any help on my part.  After I’m rescued, I’m sitting on the sidewalk watching my house burn.  But then I remember a prized possession that is still in the house so I rush back into my burning house to try and get it.  This time I die.  If, however, I didn’t do that and stayed on the sidewalk could I then say that I had to do something to be saved?  I don’t think so.

The Bible talks about believers having been saved with no works on their part – past tense.  It talks about believers possessing eternal life – present tense.  Both are accomplished facts.  Yes, we need to remain in the faith – an encouragement we often hear in the Bible.  But does that mean that my staying in the faith contributes to my salvation?  No more than my staying out of my burning house contributed to my rescue in the analogy above.  In fact, it would be an affront to the fireman who rescued me to claim any credit for my rescue.  So also it is an affront to Jesus to say that I did or have to do anything to be saved.  But that is exactly what Mormonism teaches.  As Robert L. Millet, a BYU professor wrote, “Therefore acting alone, the grace of Christ is not sufficient for salvation.  The works of man – the ordinances of salvation, the deeds of service and acts of charity and mercy – are necessary for salvation.”  It’s teachings like these that cause us to say that Mormonism is a very dangerous religion.


A Sobering Scripture


One of the more sobering Scripture passages is James 4:17.  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  This passage emphasizes an aspect of sinfulness that people often don’t consider.  The first thing most people think of when sin is mentioned are sinful things they have done.  Often the idea that we sin by not doing something is not that prominent in their thinking.  But this passage tells us that many of our sins are ones of omission.

Stop and think what this passage is saying.  Here is just one application. Every time I fail to love my wife with the same sacrificial love of Jesus, I sin.  That means every time I put my wants before hers (whether in what to eat, what TV show to watch, what activity to do), I sin.  That means whenever I tell her I can’t help her right then because I need time for myself, I sin.  That means when my love for her is not completely perfect, I sin.  All this is sin because Scripture says:  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  (Ephesians 5:25).  Jesus never once thought of himself.  He never put himself before us.  And, according to this verse, his love is to be my pattern.  That is just one “good” I know.  But I sadly admit that that is the good that I don’t always do.  How many times a day do I fail to do this?  How many times a week do I fail to do this?  How many times in our marriage have I failed to do this?  Here is one instance that the word countless is not an exaggeration.

Loving my wife as Christ loved the church is just one of hundreds of “good” things that I know.  In fact, it is just one tiny aspect of the good of loving all people.  And that is just one of many good things God tells us to do.  The more I think about it, the more examples of sin come to mind.  Just a few minutes reflection on this passage convinces me that sin is what I regularly do.  It also convinces me that no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to stop sinning.  There will always be some “good” that I won’t do.

Couple that with something James says a couple of chapters before and the situation becomes even bleaker.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (2:10)

Many don’t see the intent or feel the full force of these passages. Scripture tells us that the reason why God gives us such sobering commands, why he has given us the law, is to open our eyes to the seriousness of our sinfulness.  (Romans 3:20).  It’s only after people see the enormity of their sins that they will give up on thinking that they can do anything whatsoever to contribute to their living eternally with heavenly Father.  It’s then, hopefully, that they see the wonderful fact that Jesus has done it all for them – that solely because of what Jesus has done can they live eternally with Heavenly Father.

The less people see their sinfulness, the less value they will attach to Jesus and what he has done for them.  Conversely, the more people see their sinfulness, the more valuable Jesus and his work will be to them.  It all starts with how we see ourselves.  And that is why we need to take seriously these passages.



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

(I’m repeating this post from over a year ago because some LDS members remarked that it helped them understand our position on faith and works.)

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 is 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.




Christ Our Righteousness

     A Bible passage that has become increasingly precious to me is 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  What I especially treasure is its teaching that Jesus has become our righteousness.

     Righteousness is an important biblical word, but one that a lot of people aren’t that familiar with because it is not used that often outside of religious discussions.  I confirmed that by googling it.  Almost all the references that came up placed it in a religious context.  My dictionary defines it as acting according to what is right, being upright.

     That is why I so treasure the above quoted passage.  As the years go by, I am increasingly aware of my failure to always act uprightly, to act righteously.  The battle between flesh and Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians is something I feel regularly.  (“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.” 5:17). No matter how hard I try to lead a Christ-centered life, I find myself putting self in the center.  No matter how hard I try to always be patient and joyful, I find myself still being impatient and moody.  On and on it goes.

     What a relief – what a joy it is, then, to be told that Jesus has become our righteousness.  Not only did Jesus die in my place, he also lived in my place – as my Substitute.  All his perfect and righteous thoughts, words, and actions are credited to my account.  Not only did he undo what I did, he also did what I didn’t do.  As God now looks at my account, He doesn’t see any debts since they were erased by Jesus’ blood.  Instead all he sees is righteousness – the righteousness of Jesus that has been credited to me.

     No wonder the Bible says, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  To Jesus, my Savior, my Righteousness, – be all glory!


What a difference a “not” makes!

      One of my favorite Bible passages is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The whole context is brimming over with comforting statements reassuring us that God forgives us through faith.  For example, the very next verse says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  It is obvious that righteousness without works is Paul’s theme in this section.

      But that is not how Joseph Smith translated it.  His translation, also called the Inspired Version by the LDS Church, translates verse 5 this way.  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Besides having no basis for such a translation, it violates Paul’s line of thought.  In the very next chapter, for example, Paul speaks in a similar way about justifying the ungodly when he writes: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

     This is not the only time Joseph Smith did that either.  Another beautiful example of how quick God is to forgive us is seen when the prophet Nathan comes to King David to confront him about his adultery.  After he laid in on the line and also told David that there would be earthly consequences for his sin, we read:  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13)  It’s striking how quickly Nathan reassures David of forgiveness. 

     But not according to Joseph Smith.  He translated it, “hath not put away thy sin that thou shalt not die.”  Once again the little word “not” changes the sense completely.  It drains it of comfort for us.  It robs God of great glory.

     A lot of Mormons today shy away from statements like the following what Spencer W. Kimball wrote in his classic book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when.  It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you.  That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”  I don’t know why they shy away from such statements.  To me, such statements are accurately reflecting the way Joseph Smith translated the Bible. 

     The way Mormonism talks about forgiveness and the way the Bible speaks about it are totally opposite.  I rejoice along with St. Paul that God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.

August 2022

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