Archive for the 'George Albert Smith' Category



05
Jun
12

Revelation

Chapter 11 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with revelation.  One of its main emphases is Mormonism’s teaching that the Lord gives revelation for the church only through the church president.  “Let us remember that the President of this Church has been officially designated as the pilot of the Church here in mortality to represent the Master of heaven and earth.”

Its other emphasis is that each member can receive personal revelations conditioned on keeping the commandments and living a godly life.  Most of the time this revelation is said to come through their feelings.  The manual True to the Faith puts it this way:  “we often describe a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling.’” (p.144)

It also addresses the fact that this is something that the Mormon Church has received criticism on.  “By the unbeliever, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ in all ages of the world have been considered a peculiar people. When the Lord has spoken through his servants, there have been at different periods of time many people in the earth who have said, ‘I do not believe in revelation.’ This age is no exception to the rule. The thousands, yes, the millions, of our Father’s children who live in the earth are but repeating the history of the past when they deny that God has revealed again his will to the children of men, and say that they have no need of any further revelation.”

Obviously, I would be placed in that grouping.  But, just for the record, I do believe in revelation.  I believe that the Lord is still powerfully and wonderfully revealing himself and his will in the Bible.  It tells me absolutely everything I need to know for my life now and for eternal life.  In my personal devotions, I am just finishing a thorough study of the first three chapters of Ephesians.  Talk about a breath-taking revelation of God’s grace!  As I studied those chapters once again, the Lord revealed anew to me the greatness of his love for me – how he did absolutely everything so that I will live with him for all eternity.  Verse after magnificent verse reveals the unsearchable riches we have in Christ.  In Christ we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.

And what was so striking was, not once was there a qualification of having to be worthy for all this.  In fact, Paul talks about the wonderful grace given him to be an apostle even though he was the least of the saints.  Not once was there a condition of having to keep the commandments.  No, the entire focus is on what God had done for me through Christ.  The only imperative verb (command) in the entire first three chapters is to remember our former state before Christ. That’s it.  The rest is a description of God acting for me.

What God has done for me in Christ – that, my friends, is the fullness of the gospel.  That is true revelation.  That, and the rest of biblical revelation, is all the revelation I need.

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16
May
12

Scriptures

Chapter ten of the Teachings of George Albert Smith is about the scriptures and the encouragement to use them.  Whenever the Scriptures are the topic, one of the most visible lines of demarcation between Mormonism and Christianity appears seeing that Mormonism includes three other books as Scripture; namely, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

This has also been one of the most hotly debated topics between Mormons and Christians.  Understandably so.  Nothing influences people’s beliefs more than what they consider the word of God.

Over the years, many Christians have listed many problems they have with LDS Scriptures. They have cited the lack of archaeology proof for the Book of Mormon; its similarity in many places with the King James Version; the Book of Abraham in reality being a funeral Egyptian text to name just a few.

One thing that I always have found curious is that the books of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price are supposedly the correct version of the similar accounts in Genesis.  If that is correct, why didn’t Jesus point that out when he walked the earth?  We know that the Genesis account as is contained in the Bible is the one that the Jews of Jesus’ day used.  We know that from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other sources. If that account was as corrupted as indicated by the Pearl of Great Price, why didn’t Jesus correct it?  I suppose somebody could claim that Jesus’ correction was one of the plain and precious truths that Mormonism claims were taken out of the Bible.  But that is very difficult to believe.  Just think of how Jesus’ Jewish opponents could have used that to incite the crowds!  “He’s changing our Scriptures!”  It’s difficult to believe that all traces of that could be wiped out, not only from the Bible, but from ancient history.

I doubt, however, that this argument will have much effect on most Mormons.  After all, accepting books as Scripture are more a matter of belief than reason.

Over the years I have found a better way of showing the differences between the Bible and LDS Scriptures.  It is emphasizing the unique and glorious message of the Bible that salvation and my living with heavenly Father is entirely, completely, 100% God’s gift.  That we don’t have to do one single thing to receive that – that we can’t do anything to receive it.  When it comes to being accepted by God the only thing that counts is what Jesus did for me. The more I emphasize that, the more I hear from Mormons wanting to learn more.  That shouldn’t surprise me.  Because, as the Bible says, that gospel message is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

10
Apr
12

Temple Work for the Dead

Chapter 8 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with Mormonism’s emphasis on doing temple work for the dead.  As this chapter points out, this isn’t restricted to baptisms for the dead, but includes all the ordinances that the living participate in.  There is so much that could be commented on but I will restrict my thoughts to three things.

First is the utter lack of biblical support for this.  In the entire chapter President Smith only cites one Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 15:19.  And that one is taken completely out of context!  Even a cursory reading of the context shows that it is talking about the resurrection and how we would have no hope in eternity if Christ had not been raised.  It is stressing the fact that Christ’s resurrection is the basis for our entire faith.  It is, as Paul says in Romans 4:25, the proof that Jesus had done everything for our being justified, acquitted, forgiven by God.

But President Smith applies it to eternal marriage!  He said:  “Grateful should we be for a knowledge of the eternity of the marriage covenant. If in this life only had we hope, we would indeed be of all men most miserable [see 1 Corinthians 15:19]. The assurance that our relationship here as parents and children, as husbands and wives will continue in heaven, and that this is but the beginning of a great and glorious kingdom that our Father has destined we shall inherit on the other side, fills us with hope and joy.”

The bottom line is that there is no biblical support for this practice.

The second point is his portrayal of how others view eternity.  He writes:  “If I were to think, as so many think, that now that my beloved wife and my beloved parents are gone, that they have passed out of my life forever and that I shall never see them again, it would deprive me of one of the greatest joys that I have in life: the contemplation of meeting them again, and receiving their welcome and their affection, and of thanking them from the depths of a grateful heart for all they have done for me.”

He doesn’t specifically say this is how Christians believe, but I have had numerous Mormons tell me that is what they think I believe.  Just to set the record straight.  The Bible teaches that we will be together forever with all our believing loved ones.  I expect not only to see them again but to live with them for all eternity.  The Bible does talk about an eternal family –God’s eternal family made up of all believers.  I will be spending eternity in this wonderful family – because Jesus did the necessary work for me.  Through Jesus’ perfect law-keeping for me; through his atoning death for all my sins, I and all my believing loved ones have been adopted into the greatest eternal family, heavenly Father’s family.  That is the family unit that will exist for all eternity.

Finally, I found the way he motivates members to do this work quite interesting.  More than once he talks about the blessings people forfeit by not doing this work.  For example he writes, “Our Heavenly Father told the people through Joseph Smith that, unless we performed the work for our dead, we would lose our own blessings, and we would be cut off.”   He then goes on to tell the story of two brothers: one who did temple work for the dead and the other one who didn’t.  The one who didn’t wasn’t received well in heaven.  He then asks: “What will be your reception when you go on the other side? Will you be the one they will reach out to and bless throughout the ages of eternity, or will you be like the brother who was selfishly working out his problems here and letting those who could not help themselves go on without his help?”

Does this mean that for some, being part of their eternal family won’t be pleasant?  Will it be like attending a family reunion where everybody shuns you?  That surely is the impression given.  That doesn’t sound like heaven to me.

But even more enlightening is again how, even here, the way that Mormonism motivates people to do work is by focusing on what they get out of it.  I went through the chapter again searching for any mention of doing this out of love for people.  But I couldn’t find that motivation mentioned.

How starkly different that is from how the Bible motivates believers.  There it is all about love.  Just this point alone illustrates again the great gap that exists between Mormonism and the Bible.  This again shows how they operate on two completely different wave lengths.

03
Apr
12

The Various Stages of Immortality

Chapter 7 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith is entitled “The Immortality of the Soul”.  Instead of focusing on one topic, I’m going to comment on three different things mentioned in that chapter.

First of all, it was somewhat surprising to see Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet (As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become) quoted in an official manual copyrighted in 2011.  There has been a trend over the last years for official Mormonism, and many Mormons, to distance themselves from that couplet – especially the part that says that God was once a man.  Fewer things more clearly demonstrate the wide divide between Mormonism and Christianity than their respective views of the origins of God.  Christianity sees him as always existing as God.  It never sees him being anything less than God.  On this most important point of who God is, there is nothing comparable between Mormonism and Christianity.

This chapter also talks about Mormonism’s belief in the pre-existence and the belief that their worthiness there “earned them the privilege of coming to this earth”.  “We believe that our very existence is a reward for our faithfulness before we came here.” (p.70)  What is implied is that many didn’t get that reward, namely Lucifer and 1/3 of the spirit children that followed him.  I bring that up because many times Mormonism talks about how wrong it is to teach that God will send many people to hell. For example, in the Feb. 2012 edition of the Ensign, one of Mormonism’s 12 Apostles, states in regard to what Christianity teaches about people going to hell: “One of the great distortions of the Apostasy was that it cast God the Father’s plan of salvation as overwhelming harsh.” (p.36)

But, as one of my colleagues pointed out to me, according to Mormonism, Heavenly Father banished no less than 1/3 of all his spirit children to outer darkness – after just one act of disobedience on their part!   Doesn’t that fit Mormonism’s own description of being “overwhelming harsh”?  Where was the mercy offered them?  How can Mormonism claim that Heavenly Father will only send a few to outer darkness?  After all, Mormonism says those 1/3 were his very own spirit children.

Another thing this chapter talks about is the purpose for being here on earth.  “We are here to prepare ourselves and develop ourselves and qualify ourselves to be worthy to dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father.”  This, to me, is the deadliest statement of all.  For it directs people to themselves (note the three “ourselves’).  They are to prepare themselves.  They are to develop themselves.  They are to qualify themselves.  It’s all about them.

But it really is all about Jesus.  It’s all about him paying for all our sins.  It’s all about him keeping all the commandments perfectly for us.  It’s all about him doing everything for us.  It’s all about how he qualified me to be worthy to dwell in Heavenly Father’s presence.  That’s my reason for being on earth.  To trust and glorify him as my Savior – my Savior who did it all for me.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about Jesus.

14
Mar
12

The Living Prophet

Chapter 6 in the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the responsibility LDS members have to sustain their leaders.  Incidentally this is also emphasized in the March issue of the LDS church magazine, the Ensign.  Leaders are sustained at conferences by the members raising their right hands.  As both this chapter and the Ensign articles emphasize, the more important aspect of sustaining the leaders is by following their counsel, accepting the calls the leaders call them to, and by praying for them.

Most of chapter 6 deals with sustaining the president of the church, who is also their living prophet.  The following quote from that chapter gives the flavor of its advice.  Note how it ties in salvation with following LDS leadership.

“There is only one pathway of safety for me in this day and that is to follow those whom the Lord has appointed to lead.  I may have my own ideas and opinions, I may set up my own judgment with reference to things, but I know that when my judgment conflicts with the teachings of those that the Lord has given to us to point the way, I should change my course.  If I desire salvation I will follow the leaders that our Heavenly Father has given to us, as long as he sustains them.” (p. 60)

A number of years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets, gave a speech entitled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”.  Over the years, numerous Mormons have not entirely embraced these fundamentals.  But they remain a good summary of Mormonism’s teachings about the living prophet especially because they have been quoted in their entirety twice in recent General Conferences.  Here they are as given by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy in the October, 2010 General Conference.

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.” 

The second and third points are especially enlightening.  The standard works are the books the LDS Church views as Scripture including the Bible.  The living prophet, it states, is more vital than Scripture.  Or consider point 3.  Who are the dead prophets?  Included in that list would be all the biblical prophets.  In light of statements like these, who is reflecting the teachings of official Mormonism more consistently:  the person who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the Bible or the one who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the living prophet?  And if the claim is made that there is no conflict between the two, than what is the purpose of the second and third fundamental listed above?

When Mormons sustain their living prophet, something they will do again in a couple of weeks at General Conference, they are saying that his words are the most important words in the entire world – more vital than Scripture – more important than those of Moses, Isaiah, and all the biblical prophets.

A LDS leader one time told me that he felt sorry for me because the only thing I had to follow were the words of the Bible.  Today I want to express my sorrow that Mormons, by their sustaining of the living prophet, are declaring that he is more vital than the Bible, that he is more important than all the prophets in the Bible. That not only does dishonor to the Bible; that also puts their eternity into jeopardy.

05
Mar
12

The Priesthood

Lesson Five of the teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the priesthood.  It emphasizes the LDS Church’s claim that the priesthood was lost after the death of the 12 Apostles until it was restored at the time of Joseph Smith.  It then goes on to repeatedly make the claim that only LDS priesthood holders have divine power and authority. Among many other things, this means, for example, that non-LDS baptisms are empty rituals.

It probably could go without saying, but just to be clear it needs to be stated that Christians don’t share the view of history presented in this chapter.  They don’t believe that the Lord wanted to set up a permanent organization of apostles, high priests, seventies, etc.  They don’t believe that there was a total apostasy when the 12 apostles died.  They don’t believe that John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John appeared and ordained Joseph Smith into the priesthood.

One reason they don’t believe any of this is because the Bible tells us about the priesthood that the Lord instituted in the New Testament.  Peter describes it in his first letter.  From the first verse of his letter we see that Peter was writing to converts to Christianity scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.  They were men and women from all different races and nationalities.  In chapter two, he is still addressing them all when he says:  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (v.9).

All believers, regardless of race or gender, are in the Lord’s priesthood.  People enter it the moment they are brought to faith.  All believers are part of the chosen generation. All believers are part of the holy nation.  All believers are peculiar or special people.  And all believers constitute the royal priesthood.

This passage also tells us what they are to do.  They are to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  They are to praise God.  And God surely deserves praise.  Because Jesus paid for all our sins, he forgives us freely.  He forgives us so completely that he doesn’t even remember them – much less demand any payment from us.   “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”  (Hebrews 10:17)  Because Jesus paid for all our sins, he gives eternal life, not conditioned on a person’s worthiness, but as his free gift.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  Because God has saved us freely and fully in Jesus, he deserves all praise.

And neither is a person’s living eternally with Heavenly Father dependent on the ordinances performed by the LDS priesthood as George Albert Smith states.  That is completely dependent on Jesus’ work:  the perfect life that he credits to the account of believers – his death that washed away all sin.

Faith in Jesus Christ, not the LDS priesthood, is the source of all divine power and authority.

14
Feb
12

Joseph Smith – Part Two

Lesson 4 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith, the lesson that will be studied this coming Sunday in Relief Society meetings and priesthood quorums throughout the LDS Church, is about Joseph Smith.  Since I talked about whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet in my last post (please see), in this post I am going to focus on what he was supposedly told in his first vision – a subject that lesson four addresses.

I found it interesting that when President George Smith talked about Joseph’s first vision of the heavenly Personages, he quoted the first and last parts of Joseph Smith – History 1:19 but not the middle section.  (Joseph Smith – History is part of LDS Scripture, as it is contained in the Pearl of Great Price.)  Especially noticeable by its absence was the reference to the existing churches’ creeds, namely, the words:  “and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight”.  Because of that, Joseph was commanded not to join any existing church because “they were all wrong”.

Let’s just take the most widely used creed at that time, the Apostle’s Creed.  “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day he rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

According to LDS Scripture, that is an abomination.  What is so abominable about that?  According to Mormonism’s god, it is.  In addition, most Christian churches still use and agree with that creed.  That means that, again to LDS Scripture and to Mormonism’s god, they are all wrong.  Why then do so many Mormons today say that Christians and Mormons believe the same thing?  I was just talking with a man yesterday who told me that it took three months of pretty regular discussions with his good LDS friend before his friend would admit that there were differences in their beliefs.  How many times haven’t Mormons told Christians that they believe the same things – but that they just have the fullness of the gospel?

Let me put it as simply as I can to any Mormon reading this.  Do you agree with your Scriptures – do you agree that the Apostles’ Creed is an abomination?  If you do agree, please tell me specifically why it is an abomination.  Wouldn’t warning me of its abominable teaching be the loving thing to do?

 




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