Archive for the 'Gospel Principles' Category




     Chapter 24 of Gospel Principles, the LDS basic manual, deals with the Sabbath.  Following are a few excerpts.

      “Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. . .we can keep the Sabbath day holy by attending Church meetings; reading the scriptures and the words of our Church leaders; visiting the sick, the aged, and our loved ones; listening to uplifting music and singing hymns; praying to our Heavenly Father with praise and thanksgiving; performing Church service; preparing family history records and personal histories; telling faith-promoting stories and bearing our testimony to family members and sharing spiritual experiences with them; writing letters to missionaries and loved ones, fasting with a purpose; and sharing time with children and others in the home.”

     This is consistent with other things I have read in other LDS manuals.  That brings me to the question:  how many Mormons watched the Super Bowl yesterday?  If so, is their watching consistent with the advice given by their prophets?  “We should not attend sport events or participate in similar activities” to me appears pretty clear cut. 

     That brings me to my next question.  If watching the Super Bowl is not in keeping with the prophets’ counsel, does watching the Super Bowl on the Sabbath demand repentance?  And isn’t one part of LDS repentance “abandoning the sin”, thus demanding that the repentant person never watch a sporting event again on Sunday?


The New Gospel Principles Manual


     One of the things that have been discussed repeatedly on this blog has been the question of what are considered authoritative sources for current Mormon teaching.  Whenever this topic is raised, quite a bit of disagreement has been expressed.  One area of contention has been over what weight should be assigned to official church manuals.  How authoritative are they?

     That is why I was interested to see an article in the January 2010 Ensign carrying the same title as the title of this post.  I became even more interested when I saw that it was written by one of the LDS apostles, Russell M. Nelson.  That itself lends quite a bit of credibility to the article.

     Following are a couple of things that I found interesting.  In answer to the question of why the change in curriculum, Nelson writes:  “Since we first began using Teachings, millions of people have joined the Church.  Many of them have tender testimonies and with relatively limited experience in the Church, will benefit greatly by a focus on the fundamentals of the gospel.  In addition, all Church members will benefit b a return to the basics.  A careful study of core doctrines as presented in the new and improved Gospel Principles manual will help members strengthen their understanding of the fundamental teachings of the gospel.”

     And then under the conclusion entitled “A Timeless Book” he writes, “It is our hope that the new Gospel Principles manual will take a prominent place in the homes and lives of all Latter-day Saints.”

     As the word Principles in the title implies, as Nelson states, this is a manual about core and fundamental LDS teachings.  LDS teaching involves more than what is presented in Gospel Principles.  But wouldn’t you agree that Nelson, in his role as an apostle, presents this manual as a true and authoritative source of the fundamentals of LDS teaching?  And that it is only right and proper for non-Mormons to look to it to see what Mormonism teaches?  And that such non-Mormon observers of Mormonism have, at the very least, a good reason to become befuddled when individual Mormons disavow or dismiss quotations from Gospel Principles as not authoritative of Mormonism?  And isn’t it legitimate to ask why changes are made in each edition of Gospel Principles – changes that are not just cosmetic or made for easier readability – but changes that affect the sense of what is being presented?


Who Is Jesus?


     Signs of another rapidly approaching Christmas are all around us.  Therefore it is only appropriate to address the question of who is it whose birth we celebrate each Christmas.   As is the case with so many other teachings, Mormonism answers this uniquely. 

     After quoting the angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth to Mary as it is recorded in Luke 1:35, Gospel Principles goes on to say, “Thus, God the Father became the literal Father of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father.  That is why He is the called the Only Begotten Son.” (p.53)   Although Christians have frequently portrayed this LDS teaching crassly and wrongly, it still must be acknowledged that Mormonism and Christianity view Jesus’ conception very differently.  I know of no Christian church that would agree with the above quotation.

     Another answer that Mormonism gives to this question is that Jesus was “the great Jehovah of the Old Testament”.  I have always found this puzzling for a couple of reasons.  In the King James Version, “Jehovah” is consistently translated with LORD (all capitals).  And quite often it is found in the combination LORD God.  In the original Hebrew this is literally Jehovah Elohim.  This is interesting because Mormonism identifies Elohim as the Father.  Therefore, in Mormonism, LORD God translates into Son, Father – quite an awkward construction.  But what is even more striking is that often the LORD God speaks in the singular, not in the plural.  For example, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18)  Why would the Bible so frequently use LORD God as a description of one person when it is, according to Mormonism, two persons?

     But it gets even more complicated.  For example, the LDS Bible rightfully refers Isaiah 50 to the Messiah.  One of the things it states in its chapter heading is “Messiah shall have the tongue of the learned.”  That refers to verse 6 which states:  “The LORD God has given me the tongue of the learned.”  Again, if LORD (Jehovah) is Christ then this has Christ giving Christ the tongue of the learned.

     Or how does Mormonism handle Isaiah 45:21?  “who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”  How does the Father fit into that verse? God here is again the Hebrew Elohim.  Therefore Jesus here is saying that he is Elohim.   And how could Jesus be God before coming to earth and receiving a body, since, according to Mormonism, having a physical body is essential for godhood?

     Who is Jesus? As can be seen, Mormonism answers that question quite differently from Christianity.  Although it is not usually meant in this way, it is true that Mormonism has a different Jesus than Christianity.



     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?



     A couple of my favorite Bible passages are Psalm 103: 12 (“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”) and Micah 5: 19 (“thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”)  I am so comforted by the fact that when God forgives sin, he forgets them.   (And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:18)

     We see this also in Jesus’ picture of the Judgment as it is recorded in Matthew 25.  He doesn’t mention one sin on the part of the sheep whereas all he mentions about the goats is their sins.  When God forgives, he forgets.

     How much different is the message of Mormonism!  More than one Mormon have told me that they were taught that, on Judgment Day, they would be sitting in a large room where everything they thought, said, and did was flashed on a giant screen for all to see.  They all shared that with a sense of dread and not anticipation.  I don’t know if that is how it is always taught but this is what Gospel Principles says:  “Stored in our body and mind is a complete history of everything we have done.  President John Taylor taught this truth:  ‘[The individual] himself tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. . .That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who sit as judges.”  (p. 271)

     Because of what Jesus has done, because he paid for all my sins, and drowned them in the depths of the sea, I can’t wait for Judgment Day.  It will be the best day of my life.  For then I will hear Jesus himself saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)   To Jesus be the glory


The Sin of Trying

     I recently ran across an interesting statement.  “Sin is not just breaking the law but imagining you can keep it.”  Wasn’t that the problem with the Pharisees?  If anybody “kept” the law it was them. They defined it so carefully that they determined things like how many steps a person could walk on the Sabbath before it constituted work.  They were obsessed with keeping the law.

     Therefore it surprises a lot of people to see that Jesus reserved his harshest rhetoric for them. This even startled Jesus’ disciples.  “Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?”  (Matthew 15:12)  Jesus responded by describing the Pharisees as the blind leading the blind. 

     They were blind because they didn’t see the deadly folly of imagining that they could keep the law.  This also holds true for Mormonism.  Here are just a few examples from the first few chapters of Gospel Principles

            “By keeping His commandments we can become like Him.”  P. 6

            “Obey all His commandments as best we can (see John 14:21-23).” P 7

            “He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments.” P.13

            “As we obey each of our Father’s commandments, we grow in wisdom and strength of character.”  P. 19

            “If we keep His commandments and make right choices, we will learn and understand.  We will become like Him.  (See D&C 93:28).”

     Paul, as he states in Philippians 3, was one of the most zealous of all Pharisees.  He describes himself this way:  “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (v. 6)  He then says all that he now considers dung.  He continues: “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.” (v.9)

     The righteousness that is acceptable to God is not any righteousness cultivated by man.  The only righteousness that God accepts is Christ’s righteousness – the righteousness we make our own by giving up on our works and trusting only in Jesus’ works.  That is what Paul discovered.  That is what, I pray, many LDS people will discover.


Becoming Gods


     I spent a good portion of October traveling to various speaking engagements.  After spending a lot of time in airports and on planes, it’s good to be home for awhile.

     Once again on this trip I met various people who questioned my assertion that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods.   Almost all questioned that because they had Mormon friends who told them that Mormonism doesn’t teach that.  Although I have talked about this in the past, it needs to be addressed again.

     As it so happened, I received the new edition of Gospel Principles shortly before I left, so I had opportunity to read it while I was traveling.  Gospel Principles is the basic manual that gives on overview of LDS teachings.  It is revised about every five or six years.

     Therefore when somebody questioned my statement about Mormonism teaching that people can become gods, all I had to do was point them to p. 277 and the chapter on exaltation.  There it simple says, “They will become gods (see D&C 132:20-23).”  

     Here are a couple other statements from Gospel Principles that support this.  “We learned that if we followed His plan, we would become like Him.  We would be resurrected; we would have all power in heaven and earth; we would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as He does (see D&C 132:19-20).” (my emphasis)  “Having all power in heaven and earth” – that’s quite a statement.

     Or what about this one?  “Everyone who becomes like Heavenly Father eventually knows all things.”  (p. 128).  First omnipotence.  Now omniscience.  Both are characteristics of God.

     Yes, Mormonism does teach that people can become gods.  Why then do so many Mormons deny that?  Some probably are unaware of it.  Some members of the LDS Church have told me that they probably don’t admit it to me or other Christians because they know we are not asking the question sincerely.  That’s quite an act of judgment.  At least in regard to the Christians I recently talked with, that didn’t seem to be the case at all.  They were just trying to verify with their Mormon friends some things they had heard about Mormonism.

     I don’t know how many times Mormons have told me that if I want to learn about Mormonism, I shouldn’t listen to Christian observers of it, but talk directly to Mormons.  That would be good advice if most Mormons accurately articulated Mormonism’s beliefs.  In the case of this teaching, that has not been my experience – or the experience of many others.

May 2020

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