Archive for the 'LDS authority' Category

22
Feb
13

Becoming a God

Over the years I have repeatedly discussed with LDS members Mormonism’s teaching about persons being able to become a god.  The reactions have been varied.  Some readily admit that this is LDS teaching and they wholeheartedly accept it.  Most, however, try to qualify it and downplay it.  They have done this in two different ways.

The first is by saying that Mormonism teaches that they can become like God.  They claim that even though LDS Scripture clearly says that people can become gods.  The classic passage is 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 unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power and the angels are subject to them.”

That passage clearly states, in a number of different ways, that people can become gods.  And over the years many LDS leaders have pointed to this passage to teach this doctrine.  That, I feel, is proof enough that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, or that when it talks about becoming like god – that is what it means.

The other way that Mormons have sometimes tried to downplay this teaching is saying that they would never become a capital G God.  Instead they say that they would be small g gods, thus implying a difference between the two.  But again, the question is: Is that what Mormonism teaches?  In the student manual on the Pearl of Great Price, a manual in current use, we find this quote:  “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.” (p. 4)  Note especially the use of the capital G – “evolving into a God”.

This quote is notable for two reasons.  One is that it is used in an official LDS Church manual.  Although all Mormons do not agree on the weight that such manuals carry, the LDS Church has repeatedly said that church manuals carry a lot of weight.  They state that they present the official teaching of the church.  That is only to be expected.  The normal practice is to consider official anything that is officially published by an organization.  It would be, for example, the silliest of arguments if an NFL player argued that the rulebook published by the NFL did not represent the official rules of the NFL and thus what he did wasn’t against NFL policy.

But this quote is significant for another reason as well.  It was given by the First Presidency of the LDS.  The First Presidency is the prophet and his two counselors.  It is the most authoritative body in the LDS Church.  Even though it was given in 1909 it is still pertinent as evidenced by it being quoted in a manual published in 2000.  Without a doubt we can say that Mormonism teaches that people can become a God.

Why am I making such a big point of this?  One is because it is denied by many LDS members today and thus it needs to be stressed to get an accurate picture of Mormonism.  Two is because it is another demonstration of the great gap that exists between Mormonism and the Bible.  But most importantly of all, I am pointing this out to illustrate the stark difference between the comfort given by Mormonism and the Bible.  Look again at that quote.  “Through ages and aeons” it says they evolve into a God.  That reminds me of one LDS man telling me that it would take him 10,000 eternities to become a god.

Compare that to the wonderful comfort the Bible gives.  As soon as believers die, they enter the mind-boggling bliss of God’s presence.  Instantaneously all pain and sorrow is replaced with perfect peace and joy.  There are no eternities of evolving and work.  Instead, instantaneously, there is absolute perfection and wonderful glory.

And the best part of it all is that Jesus accomplished all this for us.  He did everything to make us acceptable to God.  In him, right now, we are perfect and worthy in God’s sight.  This heavenly bliss is his gift to us.  To him, and to him alone, be all praise and glory!

20
Dec
12

The Significance of Pants

A couple of weeks ago a movement started among some LDS women to wear pants to church last Sunday. This movement gained quite a bit of attention in the blogging world in the days leading up to Sunday.  Since then even media outlets like the New York Times have commented on it.  More than one person has asked me if this is a sign of change in the LDS Church.

(It is only fair to note that the LDS Church has never officially adopted a policy that women can’t wear pants to church.  But, as is evident by how much ink has been spilled talking about, it is also fair to say that LDS culture has made this pretty much a taboo.)

Whether or not this signals a strong movement for women having a more prominent role in the LDS Church, including the attaining of the priesthood, no one knows.  I, for one, don’t think it does.  But it is impossible to predict what small event will trigger significant change.  Only time will tell.

But what is significant about all this is how this clearly illustrates how a “rules mindset” dominates Mormonism.  Non-Mormons are regularly taken aback at how many rules and regulations populate Mormonism. Furthermore they are surprised when their LDS friends don’t even recognize that because they have become so accustomed to it.

Most significantly of all, this rules mentality carries over into Mormonism’s teachings on salvation.  From the step by step process of repentance to the checklist for becoming temple worthy Mormonism focuses people on rules they have to keep in order to be acceptable to God.  Yes, Mormonism does mention Jesus’ atonement but when you step back and look at the whole picture, it usually does that only in passing.  What Mormonism emphasizes are the laws people must keep.

Mormonism instills a rules mentality in people and directs people to what they have to do.  The Bible instills a grace mentality in people and directs people to what God has done for them.  They are complete opposites.

It is my prayer that many more Mormons will simply read the Bible and take to heart its amazing message of God’s grace for all people.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but boldly share this amazing message with their Mormon friends and family.

 

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.

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.

25
Apr
12

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 theLDSChurch, 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 withSt. Paulthat God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.

29
Mar
12

General Conference

 

This weekend the LDS Church holds its semi-annual General Conference.  Both on Saturday and Sunday the General Authorities of the LDS Church give talks.  In LDS churches around the world, the regular Sunday schedule is suspended so that members can listen to these talks.

The March edition of the LDS magazine, Ensign, had a number of articles stressing the importance of these General Conferences.  In one of those articles, entitled Follow the Prophet, Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, relates how he and his wife have benefited from following the words of the prophets.  He writes:  “In the years since, we have been blessed in many other ways by heeding the prophetic word.  We have learned not to question the validity of what the prophets and apostles teach or to wonder if it makes sense.  We have learned that by acting – and acting immediately – on their counsel, our lives are blessed.”

“Some might call our actions blind obedience.  But we have the Lord’s personal promise that the prophets will never lead us astray.  Knowing this helps us hear their voices as we would hear His own (see D&C 1:38).”

Note the example he holds up – and the LDS Church holds up by having this in its official magazine.  No questioning the validity of the teaching – no wondering if it makes sense.  Rather acting immediately on it.  So much so that it looks like blind obedience. Reliance on the personal promise of the Lord that the prophets will never lead them astray.

It will be interesting to see what will be said this weekend.  It will also be interesting to read blogs and comments written by LDS members in response to General Conference.  How many will follow that example?  If the reaction to the last General Conference is any indication, there will be some who won’t follow this example.  And if they don’t but instead question and wonder about what is said, what does that mean for them personally?  How does questioning the prophets affect their worthiness in the church?

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.




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