Archive for the 'Lorenzo Snow' Category

04
Nov
13

The Lesson from the Rich Young Man

Chapter 14 of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow talks about Mormonism’s teaching that “God will add His strength to our efforts” and thus nothing is impossible. In that connection he spends a few paragraphs talking about the story of the rich young man recorded in Matthew 19.

“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”  (Matthew 19)

I find this reference to this story interesting.  Again the whole point of the chapter is that “with God all things are possible”.  But that is not what Jesus told the young man!  He doesn’t even hint at God helping the young man.  There is no mention of grace whatsoever.  All he talks about is keeping the commandments.  If Mormons want to point to these words as a template for gaining eternal life (as many of them do) then they had better not mention grace at all – because Jesus doesn’t.  Here Jesus says it’s 100% – not 50%, not 25%, not 1% – but 100% about keeping the commandments.

That is God’s consistent answer to the question:  “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  If the question is about what a person needs to do, then God’s answer is you have to do everything.  You have to perfectly keep all the commandments.  If that is the question, then grace is not part of the answer.

That, my friends, is a sobering answer.  It is one that can easily lead to despair.  And that is God’s exact intent!  He wants people to despair – of their own goodness and efforts.  That is what Jesus wanted to accomplish with the young man – he wanted the young man to throw up his hands at the impossibility of doing this.  He wanted that because only people who realize that they are in deep trouble look to him for rescue.

Suppose, for a moment, that there was a person who had to get across the ocean but didn’t realize how big it was.  He was a good swimmer so he thought he could swim across.  He was convinced that he could do it, even after many told him he couldn’t.  Finally they urge him to get into the water and start swimming.  They do that for the express purpose of proving to him that he will fail – so that he won’t try when nobody will be around to save him.

Jesus was doing a similar thing with this young man.  He wanted to impress upon him the impossibility of his keeping all the commandments.  Thus no mention of grace.  Contrary to what Mormonism teaches salvation is not a both/and proposition.  It is not both by grace and works.  It is an either/or proposition.  Either by grace or by works.  It’s one or the other.  Not both/and.  The story of the young man, contrary to what many Mormons state, does not support the both/and proposition, but the either/or one.  This is an important point to remember when this story is being discussed.

Even more important to see – and believe – is that our salvation depends 100% on what Jesus did and 0% on what we do.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  To God and God alone be all the glory!

17
May
13

A Sense of Urgency

The subject matter of chapter 10 of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow is LDS temples and the work that takes place within them.  There are many statements in this chapter that I could comment on.  But, as I read that chapter, the one thing that repeatedly troubled me was how Mormonism’s teaching about temple work contributes to its draining of much of the urgency for people to know the truth in this life.  One of this chapter’s main emphases was on performing temple ordinances for the dead.  That entire practice is based on the belief that people can accept the “truth” after this life.  They can accept the truth but they can’t perform the necessary ordinances.  Thus the need for performing these ordinances for them.

This idea that people can come to faith after they have died, an idea engrained in LDS members not only when they go to the temple but also when they do their family history work is not only wrong, it is deadly.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).  This lifetime, and only this lifetime, is when people can come to faith.

There is great urgency for people to believe – right now!  None of us knows when our lives here on earth will end.  There are no guarantees any of us will live to a ripe old age.  And once we die, then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  Now is the day of salvation.  And it doesn’t continue after we die.

It is my fervent prayer that we all live with this sense of urgency.  First, of all, for ourselves.  May each one of us regularly check that we are placing all our hopes of being accepted by God on what Jesus has done for us and not on our own works.  May we make it a high priority to regularly examine ourselves and root out any hint that we have done anything to be saved.

And then, moved by that sense of urgency, may we make use of every opportunity to tell others the wonderful news that eternal life is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ.  May we view every opportunity to talk with somebody the last opportunity we might have to talk to them.  Only God knows, but it just might be.

30
Apr
13

Plural Marriage

Over the years I have rarely talked about polygamy (or, as the LDS Church calls it, plural marriage) either on this blog or in conversations with LDS members.  There are a couple of reasons why I have often refrained from mentioning it.  The first is that I often talk about what is being currently taught in the LDS Church and plural marriage is rarely mentioned in that context.  More importantly, however, I haven’t talked about it much because I strive to stick to the most important subjects such as our worthiness in Christ and how, because of him, we can be assured that we will live forever with Heavenly Father.

But I have decided to talk about it today because an upcoming lesson in the LDS Church is about family relationships.  Chapter 9 of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow is entitled “Sacred Family Relationships”.  What I found interesting is that it begins with a description of a reunion of his large family that he initiated in 1884.  But no mention is made of the fact that he had more than one wife.  This omission is especially striking since he would be imprisoned for practicing plural marriage less than two years after that event.  But neither in that description nor in the whole chapter is there even a whiff of the fact that he was a polygamist.  (To be fair, the book does mention that fact very briefly in the introductory history that precedes the chapters.  But it has also been my experience, since no lessons are based on that history, very few church members read it.)

This avoidance of the subject of plural marriage is common. A striking example of such avoidance involved a couple of friends who toured the Beehive House in Salt Lake City last summer.  The Beehive House is a large house where numerous of Brigham Young’s wives lived.  But that was not mentioned by the tour guides. My friends repeatedly tried to politely raise that issue but each time the tour guides changed the subject.  This coincides with how it is described on lds.org. “The Beehive House was built between 1853 and 1855 and served as home to Brigham Young when he was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and governor of the Utah Territory

This avoidance of the subject of plural marriage helps explain why some LDS members aren’t even aware that it is part of their history or doctrine.  (The doctrine of plural marriage is enshrined in LDS Scripture in D&C 132.)  Many non-Mormons are astonished by such ignorance and often conclude that their LDS friend is just not being honest.  I’m sure that is sometimes the case, but I also know LDS members who truly did not know about this facet of their religion.  Don’t automatically assume your LDS friends are being disingenuous if they express ignorance about polygamy.

I would also like to hear, from my LDS readers, your thoughts on plural marriage.  Do you believe that men will be able to have more than one wife in eternity?  Is that part of what you think of when you think of having an eternal family?  What about those men who were sealed to multiple women? Let me know your thoughts.

19
Apr
13

What will be your defense on Judgment Day?

The sub-title for Chapter 8 of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow is “Righteous Latter-day Saints strive to ‘establish a character before God that could be relied upon in the hour of trial.”  This sums up well the chapter’s thrust of encouraging people to develop a good character to win God’s approval.  For example, a title of one of the sections is “If we have established a proper character, we can confidently invite God to search our hearts.”  That section then continues with this quote from President Snow.

“I am under the strongest impression, that the most valuable consideration, and that which will be of the most service when we return to the spirit world, will be that of having established a proper and well defined character as faithful and consistent Latter-day Saints in this state of probation.” (p. 119)

This emphasis on the importance of a person’s character is summed up in the last paragraph of the chapter.  “Our character, as Latter-day Saints, should be preserved inviolate, at whatever cost or sacrifice.  Character, approved of God is worth securing, even at the expense of a life-time of constant self-denial.  While thus living we may look forward. . .with full assurance that. . .we shall be crowned with the sons and daughters of God, and possess the wealth and glory of a Celestial kingdom.” (The quote contains the omissions indicated with the . . .)

Much of this chapter is based on David’s prayer in Psalm 139: 23-24:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” I find this reference to David’s prayer interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, David is not held up as a model of virtue in the LDS Church.  The LDS Old Testament manual says of David:  “David is still paying for his sins.” (p. 291) And again, by having Uriah killed, “David thus moved from a serious but forgivable sin to an unpardonable one.”  It further states that David will spend eternity in the lowest kingdom of heaven taught in Mormonism, the telestial kingdom.  Therefore it is striking that President Snow holds David up as a model to follow.

But this use of David is also striking because the Bible points to him as a model – not of a man who trusted in his own righteousness – but one who trusted in God’s forgiveness!  “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)

It’s in that light that we need to read his prayer in Psalm 139.  As one man commented on these verses: “David closes not with pride, but with humility.  He recognizes that without forgiveness he too would fall under the wrath of a holy God.  David circles back to the beginning of the psalm and asks that the Lord would use his knowledge of David to cleanse him from every evil way which would lead him away from God.”  David never thought he would be blessed because of his own righteousness.  He knew that he would be blessed only through the forgiveness won for him by the greatest Son of David, Jesus Christ.

So when you stand before God what will you point to in your defense?  Will you point to your righteous character or Christ’s righteousness?  When it comes to being worthy and acceptable to God, the only righteousness that stands is Christ’s righteousness.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.“ (Romans 3:20-24)

What will be your defense?  I pray that the only evidence you will present will be Jesus’ righteousness.  Everything else, especially pointing to your character, will ruin your defense and result not in praise but condemnation.  David placed all his hope in the coming Savior.  Because of that, in spite of all his sins, he now is living and will live for all eternity in Heavenly Father’s glorious presence.  Place all your hopes in Jesus and you too will spend eternity with God.

14
Mar
13

Be or Become?

This coming Sunday LDS members will be studying chapter six of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow.  This chapter is entitled:  “Becoming Perfect before the Lord: ‘A Little Better Day by Day’”.  In the first part of the chapter two biblical verses are quoted.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.” [Genesis 17:1.]

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48.]

It then goes on to state:  “We learn that the Lord appeared to Abraham and made him very great promises, and that before he was prepared to receive them a certain requirement was made of him, that he [Abraham] should become perfect before the Lord. And the same requirement was made by the Savior of his Disciples, that they should become perfect, even as He and His Father in Heaven were perfect.” (p.95)

Did you notice the subtle change made from the verses to President Snow’s explanations?  Both verses use the word “be”.  But they are both explained with the phrase, “should become perfect”.  That is a subtle but huge change.  There’s a big difference between being and becoming.  Who would you go to if you were sick?  A person who is a doctor or who someday might become a doctor?  The idea of becoming inserts a degree of uncertainty – there’s no guarantee that the goal will be ever reached.  It also introduces the reality that the person isn’t yet there – and we don’t know when they will be there.  There’s a huge difference between being and becoming.

God commands perfection now – not sometime in the future.  A perfection that is equal to the perfection of our Father in heaven.  Who can meet such a requirement?

People who are trusting completely in Jesus’ works can!  That’s what the Bible says.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrew 10:14).  When a person despairs of his own efforts and places all their trust in Jesus’ efforts, they are covered with his righteousness (perfection).  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Cor. 1:31)

But they are the only ones who can.  Everybody else is not perfect and thus won’t be able to enter God’s presence – for God cannot abide any imperfection.  And that is why Mormonism is such a deadly religion.  As this chapter amply illustrates, it doesn’t point people to Jesus’ perfection for them, instead it incessantly urges people to become perfect themselves.  Even when it does talk about Jesus, it does so in a way that puts the burden back on the person.  “Our hearts should be set on things above; to strive after that perfection which was in Christ Jesus, who was perfectly obedient in all things unto the Father, and so obtained His great exaltation and became a pattern unto His brethren.” (p. 102, my emphasis) Urging people to become perfect is nothing less than a recipe for disaster.

It is not about becoming perfect.  It’s all about being perfect right now in Christ.  That is the only way anybody will ever come into God’s presence.  It is my prayer that more and more people see that – and believe that.

08
Mar
13

Becoming a God

Even though I have recently addressed this topic, I am revisiting it because it is the centerpiece of Chapter 5 of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, a chapter that will be studied in the LDS Church this coming Sunday.  This chapter begins by quoting the famous couplet President Snow authored,

“As man now is, God once was:

As God now is, man may be.”

It then talks about how he made this the theme for his life.  It was his “constant light and guide”.  But what I found especially enlightening is that it then says that, “in this chapter, President Snow teaches the doctrine that we can become like our Heavenly Father.”  That struck me because that clearly shows, and as the rest of the chapter demonstrates, that when Mormonism talks about the possibility of becoming like God it means that they can become a god.  In other words, in the official writings of Mormonism, the two statements are synonymous.

That is important because many members of the LDS Church have given me the impression that becoming like God is less than becoming a god.  And I don’t doubt that they truly believe there is a distinction between the two.  But even a cursory reading of this chapter says differently.  Following are just some quotes I pulled from that chapter to demonstrate that.  These quotes are all an explanation of becoming like God.

“There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization.”

“He has bestowed on us the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge.”  (my emphasis)

“We have divinity within ourselves.”

Heavenly Father says:  “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.” (my emphasis)

“becoming like unto Him in every particular”

But President Snow also states very clearly that all this is conditioned on a person’s obedience.  One quote will suffice:  “They are His children, made in His image, and destined through obedience to His laws to become like unto Him.”  Repeatedly he talks about how people can realize their divine potential IF they remain faithful and obedient.

What a contrast to biblical teaching! It speaks of a God that we can’t begin to fathom – a God that is so superior that even the angels cover their faces in his presence.  The God of the Bible is one whose both nature and works leave us speechless.  The God of the Bible stands unequalled from eternity to eternity.  Nowhere does the Bible state that we will possess the same glory as God.

But his greatest glory is his love.  The love that moved him, not to give us a plan of salvation, but salvation itself.  The love that he put into action by sending Jesus as our substitute, to do everything necessary for us to live eternally with him.  And that is what Jesus did!  He was perfectly obedient and then bestowed that righteousness on us through faith.  And then he died – not for any sins he committed – but for all the sins we have committed.  He paid the full price.  And because Jesus did it all there are now no conditions, no ifs, for us to fret over.  Instead of making eternal life with Heavenly Father conditional on our obedience, God offers it to us as his free gift.

O, what a blessing that is.  Because Jesus has already done everything for me, I am positive that right now that, in Christ, I am completely worthy and accepted to God.  Because of Jesus, I can’t wait for Judgment Day because there I know I will be lovingly accepted by God.  Because of Jesus, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will be living with Heavenly Father forever.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts, about it.  To Him be all praise and glory!

 

18
Jan
13

Forsaking Sin

Chapter two of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow deals with baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The following paragraph occurs towards the end of this chapter.

     “To obtain religion that will save us in the presence of God, we must obtain the Holy Ghost, and in order to obtain the Holy Ghost, we must believe on the Lord Jesus, then repent of our sins, that is, forsake them, then go forward and be immersed in water for the remission of sins, then receive the laying on of hands.” (emphasis mine)

In Mormonism, as is clearly stated in this paragraph, repentance involves the forsaking of sins.  In fact, as President Snow says above, it is the very essence of LDS repentance as he makes forsaking sin synonymous with repentance. Another word that is often used in Mormonism to express this idea is abandonment.  Repentance means abandoning sin.

Forsaking and abandon are two very strong words.  Most marriage vows include the idea of forsaking all others.  We talk about abandoning ships when they are sinking. Even more serious is the idea of people abandoning their children.  Whatever the context is that they are used in, forsake or abandon carry the idea of permanency.  Woe to the spouse who interprets “forsaking all others” as doing that just most of the time.

That is also how repentance was explained to me a number of years ago by a member of the local stake presidency.  He told me that if he repented of a sin, but then committed that sin a couple of years later – his repetition of the sin revealed that he wasn’t truly repentant the first time and thus was not forgiven for either sin.

Recently, however, some LDS members have weakened the meaning of abandon and forsake by saying that if they repeat the sin they just have to repent again.  Whenever they say something like that I ask them how that jives both with official LDS teaching and the meaning of the words abandon and forsake.

I totally understand why they are weakening the meaning of these words.  Abandoning sin is an impossible standard for anybody to keep.  (Although I have had some LDS members tell me that they believe some LDS people have already achieved that.)

That is why the message of the Bible is so comforting.  The Bible clearly acknowledges our inability to rid ourselves of sin.  St. Paul’s confession:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19) is one I so identify with.  An honest evaluation of each day reveals many instances of sin on my part.  No matter how much I try, I can’t keep myself clean.

That in itself is not comforting.  But what is extremely comforting is the biblical message, that because we can’t do it, Jesus did it all for us.  He obeyed each and every commandment perfectly and he did that for us.  He paid the terrible price of each and every one of our sins.  He has washed all our sins away and has clothed us in his perfect righteousness.  The message that screams off the pages of Scripture is that it is not all about us – it’s all about Jesus.  And thank God for that.  Because of Jesus, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will live forever with Heavenly Father.

Because of Jesus, you can have that same confidence.  Turn away from trusting in your works and turn to trusting in Jesus’ works for you.  That, my friends, is what true repentance is all about.




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