Archive for the 'temple' Category

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.

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26
Sep
12

TEMPLES – PART TWO

Last time I talked about the striking contrast between what the Bible says about temples and what Mormonism teaches.  According to the Bible, temples are where God dwells.  And the New Testament says that is in the body of each believer!  Mormonism, however, says that temples are where God visits and its emphasis is on the temples they build.

Now I want to compare what happens in each temple.  The Old Testament temple vividly emphasized how sin had separated man from God.  I say that because the temple was off-limits to the vast majority of Israelites.  Only the eligible priests from the one family of Aaron could enter it.  Everybody else, even the kings, were forbidden to enter.  Just think of coming to church each week and having to stay in the parking lot and never once being able to enter the building!

The other thing that emphasized the serious nature of sin was all the bloody sacrifices that were offered there.  The courtyard of the Old Testament temple had all the sights, smells, and sounds of a slaughterhouse as one animal after another was sacrificed on the altar.  Throughout the centuries, the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22) was vividly drilled into them.

All that changed with Jesus’ death on the cross.  In his blood we have forgiveness of sins. Through his work we have access to God.  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, to say, his flesh.” (Hebrews 9:19-20)  Because Jesus has removed our sins, God now dwell within believers – we now are the temples of God.

And we are to offer up sacrifices – sacrifices of praise.  “By him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips given thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How much difference the temples of Mormonism!  Access to them is gained, not by what Jesus has done, but what the person has done.  Members have to become worthy themselves to enter the temple.  And the ordinances done there have nothing in common with biblical temples.  For example, eternal marriages for both the living and the dead not only are not mentioned in the Bible, they contradict Jesus’ own teaching about marriage.  There is not one single aspect where LDS temples resemble biblical temples.

But many people don’t realize that.  One reason they don’t is because Mormonism often talks about their temples as a continuation of biblical temples.  Even numerous Mormons don’t realize the difference.  More than a few have vehemently objected when I have made this point.

Mormonism’s attempted linkage between its temples and biblical temples is confusing and dishonest.  There is no similarity between the two.

22
Sep
12

LDS Temples and Biblical Temples Compared

Temples and temple work hold a prominent place in Mormonism.  As it talks about their temples, it often links them with the temple in the Bible.  Therefore it is proper to compare the two.

The first comparison deals with whether or not the Lord is present.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, states:  “They are holy places of worship where the Lord may visit” (p.170, my emphasis).

The Bible, however, says that the temple was where the Lord dwelt. First in regard to the tabernacle we read:  “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:45-56, my emphasis)  Then, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon says:” The Lord hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever.” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2 my emphasis)

What is even more striking is what the New Testament says.  Peter, in his first letter, identifies the temple with the assembly of believers.  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  But that’s not all.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said:   “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor 6: 16-17).  In a similar way, Jesus said: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). Not only all believers taken together, but individual believers are the temple of God!

I take away two points from this. The first is that the Bible emphasizes that temples are places where God dwells.  Mormonism, however, sees God only visiting the temple.  That coincides with its belief that God has a body of flesh and bones and thus can’t dwell in numerous temples at the same time.  Thus Mormonism’s main focus in on the work they do in the temple – something I want to address next time.

More importantly, how much more exhilarating and glorious is the New Testament teaching on believers being the temple of God!  This becomes even more apparent when we see that the Greek word Paul used in I Corinthians was one used for the holy of holies.  We are the holy of holies.  In the Old Testament only one man, the high priest, could enter the holy of holies.  And he could only do it on one day each year, the Day of Atonement.  We, however, because Jesus has removed the sin that separates us from God (signified dramatically with the temple veil being torn at his death) have now become that very temple!  The more you think about it, the more thrilling it becomes.

And there are not some believers who are worthy to be temples and some who aren’t. No, all believers are God’s temples.  God, in his love, bestows this honor on each and every person who trusts that they are acceptable to God solely because of what Jesus has done for them.  To Jesus be ALL praise and glory.

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.

26
Jul
10

TEMPLE REQUIREMENTS: WORTHINESS OR PERFECTION

    In the latest (August 2010) edition of the Ensign (the official magazine of the LDS Church) both the First Presidency message and the article on its beliefs focus on the Temple and especially the requirement to be worthy.  In just a few short pages various forms of the word worthy appear over 15 times.  If there is something the LDS Church emphasizes, it is that a person must be worthy to enter the temple.  (By the way, many Christians are surprised to learn that many Mormons don’t meet the requirements – that they are not temple worthy.)

     But, according to the LDS Church, they don’t have to be perfect.  “We are not expected to be perfect to enter the temple.  Rather, the purpose of the things we learn and the covenants we make in the temple is to help perfect us.  We must, however, be worthy to enter.”  (p.8) That same page states:  “The Lord has set the standards of worthiness to enter the temple, as expressed by the Psalmist: ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  or who shall stand in his holy place? ‘He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.’ Psalm 24:3-4)”

    I find the contrast between those two statements interesting.  Isn’t a person with a pure heart describing more than just a “worthy” person?  Isn’t that a description of a perfect person?  Doesn’t this Scripture, which the LDS itself cites, contradict its statement that “we are not expected to be perfect to enter the temple”? 

    The Bible consistently sets perfection as the requirement for people to be in the presence of the Lord.  For example, Hebrews 12:14 states:  ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  God doesn’t command us to be worthy – He commands us to be perfect.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)  By teaching that people are to be worthy but don’t have to be perfect to “stand in the holy place” the LDS Church severely lowers the requirements and is setting people up for a rude awakening.  Remember Hebrews 12:14:  without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

     Only holy and perfect people will be with the Lord.  That’s a sobering fact. That should drive everybody to despair of their own shabby worthiness and trust totally and completely in the holiness and perfection that is theirs through Jesus.  “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  (Hebrews 10:10)  “For by one offering he hath perfected for even them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)  Jesus’ perfection – and only Jesus’ perfection – enables us to be with the Lord.  It is my prayer that many Christians share this truth with their Mormon friends.  It further is my prayer that many Mormons abandon finding comfort in their worthiness and instead find joy in Jesus’ perfection for them.

11
May
10

Personal Revelation

 

     I recently received the May issue of the Ensign (the official magazine of the LDS Churchh) which contains the talks from last month’s General Conference of the LDS Church.  This is an important issue because General Conference talks are so important.  How important?

     Elder Mark E. Petersen, said:  “A general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far more significant than most people realize. . .

      . . .it is one of the most important events of the present day.  Many do not regard it, even among the Latter-day Saints.  But for those who appreciate its true significance, it is of transcending importance, for in it PROPHETS OF GOD SPEAK, living prophets.

     When God gives a message to mankind, it is not something to be lightly cast aside.  Whether He speaks personally, or through His prophets, He himself said, it is the same.

     And in this conference HIS PROPHETS SPEAK!”   (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 63)

     Ezra Taft Benson said, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. . .Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is that of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.” (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p.19)

     Because of the importance Mormonism places on these talks, I take extra time reading them.  I have just read the first few talks but what has already struck me is how much emphasis there is on the Holy Spirit and on receiving personal revelations from him. Mormonism teaches that personal revelations come through feelings and impressions and a person has to be worthy to receive them.

     For many Christians, this has always been a puzzling aspect of Mormonism because feelings are notoriously fickle.  How many times haven’t people, even with the best intentions, done something because it felt right, only to discover that it was the wrong thing to do?  Over the years I have asked numerous Mormons how they can determine if what they feel is truly from the Holy Spirit.  Has a feeling, which they thought was a personal revelation, ever led them astray? 

     The responses have been interesting to say the least.  Some have said their feelings have never led them astray.  Others admitted that their feelings had led them astray, but the problem was with them.  It has been interesting to see this topic being discussed on Mormon blogs with again differing reactions.

     More than one Mormon has told me that they felt sorry for me because the only revelation I had was the Bible.  I, however, would much rather rely on it.  It is perfectly sufficient for me. It especially reassures me that Heavenly Father considers me worthy to live eternally with him, not because of what I do, but because of what Jesus did for me.  It emphasizes that the temple work that needed to be done to live with Him was already done for me by Jesus when he was sacrificed for me.  It gives me great guidance for life.  It comforts me with tremendous promises of the Lord’s protection and provision.  I receive revelation not through feelings, but through His Word.  For me, that is much more solid ground to stand on.

17
Feb
09

PRIESTHOOD AND SACRIFICE

 

     As I stated in my last post, in the Bible the main function of a priest was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  The Old Testament temple worship revolved around two altars:  the bronze altar in the temple courtyard where animals were offered and the altar of incense within the Temple where incense was offered up. 

     The Bible keeps that emphasis on offering sacrifice when it talks about Jesus and the Melchizedek priesthood.  The book of Hebrews, the only place in the New Testament that describes Jesus as a priest, centers on the idea of sacrifice and that he, by offering himself, offered the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin.  (See my last post for one small example of that.)  But not once, in the entire book, does it even mention, much less elaborate, on priesthood authority. 

     This connection between priesthood and sacrifice cannot just be flippantly ignored. This holds true especially because Mormonism says that, through Joseph Smith, the priesthood was restored.  Restoring implies that the same thing is involved.  I don’t build an airplane and call it a restored car. 

      This is my question.  Just for the sake of discussion, assume that I accept the premise (which most of you know I don’t) that many things about the priesthood have been lost – wouldn’t it still be true if the priesthood was restored that a major function of it would be sacrifice?  If not, then wouldn’t it be true that not only would I have to believe that many things about the priesthood had been lost, but everything the Bible says about the priesthood is wrong?  What function of the priesthood that the Bible connects to priests does Mormonism still retain?  (It doesn’t connect baptism with the priesthood.  James 5:14 doesn’t mention priests either.)




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