Archive for the 'Witnessing' Category

30
Aug
13

One Consequence of Mormonism’s Small God

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man” (Joseph Smith, quoted in The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, p. 325).  One of Mormonism’s basic tenets is that God and human beings are basically the same.  God is just more advanced in his progression.  He was once a man.  He still has a physical body.  Because of that, he is limited to being in one place.  He has a spouse (or spouses).  We are his literal spirit children. We too can become gods.  We differ from him – not in kind – but in degree.

In striking contrast the Bible describes God as differing from us, not in degree, but in kind.  He is an entirely different Being from us.  He never was a man.  From all eternity he existed as the one and only God and that is how he will exist throughout eternity.  He is so different from us that we can’t even fathom his triune nature: that he is one God consisting of three distinct persons.  He is in a class solely by himself.  He and he alone is God. The God of Mormonism is pretty small in comparison.

This has many consequences.  The one that I would like to address here is how this impacts a Mormon’s view of sin.  Most Mormons don’t see just how serious sin is or how serious the consequences of sinning are.  They struggle to see the damning nature of sin – how one sin makes them guilty of all (James 2:10).  Many are blind to how sin makes even their righteousness nothing but filthy rags (Is. 64:6).

One reason for that, I feel, stems from their view of God.  When they sin it isn’t that serious, because God is like them – just greater in degree.  It’s like punching your older brother.  But when Christians sin, they realize how serious that is because God is so great – because he is different from us not just in degree but in kind.  It’s more like punching the President of the United States.  Same action as punching an older brother, but the consequences are so much more severe because the person is so different.  As someone once said, “Sin is so serious because of who we sin against.”

That is why we can’t contribute anything to our salvation.  If we try to add anything to Jesus’ works for us, all we accomplish is ruining his masterpiece of grace.  Sin is that potent.  Sin is that serious.  It’s that serious because God is that great.

Before we can clearly see the Savior, we need to clearly see our sin. I encourage you to make clear to your LDS friends how serious sin really is.  Show them how big God really is.  Show them how his greatness emphasizes sin’s seriousness.  Show them their sin and then show them the greatness of their Savior.

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22
Aug
13

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?

A thoughtful answer to that question has to go beyond the common response that it is indeed Christ-centered because it has Jesus Christ in its name.  That is like saying Dr. J of past basketball fame was a doctor because he had doctor in his name.  To truly answer that question one needs to examine what Mormonism truly focuses on.

Since the LDS Church publishes an extensive number of official manuals and makes many public pronouncements there is a wealth of material to examine.  Over the years, in past posts, I have cited many such manuals and pronouncements.  Today, however, I’m examining a manual I have never before referred to.  It is the official church manual for teaching nursery (ages 1 ½ to 2).  I recently picked it up because often seeing what a church teaches its very young is quite revealing of what it is emphasizing. To put it simply, we teach our young the basics of our faith.

So what does this manual reveal?  The thing that immediately jumps out from the table of contents is how many lessons begin with “I”.  “I Will Be Thankful”, “I Will Love Others”, I Will Obey” to name a few.

Further examination shows that this emphasis on the child and what he is to do carries through the whole manual even in the lessons that don’t begin with an “I”.   One example of that is the lesson entitled, “Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others”. In that lesson they are taught a little song called “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”.   The teacher is to share with them a few stories of how Jesus helped others and after each story the children are to say:  “Jesus showed us how to love others”.  Even though Jesus is mentioned in this lesson, what is stressed is their trying to be like Jesus.

The other thing that is striking about this manual is how little it talks about Jesus.  In all thirty lessons I could not find a single suggestion that the teacher should talk about the fact that Jesus has saved them.  Take, for example, the song taught in the lesson, “Heavenly Father Has a Plan for Me”.

I am a child of God

And he has sent me here

He has given me an earthly home

With parents kind and dear.

 

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me

Help me find the way.

Teach me all that I must do

To live with him someday.

Now some might be thinking that since this is a manual for teaching very small children big doctrinal issues have no place in it.  But that is not the case.  It talks about pre-existence, that Heavenly Father has a body, that the Holy Ghost speaks to them, Joseph Smith’s first vision, the importance of a living prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and so on.  It even has a lesson on the priesthood.  But it doesn’t tell them much about Jesus.  And, as I mentioned above, it never once even briefly touches on the fact that he saved us. Instead, for example, in the lesson on Christmas they are taught this song:

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?

He sent His Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.

 

How could the Father show the pathway we should go?

He sent His Son to walk with men on earth, that we many know.

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?  An examination of the basics that they teach their children says a definite no.  When he is talked about at all, it is exclusively as an example.  The teaching of Jesus as the Savior is conspicuous by its absence.

That is why it is so important for Christians to make use of every opportunity to share a Christ-centered message with Mormons -a message that centers on Christ, not as our example, but as our Savior.  That is what being Christ-centered is all about.

 

 

 

16
Jul
13

Don’t Pray to Jesus?

When I was recently in Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity, on a few occasions, to sit with members of the LDS Church and talk at length about our differences in belief.  They had invited me into their homes because they wanted to understand why we had come to Salt Lake City to witness to Mormons.  They wondered why we were doing that since they felt we were all Christians and all believed in Jesus.

I explained our concern for their eternal destiny based on the Bible’s clear statement that adding anything to Jesus’ work to save us effectively nullifies that work (see, for example, Romans 11:6).  I also told them that, although I realized that they didn’t like to hear it, the Jesus of Mormonism is very different from the Jesus of the Bible.  One of the many examples I cited was that Mormonism teaches that Jesus is not to be prayed to.  Most didn’t understand my difficulty with that as they responded with the idea that they highly honor Jesus by praying in his name.

I thought of those conversations last week when I was reviewing a LDS manual used to prepare missionaries and came across the quote that follows.  It is from Elder L. Lionel Kindrick, who served as a General Authority.  Talking about the importance of prayer, he commented:  “We always pray to our Father in Heaven and to him alone.  Our prayers are rendered in the name of the Son and communicated by the power of the Holy Ghost.  We do not pray to the Savior or to anyone else.  To do so would be disrespectful of Heavenly Father and an indication that we do not properly understand the relationship of the members of the Godhead.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 40)

That clearly illustrates not only that Mormonism teaches that Jesus should not be prayed to but also how Mormonism, in many different ways, is disrespectful of Jesus.  It clearly does not give him equal honor with the Father.  But that is the type of honor Jesus deserves as he himself said:  “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John 5:23)  Both the words “even as” and the context clearly indicate that Jesus is talking about being honored with the same honor we render God the Father.  And then Jesus continues with this sobering statement:  “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”  If you don’t give Jesus equal honor, you aren’t honoring the Father either.

Mormonism, on the basis of its own words, falls under this condemnation.  The Father is not disrespected when we pray to Jesus.  On the contrary, that is something he delights in.  Rather he is disrespected when people think they shouldn’t pray to Jesus. That is a teaching that angers him.

On so many levels, Mormonism and biblical Christianity clash.  But, as we again experienced in Salt Lake City, many people don’t like to admit that. It would be a step forward for all involved to see this and acknowledge this.  Then it would be easier to have frank and serious discussions.  And having such discussions are important because nothing less than eternal souls are at stake.

03
Jul
13

Impressions on going door to door

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks because I was busy with a large outreach campaign in Salt Lake City.  We began the campaign with quite a bit of media:  TV and newspaper ads, ads on bus shelters, and a tri-fold mailed into thousands of homes.  All of the media directed people to our website: www.beyeperfect.org.  Then we had over 50 people follow up for two weeks going door to door asking if people had seen our ads and what they thought of them.  This proved effective as we got into hundreds of prolonged discussions centering on the crucial issue of how people are worthy in God’s sight and how they are forgiven.  We even attracted media attention in that we were interviewed by a couple of newspapers and a TV station.

What was especially interesting was the initial reactions we encountered at people’s doors.  The vast majority of people we met were LDS and most were quite courteous.  But what was so interesting was the two radically different ways they reacted to our message. Some initially responded that they agreed with our message that we are freely and completely forgiven in Christ.  As we explored that with them and asked them if that meant they had to do nothing to be saved – because that is what we meant – they withdrew their agreement.  But others, when we approached their door with the same message, would immediately say that our message was anti-Mormon.  It was mind-boggling to go from one door to the next and get such totally different reactions from LDS members.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised by such differing reactions.  These differing reactions illustrate the confusion many LDS members are experiencing.  With the LDS Church’s push to be seen as Christian (I remember when I began my ministry how LDS members didn’t want to be identified as Christians like us!) many of its members are confused on how to react to Christians. But they also know our emphasis on being worthy before God based entirely on Christ’s work and not on our work is not what the LDS Church teaches.  Thus the confusion.

But by far the strongest impression I received these past two weeks is that Mormons still need to hear the message that Jesus has done it all for them.  Regardless of how they initially responded, they all eventually got to the point of saying that they had to do something to be right with God.  But what is so encouraging is that many listened with interest (and some with tears in their eyes) as we shared with them the wonderful news of God’s free forgiveness in Christ.  There is no better feeling than having somebody thank you, with great emotion, for sharing that message with them.  To God be 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.

07
Feb
13

LDS Missionaries

At the last General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson, a LDS apostle, gave a talk entitled, “Ask the Missionaries!  They Can Help You!”  In it he talks about how the missionaries can help people in a number of ways.  Some of the things he mentions are family history, conquering an addiction, having no sense of purpose in life, family problems, and gaining greater knowledge.  And with each topic he has this refrain:  “Ask the missionaries.  They can help you.”

I thought of that talk recently because some good friends have had a number of talks with some LDS missionaries.  (Two sisters made the initial appointment but when they came they were accompanied by an older man – a pattern that continued over the visits.)  My friends were upfront about not wanting to convert to Mormonism but wanted to talk to them to hear about Mormonism from official representatives. (This is something that Mormons often encourage people to do.)  They remained pleasant with them – a fact appreciated by the missionaries.

But a couple of weeks ago one of the sisters was suddenly transferred to another city.  About the same time, the man arrived earlier than the sisters and told my friends that the missionaries couldn’t answer my friends’ questions and that he would be answering them.  What was so striking about this is that the questions they were asking were not that difficult.  They weren’t asking about obscure LDS doctrines or unfamiliar Bible passages.  Many of their questions were in response to things that the missionaries had asked them to read before the next meeting – questions like exactly what does this passage or this statement mean.  It soon became obvious that they had not really thought through the very passages they themselves were referencing.  Their experience was in striking contrast to what Elder Nelson had stated in General Conference.

I mention this as an encouragement to act kindly towards LDS missionaries and engage them in conversations – especially in conversations that dwell with the major question of what people have to do to live eternally with Heavenly Father.  It was obvious to my friends that the sisters were interested in what they had to say about Jesus doing it all for them.  In fact, we suspect that the one was suddenly transferred because she was starting to ask questions.  We suspect that because numerous returned missionaries have told us that that sometimes happened when they were on their mission.

More importantly, some returned missionaries have told us that it was conversations just like those that planted the seed that eventually blossomed into their believing that they were already worthy before God because of what Jesus had done for them.  God’s Word is powerful!  The more we make use of opportunities to plant that Word – even with LDS missionaries – the more the Lord is glorified and the more his kingdom will come to more people.

In order to help you do that, we have just produced a small brochure entitled, “Please Open the Door”.  If you would like a copy, just email me at mark@tilm.org and we will get it out to you.

05
Dec
12

What is a Christian?

One thing that is endlessly debated between Mormons and others is whether or not Mormons are Christians.  One of the points that non-Mormons need to understand is that Mormons sincerely believe that they are Christians and are sincerely astonished when people say they aren’t.  One of the things that Mormons need to understand is that it is totally illogical to non-Mormons for Mormons to claim, on the one hand, that they are Christians just like us, while, on the other hand, saying that the LDS Church is the only true church and that the creeds that most Christians subscribe to are abominations.  I, along with many non-Mormons say that you can’t have it both ways.

But because this is such a hot-button topic, I usually don’t like to get into a discussion of it – because rarely does such a discussion reap any positive benefits.  I prefer focusing not on what people call themselves but on what they believe – especially on what they believe a person needs to do to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity.  If that is the case, however, you might be wondering, if I don’t like to talk about that, why I am bringing it up now.

The reason is because of a talk given at the last General Conference by Elder Robert D. Hales, one of the 12 LDS apostles, entitled “Being a More Christian Christian.”  He begins this talk by citing the reasons why the LDS Church is Christian.  I usually don’t like posting longer quotes but this time I’m going to make an exception.  This is how his talk begins.

     “What does it mean to be a Christian?

     A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement.

     A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.

     The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those holding His priesthood authority.

     A Christian knows that throughout the ages, God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus, accompanied by Heavenly Father, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and restored the gospel and the organization of His original Church.

     Through the scriptures and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.

     With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are Christian?”

There are a lot of things worthy of being addressed in those paragraphs. One wonders again, using these words of an LDS apostle as a guideline, how Mormons can claim that they are Christians just like us.  I say that because there are many things he cites that Christians don’t believe.  For example, how can they consider me a Christian if I have not been baptized by somebody holding priesthood authority?  The same question applies to my not believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the church was restored, or that the Father has a body of flesh and bone, or that Jesus is the only begotten in the flesh, or that the Godhead is unified only in purpose and not in being.

But not only that. There is a whole lot here that also enables us to make the judgment that Mormons are not Christians.  The foundational doctrines that he lists are not the foundational doctrines of Christianity.  His words are clear proof that the LDS Church is not Christian.

In this regard, I want to focus specifically on the third paragraph where he talks about grace.  Instead of defining grace as a characteristic of God, namely, his unconditional, amazing love for us that moved him to save us by sacrificing his Son in our place, Mormonism sees it as power given to us – power that enables us to do the things Elder Hales mentions:  repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, inherit eternal life.  As True to the Faith says, “The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The difference between “given to you” and “done for you” is huge.  When you see grace as a power given to you, then the burden is on you to use that power to do the things that need to be done to become acceptable by God.  But when you see grace as God’s love for you moving him to work for you, causing him to sacrifice his Son for you, then the pressure is off.  Because then you know it has already been accomplished for you.

That is why Christmas is such a wonderful Season.  At Christmas Jesus came for us – to do it all for us. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4: 4-5).  This Christmas honor God by boldly declaring and joyfully celebrating the wonderful truth that Jesus has done it all for you.  That is the Christian response to Christmas.




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