Archive Page 2

10
Oct
13

Living in a State of Glory

One of the pamphlets LDS missionaries hand out is entitled, “The Plan of Salvation”.  As it title indicates, it summarizes Mormonism’s plan of salvation. Interestingly, when it deals with eternity, it only mentions the LDS three kingdoms of glory.  There is no mention of hell or outer darkness.  Rather it states:  “After you are judged, you will live in a state of glory.  Because everyone’s works and desires vary, heaven includes different kingdoms, or degrees of glory.” (p.14)

Note, as that states, the kingdoms are all part of heaven.  With that in mind listen to whom, according to Mormonism, inhabits the telestial kingdom, the lowest kingdom in heaven.  “Those who continue in their sins and do not repent will receive a place in the telestial kingdom.”

Did you catch that?  People who continue in their sins – people who don’t repent – will be in heaven! By making that claim and then by reinforcing it with no mention whatsoever of hell, this pamphlet removes all urgency to believe in Jesus.  Instead it flatly says to all who read it:  “After you are judged, you will live in a state of glory.”  According to this pamphlet, which is designed to introduce Mormonism’s plan of salvation to interested people, sin has no eternal consequences.

What a deadly message that is.  That is far deadlier than telling someone that arsenic won’t kill them or that cancer isn’t serious.  Think of the lawsuits that would fly if a doctor would be so foolish to make such claims.

But arsenic and cancer can only kill people physically.  Sin kills people eternally.  Any and all sin.  Jesus made this point when he said, “but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”  (Mt. 5:22) Because sin can result in people suffering the eternal fires of hell, it is far, far worse to diminish sin’s consequences than it is to diminish the effects of poison or cancer.

And if you diminish sin’s effect, then you greatly lessen people’s desire to be saved.  Again think of poison.  If you thought it would only make you mildly sick, you wouldn’t be desperate to receive an antidote.  So also with sin.  If, no matter what, “you will live in a state of glory”, why be so concerned about Jesus?  As one LDS missionary recently told one of my friends, going to the telestial kingdom is like being invited to a beach party instead of a formal dinner.  What’s so bad about that?

The sobering truth is that there are two sides to eternity:  heaven and hell.  Even more sobering is the fact that there will be many people who will spend their eternity in hell.  “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matthew 7:13)  Jesus is clear.  We all won’t live in a state of glory.  That’s difficult to hear.  But that’s essential to know.

There is only one way to escape sin’s eternal consequences.  And that is by fleeing to Jesus and trusting only in what he has done.  Friends, see the seriousness of sin – all sin.  And then abandon all trust in what you do and trust only in what he has done for you.  Then, and only then, will you live in a state of glory for all eternity.

27
Sep
13

Radiation Suit

(This is a reprint of a post I did a few years ago.)

One way that I like to picture God’s holiness is as strong radiation.  His holiness constantly is radiating out from him.  By its very nature, it destroys anything imperfect with which it comes into contact.

That is why, in order to enter God’s presence, we can’t have the slightest imperfection.  Otherwise we will be destroyed.  But how can we do that?  By being clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  “he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”  (Isaiah 61:10)  Or, in keeping with the illustration, by wearing the radiation suit made by and given by Jesus.

But just suppose that Jesus has given me that radiation suit but I had been working hard on making my own.  I realize that Jesus’ suit is vastly superior so I put it on.  But I have worked so hard on my own suit that I decide to use just one glove from it.  So I substitute the glove I made for the one Jesus supplied.  I walk into God’s presence only to be destroyed by his holiness.  My glove couldn’t protect me from the radiation of his holiness because it wasn’t perfect – it was flawed.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

The point is that no matter how little we are relying on ourselves – maybe I just replace one finger on one glove – that little bit of reliance on self becomes a fatal flaw.  Even the tiniest flaw in a radiation suit spells disaster.  Neither does it matter what my motivation is for slightly relying on myself.  It could be prideful reluctance to give up what we worked so hard doing – it could be the thought that this is what God wants.  It doesn’t matter – if we are relying even, very slightly, on what we have to do in order to stand in God’s presence, we have a flawed radiation suit – and we will be destroyed.

That is why Mormonism is so dangerous.  It points people not only to Jesus but also to themselves.  For example, its 3rd Article of Faith states:  “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”  Since we sin so much, our obedience isn’t perfect.  Therefore the only thing our imperfect obedience does is make our suit flawed.  And a flawed suit is a formula for disaster.

 

18
Sep
13

“The Not Even Once Club” – Really?

The Not Even Once Club is the title of a new children’s book published and promoted by Deseret Books.  It is written by Wendy Nelson, wife of one of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church.  The cover sleeve states that she was a professor of marriage and family therapy for 25 years.  In addition, she has held a number of prominent positions in the LDS Church including chairing the BYU Women’s Conference.  In other words, she is a highly credentialed LDS author.

So what is this book about?  The cover sleeve says:  “The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them.  Not even once.”  Really????  Yes, that is really what it is about.

One of the most tragic of its many fatal flaws is the failure of the LDS Church to understand the main reason why God gave us the commandments.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin”.  The commandments are God’s tool to show us our sins!  He knows that we need to see our sinfulness before we will see our need for a Savior.  A man doesn’t yell for help until he realizes he’s drowning.  Likewise people don’t yell for a Savior until they see they are drowning in sin.  The commandments show us how much we sin – they show us that we are drowning in sin.  The last thing the Lord intended when he gave the commandments was for people to create “Not Even Once Clubs”.

The Not Even Once Club is tragically true to its name in one way.  Not once is Jesus or God mentioned. That probably shouldn’t be surprising seeing that its whole premise is that children can keep the commandments perfectly.  It’s not surprising but it is sad.

I can see this book becoming very popular.  It is attractively done: very colorful and well-illustrated.  It is written by a prominent Mormon.  You can download free posters that reinforce its message.  I can envision those posters hanging in many a child’s room.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about “Not Even Once Clubs” springing up in LDS neighborhoods.

But just stop and think about the effect that all this can have on the 3 to 7 year old children that this book is intended for.  It could easily implant and reinforce the possibility of perfectionism and all its attendant pressures and problems.  Along with that it could produce a large self-righteous streak that will grow stronger and stronger as the children grow up.  Or else it could drive children to despair when they recognize that they sinned and broke the promise of the “Not Even Once Club”.

Already with small children, it is so much better to honestly talk about how they sin and their need for a Savior.  Already with small children, it is so much better to focus them on the fact that Jesus not even once sinned – and that he freely gives them his perfection.  Already with small children, it is vital to focus them on how Jesus has cleansed them from their sins rather than encouraging them to think that they can remain clean themselves. Jesus, and not themselves, is what children also need to focus on. It’s all about Jesus.

 

13
Sep
13

The Seriousness of Sin

In 1 Chronicles 13 there is an account that disturbs many people.  King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been neglected during the reign of Saul.  While they were transporting it, we read:  “And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.  And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. (v. 9-10)

Most think that God dealt way too harshly with Uzza.  After all, he was trying to do the right thing and save the Ark from getting damaged.  But God had stated very plainly in the law that nobody was to touch the Ark.  In fact, just having it on the cart was not in accordance with his law.  He made it very clear that poles were to be slide through rings on the side of the Ark and carried with them.

Even with that background, many still charge God with over-reacting.  Putting a man to death for trying to keep the Ark from falling – really?

A much better reaction is to pause and take to heart God’s message.  It is a message he wants us to hear seeing that he saw fit to have it recorded in Scripture for all time.  And his message is simple.  It is an extremely serious thing not to follow his commands to the letter!   He’s God and his word is not up for debate.  Ignoring it, downplaying it, treating it casually is not something that he ignores or treats casually.  Not obeying his commands – sinning – is serious.

That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often.  God isn’t laughing about those sins that we might think are funny.  He doesn’t regard any lies as little while ones.  He doesn’t view as optional our loving one another or our taking everything to him in prayer.  No, those and many other things are what he has commanded us to do.  And, as this story illustrates, there are consequences, terrible consequences, for all forms of disobedience.  Sin, all sin, makes God’s blood boil.  He sees it as spitting in his face.

That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often.  Because only then will we realize how desperately we need mercy – and help.  And thank God that, in spite of how much sin angers him, he had mercy on us.  Jesus stood in the breach for us.  Not only did he suffer God’s awesome wrath over our sins, but he also rendered his Father perfect obedience for us.  Jesus is the answer – the only answer to our sinfulness.

Sin is deadly serious.  God’s striking Uzza dead shows that.  But if the Israelite’s not carrying the Ark angered God, think of how much more angry he is when people feel that they can, in any way, contribute to their having eternal life.  That is an affront to God.  That is telling him his gift of eternal life wasn’t good enough.  That’s saying Jesus didn’t do it all.  And that, my friends, is the most deadly sin of all.

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)

06
Sep
13

Obedience Brings Blessings

That is the title of a talk given by the LDS living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, at last April’s General Conference.  He bases it on D&C 93:26-28 which he quotes.  “And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.  He that keepeth (God’s) commandments receiveth truth and light, and knoweth all things.”  Commenting on these verses he states, “A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide – even obedience.  A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 89).

Later in the article he expands on this and applies obedience to salvation.  Just two more quotes.  “All prophets, ancient and modern, have known that obedience is essential to our salvation.” (p. 90) Finally, quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of God.” (p. 90) According to Mormonism all good things, including living with Heavenly Father, hinges on a person’s obedience.

Surprisingly the Bible agrees – with one huge difference.  Obedience is essential for salvation – but not our obedience!  “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)  In order to save us, the one man, Jesus, had to be perfectly obedient.  He had to keep every commandment perfectly every moment of every day.  He had to do that because we need to be perfect to be acceptable to God and perfection is more than just the absence of sin.  It is also the presence of all righteousness.  In other words, in order to save us Jesus not only had to cleanse us from all sin but also cover us with all righteousness.

And that is what he did! He was perfectly obedient for us.  Throughout his entire life he was weaving the wonderful robe of righteousness which he now drapes over us through faith.  In a way, we can say that Jesus sacrificed his life twice for us.  Once by living his life for us (and think of how difficult it is to live for somebody else – especially when they don’t appreciate or acknowledge it) – and then by giving his life for us on the cross to wash away our sins.

In his talk President Monson does briefly talk about Jesus’ obedience.  But he doesn’t point to Jesus as Paul did, as our Substitute who was obedient for us.  Rather he refers to him as our example.  “He gave to us a divine example of obedience by refusing to deviate from what He knew was right.” (p. 92) In this way, even when he does talk about Jesus, the burden to be worthy and to receive blessings is placed squarely on the shoulders of each individual.

What a relief it is to know that God now sees me as perfectly obedient through Jesus.  This is especially comforting when I see how each and every sin is a terrible affront to God.  Seeing that could easily lead to despair because I know that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop worrying, or thinking angry thoughts, or doing selfish things, or not casting all my cares on Jesus, or you fill in the blank.  Each and every one of these sins that we often so lightly brush off merits nothing less than eternal damnation.

Thank God, therefore, that Jesus came and was perfectly obedient in my place, as my Substitute!  Thank God that he has graciously clothed me in his robe of righteousness so that right now I am totally acceptable to God.  Thank God that salvation and eternal life are his gifts to us and not something God tells us that we have to achieve ourselves.  Thank God that Jesus came to live and die for me.  To God be all glory and praise!

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.

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.

 

 

 




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