Posts Tagged ‘church of jesus christ of latter day saints



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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

12
Aug
13

The Only Way to Eternal Happiness

When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Note how exclusively Jesus speaks.  He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way.  And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.

Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way.  No, it’s all about him.  Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence.  As Paul wrote to Titus:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)

Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference.  “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father.  His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis).  That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said.  Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way.  Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times.   But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!

Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”.  Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings:  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)  Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!

His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us.  Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments.  But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness.  Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence.  To him be all glory.

07
Aug
13

Crushing Expectations

The following quote is from a LDS manual for young people interested in going on a mission.  It is from a chapter about conversion.   It quotes President Marion G. Romney in saying:  “In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 85, my emphasis)  Note how he not only says those who are wholly converted won’t have any more desire to sin but he also continues by talking about how this will be seen in their actions – by a determination to keep the commandments.

According to that statement, St. Paul wasn’t wholly converted. He famously confessed, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . .For the good that I would I do not:  but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:15,19) Over the years, Paul’s confession has given many believers great comfort.  It reassures them that becoming a believer doesn’t mean that they will be able to keep the commandments – no matter how strong their desire is to please God.  They won’t be able to also do the good that they want to do!   “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

That fact, however, doesn’t drive believers to despair.  Rather it drives them to Jesus.  That is why Paul concluded with the simple statement:  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 7: 24-25)  Our inability to refrain from sinning is a vivid reminder that the only way we will be able to stand worthily before Heavenly Father is when we solely on Jesus’ perfection for us.  If we continue with an “and” – if we try to add any of our own righteousness we spoil and ruin the whole thing.  How many of us would buy a new car that has a scratch on it?  How many brides would buy a wedding gown with a spot on it?  When it comes to being worthy to enter his presence, God demands perfection:  no spots or blemishes.  Nothing less will do.

But sole reliance on Jesus is not what Mormonism teaches.  2 Nephi 25:23 says that we are saved by grace “after all we can do”.  This is how one LDS manual explains that:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Later on it states:  “Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life (see Alma 11:36-37).  Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins (see Helaman 5:10-11).  To receive this blessing, you must exercise your faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.’ (p. 152)

The Bible clearly shows that we will inevitably sin.  Mormonism flatly contradicts that.  And in doing so, it puts people under the crushing pressure of becoming worthy to be in Heavenly Father’s presence.  But not only that.  By stressing what people have to do, they are ruining the masterpiece of salvation by grace alone.  This will result in the Lord, not welcoming them into his presence, but driving them out of his presence.

It is my prayer that many more LDS people will see that and rely totally and completely on Jesus’ work for them.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but firmly share their truth with their LDS friends and family.  There is no more liberating truth than  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)

22
Jul
13

Who talks about Jesus more?

Mormons often point to the fact that Jesus Christ is part of their church’s name as proof that they are Christians.  But what struck me again last month as I was going door to door in Salt Lake City and talking with many LDS members is how much they didn’t want to talk about Jesus.  We came to the door with the message of the great things Jesus has done for us; namely, that we were assured that we were worthy in God’s sight because of what he has done and that we knew we were forgiven through him.  Almost invariably the person at the door would respond by saying that a person had a responsibility to obey the commandments and do good works.  We wanted to talk about what Jesus had done and they wanted to talk about what they had to do.

I have only attended a few sacrament meetings, but I have noticed the same thing there.  In all the meetings I attended there was much more talk about what they had to do than what Jesus did for them.  All my friends who at one time were LDS verify that.  To a person they say that in their individual wards the emphasis was always on what they had to do.

I see the same thing in the LDS manuals.  For example, Jesus’ atonement is frequently mentioned but hardly ever emphasized.  Most often it is used as a launching pad to lay out in great detail what works people need to add to the Atonement.

The bottom line is that it’s not just what is in a church’s name.  It’s what a church teaches.  It’s what a church emphasizes.  And every contact I have with Mormonism, whether it is talking with its members or reading its manuals or attending its services, demonstrates that it puts the spotlight not on the great things Jesus has done for us but on the things people have to do.

I am so thankful that the Lord has said that I can be assured that I am worthy and forgiven right now because of Jesus.  I am so thankful that the Lord has reassured me that I will be living with him for all eternity because Jesus has already done everything necessary for me to enter his presence.  This free gift of worthiness and forgiveness now impels me all the more to do all I can to glorify him in my life and with my lips.  To him be all praise and glory.

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.

11
Jul
13

LDS Forgiveness

Recently when I was in Salt Lake City, I stopped by the LDS Church’s Distribution Center.  It has a bookstore where you can purchase all the latest church manuals and materials.  I was somewhat surprised to see a tract, first printed in 1984, still on sale.  It is entitled “Repentance Brings Forgiveness”.

The setting for the tract is a visit by a young couple to their bishop to confess having pre-marital sex.  After confessing their sin, they ask:  “Can we ever be forgiven?”  The bishop replies:  “Yes, the Lord and his church can forgive, but not easily.” The rest of the tract expands on the difficult and painful path to forgiveness.  Following are some excerpts that emphasize that point:

“When we say that the sexual sins are forgivable, this does not mean it is easy to gain forgiveness. Even though it is hard to gain forgiveness, it is something that must be done.”

“The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one.  True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again.”

“It is unthinkable that God forgives sins which are serious after just a few prayers.  He is likely to wait until there has been a long, sustained repentance as shown by a willingness to live all his commandments.”

“The Lord, in his preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, gave us the fifth and one of the most difficult requirements to forgiveness.  He says, ‘For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with least degree of allowance.  Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.’ (D&C 1:31-32).  The repenting person must start on the never-ending task of keeping the commandments of the Lord.  Obviously this can hardly be done in a day, a week, a month, or a year, but must go on all one’s life.”

“Now the phrase ‘with all his heart’ is vital.  There can be no holding back.  If the sinner neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, or fails in his prayers and other responsibilities, he is not completely repentant.  The Lord knows, as does the individual, the degree of sorrowful repentance, and his forgiveness will be as great or as little as the person deserves.”

“James indicated that each good deed, each testimony, each missionary effort, each help given to others is like a blanket over one’s own sins, or like a deposit against an overdraft in the bank.”

I don’t know about you, but all I can say is “Wow”.  As this tract not only states, but also emphasizes over and over, LDS forgiveness does not come easily.

The Bible talks about forgiveness so differently!  Yes it also often connects forgiveness with repentance but biblical repentance is not this long painful process.  Rather it is changing our mindset (the Greek word for repentance literally means a change of mind).  It is the switching from trusting in our own goodness and works to be accepted by God to trusting in Jesus’ goodness and works as the basis for being accepted by God.  And when that happens, forgiveness comes instantaneously as David experienced.  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.  And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13).  Instead of pain, that brings great joy as David said in Psalm 32:  “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Ps. 32:1)

It’s all about God’s grace and what Jesus has done for us.  “”In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity? (Micah 7:18)  It’s all about God’s pardoning us, not our works becoming “a blanket over one’s own sins”.   Not our works, but Jesus’ blood – that is what blankets our sins.  To Jesus be all praise and glory!




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