Posts Tagged ‘Ensign


Jesus’ Mission

One of the many things I love about Christmas is its simple message that God so loved the world that he deployed his Son to be our Savior.  In these days before Christmas, I find myself repeatedly rejoicing over the fact that Jesus saved me by doing it all for me.  The Son of God became flesh as our substitute, taking all our sins on himself and paying for them with his death – and also living that perfect life that we can’t – and then freely giving us all that perfection (righteousness) that he had accumulated.    Christmas is all about the sending of a Rescuer – a thought that has been stressed over and over again this Christmas Season in my church.

That’s why an article in the January issue of the Ensign (the LDS Church’s official magazine) which recently arrived in the mail stopped me in my tracks.  It is entitled, “The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Exemplar”. Following is the entire article.

“As we understand that Jesus Christ is our example in all things, we can increase our desire to follow Him. The scriptures are full of encouragement for us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To the Nephites, Christ said, “For the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). To Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

“Today our leaders remind us to set the Savior as our example. Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, said, “When each of us has the doctrine of the Atonement written deep in our hearts, then we will begin to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be.”

“President Thomas S. Monson said, “Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Exemplar and our strength.”

Let us resolve to draw near to Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments, and to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, the Bible does, at times, point to Jesus as our example.  But that is not what it emphasizes.  And that surely is not what it says his divine mission was!  His mission was to save us, not by being an example and showing us what we need to do, but by actually doing 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)  Jesus came to redeem us – to buy us back.  And that is what he did.  To use a simple analogy, he didn’t save us when we were drowning by showing us how to swim.  No, he jumped into our world as a lifeguard and rescued us.

But notice there is nothing about that in this article, notwithstanding the brief mention of the Atonement.  The whole article is about following Jesus’ example “to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”  And what is so sad about this is that this is the visiting teaching message for January.  That means that this is the lesson LDS women are to teach each other as they fulfill their duties as visiting teachers.  Throughout Mormonism this will be the emphasis of those visits.

How tragic – for a couple of reasons.  One is that this will just increase the heavy weight many LDS women are feeling already.  Following in Jesus’ footsteps is an impossible task!  And secondly, such a message dishonors our Savior tremendously.  It doesn’t glorify him as the one, who at tremendous cost, saved us. It puts all the focus on what they are to do, not what he has done for them.

It is my prayer that this Christmas more Christians lovingly and clearly share with Mormons the tremendous news that Jesus, our Savior who has done everything for us, has been born.  Furthermore I pray that the Holy Ghost will open the eyes of many LDS to see this wonderful truth.

In Jesus, our Savior, have a wonderful Christmas.


Is This Loving?

In the February edition of the Ensign, there is an article by one of the LDS apostles, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, entitled “Balancing Truth and Tolerance”.   This is a very pertinent topic since tolerance has become the main marching order for much of society.

One thing that struck me as I read his article was the following statement.  He’s talking about how we are to react to the sins of those people we know.  In that context he writes: “In this sensitive matter we should first consider whether – or the extent to which – we should communicate to our associates what we know to be true about their behavior.  In most cases this decision can depend on how directly we are personally affected by it.”

Then a paragraph later he expands on this.  “Cohabitation we know to be a serious sin, in which Latter-day Saints must not engage.  When practiced by those around us, it can be private behavior or something we are asked to condone, sponsor, or facilitate.  In the balance between truth and tolerance, tolerance can be dominant where the behavior does not involve us personally.  But if the cohabitation does involve us personally, we should be governed by our duty to truth.  For example, it is one thing to ignore serious sins when they are private; it is quite another thing to be asked to sponsor or implicitly endorse them, such as by housing them in our own homes.”

Do you see why I did a double-take when I read this?  Did you notice how self-centered that advice is?  Where is the love and concern for the persons committing the sin?  As Elder Oaks said in the first paragraph I quoted:  “In most cases this decision can depend on how directly we are personally affected by it.”   The most important thing to him is not speaking the truth to the other person.  The most important thing is that I’m not affected by it.

That’s not, however, the tack the prophet Nathan took with King David when David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.  Nathan was not personally affected by that sin, but he still denounced it to David – an act that brought David to repentance.  1 Thessalonians 5:14 contains the general command to “warn them that are unruly”.  Ephesians 5:11 simply says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”  Throughout the Bible we see people not tolerating sin, even if it didn’t personally affect them, but exposing sin.

I realize that this is often difficult to do, one on one, with a person we know.  But that is the loving thing to do!  If we don’t do that, then they will see no need for a Savior.  But if they see their sin, as King David saw his when Nathan exposed it to him, we can joyfully tell them about Jesus and how he has already paid for that sin.  We can have the great honor of announcing to them that, on the basis of Jesus’ death, God forgives them for that and all sin.  And then we will have the joy, if they believe us, to see them turning their lives around, not out of fear of being rejected by God, but out of joy of being counted already worthy by him – through the bestowed worthiness of Jesus Christ.  That, my friends, is the loving thing to do.


How Much Do We Sin?

One of the many significant differences between Mormonism and biblical teaching centers on how much a person sins.  The December issue of the Ensign contains an article that clearly illustrates Mormonism’s view.  It is entitled, “Repentance: Making the Inside Clean”.  The author summarizes the need for repentance this way:  “As we go about our lives, we occasionally com­mit sins. But if we want to live with our Heavenly Father again, we cannot be unclean. We need to repent, which includes forsaking sin, replacing it with righteousness, and cleansing ourselves from the effects of sin.”

Later in the article, to make his point about repentance, he gives this illustration.

    “During my time as a bishop, I used the following visual to help explain what we need to do after we forsake a sin. Picture in your mind a bucket of water. That bucket represents you and me, and the water represents the Spirit, which can reside within us. The water can also represent our pure, worthy state.

    Now imagine that you have a brick and have dropped it into the bucket. That brick is like sin—it’s hard and rough and impure. As soon as it enters the bucket, it causes some of the water to slosh out. When we sin, we displace some of the good things in our life, like our peace of mind and some of our capacity

to feel the Spirit.

     Repenting is like taking that brick out of the bucket of water and making the water pure and clean again. But the repentance isn’t complete by just removing the brick, because the bucket is still not full. We must add more water to fill the bucket again.”

The Bible speaks so differently.  Look at Romans 3.

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Note how all-inclusive these words are:  “none, none, none, all, together”.  There is no idea here of sinning occasionally; or of being in a pure state; or having just one brick at a time dropped into the bucket.  From the Bible’s standpoint the water in the bucket is already filthy and a veritable downpour of bricks falls continually into the bucket.  None are righteous – they have together become unprofitable.

That is emphasized throughout the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 laments about how unclean he is.  The apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about how wretched he is because of his failure to do the good.  The Bible pictures people not as occasionally sinning, but as constantly sinning.

This is no minor difference either.  If we think that we only sin occasionally then much of the burden falls on us to stop sinning and to make right the wrongs we have committed.  That is exactly what Mormonism does.  In the last analysis, even though it talks about Jesus’ atonement, Mormonism places the emphasis on what we have to do.

But when we see ourselves as the Bible pictures us, all we can do is plead for mercy and help.  We realize that all we can do is make the problem worse by piling up more and more sins!  And that is why Christmas is so special.  Christmas is God’s answer to our pleas for help.  Jesus came to earth so that we could go to heaven.  Jesus came to do everything for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly – not just to give us an example to follow – but much more importantly as our substitute – in our place.  Because Jesus kept the commandments perfectly for me, I can know say that I have kept the commandments perfectly.  And then he died to wash away all our sins.

Turning from emphasizing what I have to do and instead trusting that Jesus has done it all for me is what true repentance is all about.  This Christmas see that Jesus came – not to show you what you have to do – but to do it all for you.  See that and have a most joyous Christmas.



Revelation through Feelings

The November issue of Ensign, the monthly magazine of the LDS Church, contains all the talks given at the recent General Conference.  Therefore it is an important issue and one that many members will study for the next six months.

One talk that caught my eye was by Elder Craig C. Christensen, of the Presidency of the Seventy.  It was about the Holy Ghost and how he “communicates to our spirits through feelings and impressions” (p. 13).  He talks about how his six-year old son received a strong feeling as they toured an LDS temple before it was dedicated and how he was experiencing the influence of the Holy Ghost.  The following quote from that article summarizes well his message.

“As inspired thoughts come into our minds, we know them to be true by the spiritual feelings that enter into our hearts. President Boyd K. Packer has taught: “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. . . . While we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling . . .’” It is through these sacred feelings from the Holy Ghost that we come to know what God would have us do, for this, as stated in scripture, “is the spirit of revelation.” (p.14)

Revelation through feelings, as this talk illustrates, is an important component of Mormonism.  And it’s another thing in a long list that reveals the great difference between Mormonism and the Bible.  According to the Bible, it is the place of the Holy Ghost’s revelation.  It is the Spirit-filled word – it is the lamp which shows us our way – it is where Christ is revealed to us.  Mormons would agree with that (adding the caveat “as far as it is translated correctly).  The difference, however, is that the Bible claims to be the only source of revelation.  Isaiah 8:19-20 is just one example of that.  And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

On top of that, feelings can be so fickle – and wrong!  During my ministry, I can’t count how many times I talked with individuals who weren’t concerned that they were violating a direct command of God contained in the Bible because, “it felt right”.  Or “I prayed about it and God said it was OK.”  Just a couple of talks later in the Ensign, Elder Bowen talks about the guilty feelings that he still sometimes has 22 years later over the accidental death of his son.  He shares that, not because he wants to legitimize those feelings, but to say how they weren’t warranted. My point is: how come those feelings weren’t from the Holy Ghost revealing to him that he actually was guilty of doing something wrong?

Some of my LDS friends have sincerely said they feel sorry for me because I only have the Bible to rely on.  I understand where they are coming from.  But I don’t think they understand when I reply how thankful I am that I only have the Bible to rely on.  There God has told me everything I need to know for salvation and for living a life to his glory. There the Holy Spirit has revealed to me wonderful truths about God and his love for me.  There the Holy Spirit reassures me that I will live with Heavenly Father for all eternity solely because of what Jesus has done for me – even when I don’t feel like I’m going to.  Thank God that he has given us the sure rock of his holy Word on which to base our faith!


Such a different perspective

In the LDS monthly magazine, Ensign, there is a regular column entitled, “We Talk of Christ”.  Naturally with a title like that you would think that the focus would be on Jesus.  This month’s column carries the title, “Loving My Enemies”.

The article is written by a member who lived in an occupied country and relates the struggle he had loving the enemy soldiers.  He tells how he finally fasted and prayed for help.  And eventually he felt love for the soldiers.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

“I now know, like Nephi, that the Lord gives us no commandment save He shall prepare a way for us that we may accomplish the thing which He commands us (see 1 Nephi 3:7).  When Christ commanded us to love our enemies, He knew it was possible with His help.  He can teach us to love others if we but trust Him and learn from His great example.”

There are a number of things in this article that merit comment, but the thing that really struck me was the perspective that a few passing references to Christ’s command and his example (there were two other references to Christ’s command in the body of the article) merited the title “We Talk of Christ”.  That is so different from what you would see in most Christian magazines.  If they had a column entitled, “We Talk of Christ” it would be a pretty safe bet that the focus would be, not on his command and our need to be obedient to it, but on his actions.  And he would be viewed not so much as an example but as a substitute.

For example, in the case of loving our enemies, mention might be made of Romans 5:8:  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  In other words, as sinners we were Jesus’ enemies.  But, in spite of that, he loved us and died for us.  Or maybe his prayer at his crucifixion for the Father to forgive them for they know not what they do would be cited with the message that here Jesus was fulfilling the law for us – that we receive the credit for his perfect love.   However it would be done, most such articles would bring the comfort of Jesus’ acting in our behalf and the tremendous comfort that gives us.

Again how different is the Ensign.  Even when the title points to Jesus, the focus is on people and what they have to do.  The moral of this story is that you have to look beyond the title to see what is really being emphasized.


Fully converted

At the last General Conference, in one of his talks, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, talked about meeting an elderly man.  After describing the meeting he remarks:  “He was an example of the fully converted Latter-day Saints I meet often after they have given a life of dedicated service.  They press on.  President Marion G. Romney described it this way: ‘In one who is wholly converted, desire for things [contrary] to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died, and substituted therefor is a love of God with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.’” (Ensign, Nov, 2011, p. 70, emphasis added)

Note the two things I emphasized in that quote.  First he says he meets such people often.  In other words, according to him, a fully converted person is not that rare.  And secondly, one of the main characteristics of who is wholly converted is that the “desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died”.

Really?  Such a person never again has a sinful desire?  Not one sniff of sinful anger or revenge?  Not one self-centered or selfish yearning?  Not one twinge of lust or greed?  Not one moment of doubt or worry?  No trace of apathy?

This is a condition not even claimed by biblical prophets.  When the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord he exclaimed:  “Woe is me!  for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)  This is something not even claimed by the Lord’s apostles.  Paul lamented:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19).  But President Eyring says he meets such people often!

There has been only one person who, at the time of his death, had no sinful desires.  That person was Jesus.  That is why his death was an acceptable sacrifice for sin.  And that is why his death was a necessary sacrifice for sin.  For absolutely everybody else continues to have sinful desires until the day of his or her death.  And that is why whoever is saved is saved entirely on what Jesus has done and not, in any way, in what they do.  To Jesus, and to Jesus alone, be the glory.


After all we can do

A passage that many Christians and Mormons have gone round and round on is from the Book of Mormon:  “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) I can’t count how many different ways Mormons have interpreted it.  Recently one interpretation I read said “all we can do” means we can’t do anything!  It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to discover that there is a wide variety of interpretations of this passage among Mormons.

But that is not the case with the official representatives of Mormonism.  In the latest General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an LDS apostle, stated:  “It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part.  Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23).” (my emphasis) (Ensign, Nov. 2011, p.39)

This is consistent with what the LDS manual True to the Faith says:  “The phrase ‘after all we can’ 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.” (p. 77) This is consistent with the LDS Bible Dictionary.  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.  Hence the explanation, ‘It is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.’ (2 Ne 25:23).” (p.697)  Those are just two of many examples.  Official Mormonism is consistent in its explanation of 2 Nephi 25:23.

Why then isn’t there consistency among Mormons?  And if you were in my position, as someone who is sincerely trying to represent Mormonism, who should I listen to as telling me what Mormonism teaches?  A regular LDS member or LDS apostles and church manuals?

Mormonism teaches that it takes effort – “total effort on the part of the recipient” to be saved.  If that is so, what should we conclude about anybody who doesn’t give “total effort”?

March 2023

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