Posts Tagged ‘Ensign



15
Mar
11

The Living Prophet

Ever since last fall’s General Conference, the LDS Church has been emphasizing the authority of the living prophet.  Twice in that General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1980 speech, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, was not just referred to but cited quite heavily.  In fact, two different speakers listed all fourteen fundamentals.  This is striking because this was and has remained a controversial speech even among Mormons.  Numerous active LDS members have told me how they take that speech with a large grain of salt.  That critical attitude was also evident in numerous posts made by Mormon bloggers after General Conference.

It’s not difficult to see why this speech causes discomfort among some Mormons.  Here are the 14 fundamentals.  Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy listed them with this introduction: “Because they are of such great importance to our very salvation, I will repeat them again.” (my emphasis)

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

Those are quite lofty claims!

But this emphasis on the living prophet hasn’t ended there.  In subsequent months, statements about the importance of following the living prophet have been appearing on the pages of the official LDS magazine, Ensign.  In fact, March’s edition spotlights this again in its column, “What We Believe”.

I, for one, am happy to see this emphasis.  I say that because it has been an ongoing frustration to quote a living prophet only to have it downplayed by Mormons as not binding.  But that is not what Benson said above.  It’s obvious that, by twice quoting those fundamentals at General Conference, the present Church agrees with Benson.  As the January edition of the Ensign states, “God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.  These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4).  They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders.”

With statements like the above, the proper method for seeing what Mormonism truly teaches is looking at what its prophets and leaders have said rather than what individual members say.  And when a individual member’s position differ from that of the prophet, doesn’t honesty demand that, on the specific topic under discussion, that the member is not representing official Mormon teaching?

 

16
Feb
11

Feeling Overwhelmed

 

The Ensign (official LDS monthly magazine) has a regular column entitled “Questions and Answers”.  Each month a different question is posed with answers supplied by LDS members.  The February issue poses this question:  “I often feel overwhelmed because I don’t feel I measure up to all that’s expected of me in living the gospel.  How can I learn to rejoice in the gospel when I feel like I may never by able to become or do all the Lord requires of me?”  This question is followed by the answers of eight different individuals.  (To see the whole article, go to www.lds.org/ensign)

What struck me was how all the answers acknowledged the struggle but put the burden back on the person.  The advice was to take it one step at a time; to keep priorities straight; obey the commandments; remember that the Lord is encouraging us, etc.  Not once was the Lord’s forgiveness mentioned. I wonder how these answers give true lasting relief.

Here’s my answer.

I can understand why you feel you aren’t measuring up.  You feel that way because you, or nobody else for that matter, can’t!  Sin has so devastated us that no matter how focused we are or how much effort we exert, we will fail.  Even the apostle Paul had to confess:  “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)  Nothing is more sobering and overwhelming than taking a honest inventory of ourselves and seeing how often we don’t measure up to God’s commandments.

That is why God, in the Scriptures, tells us the wonderful news that Jesus has already done everything required – and he did all this, not just as our example, but mainly, as our substitute.  “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”. (Romans 5:19)

Seeing that is the secret to joy.  Seeing that God counts me as already perfect because Jesus was perfect for me instills a joy that is truly indescribable.  The key to joy is not focusing on your efforts, but on Christ’s efforts and the fact that he has already done all that is required for you.  That gives me joy each and every day.  I pray that you can have that same joy.

 

24
Aug
10

PURIFIED IN THIS LIFE?

     In the September issue of the LDS’s magazine, the Ensign, President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor to the LDS President, refers to a teaching of Mormonism that warrants further examination.  He writes:  “The Book of Mormon also gives us confidence that we can become so purified in this life that we have no more desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5;2).” 

     This raises some questions.  Are there LDS members who presently fit this description – who have no more desire to do evil?  Mosiah 5:2, the Book of Mormon verse that he cites, expands by also saying that they “do good continually.”  Does that mean that there are LDS members who never have a selfish desire or never do anything selfishly?  Are there LDS members who never speak an unkind word after a bad day? Who never overlook an opportunity to help a fellow human being?  Who never act rudely?  If so, shouldn’t they be identified as such, so that we can be inspired by them?  For example, have all General Authorities reached this state of purfication?

     And if an individual LDS member hasn’t reached this state yet, what does that say about him or her?  President Eyring says that the Book of Mormon gives the confidence that this can happen.   What does it say if an LDS member isn’t confident about this happening in his or her life?  Shouldn’t every LDS member have this confidence?

     St. Paul didn’t agree with President Eyring or the Book of Mormon.  This type of purification wasn’t something St. Paul claimed for himself.  In fact, he claimed the opposite:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19)  But not only did he confess this about himself, this is also what he taught.  “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

     Which of the two do you identify with?  I identify with Paul.  Every day I find myself doing the evil that I don’t want to do and not doing the good that I want to do.  The Book of Mormon thought of not having any desire for evil is a completely foreign concept – and not part of my reality.  That is why each and every day I rejoice in knowing that all more sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.  That is the only purification I have confidence in.

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.

25
Jun
10

Deadly Damnation

   In the June 2010 Ensign, David A. Bednar, one of Mormonism’s apostles, mentions Mormonism definition of damnation.  Talking about Satan he writes, “Just as water flowing in a riverbed is stopped by a dam, so the adversary’s eternal progression is thwarted because he does not have a physical body. . .One of the potent scriptural meanings of the word damned is illustrated in his inability to continue developing and becoming like our Heavenly Father.”  (p. 18)

    This agrees with what the LDS Bible Dictionary states:  “Damnation is the opposite of salvation, and exists in varying degrees.  All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and hence be damned to that extent.”  Thus, according to Mormonism, everybody in heaven, except those who are exalted by becoming a god, will also be damned!

    To a Christian, describing people in heaven with the word damned is incomprehensible.  Heaven and damned are direct opposites.  This then is just another of numerous examples of how Mormonism defines words uniquely.  I don’t know any dictionary that defines damnation this way.  All the dictionaries I consulted cite as synonyms words like cursed. 

     But what really makes Mormonism’s definition deadly is how it incredibly weakens what the Bible says about being damned.  Insert Mormonism’s definition into Mark 16:16 and it isn’t too frightening.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  Instead of eternal hell coming to mind when you hear that, you can think of heaven.  And that is exactly what Mormonism does.  According to it, in order to get to the lowest kingdom of glory, a person doesn’t have to believe.  And some Mormon authorities have described that kingdom as ten thousand times better than life here on earth.  That’s not a bad picture of damnation.

     The only problem is that it is totally false – and extremely dangerous.  Satan loves it when the consequences of sin are minimized.  He loves it when no one is talking about eternal hell.  He loves it because then people don’t become overly concerned about going there – until it is too late. 

     Hell is real.  Damnation is horrible.  There is nothing good associated with it.  And there is only one way to avoid it.  Accept God’s gift of eternal life.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)

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.

26
Aug
09

UNDERSTAND AND LIVE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST

       That is the title of the Visiting Teaching Message in the September, 2009 Ensign.  Most Christians, seeing that title, would naturally think that the article would center on the good news of free and full forgiveness earned for us by Jesus.

        But there is no mention of forgiveness in the article.  There is no mention of Jesus’ atonement. Rather the whole article is about what they need to do.  Following are two representative quotes from the article.    

Barbara Thompson, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency: “Sisters, now more than ever, we need women to step up and be strong. We need women who declare the truth with strength, faith, and boldness. We need women to set an example of righteousness. We need women to be ‘anxiously engaged in a good cause.’ We need to live so that our lives bear witness that we love our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ and that we will do what They have asked us to do” (“Now Let Us Rejoice,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2008, 116).

       2 Nephi 31:12: “Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “We must live the gospel in such a way that we will have the Spirit to ever be with us. If we live worthily, the Spirit will always be with us. We can then teach by the Spirit. … The reason we pray, study the scriptures, have good friends, and live the gospel through obedience to the commandments is so that when—not if, but when—the trials come, we are ready” (“Teaching by Faith,” Liahona, Sept. 2003, 10, 14–15; Ensign, Sept. 2003, 20, 24–25).

 

        As I said, that is so different from what Christians would have expected.  Understanding the gospel means understanding that Christ saved us by paying for our sins.  Living the gospel means reveling in his forgiveness, praising him for his forgiveness, giving him all the credit for our worthiness to stand before God.  The good news is seeing that Jesus saved us not by being our example but by being our substitute.




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