Posts Tagged ‘General Conference


General Conference


This weekend the LDS Church holds its semi-annual General Conference.  Both on Saturday and Sunday the General Authorities of the LDS Church give talks.  In LDS churches around the world, the regular Sunday schedule is suspended so that members can listen to these talks.

The March edition of the LDS magazine, Ensign, had a number of articles stressing the importance of these General Conferences.  In one of those articles, entitled Follow the Prophet, Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, relates how he and his wife have benefited from following the words of the prophets.  He writes:  “In the years since, we have been blessed in many other ways by heeding the prophetic word.  We have learned not to question the validity of what the prophets and apostles teach or to wonder if it makes sense.  We have learned that by acting – and acting immediately – on their counsel, our lives are blessed.”

“Some might call our actions blind obedience.  But we have the Lord’s personal promise that the prophets will never lead us astray.  Knowing this helps us hear their voices as we would hear His own (see D&C 1:38).”

Note the example he holds up – and the LDS Church holds up by having this in its official magazine.  No questioning the validity of the teaching – no wondering if it makes sense.  Rather acting immediately on it.  So much so that it looks like blind obedience. Reliance on the personal promise of the Lord that the prophets will never lead them astray.

It will be interesting to see what will be said this weekend.  It will also be interesting to read blogs and comments written by LDS members in response to General Conference.  How many will follow that example?  If the reaction to the last General Conference is any indication, there will be some who won’t follow this example.  And if they don’t but instead question and wonder about what is said, what does that mean for them personally?  How does questioning the prophets affect their worthiness in the church?


The Living Prophet

Chapter 6 in the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the responsibility LDS members have to sustain their leaders.  Incidentally this is also emphasized in the March issue of the LDS church magazine, the Ensign.  Leaders are sustained at conferences by the members raising their right hands.  As both this chapter and the Ensign articles emphasize, the more important aspect of sustaining the leaders is by following their counsel, accepting the calls the leaders call them to, and by praying for them.

Most of chapter 6 deals with sustaining the president of the church, who is also their living prophet.  The following quote from that chapter gives the flavor of its advice.  Note how it ties in salvation with following LDS leadership.

“There is only one pathway of safety for me in this day and that is to follow those whom the Lord has appointed to lead.  I may have my own ideas and opinions, I may set up my own judgment with reference to things, but I know that when my judgment conflicts with the teachings of those that the Lord has given to us to point the way, I should change my course.  If I desire salvation I will follow the leaders that our Heavenly Father has given to us, as long as he sustains them.” (p. 60)

A number of years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets, gave a speech entitled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”.  Over the years, numerous Mormons have not entirely embraced these fundamentals.  But they remain a good summary of Mormonism’s teachings about the living prophet especially because they have been quoted in their entirety twice in recent General Conferences.  Here they are as given by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy in the October, 2010 General Conference.

“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.” 

The second and third points are especially enlightening.  The standard works are the books the LDS Church views as Scripture including the Bible.  The living prophet, it states, is more vital than Scripture.  Or consider point 3.  Who are the dead prophets?  Included in that list would be all the biblical prophets.  In light of statements like these, who is reflecting the teachings of official Mormonism more consistently:  the person who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the Bible or the one who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the living prophet?  And if the claim is made that there is no conflict between the two, than what is the purpose of the second and third fundamental listed above?

When Mormons sustain their living prophet, something they will do again in a couple of weeks at General Conference, they are saying that his words are the most important words in the entire world – more vital than Scripture – more important than those of Moses, Isaiah, and all the biblical prophets.

A LDS leader one time told me that he felt sorry for me because the only thing I had to follow were the words of the Bible.  Today I want to express my sorrow that Mormons, by their sustaining of the living prophet, are declaring that he is more vital than the Bible, that he is more important than all the prophets in the Bible. That not only does dishonor to the Bible; that also puts their eternity into jeopardy.


2 Nephi 25:23

One passage that will be referred to this coming Sunday in Gospel Doctrine Class will be 2 Nephi 25:23: “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  In the last couple of years I can’t count how many Mormons have tried to tell me that this passage doesn’t teach that salvation is based on grace and works.  They make that claim even though official church manuals say otherwise.  For example, True to the Faith states:  “The phrase, ‘after all you can’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him” (p. 77)

Following are the ways that this passage has been referenced in recent General Conferences.  I will let them answer the question:  Does Mormonism teach that human effort is required for salvation?  By the way, a website that enables you to easily see how LDS Scriptures is referenced in General Conference is

D. Todd Christofferson, Oct. 2011:  “Second, repentance means striving to change. 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). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).”

Dallin H. Oaks, Oct. 2010;  “Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).”

LDS General Conference  2009  October  Saturday Afternoon  Jorge F. Zeballos:  “Salvation and eternal life would not be possible if it were not for the Atonement, brought about by our Savior, to whom we owe everything. But in order for these supreme blessings to be effective in our lives, we should first do our part, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”7 Let us with faith, enthusiasm, dedication, responsibility, and love do all that is within our reach, and we will be doing all that is possible to achieve the impossible—that is, to achieve what for the human mind is impossible but with the divine intervention of our loving Father and the infinite sacrifice brought about by our Savior becomes the greatest gift, the most glorious of realities, to live forever with God and with our families.”


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.


True Happiness

In his General Conference address, Elder Jose L. Alonso of the Seventy said:  “The prophets have declared that true happiness is found in following the example and teachings of Christ.  He is our Savior, He is our teacher, and He is the perfect example.  His was a life of service.”  He then proceeds in the rest of his talk to extol the happiness of serving others.

Often it is not so much what LDS leaders say, but what they don’t say, that is so troubling.  Putting the above quote in its context, it is apparent that the teachings of Christ that he is referring to is are his teachings on service.  Service is what he talks about in the rest of his talk.  I am stressing this so that nobody thinks I’m taking his comments out of context.

So what’s so troubling?  Ask most any biblical Christian where true happiness is to be found and they won’t talk about a life of service.  Rather they will talk about the free and full forgiveness they have received from God.  They will talk about the happiness of being richly blessed by God – even though they aren’t worthy of such blessings.  In other words, they will see that true happiness is found not in what they do – but in what God has done for them. True happiness is found in seeing Jesus serving, not as my Example, but as my Substitute – doing it all for me.

But Elder Alonso mentions none of that.  Not one mention of forgiveness.  It’s often the things that are left unsaid that speak volumes.


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”?


Is a man-centered gospel good news?

The word gospel means good news.  At the last LDS General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the 12 apostles, said this about the gospel:

“I believe there is one simple but profound—even sublime—principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God.  The Savior spoke of this principle when He answered the Pharisee who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–40).”

There are a couple of things to note about his words.  First, he is talking about a principle that “encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Second, he then quotes the two great commandments about love.

But nowhere does the Bible connect the word “gospel” with commands to us.  No, the biblical gospel (good news) is all about what God has done for us – not his commands to us.  Paul writing to the Corinthians said:  “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.  (I Corinthians 15:1-4).  He then proceeds to talk about Jesus’ resurrection appearances etc.  It’s all about what Jesus did – not about what we are commanded to do.

Down through the centuries, most Christians have considered John 3:16 the epitome of the gospel message:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Again it is all about what God did for us.

The good news of the Bible is all about God saving us through Jesus.  It is centered on him.  Compare that to Elder Ballard’s explanation.  There is not one mention of Jesus’ saving acts.  And he says he is talking about the principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  His good news is all about two commands that no one can keep!  For who would be bold enough to say that they love God as completely as is commanded?  Or that they love their neighbor as themselves – devoting as much time, money, effort on others as they do on themselves?  A man-centered gospel is no good news at all.

Thank God that that is not the gospel of the Bible.  Thank God that he has given us a God-centered gospel – the good news of salvation worked entirely by him.

May 2020

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