Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Principles

08
Mar
12

“As man is God once was; as God is, man may become.”

This Sunday, in Gospel Doctrine Class, the study is on 2 Nephi 31-33.  One of the summary statements in the heading of chapter 31 says, “Eternal life comes to those who kept the commandments after baptism.”  Since I posted about eternal life just a couple of months ago (see the post for 1-13-12) and there showed that the Bible says eternal life is the present possession of believers through faith, I thought I would, in this post, explore what Mormonism says about eternal life.  I’m going to do that with quotes from the last chapter of their basic manual, Gospel Principles.  If you would like to read the entire chapter, you can do that on lds.org.

The first thing to note is that Mormonism equates eternal life with exaltation.  “Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (p. 275)  Note that this says eternal life is not only equal to the kind of life God lives but also to becoming like him.  That is illustrated with the list in the middle: great glory, perfection, possessing all knowledge and wisdom, Father of spirit children, creator.  In other words, Mormonism teaches that people will be able to possess all knowledge and wisdom, that they will become creators etc.

This is expanded a couple of paragraphs later.  (The italics are my emphasis).

“These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).

2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).

3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.

4. They will receive a fulness of joy.

5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20).

Mormonism plainly teaches that people can become gods.  I’m emphasizing that because many Mormons have told me that Mormonism doesn’t teach that.  I don’t know how many told me that it says that they will be like God, but not become a god.  But note what this official manual states.  “They will become gods.”  Gods who have everything that Heavenly Father and Jesus have.  And lest we forget, that is what Mormonism is talking about whenever it talks about eternal life.  Eternal life and exaltation are the same thing.

This chapter also includes a couple quotes from Joseph Smith. (Again the italics are mine)  “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 268).”

“Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 345–46).”

I highlighted that last part because again many Mormons have stated to me that Heavenly Father never was a man. Some have told me that the famous couplet, “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may become”, no longer applies.  When I explored that with them, they said it wasn’t just that this wording is not used that much anymore, but that is not what Mormonism teaches.  It’s obvious that this chapter of their basic manual says otherwise.

The bottom line is that when Mormonism talks about eternal life, it means something vastly different than when Christians talk about it.  (See my January 13th post for a full look at the Christian view.)  This is a point both Mormons and Christians need to keep clearly in mind when talking with each other.

02
Feb
12

Blessings from the Fall?

This Sunday, the Gospel Doctrine classes throughout the LDS Church will be studying the first two chapters of 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  Among other things, these chapters contain the basis for Mormonism’s teaching that great blessings resulted from Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.  The key verses are 2 Nephi 2:22-25.

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.  23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.  24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

I will just highlight a few things from these verses that reveal just how differently Mormonism looks at the fall.  In verse 23 it said that they would not have fallen into sin, they would have had no children.  Gospel Principles states, in regard to this verse:  “When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal.  In this state, ‘they would have no children’ (2 Nephi 2:23).” (p. 28). It expands the definition of “mortal” to include the inability to have children – something no dictionary I know of includes.  Along those lines is this interesting comment made in the LDS Bible Dictionary.  “Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood.” (p.670). None of this, however, is supported by the Bible.

Also in verse 23 it said that if they would have stayed in their state of innocence they would have no joy.  Really?  They lived in paradise – they were perfectly created by God – they had unhindered communion with God – and they had no joy?  They also, according to verse 23, were “doing no good”.  Again, really?

Probably the most widely quoted verse in this section is verse 25.  “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”  This is how Gospel Principles explains this.  “Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their Fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us.  Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life.  None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.” (p.29)

This then is just another in a long string of examples illustrating how vastly different Mormonism is from Christianity. There is no Christian church that teaches any of the above.  There is no Christian church that talks about blessings – great blessings – stemming from the fall.  They don’t do that because that is not what the Bible says.  Throughout the Bible, Adam’s and Eve’s fall into sin is described as a great tragedy.  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Period.

But thank God that he didn’t stop there.  “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”  (Romans 5:18)  Thank God that he sent Jesus to be obedient and righteous for us.  The fall didn’t bring joy.  It only brought sin, sorrow, and death.  Jesus is the one who brought us joy and eternal life.

Seeing the fall for what it really was – a tremendous tragedy – helps us appreciate Jesus and what he did for us all the more.

04
Aug
11

GODHOOD IS NOT AN OUTDATED LDS DOCTRINE

 

Over the years, numerous Mormons have told me I was wrong when I stated that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, while a smaller number of Mormons have said that I was correct.  This lack of agreement is understandable because this doctrine has been downplayed in recent years.  Just one example of that is the change made in Gospel Principles, the basic manual of the LDS Church.

The 1979 edition states:   “We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 290).  In contrast, the 2009 edition states:  “We can become like our Heavenly Father.  This is exaltation.”  (p. 275).  Both, however, just a few sentences later, talking about those who are exalted, say:  “They will become gods.” That sentence alone indicates that present-day Mormonism still teaches this doctrine.

But, as I have stated, it is not mentioned nearly as much as it used to be.  Therefore, I was surprised to see a reference to it in the current (August 2011) issue of the Ensign, the monthly magazine published by the LDS Church.  Elder L. Tom Perry, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles, has a lengthy quote from Spencer W. Kimball, a past prophet of the LDS Church.  In reference to Peter and John, Kimball wrote:  “Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creations of worlds with eternal increase.” (p. 51)  Not only does President Kimball talk about their becoming gods but also refers to the LDS doctrine that part of godhood is the creation of new worlds which they then will populate “with eternal increase” or, in other words, with their own spirit children.

I have a couple of reasons for highlighting this quote.  The most obvious reason is as proof that the idea of people becoming gods is still a teaching of Mormonism – a fact that should be both known by Christians and acknowledged by Mormons.  (By the way, even some Mormons have told me that it bothers them that many of their fellow Mormons don’t acknowledge this or do so reluctantly.)

But another reason I am citing this quote is to offer another example of how Mormonism focuses the attention on people and not on Christ.  According to Kimball, it was Peter and John’s own righteousness that opened the door to godhood for them.  According to the Bible, however, it’s all about Christ’s righteousness.  In fact it says our righteousnesses are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

I, for one, am so comforted by the fact that my standing before God and my eternal destiny doesn’t depend on what I do or how good I am, but rests entirely on what Jesus has done for me and his perfect righteousness.  As Paul states, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)  That also is my desire.  To Jesus, not to myself, be all the glory.

20
Sep
10

Catch the Wave

     In one of the latest issues of Sports Illustrated there’s an article about a group of surfers who travel around the Pacific in pursuit of the big waves.  They have a sophisticated website that tracks the storms and predicts where the big waves will hit.  They effectively network with each other about travel plans.  Everything in their lives revolves around their surfing those big waves.  It’s obvious that this is their purpose in life.

     What is the purpose of life?  That’s a question LDS missionaries like to ask people.  It’s a great question.  But it’s one that a lot of people often haven’t given much thought to. I have seen many people respond to it with a blank stare as they figuratively (and sometimes literally!) scratch their heads.

     What’s the purpose of life?  Mormonism’s answer is that this mortal life is a time of testing – a time to progress and prove our worthiness.  For example, the LDS manual, Gospel Principles states: “Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time.  He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that He has.  To do this, we needed to leave our premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. . .If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our Heavenly Father has received.”  (p. 10-11)

     So what has all this to do with those surfers?  Just a day or so after reading that article, I was studying John 1.  Verse 17, talking about Jesus, says:  “And of his fulness have all we received, grace for grace.”  I immediately thought about that article which described how the waves would come one right after another.  That is exactly what John is here describing about Jesus.  He sends one wave after another, not of testing, but of grace.  His grace is like the ocean. We can never plumb its depths. Paul wrote:  “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  (Romans 5:20)  God’s grace is like an endless series of waves washing over us.

     What’s my purpose in life?  To catch and keep on riding the waves of God’s grace.  It is my goal to be propelled through life by the power of his grace, his love which caused him to save me freely – which continues to wash over me daily.  But I don’t want to keep this to myself.  Just like those surfers, I want others to experience the exhilaration of riding those waves.  I want others to have the wonderment of knowing that even though they have failed the test = Jesus has passed it for them – that where their sins abounded, God’s grace is there in much greater abundance.  Catch and ride the wave of God’s grace.  It’s the greatest ride in the world.

05
Jan
10

The New Gospel Principles Manual

 

     One of the things that have been discussed repeatedly on this blog has been the question of what are considered authoritative sources for current Mormon teaching.  Whenever this topic is raised, quite a bit of disagreement has been expressed.  One area of contention has been over what weight should be assigned to official church manuals.  How authoritative are they?

     That is why I was interested to see an article in the January 2010 Ensign carrying the same title as the title of this post.  I became even more interested when I saw that it was written by one of the LDS apostles, Russell M. Nelson.  That itself lends quite a bit of credibility to the article.

     Following are a couple of things that I found interesting.  In answer to the question of why the change in curriculum, Nelson writes:  “Since we first began using Teachings, millions of people have joined the Church.  Many of them have tender testimonies and with relatively limited experience in the Church, will benefit greatly by a focus on the fundamentals of the gospel.  In addition, all Church members will benefit b a return to the basics.  A careful study of core doctrines as presented in the new and improved Gospel Principles manual will help members strengthen their understanding of the fundamental teachings of the gospel.”

     And then under the conclusion entitled “A Timeless Book” he writes, “It is our hope that the new Gospel Principles manual will take a prominent place in the homes and lives of all Latter-day Saints.”

     As the word Principles in the title implies, as Nelson states, this is a manual about core and fundamental LDS teachings.  LDS teaching involves more than what is presented in Gospel Principles.  But wouldn’t you agree that Nelson, in his role as an apostle, presents this manual as a true and authoritative source of the fundamentals of LDS teaching?  And that it is only right and proper for non-Mormons to look to it to see what Mormonism teaches?  And that such non-Mormon observers of Mormonism have, at the very least, a good reason to become befuddled when individual Mormons disavow or dismiss quotations from Gospel Principles as not authoritative of Mormonism?  And isn’t it legitimate to ask why changes are made in each edition of Gospel Principles – changes that are not just cosmetic or made for easier readability – but changes that affect the sense of what is being presented?

31
Oct
09

JUDGMENT DAY

     A couple of my favorite Bible passages are Psalm 103: 12 (“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”) and Micah 5: 19 (“thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”)  I am so comforted by the fact that when God forgives sin, he forgets them.   (And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:18)

     We see this also in Jesus’ picture of the Judgment as it is recorded in Matthew 25.  He doesn’t mention one sin on the part of the sheep whereas all he mentions about the goats is their sins.  When God forgives, he forgets.

     How much different is the message of Mormonism!  More than one Mormon have told me that they were taught that, on Judgment Day, they would be sitting in a large room where everything they thought, said, and did was flashed on a giant screen for all to see.  They all shared that with a sense of dread and not anticipation.  I don’t know if that is how it is always taught but this is what Gospel Principles says:  “Stored in our body and mind is a complete history of everything we have done.  President John Taylor taught this truth:  ‘[The individual] himself tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. . .That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who sit as judges.”  (p. 271)

     Because of what Jesus has done, because he paid for all my sins, and drowned them in the depths of the sea, I can’t wait for Judgment Day.  It will be the best day of my life.  For then I will hear Jesus himself saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)   To Jesus be the glory

27
Oct
09

The Sin of Trying

     I recently ran across an interesting statement.  “Sin is not just breaking the law but imagining you can keep it.”  Wasn’t that the problem with the Pharisees?  If anybody “kept” the law it was them. They defined it so carefully that they determined things like how many steps a person could walk on the Sabbath before it constituted work.  They were obsessed with keeping the law.

     Therefore it surprises a lot of people to see that Jesus reserved his harshest rhetoric for them. This even startled Jesus’ disciples.  “Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?”  (Matthew 15:12)  Jesus responded by describing the Pharisees as the blind leading the blind. 

     They were blind because they didn’t see the deadly folly of imagining that they could keep the law.  This also holds true for Mormonism.  Here are just a few examples from the first few chapters of Gospel Principles

            “By keeping His commandments we can become like Him.”  P. 6

            “Obey all His commandments as best we can (see John 14:21-23).” P 7

            “He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments.” P.13

            “As we obey each of our Father’s commandments, we grow in wisdom and strength of character.”  P. 19

            “If we keep His commandments and make right choices, we will learn and understand.  We will become like Him.  (See D&C 93:28).”

     Paul, as he states in Philippians 3, was one of the most zealous of all Pharisees.  He describes himself this way:  “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (v. 6)  He then says all that he now considers dung.  He continues: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (v.9)

     The righteousness that is acceptable to God is not any righteousness cultivated by man.  The only righteousness that God accepts is Christ’s righteousness – the righteousness we make our own by giving up on our works and trusting only in Jesus’ works.  That is what Paul discovered.  That is what, I pray, many LDS people will discover.




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