Posts Tagged ‘gospel


The True Gospel

Chapter 12 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith is the first of three chapters encouraging LDS members in their missionary activities.  As is stated, this chapter “focuses on the reasons we share the gospel”.

Although these words are not directly used in this chapter, the reason for sharing the gospel is the belief that the LDS Church is the only true church.  For example, Jose L. Alonso, one of its General Authority, stated at last October’s General Conference, “I bear witness that President Thomas S. Monson is Their prophet and that this is the only true Church upon the face of the earth.”  Chapter 12 reflects that by saying that the only persons who possess divine authority are in the LDS Church.

The other reason why Mormonism teaches it is important to do mission work is because it feels it is the only one that has the true gospel.  For example, President Smith states, in reference to pastors: “These good men, not understanding the gospel and the necessity for the ordinances of the same, confine their teachings very largely to moral lessons and to reading the psalms to their congregations. Isolated passages of scripture are chosen as texts for addresses on virtue, honesty, etc., all of which are helpful and uplifting, but few sermons are preached explaining the requirements made of every soul before we can enter the kingdom of heaven. It is this information of which the world is most in need. Few ministers have a message for their congregations that inspires in them the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the necessity of partaking of the ordinances of the gospel prescribed by him.”  I find it interesting that he sees most sermons largely as moral lessons and not as pointing to the wonderful things Jesus has done for us.

But what is most important to see is how Mormons define gospel differently than the Bible does.  The gospel, according to the Bible, is simply the good news that Jesus, as our substitute, lived a perfect life for us, died a sacrificial death for us, and solely on the basis of that, God sees us as worthy and perfect in his sight.  But when the LDS Church talks about the fulness of the Gospel it means much more.  “In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.” (True to the Faith, p. 76)  As that quote shows, included in the LDS gospel are many things that humans are to do.  That is emphasized in chapter 12 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith when he states:  “My understanding is that the most important mission that I have in this life is: first, to keep the commandments of God, as they have been taught to me; and next, to teach them to my Father’s children who do not understand them.”  Note how when he talks about his most important mission he mentions nothing about teaching what Jesus did for him.

Sometimes Mormons wonder why Christians react so adversely to the teachings of Mormonism. This is one example.  What Mormonism calls the fulness of the gospel I see as a terrible corruption and complete destruction of the true gospel.  The true gospel is from first to last about what Jesus has done for us.  Any mention of what I have to do in order to be accepted by God is not gospel, good news.  Instead of relieving me, such things burden me.  Instead of inspiring confidence, they introduce doubt as I wonder if I have done everything I need to do to be worthy.  But most importantly of all, they rob Jesus of the glory of doing everything for me.  “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)  Being accepted by God through grace – that is the true gospel.  And praising God for it is the most important mission of all!


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.



       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.


Definition of Gospel


     In my last posts I looked at a couple of passages that are very popular with Christians, Ephesians 2:8-9 and John 3:16.  Those posts reveal the need to define the word, “gospel” since, for example, I said that many consider John 3:16 as the gospel in a nutshell.  I have repeatedly said that Mormons and Christians use the same words, but often define them differently.  This is one reason why they so often end up talking past each other.

     “Gospel” is one such word.  Christians define gospel as the good news that Jesus came to take our place – to live a perfect life for us and to die for all our sins.  That’s not just good news – that’s the best news!  The gospel reassures us that eternal life with Heavenly Father is his precious gift to us.  To Christians, gospel is the message of salvation.

     But that is not how Mormonism defines gospel.  It equates the gospel with the teachings of Mormonism including all of its requirements.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, says:  “The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.  The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”  And a few sentences later says:  “In its fullness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.”

     Can you see the confusion this creates?  When the word gospel is used, Christians think only of Christ’s work and the salvation achieved by it.  When Mormons hear the word gospel, they think of the Atonement plus. . .  (Fill in the blank from the above quote.)  They think of the plan of salvation rather than salvation itself. 

     As Christians and Mormons converse with each other, it is important that they correctly hear each other.  One way that can be achieved is paying careful attention to each other’s definition.

July 2022

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