Posts Tagged ‘grace



11
Jun
12

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!

24
Jan
12

JOYFULLY PAYING OFF THE DEBT

One of the greatest feelings in the world is making your final house payment!  That calls for celebration!

But imagine the following scenario.  A couple has a large balloon payment tacked onto their mortgage.  For years they have been salting away extra money for it.  Finally the day arrives to make that payment.  They eagerly go to the bank.  They are grinning ear to ear as they lay their money down on the banker’s desk.  But as he examines it, he begins to frown.  After further examination he informs them that all their money is counterfeit.  Not only are they still in debt, but the time to pay off that debt has now expired.  They are ruined!

That is what will happen to people on Judgment Day – to people who – in any way – rely on their own works to get to heaven.  Salvation rests entirely on Jesus’ payment for sin.  All those who mix in their works with Jesus’ work are adding nothing but counterfeit money – worthless money that causes them to default on their debt.

This is why Mormonism is so dangerous.  It does talk about salvation by grace, but it denies the teaching of salvation by grace alone.  We see that even in the LDS author who speaks the most about grace, Robert L. Millet.  He wrote a book entitled Grace Works.  His whole premise is, as the back cover of the book quotes him as saying, “We have an obligation to cooperate with God in the salvation of our souls. While the ultimate power of change is in Christ, we can do our part and choose to be changed.”

But the Bible says God’s grace and man’s works don’t mix when it comes to salvation.  “And if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.”  (Romans 11:6)  It’s like the scenario above.  It doesn’t matter what percentage of the mortgage is paid by counterfeit money.  As long as any of it is paid with counterfeit money, the couple is still in debt.  As long as a person is relying on what he does to be saved – no matter what percentage of his salvation he attributes to his efforts – he is still in debt and thus in deep trouble.  Talking about grace is not enough.  The issue is all about salvation by grace alone.

10
Nov
11

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”?

15
Aug
11

ONE WAY OF COMPARING MORMONISM AND THE BIBLE

There are many different ways Mormonism and the Bible can be compared.  One way is looking at how each describes the size of the gap between God and humans and then how that gap is bridged.

Very briefly, Mormonism makes that a relatively small gap.  It does that in two ways.  First it teaches about a God whom humans can understand.  The God of Mormonism was once a man, is now an exalted man, limited by a body – not omnipresence, omniscient, etc.   Secondly, Mormonism has a high view of humans.  We were God’s spirit children; sometimes referred to as gods in embryo.  We have the divine potential to become gods ourselves.  Both of these factors, a God that once was a man and humans that become gods, create a gap between God and humans that is not that great.

The Bible teaches something totally different.  It describes a God that is far beyond human comprehension.  He has no beginning and no end.  He is omnipresence, omniscient, omnipotent, etc.  His very nature of three distinct persons but one being boggles our minds.  Secondly, the Bible speaks in stark terms about the devastation sin has wrought on the human race.  It describes people as blinded by sin, dead in sin, enemies of God.  It says that, “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)  The result is that the Bible pictures the gap between God and humans as huge.

All this is foundational to the main and pressing question of how this gap can be bridged. Mormonism teaches that bridging this gap depends on the efforts of both God and man – something that it says is possible because the gap is not that big.  “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”  (2 Nephi 25:23)  This doesn’t even describe a picture of two parties meeting half-way.  Rather this describes humans taking the initiative, doing all they can, expending all their effort to bridge the gap – and then, only after they have exhausted all their resources, does God get involved and help out.

Again the Bible teaches something totally different.  Because the gap between God and man is so huge, it takes divine initiative and divine effort to bridge.  Not only that, but humans couldn’t do anything because they were dead in sin, “they have together become worthless.”  Therefore God did it all.  Jesus came not as a teacher or example to show people what they had to do to save themselves.  Rather he came as a substitute to do it all for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly and gave us the credit for it.  He died a horrible death as payment for our sins.  He didn’t wait until we had expended all our effort – he didn’t meet us halfway – he came all the way to us and did everything to bridge the gap.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

To sum it up:  Mormonism puts much of the burden of bridging the gap on humans.  The Bible gives God all the credit for completely bridging the gap himself.  To God be all praise and glory.

21
Jul
11

Amazing Grace

 

Very few words have only one meaning.  That is apparent in any dictionary as most words have a number of meanings listed for them.  Therefore the context in which it is used is vitally important in determining its proper meaning.  Nowhere is this more important than in reading the Bible.

Take the word grace.  When it is used in the context of salvation, it refers to an attribute of God – his unconditional love.  This is the love Jesus spoke about in John 3:16.  This is the love Paul referred to in Romans 5, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’  What is pertinent to our discussion is that the Bible says, when it comes to salvation, grace and works don’t mix.  “And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work.”  (Romans 11:6)

Mormonism defines grace differently. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, says:  “The word grace, as used in the scriptures refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The LDS Bible Dictionary uses almost the exact same wording.  A couple of other excerpts from it:  “This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”  Nowhere do either of these two sources mention the idea that grace is God’s unconditional love for mankind.

One reason I am pointing this out is to highlight the fact that when Christians and Mormons talk about grace, most of the time they will be thinking of two different things.  If there is going to be any meaningful discussion between the two, this fact needs to be acknowledged.  Christians will need to remember that when most Mormons hear the word grace they will be thinking of an enabling power given them.  Mormons will need to remember that most Christians will be thinking of God’s love shown them in giving them salvation totally and freely on the basis of what Jesus did.

The second reason for doing this is so that I can bear my testimony about this amazing grace.  I know that God has accepted Jesus’ payment for my sins and I don’t have to add anything to it.  I know that I am going to spend eternity in celestial glory in God’s eternal family, in God’s presence, solely on the basis of what Jesus has done.  To him be all glory!

13
Jul
11

Why witness to Mormons?

I recently listened to a man speaking about the importance of eating correctly and exercising regularly. He talked about how important this was – even for those in the audience who appeared quite physically fit.  For example, there was one young man who ran half marathons but who admitted he didn’t watch his diet that closely.  The speaker said that he too should take the talk to heart because the inside of his body might not be looking as good as the outside.

That is just an example of two things that were very evident.  1) The speaker took being in good health very seriously and 2) he was concerned for everybody in the room.  Some might not have bought into the extremely strong emphasis he put on correct eating and exercising, but nobody denied that he thought that these were very important issues.

What does this have to do with witnessing to Mormons?  Just like people have many different motivations for speaking on good health, so there are many different motivations for witnessing to Mormons.  I can only speak for myself.  The reason I witness to Mormons is because I believe that the teachings of Mormonism pose a grave, eternal danger to people – that Mormonism isn’t a path leading to life with heavenly Father but one that leads people to outer darkness.  I write this with the full realization that many don’t agree with me – that this infuriates many people.  But I don’t say that to upset people – I say that in spite of the fact that I know it will upset people.  I say that because I am totally convinced that people need to be warned.  In fact, I feel that if I didn’t do this, I would be unloving.  Not warning people about a danger you know is approaching is nothing less than criminal.  It was obvious that the above-mentioned speaker felt that way about physical health.  That is how I feel about spiritual health.

Again let me repeat that I know many of you don’t agree with my assessment of the dangers of Mormonism.  Disagreeing with my assessment is one thing.  But if this is what I truly believe – and I’m telling you this is what I truly believe – then at least respect my motivation.  But attributing wrong motives to me or calling my character into question don’t do that.  To be honest, I think that says more about the person making the comment than it does me.

Why do I witness to Mormons?  Because Mormonism, in many ways, states that people, to some degree, have to contribute to living with heavenly Father.  One example:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ 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.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)   The Bible, however, teaches that it is all by God’s grace and that grace and works don’t mix.  “And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more works.”  (Romans 11:6)  To God – and God alone – be all praise and glory.

16
Dec
10

CHRIST CAME AND TOOK THE PRESSURE OFF

     Five seconds are left in the basketball game.  It’s not any game either – it’s the championship.  Your team is down by one point.  Your coach calls time out, looks down the bench to where you are sitting and motions you to check into the game.  As you pass him, he pulls you aside and tells you to take the last shot.  “We are counting on you.  It’s all up to you.”

     Talk about pressure.  Especially if you have sat on the bench the entire game to that point.  Few people would enjoy being in that situation.  Few people would succeed in that situation.

     But that is the position a lot of Mormons feel that they are in.  I know that because many of them have shared that with me.  I realize that it is inaccurate to say that Mormonism teaches that people are saved by their works alone.  No, it talks about God’s grace.  But it doesn’t teach that people are saved by grace alone.  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)

     Pause for a moment and think of the tremendous pressure that exerts on many Mormons.  Imagine trying to live under that.  Even if we think that we have to contribute only 1% to our salvation – that opens the door to a whole lot of worry.  It’s like the sub coming off the bench being told that he has to make only one basket, the winning basket.  But with one big difference.  The pressure Mormonism places on many of its adherents doesn’t last just for a few moments – it’s there for an entire lifetime.

     How much better is the biblical message of Titus 3:4-7:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  There’s no work – and no pressure.

     God saved us, not by our works, but according to his mercy.  He saved us by sending Jesus to do everything for us.  That is why Christmas is such a joyous time. May you experience joy and relief this Christmas knowing that Jesus came and took all the pressure off.




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