Posts Tagged ‘Latter Day Saints

21
Dec
13

Jesus’ Mission

One of the many things I love about Christmas is its simple message that God so loved the world that he deployed his Son to be our Savior.  In these days before Christmas, I find myself repeatedly rejoicing over the fact that Jesus saved me by doing it all for me.  The Son of God became flesh as our substitute, taking all our sins on himself and paying for them with his death – and also living that perfect life that we can’t – and then freely giving us all that perfection (righteousness) that he had accumulated.    Christmas is all about the sending of a Rescuer – a thought that has been stressed over and over again this Christmas Season in my church.

That’s why an article in the January issue of the Ensign (the LDS Church’s official magazine) which recently arrived in the mail stopped me in my tracks.  It is entitled, “The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Exemplar”. Following is the entire article.

“As we understand that Jesus Christ is our example in all things, we can increase our desire to follow Him. The scriptures are full of encouragement for us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To the Nephites, Christ said, “For the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). To Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

“Today our leaders remind us to set the Savior as our example. Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, said, “When each of us has the doctrine of the Atonement written deep in our hearts, then we will begin to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be.”

“President Thomas S. Monson said, “Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Exemplar and our strength.”

Let us resolve to draw near to Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments, and to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, the Bible does, at times, point to Jesus as our example.  But that is not what it emphasizes.  And that surely is not what it says his divine mission was!  His mission was to save us, not by being an example and showing us what we need to do, but by actually doing it all for us.  “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)  Jesus came to redeem us – to buy us back.  And that is what he did.  To use a simple analogy, he didn’t save us when we were drowning by showing us how to swim.  No, he jumped into our world as a lifeguard and rescued us.

But notice there is nothing about that in this article, notwithstanding the brief mention of the Atonement.  The whole article is about following Jesus’ example “to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”  And what is so sad about this is that this is the visiting teaching message for January.  That means that this is the lesson LDS women are to teach each other as they fulfill their duties as visiting teachers.  Throughout Mormonism this will be the emphasis of those visits.

How tragic – for a couple of reasons.  One is that this will just increase the heavy weight many LDS women are feeling already.  Following in Jesus’ footsteps is an impossible task!  And secondly, such a message dishonors our Savior tremendously.  It doesn’t glorify him as the one, who at tremendous cost, saved us. It puts all the focus on what they are to do, not what he has done for them.

It is my prayer that this Christmas more Christians lovingly and clearly share with Mormons the tremendous news that Jesus, our Savior who has done everything for us, has been born.  Furthermore I pray that the Holy Ghost will open the eyes of many LDS to see this wonderful truth.

In Jesus, our Savior, have a wonderful Christmas.

10
Oct
13

Living in a State of Glory

One of the pamphlets LDS missionaries hand out is entitled, “The Plan of Salvation”.  As it title indicates, it summarizes Mormonism’s plan of salvation. Interestingly, when it deals with eternity, it only mentions the LDS three kingdoms of glory.  There is no mention of hell or outer darkness.  Rather it states:  “After you are judged, you will live in a state of glory.  Because everyone’s works and desires vary, heaven includes different kingdoms, or degrees of glory.” (p.14)

Note, as that states, the kingdoms are all part of heaven.  With that in mind listen to whom, according to Mormonism, inhabits the telestial kingdom, the lowest kingdom in heaven.  “Those who continue in their sins and do not repent will receive a place in the telestial kingdom.”

Did you catch that?  People who continue in their sins – people who don’t repent – will be in heaven! By making that claim and then by reinforcing it with no mention whatsoever of hell, this pamphlet removes all urgency to believe in Jesus.  Instead it flatly says to all who read it:  “After you are judged, you will live in a state of glory.”  According to this pamphlet, which is designed to introduce Mormonism’s plan of salvation to interested people, sin has no eternal consequences.

What a deadly message that is.  That is far deadlier than telling someone that arsenic won’t kill them or that cancer isn’t serious.  Think of the lawsuits that would fly if a doctor would be so foolish to make such claims.

But arsenic and cancer can only kill people physically.  Sin kills people eternally.  Any and all sin.  Jesus made this point when he said, “but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”  (Mt. 5:22) Because sin can result in people suffering the eternal fires of hell, it is far, far worse to diminish sin’s consequences than it is to diminish the effects of poison or cancer.

And if you diminish sin’s effect, then you greatly lessen people’s desire to be saved.  Again think of poison.  If you thought it would only make you mildly sick, you wouldn’t be desperate to receive an antidote.  So also with sin.  If, no matter what, “you will live in a state of glory”, why be so concerned about Jesus?  As one LDS missionary recently told one of my friends, going to the telestial kingdom is like being invited to a beach party instead of a formal dinner.  What’s so bad about that?

The sobering truth is that there are two sides to eternity:  heaven and hell.  Even more sobering is the fact that there will be many people who will spend their eternity in hell.  “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matthew 7:13)  Jesus is clear.  We all won’t live in a state of glory.  That’s difficult to hear.  But that’s essential to know.

There is only one way to escape sin’s eternal consequences.  And that is by fleeing to Jesus and trusting only in what he has done.  Friends, see the seriousness of sin – all sin.  And then abandon all trust in what you do and trust only in what he has done for you.  Then, and only then, will you live in a state of glory for all eternity.

18
Sep
13

“The Not Even Once Club” – Really?

The Not Even Once Club is the title of a new children’s book published and promoted by Deseret Books.  It is written by Wendy Nelson, wife of one of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church.  The cover sleeve states that she was a professor of marriage and family therapy for 25 years.  In addition, she has held a number of prominent positions in the LDS Church including chairing the BYU Women’s Conference.  In other words, she is a highly credentialed LDS author.

So what is this book about?  The cover sleeve says:  “The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them.  Not even once.”  Really????  Yes, that is really what it is about.

One of the most tragic of its many fatal flaws is the failure of the LDS Church to understand the main reason why God gave us the commandments.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin”.  The commandments are God’s tool to show us our sins!  He knows that we need to see our sinfulness before we will see our need for a Savior.  A man doesn’t yell for help until he realizes he’s drowning.  Likewise people don’t yell for a Savior until they see they are drowning in sin.  The commandments show us how much we sin – they show us that we are drowning in sin.  The last thing the Lord intended when he gave the commandments was for people to create “Not Even Once Clubs”.

The Not Even Once Club is tragically true to its name in one way.  Not once is Jesus or God mentioned. That probably shouldn’t be surprising seeing that its whole premise is that children can keep the commandments perfectly.  It’s not surprising but it is sad.

I can see this book becoming very popular.  It is attractively done: very colorful and well-illustrated.  It is written by a prominent Mormon.  You can download free posters that reinforce its message.  I can envision those posters hanging in many a child’s room.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about “Not Even Once Clubs” springing up in LDS neighborhoods.

But just stop and think about the effect that all this can have on the 3 to 7 year old children that this book is intended for.  It could easily implant and reinforce the possibility of perfectionism and all its attendant pressures and problems.  Along with that it could produce a large self-righteous streak that will grow stronger and stronger as the children grow up.  Or else it could drive children to despair when they recognize that they sinned and broke the promise of the “Not Even Once Club”.

Already with small children, it is so much better to honestly talk about how they sin and their need for a Savior.  Already with small children, it is so much better to focus them on the fact that Jesus not even once sinned – and that he freely gives them his perfection.  Already with small children, it is vital to focus them on how Jesus has cleansed them from their sins rather than encouraging them to think that they can remain clean themselves. Jesus, and not themselves, is what children also need to focus on. It’s all about Jesus.

 

12
Aug
13

The Only Way to Eternal Happiness

When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Note how exclusively Jesus speaks.  He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way.  And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.

Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way.  No, it’s all about him.  Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence.  As Paul wrote to Titus:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not 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; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)

Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference.  “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father.  His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis).  That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said.  Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way.  Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times.   But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!

Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”.  Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings:  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)  Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!

His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us.  Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments.  But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness.  Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence.  To him be all glory.

07
Aug
13

Crushing Expectations

The following quote is from a LDS manual for young people interested in going on a mission.  It is from a chapter about conversion.   It quotes President Marion G. Romney in saying:  “In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 85, my emphasis)  Note how he not only says those who are wholly converted won’t have any more desire to sin but he also continues by talking about how this will be seen in their actions – by a determination to keep the commandments.

According to that statement, St. Paul wasn’t wholly converted. He famously confessed, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . .For the good that I would I do not:  but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:15,19) Over the years, Paul’s confession has given many believers great comfort.  It reassures them that becoming a believer doesn’t mean that they will be able to keep the commandments – no matter how strong their desire is to please God.  They won’t be able to also do the good that they want to do!   “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

That fact, however, doesn’t drive believers to despair.  Rather it drives them to Jesus.  That is why Paul concluded with the simple statement:  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 7: 24-25)  Our inability to refrain from sinning is a vivid reminder that the only way we will be able to stand worthily before Heavenly Father is when we solely on Jesus’ perfection for us.  If we continue with an “and” – if we try to add any of our own righteousness we spoil and ruin the whole thing.  How many of us would buy a new car that has a scratch on it?  How many brides would buy a wedding gown with a spot on it?  When it comes to being worthy to enter his presence, God demands perfection:  no spots or blemishes.  Nothing less will do.

But sole reliance on Jesus is not what Mormonism teaches.  2 Nephi 25:23 says that we are saved by grace “after all we can do”.  This is how one LDS manual explains that:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ 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.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Later on it states:  “Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life (see Alma 11:36-37).  Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins (see Helaman 5:10-11).  To receive this blessing, you must exercise your faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.’ (p. 152)

The Bible clearly shows that we will inevitably sin.  Mormonism flatly contradicts that.  And in doing so, it puts people under the crushing pressure of becoming worthy to be in Heavenly Father’s presence.  But not only that.  By stressing what people have to do, they are ruining the masterpiece of salvation by grace alone.  This will result in the Lord, not welcoming them into his presence, but driving them out of his presence.

It is my prayer that many more LDS people will see that and rely totally and completely on Jesus’ work for them.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but firmly share their truth with their LDS friends and family.  There is no more liberating truth than  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)

22
Jul
13

Who talks about Jesus more?

Mormons often point to the fact that Jesus Christ is part of their church’s name as proof that they are Christians.  But what struck me again last month as I was going door to door in Salt Lake City and talking with many LDS members is how much they didn’t want to talk about Jesus.  We came to the door with the message of the great things Jesus has done for us; namely, that we were assured that we were worthy in God’s sight because of what he has done and that we knew we were forgiven through him.  Almost invariably the person at the door would respond by saying that a person had a responsibility to obey the commandments and do good works.  We wanted to talk about what Jesus had done and they wanted to talk about what they had to do.

I have only attended a few sacrament meetings, but I have noticed the same thing there.  In all the meetings I attended there was much more talk about what they had to do than what Jesus did for them.  All my friends who at one time were LDS verify that.  To a person they say that in their individual wards the emphasis was always on what they had to do.

I see the same thing in the LDS manuals.  For example, Jesus’ atonement is frequently mentioned but hardly ever emphasized.  Most often it is used as a launching pad to lay out in great detail what works people need to add to the Atonement.

The bottom line is that it’s not just what is in a church’s name.  It’s what a church teaches.  It’s what a church emphasizes.  And every contact I have with Mormonism, whether it is talking with its members or reading its manuals or attending its services, demonstrates that it puts the spotlight not on the great things Jesus has done for us but on the things people have to do.

I am so thankful that the Lord has said that I can be assured that I am worthy and forgiven right now because of Jesus.  I am so thankful that the Lord has reassured me that I will be living with him for all eternity because Jesus has already done everything necessary for me to enter his presence.  This free gift of worthiness and forgiveness now impels me all the more to do all I can to glorify him in my life and with my lips.  To him be all praise and glory.

08
May
13

Salvation

The following statement is made in the LDS student manual on the Pearl of Great Price:  The Prophet Joseph Smith said: ‘To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded’” (p. 71). This is just another in an abundance of statements that demonstrate that Mormonism teaches a salvation that is based in large measure on works.  Especially note how Joseph Smith emphasizes that a person has do everything God has commanded.

That agrees with the following statement from the LDS manual, True to the Faith.  “Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life (see Alma 11:36-37).  Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins (see Helaman 5:10-11). To receive this blessing, you must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.” (p. 151-152)

Note how this quote emphasizes that salvation does not rest on faith alone.  In fact it flatly rejects that idea.  Instead it emphasizes that you can’t be saved and still sin – you can’t be saved in your sins; rather you have to forsake sin.  Taken together, these two quotes demonstrate that it is correct to say that the salvation Mormonism teaches is one that rests, to a large extent, on a person’s work.

I feel the need to stress that because LDS members frequently have objected when I have said that.  They respond by pointing to how Mormonism stresses the importance of Christ’s atonement.  Again quoting from True to the Faith: “Without the Atonement, spiritual and temporal death would place an impassable barrier between us and God” (p. 15).  Yes, Mormonism does say that without Christ’s atonement we would have no hope.  But it is also true, as the quotes above show, that Mormonism teaches that a biggest part of being saved rests squarely on our shoulders.

Talk about pressure!  Even making ourselves responsible for a little bit of our salvation can easily be unbearable.  It’s like the pressure of being placed into the basketball game to make the last game-winning basket.  All you have to do is make one basket.  But how many times haven’t we seen players fold under the pressure and clank the shot off the rim.  When it comes to salvation, however, the stakes are much higher – the stakes are nothing less than either spending eternity with Heavenly Father in heaven or with Lucifer in outer darkness.

But that’s only the half of it.  The Bible clearly states that we don’t have the capability to do anything to save ourselves.  That is why, when the subject is our eternal salvation, the only person’s works it points to are Jesus.  ‘But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not 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; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Salvation is entirely God’s work.  We contribute nothing to it.  He did it all.  Seeing and believing that not only brings tremendous relief and comfort to us, it also gives God the glory and honor he so richly deserves. Find relief.  Praise God.  Do that by believing that salvation is God’s gift to you.




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