Posts Tagged ‘Latter Day Saints



30
Apr
13

Plural Marriage

Over the years I have rarely talked about polygamy (or, as the LDS Church calls it, plural marriage) either on this blog or in conversations with LDS members.  There are a couple of reasons why I have often refrained from mentioning it.  The first is that I often talk about what is being currently taught in the LDS Church and plural marriage is rarely mentioned in that context.  More importantly, however, I haven’t talked about it much because I strive to stick to the most important subjects such as our worthiness in Christ and how, because of him, we can be assured that we will live forever with Heavenly Father.

But I have decided to talk about it today because an upcoming lesson in the LDS Church is about family relationships.  Chapter 9 of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow is entitled “Sacred Family Relationships”.  What I found interesting is that it begins with a description of a reunion of his large family that he initiated in 1884.  But no mention is made of the fact that he had more than one wife.  This omission is especially striking since he would be imprisoned for practicing plural marriage less than two years after that event.  But neither in that description nor in the whole chapter is there even a whiff of the fact that he was a polygamist.  (To be fair, the book does mention that fact very briefly in the introductory history that precedes the chapters.  But it has also been my experience, since no lessons are based on that history, very few church members read it.)

This avoidance of the subject of plural marriage is common. A striking example of such avoidance involved a couple of friends who toured the Beehive House in Salt Lake City last summer.  The Beehive House is a large house where numerous of Brigham Young’s wives lived.  But that was not mentioned by the tour guides. My friends repeatedly tried to politely raise that issue but each time the tour guides changed the subject.  This coincides with how it is described on lds.org. “The Beehive House was built between 1853 and 1855 and served as home to Brigham Young when he was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and governor of the Utah Territory

This avoidance of the subject of plural marriage helps explain why some LDS members aren’t even aware that it is part of their history or doctrine.  (The doctrine of plural marriage is enshrined in LDS Scripture in D&C 132.)  Many non-Mormons are astonished by such ignorance and often conclude that their LDS friend is just not being honest.  I’m sure that is sometimes the case, but I also know LDS members who truly did not know about this facet of their religion.  Don’t automatically assume your LDS friends are being disingenuous if they express ignorance about polygamy.

I would also like to hear, from my LDS readers, your thoughts on plural marriage.  Do you believe that men will be able to have more than one wife in eternity?  Is that part of what you think of when you think of having an eternal family?  What about those men who were sealed to multiple women? Let me know your thoughts.

14
Mar
13

Be or Become?

This coming Sunday LDS members will be studying chapter six of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow.  This chapter is entitled:  “Becoming Perfect before the Lord: ‘A Little Better Day by Day’”.  In the first part of the chapter two biblical verses are quoted.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.” [Genesis 17:1.]

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48.]

It then goes on to state:  “We learn that the Lord appeared to Abraham and made him very great promises, and that before he was prepared to receive them a certain requirement was made of him, that he [Abraham] should become perfect before the Lord. And the same requirement was made by the Savior of his Disciples, that they should become perfect, even as He and His Father in Heaven were perfect.” (p.95)

Did you notice the subtle change made from the verses to President Snow’s explanations?  Both verses use the word “be”.  But they are both explained with the phrase, “should become perfect”.  That is a subtle but huge change.  There’s a big difference between being and becoming.  Who would you go to if you were sick?  A person who is a doctor or who someday might become a doctor?  The idea of becoming inserts a degree of uncertainty – there’s no guarantee that the goal will be ever reached.  It also introduces the reality that the person isn’t yet there – and we don’t know when they will be there.  There’s a huge difference between being and becoming.

God commands perfection now – not sometime in the future.  A perfection that is equal to the perfection of our Father in heaven.  Who can meet such a requirement?

People who are trusting completely in Jesus’ works can!  That’s what the Bible says.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrew 10:14).  When a person despairs of his own efforts and places all their trust in Jesus’ efforts, they are covered with his righteousness (perfection).  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Cor. 1:31)

But they are the only ones who can.  Everybody else is not perfect and thus won’t be able to enter God’s presence – for God cannot abide any imperfection.  And that is why Mormonism is such a deadly religion.  As this chapter amply illustrates, it doesn’t point people to Jesus’ perfection for them, instead it incessantly urges people to become perfect themselves.  Even when it does talk about Jesus, it does so in a way that puts the burden back on the person.  “Our hearts should be set on things above; to strive after that perfection which was in Christ Jesus, who was perfectly obedient in all things unto the Father, and so obtained His great exaltation and became a pattern unto His brethren.” (p. 102, my emphasis) Urging people to become perfect is nothing less than a recipe for disaster.

It is not about becoming perfect.  It’s all about being perfect right now in Christ.  That is the only way anybody will ever come into God’s presence.  It is my prayer that more and more people see that – and believe that.

22
Feb
13

Becoming a God

Over the years I have repeatedly discussed with LDS members Mormonism’s teaching about persons being able to become a god.  The reactions have been varied.  Some readily admit that this is LDS teaching and they wholeheartedly accept it.  Most, however, try to qualify it and downplay it.  They have done this in two different ways.

The first is by saying that Mormonism teaches that they can become like God.  They claim that even though LDS Scripture clearly says that people can become gods.  The classic passage is D&C 132:20:  “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power and the angels are subject to them.”

That passage clearly states, in a number of different ways, that people can become gods.  And over the years many LDS leaders have pointed to this passage to teach this doctrine.  That, I feel, is proof enough that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, or that when it talks about becoming like god – that is what it means.

The other way that Mormons have sometimes tried to downplay this teaching is saying that they would never become a capital G God.  Instead they say that they would be small g gods, thus implying a difference between the two.  But again, the question is: Is that what Mormonism teaches?  In the student manual on the Pearl of Great Price, a manual in current use, we find this quote:  “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.” (p. 4)  Note especially the use of the capital G – “evolving into a God”.

This quote is notable for two reasons.  One is that it is used in an official LDS Church manual.  Although all Mormons do not agree on the weight that such manuals carry, the LDS Church has repeatedly said that church manuals carry a lot of weight.  They state that they present the official teaching of the church.  That is only to be expected.  The normal practice is to consider official anything that is officially published by an organization.  It would be, for example, the silliest of arguments if an NFL player argued that the rulebook published by the NFL did not represent the official rules of the NFL and thus what he did wasn’t against NFL policy.

But this quote is significant for another reason as well.  It was given by the First Presidency of the LDS.  The First Presidency is the prophet and his two counselors.  It is the most authoritative body in the LDS Church.  Even though it was given in 1909 it is still pertinent as evidenced by it being quoted in a manual published in 2000.  Without a doubt we can say that Mormonism teaches that people can become a God.

Why am I making such a big point of this?  One is because it is denied by many LDS members today and thus it needs to be stressed to get an accurate picture of Mormonism.  Two is because it is another demonstration of the great gap that exists between Mormonism and the Bible.  But most importantly of all, I am pointing this out to illustrate the stark difference between the comfort given by Mormonism and the Bible.  Look again at that quote.  “Through ages and aeons” it says they evolve into a God.  That reminds me of one LDS man telling me that it would take him 10,000 eternities to become a god.

Compare that to the wonderful comfort the Bible gives.  As soon as believers die, they enter the mind-boggling bliss of God’s presence.  Instantaneously all pain and sorrow is replaced with perfect peace and joy.  There are no eternities of evolving and work.  Instead, instantaneously, there is absolute perfection and wonderful glory.

And the best part of it all is that Jesus accomplished all this for us.  He did everything to make us acceptable to God.  In him, right now, we are perfect and worthy in God’s sight.  This heavenly bliss is his gift to us.  To him, and to him alone, be all praise and glory!

18
Jan
13

Forsaking Sin

Chapter two of the Teachings of Lorenzo Snow deals with baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The following paragraph occurs towards the end of this chapter.

     “To obtain religion that will save us in the presence of God, we must obtain the Holy Ghost, and in order to obtain the Holy Ghost, we must believe on the Lord Jesus, then repent of our sins, that is, forsake them, then go forward and be immersed in water for the remission of sins, then receive the laying on of hands.” (emphasis mine)

In Mormonism, as is clearly stated in this paragraph, repentance involves the forsaking of sins.  In fact, as President Snow says above, it is the very essence of LDS repentance as he makes forsaking sin synonymous with repentance. Another word that is often used in Mormonism to express this idea is abandonment.  Repentance means abandoning sin.

Forsaking and abandon are two very strong words.  Most marriage vows include the idea of forsaking all others.  We talk about abandoning ships when they are sinking. Even more serious is the idea of people abandoning their children.  Whatever the context is that they are used in, forsake or abandon carry the idea of permanency.  Woe to the spouse who interprets “forsaking all others” as doing that just most of the time.

That is also how repentance was explained to me a number of years ago by a member of the local stake presidency.  He told me that if he repented of a sin, but then committed that sin a couple of years later – his repetition of the sin revealed that he wasn’t truly repentant the first time and thus was not forgiven for either sin.

Recently, however, some LDS members have weakened the meaning of abandon and forsake by saying that if they repeat the sin they just have to repent again.  Whenever they say something like that I ask them how that jives both with official LDS teaching and the meaning of the words abandon and forsake.

I totally understand why they are weakening the meaning of these words.  Abandoning sin is an impossible standard for anybody to keep.  (Although I have had some LDS members tell me that they believe some LDS people have already achieved that.)

That is why the message of the Bible is so comforting.  The Bible clearly acknowledges our inability to rid ourselves of sin.  St. Paul’s confession:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19) is one I so identify with.  An honest evaluation of each day reveals many instances of sin on my part.  No matter how much I try, I can’t keep myself clean.

That in itself is not comforting.  But what is extremely comforting is the biblical message, that because we can’t do it, Jesus did it all for us.  He obeyed each and every commandment perfectly and he did that for us.  He paid the terrible price of each and every one of our sins.  He has washed all our sins away and has clothed us in his perfect righteousness.  The message that screams off the pages of Scripture is that it is not all about us – it’s all about Jesus.  And thank God for that.  Because of Jesus, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will live forever with Heavenly Father.

Because of Jesus, you can have that same confidence.  Turn away from trusting in your works and turn to trusting in Jesus’ works for you.  That, my friends, is what true repentance is all about.

20
Dec
12

The Significance of Pants

A couple of weeks ago a movement started among some LDS women to wear pants to church last Sunday. This movement gained quite a bit of attention in the blogging world in the days leading up to Sunday.  Since then even media outlets like the New York Times have commented on it.  More than one person has asked me if this is a sign of change in the LDS Church.

(It is only fair to note that the LDS Church has never officially adopted a policy that women can’t wear pants to church.  But, as is evident by how much ink has been spilled talking about, it is also fair to say that LDS culture has made this pretty much a taboo.)

Whether or not this signals a strong movement for women having a more prominent role in the LDS Church, including the attaining of the priesthood, no one knows.  I, for one, don’t think it does.  But it is impossible to predict what small event will trigger significant change.  Only time will tell.

But what is significant about all this is how this clearly illustrates how a “rules mindset” dominates Mormonism.  Non-Mormons are regularly taken aback at how many rules and regulations populate Mormonism. Furthermore they are surprised when their LDS friends don’t even recognize that because they have become so accustomed to it.

Most significantly of all, this rules mentality carries over into Mormonism’s teachings on salvation.  From the step by step process of repentance to the checklist for becoming temple worthy Mormonism focuses people on rules they have to keep in order to be acceptable to God.  Yes, Mormonism does mention Jesus’ atonement but when you step back and look at the whole picture, it usually does that only in passing.  What Mormonism emphasizes are the laws people must keep.

Mormonism instills a rules mentality in people and directs people to what they have to do.  The Bible instills a grace mentality in people and directs people to what God has done for them.  They are complete opposites.

It is my prayer that many more Mormons will simply read the Bible and take to heart its amazing message of God’s grace for all people.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but boldly share this amazing message with their Mormon friends and family.

 

06
Feb
12

Testimony of Jesus Christ

This coming Sunday, in Relief Society and priesthood quorum meetings, Mormons will pick up their study of the teachings of President George Albert Smith with chapter three.  (For the past three weeks they have been studying other material in these meetings.)  Chapter Three is entitled “Our Testimony of Jesus Christ” with the sub-title, “The restored gospel gives Latter-day Saints additional witnesses that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The sub-title is instructive because it already indicates the main focus of Mormonism’s testimony about Jesus.  It places the highlight on his divinity – on the fact that he is the Son of God.  This emphasis carries through chapter three.  Repeatedly it underlines the fact of his divinity.

I think it is very important that both Mormons and Christians are aware of this emphasis.  Being sensitive to this emphasis can help both understand why many Christians say that the LDS don’t believe in Jesus.  (The chapter begins by acknowledging that fact.)  The problem is that what Christians mean when they say that they believe in Christ differs from what Mormons mean by that.

It is true that both describe Jesus as the Son of God.  But they don’t mean the same thing with that statement.  A key passage for Christians is John 5:23:  “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”  These words of Jesus nicely summarize the biblical teaching that the Son is to receive the same honor as the Father receives. That is the force of the words “even as” in that passage.  It means “just as”.  The Son is to have equal honor with the Father.

This is something Mormonism doesn’t teach.  Admittedly, this is often not apparent.  But it is there.  I don’t know how many Mormons, over the years, have explained the Bible passages that talk about one God by saying that there is only one God for this world, namely, Heavenly Father.  Thus they do not see Jesus as the God of this world.  Otherwise, according to their interpretation and line of thinking, there would be two Gods over this world.

In this regard read carefully Mormonism’s first article of faith.  “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”  Who is called God in that sentence?  That it treats the Father and the Son differently is also brought out ever so subtly in how Mormonism describes worship.  Again read carefully this sentence from True to the Faith.  “As you reverently partake of the sacrament and attend the temple, you remember and worship your Heavenly Father and express your gratitude for His Son, Jesus Christ.” (p. 188)

Or how about prayer?  “Your Heavenly Father loves you and knows your needs, and He wants you to communicate with Him through prayer.  Pray to Him and no one else.” (True to the Faith, p.118)  “Prayer is a sincere, heartfelt talk with our Heavenly Father.  We should pray to God and to no one else.” (Gospel Principles, p. 35)  Over the years, Mormons have responded that they pray to the Father through Jesus, in his name. But that is different than praying to Jesus.  It is not giving Jesus equal honor.

In short, what Mormonism means when it calls Jesus the Son of God and what Christians mean when they call Jesus the Son of God are worlds apart.  Christians call Jesus God and not just the Son of God.  Christians worship Jesus as their God.  Christians pray to Jesus as their God.  Christians give Jesus equal honor with the Father.

Mormonism doesn’t.  Therefore we feel that it falls under the verdict of the second half of John 5:23.  After talking about giving the Son equal honor, Jesus said:  “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”

19
Jan
12

Many Plain and Precious Things

Just a word of explanation to those of you who are not LDS.  I didn’t blog this week on the next lesson on the teachings of George Albert Smith because it will not be studied this week in the LDS church.  They only study it on the 2nd and 3rd Sundays of each month.  On other Sundays there is a little more flexibility on what they will study in Relief Society and priesthood quorum meetings.  For example, for this coming Sunday they will be studying one of the General Conference talks from last October – which specific one is decided on by the local leaders.

But each Sunday, in their Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine classes, they will be studying the Book of Mormon.  The focus this Sunday is on 1 Nephi 12 – 14.  This is the section that repeatedly states that “the great and abominable church” has removed “many plain and precious things” from the Bible.

One interesting note has been how the interpretation of the “great and abominable church” has changed over the years.  Years ago, when I first started witnessing to Mormons, it was not uncommon for them to identify it as the Catholic church of the Middle Ages.  This, however, is not how the teacher’s guide for this course interprets it.  It says:  “Emphasize that the great and abominable church is a symbol of apostasy in all its forms.  It is a representation of all false doctrine, false worship, and irreligious attitudes.  It does not represent any specific church in the world today.” (p. 18)

Much more important is the Book of Mormon’s claim that many plain and precious things were taken away from the Bible.  How should we react to that?  We could bring in evidence from the scholarly discipline known as textual criticism to show how faithfully the Bible was passed down from generation to generation.  Especially pertinent is the fact that the vast majority of variants between the various ancient biblical manuscripts consist of additions to the text rather than subtractions from the text.  But, to be honest, even though Christians see textual criticism strongly supporting the faithful transmission of the Bible, in my experience, its findings don’t seem to faze most Mormons.

I think the same can be said for the comparison between the wealth of archaeological evidence supporting the Bible and the dearth of such evidence supporting the Book of Mormon.  Yes, this concerns some Mormons but not that many.  Many haven’t thought about it, and when it is pointed out to them, many shrug it off as unimportant.

The bottom line is that, even though there is strong evidence of the faithful transmission of the Bible, it is still a matter of faith that we believe that today’s Bible faithfully represents the original.  As it is a matter of faith for Mormons to believe that many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible.  Because of that, I feel that it is more productive to talk about how the book of Mormon does not complement the Bible, but rather contradicts it.

I realize that many Mormons will vehemently protest that last statement.  But for them to say that it doesn’t contradict the Bible would be similar to me saying that my beliefs complement and don’t contradict Mormonism, even while I reject many of Mormonism’s beliefs.  How many of them would sit still as I proclaimed, “I am a Mormon, even though I don’t think Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that the LDS Church was the only true church, or that heaven doesn’t consist of three kingdoms of glory”?  Similarly, we can’t sit still when the Book of Mormon is referred to as another testament of Jesus Christ even though it states that we are saved by grace after all we can do, or that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a blessing, that there was a great apostasy from 100 AD through 1800 AD (Teacher’s guide, p. 16) and on and on.

The messages of the two books are different!  I am so thankful that the Bible tells me that I am saved solely by grace, without works rather than “after all I can do”.  I am so thankful that it promises that there will always be believers and thus the church on earth until Christ returns.  I am even thankful that it shows just what a tragedy the Fall was because that highlights for me that I was spiritually dead and thus my utter inability to please God and my dire need of Jesus doing it all for me.

It is my hope and prayer that many Mormons will stop and think and see the drastic differences between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.  And that they will listen to the Bible rather than the Book of Mormon.




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