Posts Tagged ‘Mormonism

08
Jan
14

The Sobering Truth about Outer Darkness

According to Mormonism, only the worse of the worst will go to outer darkness.  “Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness, which is the dwelling place of the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition.” (True to the Faith, p. 81)  Mormonism designates only a relatively small handful of people as sons of perdition thus reserving outer darkness for only a few.

But is that biblical?  In that regard, Jesus’ parable of the wedding guests recorded in Matthew 22:1-13 is especially pertinent since the man without the wedding garment is cast into outer darkness (v.13).  In fact, Jesus’ whole purpose for telling this parable was to warn against that fate.  Therefore it is only fitting to see why that man was cast out.

And it was because he refused to accept the gift of a wedding garment!  That the wedding garment was something given to him, and not something he himself owned or purchased, is evident both from the culture of the day and also the words of the parable themselves.  Note that Jesus is talking about the wedding of a king’s son (v.2).  In the culture of the day, when princes married, the king provided the wedding garments for all attendees.  We can be confident that this was well-known to Jesus’ original listeners.

That this was the case is also seen from the parable itself.  “So those servants went into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests” (v.10).  Obviously these people who were gathered neither had the time, and probably most neither had the means, to provide their own wedding garments.  They came directly from the highways and the byways.  Especially interesting is that the servants didn’t just gather the good people either.  They gathered “both bad and good”.

The sobering truth about outer darkness is that it is not reserved for just a few.  It will be the destination for all who don’t accept the king’s great gift of salvation.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  I have asked many members of the LDS Church whether or not eternal life is a gift or a reward.  Without hesitation, they say that it is a reward.  In saying that, they are faithfully echoing LDS teaching.

But that is so tragic.  Refusing the king’s gift infuriates him.  Look at his reaction. “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away; and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13). You can just see the king’s red face and blazing eyes as he gives this order.  How dare anybody refuse his gift!  In a similar manner, everybody who tries to provide for their own salvation or even thinks that they have to contribute to their own salvation, will experience the same reaction when they meet their Maker.

Eternal salvation and life are God’s gifts to us.  They were purchased with the precious blood of his Son.  The only God-pleasing reaction is to eagerly accept them and profusely thank him for them.  My prayer is that many more Mormons will do just that.

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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.

14
Nov
13

Perfect or Becoming Perfect?

Over the years, one of the Bible passages I have repeatedly returned to is Matthew 5:48.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  I have talked about it so much because Mormonism talks about it so much.  We see it again in one of the first talks given in the recent General Conference.  Elder Ulisses Soares cites it in his talk entitled, “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart.” After quoting it, he continues by saying, “If we ‘come unto Christ, . . .deny (ourselves) of all ungodliness; .  . .and love God,’ then through Christ’s grace the day will come when we may be perfect in Him.”

First of all, note the conditions he cites for becoming perfect especially the condition of “denying ourselves of all ungodliness”.  It’s not just denying some ungodliness but all ungodliness. This must happen before Christ’s grace becomes active – note the “then”.  This agrees with one of the steps of LDS repentance, namely, the forsaking of sin.  In either case, whether you talk about denying all ungodliness or forsaking sin, an awful lot has to be done by the person.  It is like the Book of Mormon says:  “We know it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”

Besides noting those conditions, note the uncertainty of when this happens. “The day will come when we may be perfect in Him.”  Again that depends mainly on the person.  A little bit later in his talk, Elder Soares quotes President Snow.  “It is our duty to try to be perfect. . .to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.” According to Mormonism, you can’t know when you will be perfect.

In striking contrast is the message of the Bible.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”  Instead of talking about the day that will come sometime in the future, it talks about the day that has already come.  And instead of talking about conditions people have to fulfill, it talks about what Jesus has already done for us with his one offering.  Through the offering of Christ on the cross on that one day close to 2,000 years ago, believers are perfected.  It is a done deal.  Or as Jesus himself said, “It is finished”.

What the Bible says and what Mormonism teaches is in striking contrast.  Mormonism talks a lot about what people must do in order to be perfect and acceptable to God.  The Bible talks a lot about the fact that perfection and acceptance depends not partially, but entirely, on what Jesus did for us.  Mormonism speaks of eternal life as a reward.  The Bible describes it as God’s gift to us.

It is my prayer that LDS members simply read the Bible as a child would and see the great things God has done for them.  “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.” (Titus 3:5).  To God be all the glory!

24
Oct
13

Worry is a Big Deal

Some friends of mine have been visiting regularly with a couple of sister missionaries from the LDS Church.  They got onto the topic of sin and my friends pointed to Luke 12:22 and shared how worry is a sin.  (The LDS Bible footnotes this verse by saying that the phrase “take no thought” means “don’t worry”.) One of the sisters replied that if worry was a sin, she was in big trouble!

I knew Mormonism didn’t talk much about worry but I never really explored that more.  So I checked the manual True to the Faith which lists many topics.  Not listed.  Same result with their Bible Dictionary.  Interestingly the Topical Guide said to see “fearful” – which gives it a somewhat different connotation.  I then went to lds.org and typed in the question, “Is worry a sin?”  Some results came up but none of them pertained to the question.  In other words, I couldn’t find any LDS source that labeled worry a sin.

But it is.  Just like Jesus told us not to do many other things, he told us not to worry.  And when you stop and think about it, it is quite apparent why worry is sinful.  It exhibits lack of trust.  As someone once said, worry is a form of atheism.  Whenever you worry, you are calling God less than trustworthy.

But let’s go back to what the sister said.  “If worry is a sin, she is in big trouble.”  That’s absolutely correct.  In God’s sight, worry is as damnable a sin as any other – each and every sin, regardless of how we view it, is a capital crime.  There are no misdemeanors in God’s set of laws.  Neither are there simple felonies.  Each and every sin is a capital crime.  “For whosever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  One sin –regardless of what it is – makes us “guilty of all”.

And that is why we can do nothing to earn our acquittal.  Because we can’t keep ourselves from sinning.  We concentrate on not worrying only to find ourselves falling into pride, or jealousy, or anger or what have you.  Trying to keep ourselves from sinning is like playing a game of whack a mole on a football field!  When we whack one sin, another pops up – and then another and another . . . There is no way that we can even begin to keep ourselves from sinning.

That’s devastating news because sin is so serious. And God wants us to feel devastated by our sins.  Because then, and only then, will we realize how desperately we need somebody to save us. Before we can truly see our Savior, we need to clearly see our sins.  And that is why Mormonism’s tendency to not call sin a sin is so dangerous.  (Another example of that is the explanation that Peter never sinned when he denied knowing Jesus since Jesus earlier had told his disciples to tell no man who he was!)  The less you see the extent and seriousness of your sins, the less desperate you are for a Savior.

Worrying is a big deal.  As is jealousy, pride, selfishness, lust, greed, anger, laziness, harmful words, and a boatload of other things.  The only thing that can atone for them is the pure, unadulterated blood of Jesus.  To him be all praise and glory.

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.

27
Sep
13

Radiation Suit

(This is a reprint of a post I did a few years ago.)

One way that I like to picture God’s holiness is as strong radiation.  His holiness constantly is radiating out from him.  By its very nature, it destroys anything imperfect with which it comes into contact.

That is why, in order to enter God’s presence, we can’t have the slightest imperfection.  Otherwise we will be destroyed.  But how can we do that?  By being clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  “he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”  (Isaiah 61:10)  Or, in keeping with the illustration, by wearing the radiation suit made by and given by Jesus.

But just suppose that Jesus has given me that radiation suit but I had been working hard on making my own.  I realize that Jesus’ suit is vastly superior so I put it on.  But I have worked so hard on my own suit that I decide to use just one glove from it.  So I substitute the glove I made for the one Jesus supplied.  I walk into God’s presence only to be destroyed by his holiness.  My glove couldn’t protect me from the radiation of his holiness because it wasn’t perfect – it was flawed.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

The point is that no matter how little we are relying on ourselves – maybe I just replace one finger on one glove – that little bit of reliance on self becomes a fatal flaw.  Even the tiniest flaw in a radiation suit spells disaster.  Neither does it matter what my motivation is for slightly relying on myself.  It could be prideful reluctance to give up what we worked so hard doing – it could be the thought that this is what God wants.  It doesn’t matter – if we are relying even, very slightly, on what we have to do in order to stand in God’s presence, we have a flawed radiation suit – and we will be destroyed.

That is why Mormonism is so dangerous.  It points people not only to Jesus but also to themselves.  For example, its 3rd Article of Faith states:  “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”  Since we sin so much, our obedience isn’t perfect.  Therefore the only thing our imperfect obedience does is make our suit flawed.  And a flawed suit is a formula for disaster.

 

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.

 




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