Posts Tagged ‘Mormons

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.

04
Nov
13

The Lesson from the Rich Young Man

Chapter 14 of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow talks about Mormonism’s teaching that “God will add His strength to our efforts” and thus nothing is impossible. In that connection he spends a few paragraphs talking about the story of the rich young man recorded in Matthew 19.

“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”  (Matthew 19)

I find this reference to this story interesting.  Again the whole point of the chapter is that “with God all things are possible”.  But that is not what Jesus told the young man!  He doesn’t even hint at God helping the young man.  There is no mention of grace whatsoever.  All he talks about is keeping the commandments.  If Mormons want to point to these words as a template for gaining eternal life (as many of them do) then they had better not mention grace at all – because Jesus doesn’t.  Here Jesus says it’s 100% – not 50%, not 25%, not 1% – but 100% about keeping the commandments.

That is God’s consistent answer to the question:  “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  If the question is about what a person needs to do, then God’s answer is you have to do everything.  You have to perfectly keep all the commandments.  If that is the question, then grace is not part of the answer.

That, my friends, is a sobering answer.  It is one that can easily lead to despair.  And that is God’s exact intent!  He wants people to despair – of their own goodness and efforts.  That is what Jesus wanted to accomplish with the young man – he wanted the young man to throw up his hands at the impossibility of doing this.  He wanted that because only people who realize that they are in deep trouble look to him for rescue.

Suppose, for a moment, that there was a person who had to get across the ocean but didn’t realize how big it was.  He was a good swimmer so he thought he could swim across.  He was convinced that he could do it, even after many told him he couldn’t.  Finally they urge him to get into the water and start swimming.  They do that for the express purpose of proving to him that he will fail – so that he won’t try when nobody will be around to save him.

Jesus was doing a similar thing with this young man.  He wanted to impress upon him the impossibility of his keeping all the commandments.  Thus no mention of grace.  Contrary to what Mormonism teaches salvation is not a both/and proposition.  It is not both by grace and works.  It is an either/or proposition.  Either by grace or by works.  It’s one or the other.  Not both/and.  The story of the young man, contrary to what many Mormons state, does not support the both/and proposition, but the either/or one.  This is an important point to remember when this story is being discussed.

Even more important to see – and believe – is that our salvation depends 100% on what Jesus did and 0% on what we do.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  To God and God alone be all the glory!

30
Aug
13

One Consequence of Mormonism’s Small God

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man” (Joseph Smith, quoted in The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, p. 325).  One of Mormonism’s basic tenets is that God and human beings are basically the same.  God is just more advanced in his progression.  He was once a man.  He still has a physical body.  Because of that, he is limited to being in one place.  He has a spouse (or spouses).  We are his literal spirit children. We too can become gods.  We differ from him – not in kind – but in degree.

In striking contrast the Bible describes God as differing from us, not in degree, but in kind.  He is an entirely different Being from us.  He never was a man.  From all eternity he existed as the one and only God and that is how he will exist throughout eternity.  He is so different from us that we can’t even fathom his triune nature: that he is one God consisting of three distinct persons.  He is in a class solely by himself.  He and he alone is God. The God of Mormonism is pretty small in comparison.

This has many consequences.  The one that I would like to address here is how this impacts a Mormon’s view of sin.  Most Mormons don’t see just how serious sin is or how serious the consequences of sinning are.  They struggle to see the damning nature of sin – how one sin makes them guilty of all (James 2:10).  Many are blind to how sin makes even their righteousness nothing but filthy rags (Is. 64:6).

One reason for that, I feel, stems from their view of God.  When they sin it isn’t that serious, because God is like them – just greater in degree.  It’s like punching your older brother.  But when Christians sin, they realize how serious that is because God is so great – because he is different from us not just in degree but in kind.  It’s more like punching the President of the United States.  Same action as punching an older brother, but the consequences are so much more severe because the person is so different.  As someone once said, “Sin is so serious because of who we sin against.”

That is why we can’t contribute anything to our salvation.  If we try to add anything to Jesus’ works for us, all we accomplish is ruining his masterpiece of grace.  Sin is that potent.  Sin is that serious.  It’s that serious because God is that great.

Before we can clearly see the Savior, we need to clearly see our sin. I encourage you to make clear to your LDS friends how serious sin really is.  Show them how big God really is.  Show them how his greatness emphasizes sin’s seriousness.  Show them their sin and then show them the greatness of their Savior.

22
Aug
13

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?

A thoughtful answer to that question has to go beyond the common response that it is indeed Christ-centered because it has Jesus Christ in its name.  That is like saying Dr. J of past basketball fame was a doctor because he had doctor in his name.  To truly answer that question one needs to examine what Mormonism truly focuses on.

Since the LDS Church publishes an extensive number of official manuals and makes many public pronouncements there is a wealth of material to examine.  Over the years, in past posts, I have cited many such manuals and pronouncements.  Today, however, I’m examining a manual I have never before referred to.  It is the official church manual for teaching nursery (ages 1 ½ to 2).  I recently picked it up because often seeing what a church teaches its very young is quite revealing of what it is emphasizing. To put it simply, we teach our young the basics of our faith.

So what does this manual reveal?  The thing that immediately jumps out from the table of contents is how many lessons begin with “I”.  “I Will Be Thankful”, “I Will Love Others”, I Will Obey” to name a few.

Further examination shows that this emphasis on the child and what he is to do carries through the whole manual even in the lessons that don’t begin with an “I”.   One example of that is the lesson entitled, “Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others”. In that lesson they are taught a little song called “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”.   The teacher is to share with them a few stories of how Jesus helped others and after each story the children are to say:  “Jesus showed us how to love others”.  Even though Jesus is mentioned in this lesson, what is stressed is their trying to be like Jesus.

The other thing that is striking about this manual is how little it talks about Jesus.  In all thirty lessons I could not find a single suggestion that the teacher should talk about the fact that Jesus has saved them.  Take, for example, the song taught in the lesson, “Heavenly Father Has a Plan for Me”.

I am a child of God

And he has sent me here

He has given me an earthly home

With parents kind and dear.

 

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me

Help me find the way.

Teach me all that I must do

To live with him someday.

Now some might be thinking that since this is a manual for teaching very small children big doctrinal issues have no place in it.  But that is not the case.  It talks about pre-existence, that Heavenly Father has a body, that the Holy Ghost speaks to them, Joseph Smith’s first vision, the importance of a living prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and so on.  It even has a lesson on the priesthood.  But it doesn’t tell them much about Jesus.  And, as I mentioned above, it never once even briefly touches on the fact that he saved us. Instead, for example, in the lesson on Christmas they are taught this song:

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?

He sent His Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.

 

How could the Father show the pathway we should go?

He sent His Son to walk with men on earth, that we many know.

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?  An examination of the basics that they teach their children says a definite no.  When he is talked about at all, it is exclusively as an example.  The teaching of Jesus as the Savior is conspicuous by its absence.

That is why it is so important for Christians to make use of every opportunity to share a Christ-centered message with Mormons -a message that centers on Christ, not as our example, but as our Savior.  That is what being Christ-centered is all about.

 

 

 

13
Jun
13

A Different Perspective

Sometimes it’s easy to show the difference between Mormonism and Christianity.  But sometimes the difference is more subtle.  Sometimes it’s not so much what is said but more the perspective taken and the emphasis made.

An example of what I’m talking about is in the talk given by President Henry B. Eyring at the last General Conference.  In his talk entitled, “Come unto Me” he states:  “I experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments.”  That statement serves as a good summary of his entire talk.  It is all about our being obedient and devoted.

Now it’s true that we can feel closer to Jesus through obedience.  We all know how sin separates us from God.  But look again at President Eyring’s statement.  He says that he most often feels closer to Jesus through obedience. I don’t know how many Christians identify with that.  I know I don’t.

What makes me feel close to Jesus?  It’s when I am overwhelmed once again by his love for me – a love that I don’t deserve or merit.  When I think about what he all did for me – all his blood, sweat, and tears that he expended to save me, that is what makes me feel closer to him.  Or when I once again experience my loving Father blessing me even though I didn’t merit it – that’s when I feel close to God.  In short, what makes me feel close to God is seeing what he has done and continues to do for me – not what I do for him.

But President Eyring mentions none of that.  For me, his silence speaks volumes about the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.

12
Apr
13

We were created to extinguish suns?

More than once I have talked about Mormonism’s teaching that people can become Gods.  I have done that because quite a few LDS members have told me that is not what it teaches.  Instead many say they won’t become a god, but they will become like God.  Others have said that only Heavenly Father is a capital G God.

Therefore whenever I run across a statement in LDS literature that states that they can become Gods I sit up and take notice.  That happened again last week as I was reading the LDS Church’s currently used manual on the Pearl of Great Price.  On page 38 it contains the following quote from Brigham Young.

“It is brought together, organized, and capacitated to receive knowledge and intelligence, to be enthroned in glory, to be made angels, Gods – beings who will hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds, or to extinguish suns by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This is what you and I are created for.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that extremely striking. It is obvious from quotes like this that Mormonism teaches that people can become Gods.

I also find this extremely dishonoring to God.  Look at how Brigham Young puts people on the same level as the one true God.  Just like him, they can by the power of their word, create, redeem, and destroy worlds.

The God of the Bible, the one true God, is not just God of planet earth.  He is the God of the universe.  He and he alone created everything in the universe.  He and he alone has the power to extinguish suns and destroy the universe. Most importantly of all, he alone redeems people.  And he did that, not by giving people the plan and power to attain his favor, but by sending Jesus to do it all for us.  His plan of salvation is glorious – because it is worked completely by him.

The God of the Bible is so much more glorious than the god(s) of Mormonism.  May many Mormons come to see that and glorify him for 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!




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