Posts Tagged ‘True to the Faith

31
May
12

Conversion

Lesson 22 of the Gospel Doctrines Class covers Alma chapters 5-7 in the Book of Mormon. It emphasizes the “mighty change” of heart that Mormonism labels conversion.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, points to Mosiah 5:2 to describe what that mighty change involves. “The Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, … has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

It also refers to 4 Nephi 1,2,15-1: “the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. … And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people…And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God…There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.”  As this quote emphasizes, LDS conversion involves more than no more having a disposition to do evil, but also entails the actual refraining from evil.

There are two other aspects of conversion, as defined by Mormonism, that can be emphasized.  One is that it is “a process, not an event” (True to the Faith, p. 41) and secondly, “you have primary responsibility for your own conversion” (p.43).  “Your capacity to experience a mighty change of heart will increase as you strive to follow the Savior’s perfect example.  Study the scriptures, pray in faith, keep the commandments, and seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.” (p.43)

Compare that to the most famous conversion described in the Bible.  It’s Paul’s conversion recorded in Acts 9.  Does it fit the criteria above?  Was Paul striving to be converted?  Did Paul have the primary responsibility for his own conversion?  Was he striving to follow the Savior’s perfect example?  The answer is no to all the above.  He was persecuting Christians.  The last thing he had in mind was to convert to Christianity!  How about after his conversion?  Did he refrain from all evil?  No.  He had a sharp contention with his co-worker, Barnabas (Acts 15:39).  He lamented how he could not do the good he wanted to do, but instead did evil (Romans 7).  He, an apostle, had not achieved what Mormonism lays out for its members.  Furthermore, Paul says his conversion is a pattern for others (1 Timothy 1:16).

This then serves as another in a long line illustrating how Mormonism defines terms differently than the Bible does.  In the Bible, conversion is an act of God as so aptly illustrated in Paul’s conversion.  He is the one who makes us spiritually alive when we were spiritually dead.  He is the one who spiritually enlightens us when we were spiritually blind.  And in the Bible, conversion is a turning away from trust in one’s own worthiness and works to trust in Jesus’ worthiness and works for you.  Converted people still sin. But they also know that they are forgiven instantaneously in Christ.  Instead of undergoing a long painful process of repentance to obtain forgiveness, converted people praise God and rejoice in the forgiveness that is already theirs in Christ.  Unlike how it is portrayed in Mormonism, conversion in the Bible doesn’t focus people on themselves and their efforts, but on the amazing love and effort of God.  Also when it comes to conversion the following applies.  “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

 

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23
Feb
10

The Sin of Not Rejoicing

 

     “Rejoice in the Lord alway:  and again I say, Rejoice.”  (Philippians 4:4)  Here we are commanded to rejoice always.  That means that when we are not rejoicing, we are not doing what God commands.  We are sinning. 

     That’s not a sin we talk about very much.  In fact, some people might think that I’m being extreme in calling it a sin.  But this is clearly a command.  And sin is breaking one of God’s commands. If you didn’t know God told you to rejoice always, you do now.  Therefore James 4:17 applies every time we aren’t rejoicing:  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

     When you think about it, it’s understandable why this is a sin.  God has so richly blessed us!  For us not to rejoice is like a child who has everything pouting because one of his toys broke. 

     I don’t know about you, but there’s many a time I’m not rejoicing.  Sometimes it takes only one little cloud in the sky to make me feel overcast.  No matter how much I fight it, I often find it easier to complain than to rejoice.

     This once again demonstrates to me how impossible it is for me to forsake this or any sin.  There is no way that I can do what True to the Faith says in its discussion of repentance.  “Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression.  When you keep this commitment you will never experience the pain of that sin again.” 

     Rather than trying to maintain a permanent resolve never again to repeat the sin of not rejoicing – something that is beyond my ability, I’m going to rather maintain the confidence that God forgives me freely through Jesus.  And you what?  That gets me closer to rejoicing always more than anything else.

15
Jul
09

Is Sin Only a Willful Act?

 

     One of the things I have noticed in my reading of the Ensign and the LDS Church Manuals is that they use often words like mistakes, bad choices, etc. for things the Bible labels sinful.  In True to the Faith, a manual recommended by the First Presidency of the LDS Church as a companion to scripture study, under the heading sin it reads:  “When we willfully disobey God’s commandments, we commit sin.  We also commit sin when we fail to act righteously despite our knowledge of the truth (see James 4:17).”

     Is sin really only a willful disobedience of God’s commandments?  In the majority of the world’s society, morality has been on the decline with the result that more and more people have a weakened sense of right and wrong.  Does this mean that Islamic suicide bombers aren’t sinning especially if they see their actions as following God’s will?  Does this mean that if a person doesn’t know that God commands us to lead chaste lives that he or she isn’t sinning by being unchaste?  

     The Bible doesn’t limit sin just to willful disobedience.  Take Jesus’ prayer as he was being nailed to the cross:  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  He would not have had to pray that if sin was limited to willfully disobeying God’s commandments.  Especially sobering is this passage:  “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23).

     Neither does the Bible limit sin only to our actions.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly talked about the sinfulness of thoughts.  One example:  “But I say unto you, That whsoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in her heart.”  (Matthew 5:28)  And we see this not just in the Sermon on the Mount.  The Bible repeatedly talks about evil thoughts, about sinful lusts, etc.

     But True to the Faith. mentions none of this under the heading sin.  In that, it is quite representative of LDS teaching.  Mormonism drastically diminishes sin.

     It is vitally important for people to see the extent of their sinfulness.  The more limited and restricted people’s view of sin is, the less desperation they will feel for a Savior.  On the other hand, the more accurate their knowledge is of how of how much they do sin, the more they will be inclined to despair of their works and trust solely in Jesus’ work for them.  That is what I am doing.

20
Nov
08

Outer Darkness and Hell

 

      When witnessing to Mormons, it’s helpful to remember another distinction that Mormonism makes, namely the distinction between outer darkness and hell.  The manual True to the Faith states: “Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways.  First it is another name for spirit prison.”  That makes hell temporary for almost everybody. Even those who do not accept Mormonism while they are in spirit prison will go to the lowest kingdom of heaven.  “Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory.”

     It goes on to say, “Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness.”  Outer darkness consists of permanent punishment but only a few people will go there, namely, the sons of perdition.  Although Joseph Smith said that many of those who apostate from the LDS church qualify as sons of perdition, I have had many Mormons say that very few people will qualify. 

     Be that as it may.  The point I want to make is that Mormonism, by redefining hell and making it temporary for almost everybody, takes much of the sting out of hell.  Many find this much more attractive than the thought of people suffering eternally in hell.  I understand that.

     But there is one big problem with that.  It’s wrong.  The Bible clearly talks about those who do not rely solely on Jesus’ work as suffering eternally.  (Mormonism gets around that by defining eternal punishment as punishment coming from an eternal God – not as punishment that lasts for all eternity.)  Even though the thought of people suffering eternally sends shivers down my spine, I can’t reject it.  That is what the Bible teaches.  Nothing emphasizes the seriousness and repulsiveness of sin more than the fact that it merits eternal punishment.  Neither does anything impress upon me more the urgency to tell others about perfection in Jesus mre than this. 

    On the other hand, any dismissal of an eternal hell plays right into the devil’s hand.  The last thing the devil wants us to have is a clear picture of the agonies of hell.  That, in a very real way, would scare the hell out of us. 

      Again I don’t like to think about or talk about hell.  Neither do pro-life people like to talk about the details of abortion.  But sometimes they have to especially when talking to sometimes who is ignorant of its hideous nature.  So also we.  We need to talk about the hideous nature of hell.  But we also need to talk about the only way to escape it – being covered with the perfection of Christ.

23
Sep
08

Eternal Life

 

     In John 5:24 Jesus says: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” It is important to note the tenses.  They are not futures.  “Hath” is a present tense.  “Is passed” is in the past tense.  When Jesus  speaks about eternal life, he is not talking about something that lies in the future.  The person who hears Jesus’ words and believes already has eternal life.  This is possible only because of Jesus – because with his perfect life he fulfilled God’s commandments for us and with his death he paid for all our sins. 

     Mormonism, however, defines eternal life differently.  “Eternal life, or exaltation, is to inherit a place in the highest degree of celestial kingdom, where we live in God’s presence and continue as families (see D&C 131:1-4).  Like immortality, this gift is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  However, it requires our ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ (Articles of Faith 1:3).”  (LDS Church Manual, True to the Faith, p. 52)  A little bit later it says, “be assured that eternal life is within your reach.”

      Jesus says believers have eternal life.  Mormonism says it is in our reach.  Mormonism teaches that because it says that eternal life requires something from us:  obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.  But Jesus never mentions that.  In fact, if anything was required of us, Jesus couldn’t have said that believers already have it.  He too would have to talk about it being in our reach – not being in our possession. 

     But he didn’t say that because eternal life isn’t conditioned on our obedience.  It is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.  To him be all praise and glory!

03
Sep
08

Is Sin Only a Willful Act?

 

     This post continues the thought begun in my last post, namely, Mormonism’s diminishing of sin.  This comes out also in how it defines sin.  In True to the Faith, a manual recommended by the First Presidency of the LDS Church as a companion to scripture study, under the heading sin it reads:  “When we willfully disobey God’s commandments, we commit sin.  We also commit sin when we fail to act righteously despite our knowledge of the truth (see James 4:17).”

     Is sin really only a willful disobedience of God’s commandments?  In the majority of the world’s society, morality has been on the decline with the result that more and more people have a weakened sense of right and wrong.  Does this mean that Islamic suicide bombers aren’t sinning especially if they see their actions as following God’s will?  Does this mean that if a person doesn’t know that God commands us to lead chaste lives that he or she isn’t sinning by being unchaste?   

     The Bible doesn’t limit sin just to willful disobedience.  Take Jesus’ prayer as he was being nailed to the cross:  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  He would not have had to pray that if sin was limited to willfully disobeying God’s commandments.  Especially sobering is this passage:  “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23).

     Neither does the Bible limit sin only to our actions.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly talked about the sinfulness of thoughts.  One example:  “But I say unto you, That whsoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in her heart.”  (Matthew 5:28)  And we see this not just in the Sermon on the Mount.  The Bible repeatedly talks about evil thoughts, about sinful lusts, etc.

     But none of this is mentioned in True to the Faith.  In that, it is quite representative of LDS teaching.  Mormonism drastically diminishes sin.

     As I said in my last post, it is vitally important for people to see the extent of their sinfulness.  The more limited and restricted people’s view of sin is, the less desperation they will feel for a Savior.  On the other hand, the more accurate their knowledge is of how of how much they do sin, the more they will be inclined to grasp onto Jesus and his cross for dear life.  That is what I am doing.




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