Faith Without Works is Dead: The Testimony of Three Witnesses!

I once had a testimony that the Mormon Church was true. When I discovered that my testimony was false I went searching to find the true church. I spent almost nine years between Mormonism and Christianity and met people from all different kinds of faiths. I discovered many people with a strong testimony in their church. I even met Atheists, Shamans and Agnostics with a strongly held “faith” that what they believed was true. What I quickly realized is that the sincerity of a person’s “testimony” doesn’t necessarily mean that what they believe in is true. It just means they have “faith” in something.

Through all my searching there was one thing I clearly believed: every person has to do some level of good works in order to live eternally with God. In the back of my head I guess I always remembered what I had been taught as a Mormon—that “faith without works was dead”. What I never realized is that the Biblical teaching that “faith without works is dead” has nothing to do with where we spend eternity and why.

After the Holy Spirit brought me to faith in the true Jesus, it was exciting to read the book of James with new eyes. I discovered that James’ point isn’t “how” we are saved, but how to identify real faith when we see it. He claims that what uniquely identifies a “faith” in the one true God is that it is alive!

Faith is a gift from God placed in a person’s heart by the Holy Spirit. At the moment a person is brought to faith, that person crosses over from being spiritualy dead to being spiritually alive—truly “born-again” (John 5:24). Just as a newborn baby can’t help but take breathe in and out, and to cry out for food; when someone is “born-again” spiritually, they will do good works—they can’t help it! James emphasizes this point by saying that faith without works is like a dead body without a spirit. Even if someone claims to have a testimony of faith, if works are absent, that faith isn’t really a living faith, its dead.

James uses three witnesses to make his point—himself, Abraham and Rahab. He uses the actions of these three witnesses as proof that a living faith always produces works. His first witness is himself. He contrasts his own life of both faith and works with that of a man who claims to have faith, yet has no works. His outward visible actions prove his testimony of faith.

Through Abraham’s witness, James gives us the vital key that faith comes first, and then works automatically follow. Because faith is living, like a living creature; it naturally produces the “fruit” of works. Similar to an apple tree bearing the fruit of an apple, a living faith will bear the fruit of good works, naturally and without being forced. Good works are merely proof that faith is present. Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac on the altar was one of many actions that evidenced his faith. His actions were the “fruit” of his faith and proved that his faith was true. Because his faith was alive, good works followed. It was not his works that made his faith alive.

We read that Abraham’s actions fulfilled a scripture from Genesis: “Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him as righteousness”. Here James clarifies a very important point—that a person’s faith gains him righteousness and not his works. Abraham had been declared righteous by God many years before he proved his faith by his works, even long before Isaac was born! Abraham’s works did not make him righteous; his faith had already done that. Abraham’s works were merely evidence that he had already been made righteous by God.

The third witness is Rahab the harlot (who hid the spies at Jericho). Her strong faith and written testimony are found in Joshua: “for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath”. Her life is a vivid example of how a woman had faith and then acted on it. Not only did she risk her life by rescuing Joshua’s spies, she lived the remainder of her life in Israel; got married and became the mother of Boaz, Jesse’s Grandfather and King David’s Great Grandmother.

Now let’s contrast these testimonies with those of a different group of three witnesses, written about in the Book of Mormon (Ether). These men were prophesied to one day declare to the world the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. But these three men all left Mormonism. Their lack of action is evidence that their faith was dead, their testimony false.

Interestingly, this was not all they claimed in their testimony. They also declared that one day they could be found spotless because of their own works. They testified:

“And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ.”

This testimony shows that they didn’t know what James knew and taught about Abraham: a person is found spotless in Gods eyes through their faith, and not their works!

The Apostle Paul taught the same thing as Moses and James. He revealed that God’s promise to Abraham was not written merely for Abraham’s sake, but also for yours:

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 4:20-5:1)

Link to the Testimony of Three Witnesses:

Link to Ether Chapter 5:

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Were You Required to Qualify for Your Christmas “Gifts” Before You Could Open Them?

How many gifts are still under your tree, waiting to be opened until you meet the requirements of the giver? Did anyone tell you that you had to do something for them before you were allowed to open their gift?

It might sound absurd to talk about gifts like this or think that we have to “qualify” for a “gift” before we can actually open it. Usually when we receive a gift, we don’t have to “earn” it before we are allowed to open it. We trust that the giver of the gift loves us and has given us their gift freely and unconditionally. In fact, if you look up the word “gift” in a dictionary you will find it defined as:

“Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.”

But, when Mormons speak of spiritual matters, the word “gift” takes on a whole different meaning. In fact, it has been re-defined! There are really only two unconditional “gifts” in Mormonism and those are the gifts of immortality (bodily resurrection) and our free agency. All other “gifts” are “conditional”.

One simple example can be found in True to the Faith, page 52. In referencing Eternal life, it states:

“Like immortality, this gift is made 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)”

The “condition” attached to this “gift” from Heavenly Father is obedience. You can do a simple search at lds.org–in the gospel library. Type in the words “>conditional AND gift”. You will discover that even God’s love, mercy and grace are all “gifts” conditioned upon your worthiness.

But the truth is that your Savior has many unconditional gifts waiting for you! One is the gift of eternal life! Not only does He offer it to you unconditionally but it is also given voluntarily. This gift was made personally–just for you, and it wasn’t an easy gift for Jesus to make. He lovingly spent thirty three years working on this gift. Day after day, despite many temptations by Satan, Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s laws—for you. He did this so that He could be your substitute for righteousness. Through faith, your are credited with all of His perfect works–so that you could meet God’s demands for righteousness. His suffering on the night of His death was tremendous. It must have been excruciating to take upon Himself the sins of the entire world, and then to be cursed and abandoned by His Heavenly Father. His shed blood covered over every sin you will ever commit. He willingly lived and died to give you the gift of eternal life.

Now, imagine that Jesus comes to you and personally offers His gift to you—freely and unconditionally. But, instead of graciously and excitedly thanking Him for the gift He worked so hard to make for you–you tell Him you can improve on His gift by adding your own works to it. Or, maybe you tell Him you can’t accept His gift because you believe you first have to qualify for it.

Imagine His disappointment when you reject His loving gift–that He worked on and made especially for you. Please, don’t do this to my Savior Jesus! Don’t reject the gift of eternal life He worked so hard to give you! Don’t leave His precious gift unopened for another minute! Through His perfect works He has already qualified you to live eternally with Heavenly Father:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Believe (have faith) that Jesus has already gained this gift for you and you will receive it! Then, spend the remainder of your life freely serving your Heavenly Father “Freely” because doing so is your voluntary and unconditional gift of love to Him!

Christmas Traditions: Family First?

Christmas has come and gone for 2010 and I hope that your celebration was as wonderful as mine. It’s such an awesome holiday because it’s the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus and His mission to humble Himself and become our Savior. I’m sure you have some wonderful Christmas traditions. But, if you are LDS, you have probably never experienced my very favorite Christmas tradition—going to church for special Christmas Services. At my church, it doesn’t matter what day of the week Christmas falls on, as a Church Family we gather together to worship and praise our Lord and King!

To be honest, at first I couldn’t believe a church would actually hold services on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I still remember my first Christmas attending the Lutheran Church I’m now a member of. I was actually appalled when I heard of these meetings! I thought: “Doesn’t the Pastor know that Christmas is family time? Everybody knows that family comes first!”

When I brought this up with my Pastor, he asked me where I got that belief from. After thinking about it, I realized I had not gotten this from any of my Bible studies, but rather it was a relic of my Mormon upbringing.

Every Christmas Eve my Lutheran Church has a special candle-light service. Then Christmas morning we meet to once again sing praises to God and hear a message from our Pastor. During the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations it is an awesome reminder of the reason for the Season.

Attending these two Church services every Christmas season has become the highlight of my Christmas, and the most important tradition for my family. It is here that we are reminded of our Savior’s purpose for coming to earth: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

As a Mormon, I grew up believing in “Family First”. The belief that families come first is at the core of Mormonism. One practical example of this foundational LDS teaching is seen at Christmas time. Special Church services are not held for Christmas. In fact back when I was LDS, if Christmas happened to be on a Sunday, every church service was canceled. I knew the reason why, because I had been taught it all my life—Family comes first!

In Mormonism, nothing is more important than our eternal families and church was canceled so that families could spend time together on Christmas. My brother explained to me a few years ago that now if Christmas falls on a Sunday, the First Presidency leaves the decision of whether or not to cancel church meetings up to the Stake Presidency.

Today I am so thankful to know the truth. Our earthly families are not supposed to be first in our lives—God is! Our Heavenly Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost are to be the very center of our lives. Jesus taught us this truth when He said:

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

Does this passage make you feel uncomfortable? When I was LDS it always bothered me. Truthfully, I didn’t know how to love Jesus more than my children. It was when I came to know the true Christ that my heart understood in a way that changed my life. You see, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that my Savior had gained the forgiveness for all my sins! I tested this Spirit, making sure that this belief was in agreement with God’s prophets and apostles. To my joy, I now know that my Savior has gained the forgiveness for all my sins. John the Beloved testified:

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6)

Because of what He did for me, I am pure and holy in God’s sight! In thankfulness, every breath I breathe is devoted to serving my Lord and Savior. It is only because I was forgiven much, that I can love Him so much (Luke 7:36-43). My new life’s motto is “Jesus first!

Through faith, I’ve been given a new heart to love others, just as God has loved me. And, I have been richly blessed with a family of five girls. My daughters and step-daughters are all grown up now, and I have been blessed with two amazing grandchildren. I pray that every member of my family will see my love for my Savior, and through my example, be drawn to love “…him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”

The “God of all Comfort” Has Sent Me to Comfort You!

I’m sorry that it’s been so long since posting here to my blog. I’ve been struggling with some pretty difficult health issues—so much so that I haven’t been able to sit at my desk for more than an hour or so. For the past few years I have been living in constant pain all over my body. This pain has gotten progressively worse, and through an EMG study it was discovered that I have both a muscle and a nerve disease. I am scheduled to have a muscle biopsy in a few weeks which should help determine exactly what is wrong.

I sure never thought that I would have a life that was so full of pain—both emotional and physical. I don’t think there has ever really been a time in my life that was “ordinary”. In fact, if Hollywood made a movie out of my life it would have numerous dramas to focus on: my first husband was emotionally abusive and cheated on me for many years; my oldest daughter was a 2 ½ lb preemie and my second daughter died from SIDS. I truly don’t know if her death was more difficult to go through as a mother than when my daughter Jen was addicted to methamphetamine’s. At one point, I didn’t even know where she was for over a year and filed a missing persons report. In 1999 I was diagnosed with late stage kidney cancer and was told I had less than two years to live. In 2003 I developed a brain tumor and have undergone two major surgeries as well as radiation therapy. Because of that radiation, I suffer from chronic sinus infections, both fungal and bacterial.

These “highlights” don’t even begin to address the emotional trauma associated with growing up in a prominent LDS family and being sexually abused for most of my childhood. I grew up with President Kimball as my prophet—the author of The Miracle of Forgiveness, where he wrote the words that haunted me for most of my life: “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.

My own sinfulness overwhelmed me and intensified my feelings of guilt of shame. Trying to obtain forgiveness for those sins through the LDS Process of Repentance consumed my life as I lived every day in complete and utter failure. You see, unlike many Mormons, I actually believed the words of my prophet when he declared in The Miracle of Forgiveness:

Trying is Not Sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin… It is normal for children to try. They fall and get up numerous times before they can be certain of their footing. But adults, who have gone through these learning periods, must determine what they will do, then proceed to do it. To “try” is weak. To “do the best I can” is not strong…Those who feel that they can sin and be forgiven and then return to sin and be forgiven again and again must straighten out their thinking. Each previously forgiven sin is added to the new one and the whole gets to be a heavy load.… It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.

Of all the pain I have gone through in life, nothing has compared to the sure knowledge that I could not do the works which President Kimball told me were necessary to obtain my forgiveness. And in a way, I am thankful. This pain led me to find the true Savior of the world—the Savior whose work had already won the forgiveness for every sin I have or ever will commit. In fact, the sins of the entire world were covered by the life-shed blood of our Savior, when He died on the Cross and “taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The Apostle Peter testified that forgiveness is obtained through faith, not works: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Did you notice Peter’s words: “all the prophets” bear witness that we receive forgiveness through belief? Peter’s words prove that LDS prophets are not prophets of God.

Many times I have wondered why my life has not been an easy one. But through it all, I know and trust that God has a purpose for everything. I also know that because my Lord and Savior has given me my hearts desire and cleansed me of my sins, I love Him more than life itself. I place my trust fully in the promise of God: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I also love these words from the Apostle Paul, who helps explain why I have dedicated my life to witnessing the truth in love to Mormons: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

I might live in daily physical pain because of my health issues, but the God of all comfort has blessed me with the peace that passeth all understanding. The desire of my heart is to share what I have found with you. God has shed His light in my heart and given me a passion to reach others who have gone through similar pains and trials. Yesterday my husband got me set up with his old laptop computer on a little table that slides over my bed. God willing, I pray that I will have the strength to share my faith with you more often than I have been able.