Never Has Man Believed in Me As Thou Hast—The Testimony of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: Faith Without Works is Dead

This month’s Gospel Doctrine Lesson asks: “How has the testimony of the Three Witnesses helped strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon?” Have you ever given consideration to the fact that all three “witnesses” actually left the LDS church? Do you believe that faith without works is dead? If you do, then shouldn’t their faithless lives actually weaken your testimony of the Book of Mormon?

According to the Book of Mormon, 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.

I once had a testimony that the LDS Church was true. When I discovered that my testimony was false I went searching to find the true church. I spent nine years between Mormonism and Christianity and met people from all kinds of faiths. I discovered many people with a 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 always remembered what I had been taught as a Mormon—that “faith without works is dead”. What I didn’t know then is that the Biblical teaching “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 Christ, I enjoyed reading 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. The very moment a person is brought to faith, that person crosses over from spiritual death to being spiritually alive—truly “born-again” (John 5:24). Just as a newborn baby can’t help but breathe in and out, and to cry for food; when someone is “born-again” with a new spiritual life, 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, then that faith isn’t really a living faith, its dead.

Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost 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 alive—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” (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6). Here James clarifies a very important point—that a person’s faith gains him righteousness—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! Before Abraham was credited with righteousness; he had kept no law, performed no service or ordinance that had earned credit to his account before God. It was his belief in God alone that caused Heavenly Father to credit him with righteousness. James testifies that Abraham’s works were merely the 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. She got married and became the mother of Boaz, Jesse’s Grandfather; and King David’s Great Grandmother.

The faithful lives of these three witnesses proved that their faith was alive and true. They had been born-again, just as Jesus taught that we must be: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

What happens when we look at the lives of the men who were prophesied to be witnesses to the Book of Mormon?:

“Who were the three witnesses Moroni spoke of in Ether 5:3? (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris: “And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true.” (Ether 5:3) See The Testimony of Three Witnesses in the introductory material of the Book of Mormon.) (Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45: Never Has Man Believed in Me As Thou Hast, p. 201)

These men had supposedly been shown the power of God. They claimed to have a strong testimony that the Book of Mormon was true. And yet when we look at their actions, their lack of works proving they were alive spiritually—we know their faith was dead. It’s when we read these three men’s testimony in the introduction to the Book of Mormon that we know why their faith was dead. They 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 trust that God had already made them righteous because of their faith–as Abraham had done. They didn’t know what James knew and taught about Abraham: a person is found spotless in God’s sight through their faith—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:

Temporal Salvation for Ourselves and Others: I delight to do thy will, O God!

Do you know what Heavenly Father’s will is? For many years I didn’t realize that my church leaders said things that were contrary to the revealed will of God. The reason I didn’t know I was being deceived was because I hadn’t bothered to test their words with God’s revealed Words.

After the Holy Ghost brought me to faith in the true Christ, I wanted to make sure I learned God’s truth. I had spent so many years blindly following LDS prophets and I wanted to make sure I never made the same mistake again. Reading Christ’s Words in Matthew Chapter 7 is where I first started to learn about God’s will:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (7:20-23)

This made me wonder what God’s will was. Did Jesus mean we had to do something to enter the kingdom of heaven? If this was what He was saying, then these words disagreed with all the times He had testified that eternal life was a gift of God. Many times in the book of John He revealed that eternal life is a free gift from God.

It took me several hours, but by the time I finished my study—I was delighted! I found out that what Jesus had said about doing God’s will to enter the kingdom of heaven merely reinforced His testimony:

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:35-40)

The reason it is God’s will to freely give salvation, is because of Christ’s Mission, (which was also God’s will):

“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)

I give thanks to our God for revealing the mystery of His will to us:

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (Eph. 1:6-9)

In this weeks Relief Society Lesson it almost seems as though President Smith is warning you of listening to his own words, as well as other LDS leaders:

“We are living in perilous times. The scriptures are being fulfilled, and as it appears to me this is the particular time when, if it were possible, the very elect would be deceived…. And it is strange to me how many people fall into the habit of listening to those who say things that are contrary to the revealed will of our Heavenly Father. …” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 20: Temporal Salvation for Ourselves and Others, p. 214)

Are you listening to President Smith as he says:

“We have to make our choice, and if we want to be the servants of God and the children of our Heavenly Father and earn his blessings, we must do it by honoring him and by keeping his commandments.” (p. 218)

Do you think it’s Heavenly Father’s will that you honor Him and keep His commandments just so you can earn His blessings?

I can tell by President Smith’s words that he doesn’t understand the joy that comes from truly knowing God and His will: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:15-18)

When you really know and understand all that God has done for you, your whole desire is to spend every minute of every day honoring Him and keeping His commandments. Not because you have to–but because you get to!

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. (Ps. 40:8)

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

How Could Ye Have Departed from the Ways of the Lord? Jesus Loves You Anyway!

Many Mormons don’t understand why I believe that the LDS church is not Christian. Since I was born and raised LDS and married in the Salt Lake Temple, I do understand why my words are hard to believe. Looking at how a person gains eternal life is one way to see the differences between faiths. God’s Word—as taught by Christianity teaches that we are saved by faith alone. Mormonism—as taught by LDS prophets claims that a person is saved by faith and works.

LDS prophets testify that eternal life must be gained “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”? (Articles of Faith 1:3) However, since no one can be perfect, the Prophet Nephi declared: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”. (2 Nephi 25:23)

Here we see the LDS teaching that a person is saved by faith and works. What is really required is our ‘best effort’. The determining factor to gaining eternal life is not the final product, it’s the effort expended. If you just try as hard as you can then Jesus will step in and His Atonement makes up the difference.

While this sounds comforting, it is false! You can search the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find one passage that backs up this false teaching. Not one single verse claims that eternal life can be gained simply by trying to follow God’s commands. I challenge you to look at every Judgment Day picture mentioned in the Bible. If you do, you will discover that each and every sin (liars, murderers or having even only one sin) ends with the same exact outcome—living eternally in Outer Darkness with Satan and his demons.

This month’s Gospel Doctrine Lesson explains that Judgment Day is one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon: “For what purposes was the record kept and preserved?

“a. That ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ … to be judged of your works” (Mormon 3:20). “And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil;” (Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine, Lesson 43: How Could Ye Have Departed from the Ways of the Lord? p.192)

A Christian Church teaches what Christ taught. Christ clearly testified that having even one sin remaining on Judgment Day means you will be cursed to spend eternity in Hell with Satan and his demons. There is no more vivid picture of this truth than Christ’s words, recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. He testifies that on the Final Day of Judgment all the nations of the world will be gathered before God. But even before the Judgment begins, God’s angels divide everyone into two groups—a “two-part division of the righteous and the wicked.” Through faith in Christ all believers are 100% perfect. Those who die in unbelief will stand before Christ on Judgment Day to be found 100% evil.

Amazingly, Jesus also revealed that we are saved by faith alone:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

The reason salvation is granted solely through faith is because that is the only way a person can meet God’s requirement to be righteous!! One must be perfect to enter into God’s presence. Jesus came to earth and was perfect for us, in our place. It is only through faith in Him as our substitute that we are declared righteous!! This was true for Abraham and as well as for us: “And therefore it [faith] 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;” (Romans 4:21-24).

It is impossible to gain eternal life by being obedient to God’s law, or by trying to add your works to your faith. In Romans, Paul explains using Old Testament scripture: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one ” (3:11-12). No one will be declared righteous by trying to follow God’s law: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (3:20). Notice the important words “in his sight”. Heavenly Father has demanded we be as perfect as Him (Matthew 5:48). In His sight, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (3:23).

During Christ’s time the unbelieving Jews were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong! They earnestly sought righteousness, but they tried to acquire it in the wrong way. They thought they had to gain eternal life through obedience. They believed they could be righteous through their own works. They had a zeal for God, but they were ignorant of the truth! (Romans 9:30-10:4)

What is God’s truth? Eternal life is obtained only as a gift from God, received by faith, without any works!!! In fact, if you bring works into the picture you ruin God’s free gift and you loose His favor!! That’s what Paul meant when he wrote: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

Turn to your Savior who grants you His righteousness through faith: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

This Is My Gospel: The Power of God for Salvation to All Who Believe

LDS Belief:

“The word gospel means good news. The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind that will redeem all mankind from the grave and reward each individual according to his/her works.” (LDS KJV Bible Dictionary)

Having your garments washed by Christ’s Atonement is conditional upon having faith, repenting of all your sins (through the LDS Process of Repentance) and being faithful till the end.

LDS Words

(Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine, Lesson 42: This Is My Gospel
pages 186-187)

Point out that when Latter-day Saints bear their testimonies, they often say that they know the gospel is true. Ask class members to silently consider how they would respond if, after saying “I know the gospel is true,” they were asked, “What is the gospel?

Write “This is my gospel” on the chalkboard. Explain that after Jesus said that His Church must be built on His gospel, He gave His disciples a concise, complete definition of His gospel. Have class members take turns reading verses in 3 Nephi 27:13–22, looking for different aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3 Nephi 27:15:
And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

3 Nephi 27:19:
And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Link to Lesson:

Lesson 42

The Bold Truth:

The true Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16) The true Gospel of Christ is the “good news” of free and full forgiveness from sin simply through faith in Christ: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43) Jesus successfully completed His mission to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Not only did He die for us, He lived for us. Because of Him we have been perfected forever: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)

I grew up loving New York Cheesecake. My mom had a recipe that was easy to make—no baking and little fuss. When I had children I often made this for them. One evening my husband took me to a restaurant for a special meal. For dessert I ordered the “Authentic New York Cheesecake”. But, when the waitress brought it, I was appalled. It did not look like the cheesecake I was familiar with. I didn’t want to try it but the waitress assured me it was delicious. I took one small bite and felt like I had entered heaven. It was the best thing I had ever tasted in my entire life! I realized that the recipe I had been using all those years was not really New York Cheesecake, even though it was titled such. I had no idea what I had been missing all those years. Now, whenever I see a “fake” cheesecake I identify it immediately because not only does it taste different, it looks different.

In a similar way, I grew up believing in the LDS gospel. It never entered my mind that it might not be authentic. The only doubts I ever had were doubts about my own ability to follow the gospel. I knew I was unworthy and no matter how hard I tried, I could not gain forgiveness. My prophets taught that forgiveness was dependent upon my own works, my ability to keep all the commandments. Every day I failed miserably and every minute I felt unworthy. While I doubted my own ability, I never doubted in the LDS gospel.

A few years after tasting my first authentic New York Cheesecake I tasted the true gospel of Jesus Christ! My loving Father in Heaven rescued me from the torment of my guilt by bringing me the “good news” of His true Gospel. I learned that “gospel” literally means “good news”. The good news is that not only was Jesus worthy for me, He died for me! The good news is that Jesus satisfied Gods’ demands for Justice and now Mercy reigns. The good news is that Heavenly Father has forgiven every single sin you have ever committed. This is a fact proven by His resurrection.

Jesus’ entire purpose for coming to earth was to cover our sins with His blood. That is the authentic Gospel. We can discern the true gospel by answering the question from the Lesson “Why was Jesus lifted up?” According to the LDS Gospel the answer focuses on what we have to do—Jesus gives us bodily resurrection so we can be judged by our own works. That is not good news” because our inadequate works make us unworthy! According to the true Gospel the answer focuses on Jesus—He paid the penalty for the sins of the world which washed away everyone’s sins with His blood.

I thought I was using the authentic recipe for New York Cheesecake. It wasn’t until I tasted the real thing that I knew the difference. The same was true for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no idea what I had been missing for all those years. The true gospel tastes so sweet to me that it is the foundation for everything I do. The good news of the gospel compels me to serve Jesus every minute of every day. Not because I have to, but because I get to!

Eternal Consequences

Anyone who rejects the true gospel of Jesus Christ will stand “unclean” before Heavenly Father on Judgment Day. No unclean person will dwell in the kingdom of God with Jesus, Heavenly Father or the Holy Spirit. The only other alternative is to spend eternity in hell with Satan.

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:
The Gospel: Why Jesus came:
– Isaiah 61:1
– Isaiah 53:4-12
– Luke 4:17-20
– John 1:29
– Romans 1:16
– 1 Corinthians 1:17-18
– 2 Corinthians 5:19-21
– 1 Peter 1:18-25
– Galatians 3:10-13
– 1 John 2:2
– Hebrews 10:12
– Revelation 1:5
– Revelation 7:14
Don’t believe in false gospels, even if an angel tells it to you:
– Galatians 1:6-9
– 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Even the Apostle Peter had to be reprimanded about following the gospel:
– “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified… 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Peter didn’t walk according to the truth of the gospel) Galatians 2:14, 16, 21
Additional LDS Words:

Found in lesson 42, page 187:
What did the Savior promise to those who live according to His gospel? (See 3 Nephi 27:21–22.) 21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; 22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

3 Nephi 27:13-14:
Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. 14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil