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!

Has Jesus Merely “Re-financed” Your Debt of Sin?

My second year at college I made the mistake of trying to do too much. As a foolish 19 year old, I didn’t want to give anything up, so I didn’t get much sleep. By mid Semester I got strep throat and then mononucleosis. It was severe enough that I had to quit school and go home. This meant I had to pay back a grant I had received for $500.00. Since I didn’t have the money to pay this debt, my parents came to my rescue and paid it for me. This rescue came with conditions though, since I had to pay them back. Basically they re-financed my debt and gave me their “terms” for payment: which meant that I had to paint the house. I was very grateful for what they did because I wouldn’t have been able to pay my debt to the college.

Last week’s Gospel Principles lesson teaches what one gains through Christ’s Atonement. Reading Boyd K. Packer’s parable of the Creditor and the Debtor (pages 63-65) reminded me of what my parents had done for me. Several years ago Packer gave a General Conference talk where he introduced his Parable which is used in several official Church manuals today. He teaches that through the Atonement, Jesus becomes our creditor. Similar to what my parents did for me in college, Jesus comes to our rescue and pays our debt of sin to Heavenly Father—but through this rescue our debt merely gets refinanced! We now have to pay our debt to Jesus!

The Parable tells the story of a foolish man who incurred a great debt. This debt is symbolic of the spiritual debt we owe to Heavenly Father for our sins. The foolish man couldn’t pay his debt so Jesus comes to his rescue and pays his debt for him. After Heavenly Father accepts His payment, Jesus turns to the man and says: “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor? ‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’ “Then, said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible.”

Gospel Principles explains the meaning of this parable: “Our sins are our spiritual debts. Without Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Mediator, we would all pay for our sins by suffering spiritual death. But because of him, if we will keep his terms, which are to repent and keep his commandments, we may return to live with our Heavenly Father.”

I have such a passion to share the truth with you! I am Christ’s Ambassador and He has committed to me His “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). In one way I am a “debt consolidation counselor”. My counsel to you is that your debt to sin has been canceled, not merely refinanced! When Jesus shed His blood on the cross he paid for every sin for the entire world! No more debt is left to be paid. Jesus doesn’t demand a “second payment” for sin, nor does He give you additional “terms” to be paid. Every single sin has already been paid for with the precious blood of Christ. Through His Atonement you are debt free!

On the cross Jesus cried out 'It is Finished!', in the Greek literally 'Paid in Full!'

On the cross Jesus cried out 'It is Finished!', in the Greek literally 'Paid in Full!'

In the book of John we read that just before Jesus died on the cross he exclaimed “It is finished!” In Greek this meant: “Paid in full”! This was also written on business documents or receipts during New Testament times to show that a bill had been paid in full. The connection between receipts and what Jesus had accomplished would have been very clear to John’s Greek speaking readers. It would be unmistakable to them that Jesus had paid the full price for their sins. You also can know that your bill listing your sin debt has been stamped “Paid in full”! Please, don’t reject this amazing gift through unbelief.

Believe these beautiful words: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5: 18-21)

Links to Packer’s Parable Found at LDS.org:

Original Parable given by Boyd K. Packer:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/04/the-mediator?lang=eng

Gospel Principles:
https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-12-the-atonement?lang=eng

Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher’s Manual for 12 & 13 year olds:
https://www.lds.org/manual/preparing-for-exaltation-teachers-manual?lang=eng

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3:
https://www.lds.org/manual/print/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-9-justice-and-mercy?lang=eng

Friend, Mar 2004:
https://www.lds.org/friend/2004/03/repentance-and-the-atonement?lang=eng

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 25: “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”:
https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual/lesson-25-not-my-will-but-thine-be-done?lang=eng

Through Christ’s Atonement You Have Been Reconciled To God!

The LDS Bible Dictionary gives the definition of Atonement as: “…the setting ‘at one’ of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin. From the time of Adam to the death of Jesus Christ, true believers were instructed to offer animal sacrifices to the Lord. These sacrifices were symbolic of the forthcoming death of Jesus Christ, and were done by faith in him.

Even though this definition claims that the Atonement “denotes the reconciliation of man to God” it goes on to explain that Christ’s Atonement doesn’t apply to each person’s individual sins:All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the fall of Adam. …The atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel.

But, if the Atonement does not cover every single sin you have ever committed, then you are not reconciled to God! Your sins remain and you cannot come into God’s presence! Growing up LDS I was very familiar with the word “Atonement”. I understood the differences between the unconditional and conditional “gifts” of Christ’s Atonement. I believed that Christ’s Atonement gave me the opportunity to overcome the consequences of my many sins. I knew I was unclean and could never enter God’s presence until I washed myself clean through my own works; doing the process of repentance. I desperately clung to the hope that one day I could gain forgiveness.

Years after I left the Church I was surprised to find that the word Atonement wasn’t commonly used by Christians. This got my curiosity up so I started asking questions and searching the Bible for answers. What I found surprised me. The word Atonement appears to have come about in the sixteenth century during the translation of the Bible into the English King James Version. It was created because of the lack of an English word which could explain the Hebrew term which fully encompassed what Christ’s sacrifice accomplished: 1) through the sacrifice of Christ’s body, an atonement (appeasement) was made for all sins, which 2) caused God to forgive all sins, and 3) accomplished the reconciliation of man to God. In essence, “atonement” defines the work that Jesus did when He took care of the problem posed by the sin of man.

The most important truth I learned about the Atonement is what thrilled me!! I discovered that Christ’s Atonement is an accomplished fact! Christ atoned for our sins (paid the penalty due us) over two millennia ago. Through it, we have been given so much more than bodily resurrection and the opportunity to prove our worthiness. Christ’s blood covered over all of our sins and we are forgiven! Because of that accomplished fact—we have been reconciled to God. We can now boldly enter into His presence because through Christ’s sacrifice, He has made us holy and perfect! We read many times in the New Testament that Jesus’ followers knew their sins were forgiven and that they had been reconciled to God. They understood that to qualify for this gift one merely had to be a sinner and thereby be in need of it. They knew that Christ’s blood covered ALL sins, not just Adam’s!

The Apostle Paul testified to the Romans: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (5:10). To the Corinthians he declared: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5). In these words we see the fact that reconciliation was an accomplished fact through Christ’s Atonement!

The LDS teaching that the atonement is conditional “so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned” is a false teaching! But, thank God that His faithful Prophets and Apostles have faithfully proclaimed His truth! Their testimony can be found on the pages of the Bible! They proclaim that Christ’s Atonement covered over all of your sins! Your sins have been forgiven and you have been reconciled to God. Through faith in Christ’s Atonement, you will have eternal life! All of these gifts are accomplished facts granted through Christ’s Atonement! Please don’t reject these amazing gifts from your Savior. I implore you “be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Link to LDS Bible Dictionary:

After “all” he could do, it wasn’t very much

Back in high school I served on the Seminary Council and one of my assignments was to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting. I decided to talk about Christ’s Atonement, specifically what we had to do to receive the “conditional gifts” associated with it. You have to understand a little about my personality before I explain what I did to the Bishop during my talk. I grew up with three brothers and a Dad who incessantly teased me. Just to survive, I learned how to stand up for myself, but usually in a joking manner.

In giving my talk, I wanted to teach about the Atonement, but the illustration I used was also done in a way meant to tease the Bishop. For my talk I brought some props from home. On the podium I set a large scale like the one you see for the “Scales of Justice”. On one side I piled about thirty large onions. The other side was empty. I set this up as an attention getter before I started talking. Then, I proceeded to talk about Christ’s Atonement. I spoke about our unconditional gift of bodily resurrection and what a blessing that was. Then I moved on to what we had to do to receive Heavenly Father’s conditional “gifts. Next I brought up Nephi’s passage testifying that we are saved only “after” all we can do.

This is the moment I called the Bishop to the stand. Without any prior warning, I told him he had to eat ALL the onions sitting on the Scales of Justice. Obviously, he couldn’t do it. Then I moved three onions to the other side and asked the Bishop if he could eat that many? Once again, the answer was no. In the end, the Bishop was only able to eat one small bite out of an onion! I remember making the comment that “all” that the Bishop could do wasn’t very much! I loved how my illustration generated lots of laughter from the Ward members. But, despite the humor involved, I was making a very important point. If we want to balance the Scales of Justice we must first do all we can. And then, Jesus’ Atonement will cover the rest.

Thinking back to this Sacrament Meeting talk given over thirty years ago I see where I was wrong! Using the illustration of eating all the onions, taking even one bite means you believe Christ’s work was insufficient to pay your entire debt! You are either saved because all of your works are perfect, or because you have a Savior who was perfect for you. There isn’t a “third” way that combines your works with Christ’s works to balance the Scales of Justice. If you take even one bite this means you would have to eat the entire basket of onions. No one will be saved by adding their own imperfect works to their faith. All my Bishop could do was eat one bite of an onion. Similarly, all you can do, isn’t enough! You can only be saved by faith alone or by being one hundred percent perfect your entire life (as Jesus was)!

I guess in one way, I do believe in faith and works. My faith, and Christ’s works. I have faith that Christ’s works were sufficient to pay my entire debt! In thankfulness, I devote my entire life to “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”!

Is Jesus your “Creditor” or your Savior?

My second year at college I made the mistake of trying to do too much. In addition to classes, homework and Church callings, I also had a job as a Janitor which began at 4:00 am. As a foolish 19 year old, I didn’t want to give any of these things up, so I didn’t get much sleep. By mid Semester I got strep throat and then mononucleosis. It was severe enough I had to quit school and go home. This meant I had to pay back a $500.00 grant I had received.

Since I didn’t have the money to pay this debt, my parents came to my rescue and paid it for me. This rescue came with conditions though, since I had to pay them back. Basically they re-financed my debt and gave me their “terms” for payment: which meant that I had to paint the house. I was very grateful for what they did because I wouldn’t have been able to pay my debt to the college.

This week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson teaches what one gains through Christ’s Atonement. When I read the statement from Boyd K. Packer on page six, it reminded me of what my parents had done for me. This quote is from his General Conference talk where he introduces a Parable used in several official Church manuals today. He teaches that through the Atonement, Jesus becomes our creditor.

Similar to what my parents did for me in college, Jesus comes to our rescue and pays our debt of sin to Heavenly Father—but through this rescue our debt merely gets refinanced! We now have to pay our debt to Jesus!

The Parable tells the story of a foolish man who incurred a great debt. This debt is symbolic of the spiritual debt we owe to Heavenly Father for our sins. The foolish man couldn’t pay his debt so Jesus comes to his rescue and pays his debt for him. After Heavenly Father accepts His payment, Jesus turns to the man and says:

If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor? ‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’ “Then, said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible.”

Gospel Principles explains the meaning of this parable:

“Our sins are our spiritual debts. Without Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Mediator, we would all pay for our sins by suffering spiritual death. But because of him, if we will keep his terms, which are to repent and keep his commandments, we may return to live with our Heavenly Father.” (p. 65)

This Creditor, the Christ of Mormonism; is not really Christ, the Son of God and our Savior. Because of what Jesus has done for me, I have such a passion to share the truth with you! I am Christ’s Ambassador and He has committed to me His “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). In this way I am a “debt consolidation counselor”. My counsel to you is that your debt to sin has been canceled, not refinanced!

When Jesus shed His blood on the cross he paid for every sin for the entire world! No more debt is left to be paid. Jesus doesn’t demand a “second payment” for sin, nor does He give you additional “terms” that must be done. Every single sin has already been paid for with Christ’s precious blood. Through His Atonement you are debt free!

On the cross Jesus cried out 'It is Finished!', in the Greek literally 'Paid in Full!'

On the cross Jesus cried out 'It is Finished!', in the Greek literally 'Paid in Full!'

In the book of John we read that just before Jesus died on the cross he exclaimed “It is finished!” In Greek this meant: “Paid in full”! This was also written on business documents or receipts during New Testament times to show that a bill had been paid in full.

The connection between receipts and what Jesus had accomplished would have been very clear to the Apostle John’s Greek speaking readers. It would be unmistakable to them that Jesus had paid the full price for their sins. You also can know that the bill listing your sin debt has been stamped “Paid in full”! Trust in these promises from Christ’s Apostles and please, don’t reject your Saviors amazing gift through unbelief.

Believe these beautiful words:
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5: 18-21)

Links to Packer’s Parable Found at LDS.org:

Original Parable given by Boyd K. Packer:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/04/the-mediator?lang=eng

Gospel Principles:
https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-12-the-atonement?lang=eng

Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher’s Manual for 12 & 13 year olds:
https://www.lds.org/manual/preparing-for-exaltation-teachers-manual?lang=eng

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3:
https://www.lds.org/manual/print/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-9-justice-and-mercy?lang=eng

Friend, Mar 2004:
https://www.lds.org/friend/2004/03/repentance-and-the-atonement?lang=eng

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 25: “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”:
https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual/lesson-25-not-my-will-but-thine-be-done?lang=eng