They Did Obey Every Word of Command With Exactness: That’s Your Only Safety?

Do you do exactly what is commanded by the Lord? This weeks Gospel Doctrine Lesson asks the question:

“Why is it important to be exactly obedient to the teachings of the Lord’s prophet? (See the quotation on the next page.)”

Here’s the answer from President Harold B. Lee. He taught:
“The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand… “Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized.” (Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Lesson 32: They Did Obey-Every Word of Command with Exactness, pp 143-144)

These words are similar to an article I read in the Ensign about five years ago from General Conference. The General Authority testified to Latter-day Saints that their only path of safety was in keeping the commandments. He talked about an “80:20 principle” and claimed that keeping the commandments only 80 percent of the time is not acceptable: “There are precious blessings that come only from the complete yielding of one’s heart to God.” The blessing he refers to is “being saved”:

“President Heber J. Grant said: ‘There is but one path of safety to the Latter-day Saints, and that is the path of duty. It is not a testimony, it is not marvelous manifestations, it is not knowing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, … it is not actually knowing that the Savior is the Redeemer, and that Joseph Smith was His prophet, that will save you and me, but it is the keeping of the commandments of God, the living the life of a Latter-day Saint.’ Now, young men and young women, as you begin to set your priorities in life, remember, the only true security in life is living the commandments.

Do you rest in the certainty that your works are sufficient to earn your Salvation? Or, does it make you squirm to hear these words from President Grant? How does it feel knowing that your “certainty for being saved” rests on your ability to keep the commandments?

If I had heard these words while I was LDS, I would have been completely stressed out. I was well aware of my inability to keep God’s commands. Reading these words today I am so very thankful that the Holy Spirit has opened my heart and eyes to the truth. I bear witness to you that these words are false! No one will be saved by following the path that Mormon prophets have set you on—no one will be found righteous by keeping the commandments. The only “path of safety” lies in having faith in Jesus!

I know that these words are false and you can know this too—simply by testing his words with God’s prophets and apostles, found in His holy scripture:

The Prophet Isaiah Testified:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Is 61:10)

Not according to our works:

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” (2 Ti 1:7-10)

Saved through faith—Not by works:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)

Not by Works of Righteousness:

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3:4-6)

What Must I do to be Saved?

“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Ac 16:30-31)

Believe and You Will be Saved:

“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. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Ro 10:9-10)

Whoever Believes in Jesus Has Eternal Life:

“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. 16 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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 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.” (Jn 3:14-18)

The Gospel is the Power that Saves–Through Belief:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Ro 1:16)

The Message of the Cross is the Power That Saves:

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Co 1:18)

The LORD Gives Salvation:

“For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Ps 149:4)

The Record of God is That He hath Given to Us Eternal Life:

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:9-13)

You Shall be Whiter Than Snow:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Ps 51:1-13

Along with King David, I Have confessed my sins to God, and have devoted my life to teaching transgressors about God’s ways. Whenever I am down, I pray for God to restore to me the joy of His salvation—so that many sinners will know Christ.

Link to General Conference talk: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/wherefore-settle-this-in-your-hearts?lang=eng

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Did God Really Give You a “Plan” of Salvation?

I didn’t realize how easy it was to get lost until after I got my drivers license. Driving to unfamiliar places without easy to follow directions often resulted in confusion and anxiety. When I lived in Germany for a few years my tendency to lose my way was exacerbated by the fact I couldn’t speak the language. I quickly learned to take a map with me whenever I was unsure of where I was going.

One day I went to visit a friend who lived in a nearby town. I had written down her address and had brought my trusty map along. But I soon discovered that even with the map, I was terribly lost. I knew what street I needed to get to, but could not find it. I saw a man walking down the street and even though I spoke very little German, I pulled over to ask him for help. I showed him my map and pointed to the street I was searching for. In my broken German I tried asking him for directions. Looking at both me and my map, he responded in English “Lady, you’re using the wrong map. That map is for a town twenty miles from here.”

This experience happened over 25 years ago but it came to mind when reading the Sunday School Teacher’s Manual for 12 & 13 year old’s. The lesson explains the “Plan” of Salvation according to LDS prophets and scripture. An Enrichment Activity directs the teacher to display a road map and ask the questions: “What is this? Why would someone use this?” The teacher is then told: “Explain that life is like a journey. Heavenly Father knew that we would need directions to help us find our way back to him, so he provided the plan of salvation as a kind of map for us to follow. How can we ‘read’ this map and know what we must do to reach our destination of living with Heavenly Father again? (Answers may include by studying the scriptures, following the prophets, and listening to our teachers and parents as they teach us about the gospel.)”

The lesson explains what must be done to live eternally with Heavenly Father: “Point out that the scripture names two things as God’s work—to bring to pass immortality and eternal life. Explain that these two words do not refer to the same thing. Immortality is a state of being resurrected, of being free from physical death. This blessing will come to all people. Eternal life is living with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom. This blessing—which is also called exaltation—comes only to those who keep the commandments and make the necessary covenants.”

This week’s Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson “maps” out the same requirements. It explains that even though eternal life is the “greatest of all the gifts of God” you obtain it through your own works and effort: “We obtain this great gift, according to the Lord, ‘if you keep my commandments and endure to the end.”

I remember when I once believed these words. Reading them today makes my heart cry out for all who are trying to obtain eternal life by following these directions. Today, I write these words to warn you that you are using the wrong map! The LDS Plan of Salvation does not come from God—it was created by LDS prophets. All who follow this “Plan” of Salvation will never gain eternal life!

In both these Lessons, the belief that God gave us a “Plan” comes from the book of Moses, which is part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament. We can know that this “Plan” is false by testing its words against already revealed scripture. Doing so shows it is in direct conflict with the testimony of our Savior Jesus, as well as God’s prophets and apostles. While LDS scriptures have nearly 60 passages discussing this “Plan” of Salvation, the word “plan” isn’t even found in the King James Bible. As well, the two Lessons I reference today don’t give a single Bible passage supporting the LDS “Plan” for gaining eternal life.

God’s prophets and apostles left us a “map” that truly leads to eternal life, and that’s the Bible. It is here that we read their testimonies claiming that the work of Salvation is finished! It was by our Savior’s obedience that eternal life was obtained for us. God provides “Salvation” as an undeserved gift to all who believe in His Son. Jesus testified that eternal life truly is a free gift, gained the very moment the Holy Spirit brought you to faith!

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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.” (John 5:24).

This gift came because of Heavenly Father’s great love for you: “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.” (John 3:16) Believe it and receive it! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)

Are Fathers Evil?

The first time I attended a non-Mormon Church service was when I lived in Arkansas. A neighbor invited me to attend church with her and out of curiosity I decided to check it out. Talk about culture shock!!! This was my first experience of hearing a Preacher give a Sermon, and his preaching was that of a “fire and brimstone” Southern Baptist.

My neighbor must have warned him that a Mormon would be attending because he spent about five minutes attacking the Mormon Church and all who follow its teachings. From my Mormon ears, all I heard was that I was a horrible sinner and I had better repent or else I was going to hell. By the time the service was finished I had a horrible headache. I ran away from there as fast as I could, never to return.

Sermons are one thing many Mormons aren’t familiar with. Sacrament Meetings entail a few people who have been asked to give talks for that Sunday. These talks are nothing like a Sermon given by a Pastor. During my fifteen years as a Christian, thankfully I have heard many wonderful Sermons from many different Pastors. Each Pastor tends to have his own style of preaching, but I have discovered that his message testifies of a few simple truths:

1) Every human is evil and can never come even close to meeting God’s demands
2) Heavenly Father gives the gift of eternal life to those who believe that Jesus met God’s demands for them.

It took me awhile before I realized that these basic truths were being taught by every Preacher I heard. The first time I recognized this was when a Preacher I know was giving a Sermon about prayer. He boldly stated that all the fathers listening to Him were “evil”! When I heard that, I was a little uncomfortable. I know that our earthly fathers aren’t perfect, but calling them “evil” seemed to be a bit harsh. I wondered why the Preacher hadn’t chosen to use a softer word like “weak” or maybe even “sinful”. Then, I noticed a little later in His Sermon where He even commanded us to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father!

In reality, this Preacher was Jesus giving His Sermon on the Mount. His actual words were: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Talk about being blunt!! When I read His Sermon in context there was no indication that those listening to His Sermon were particularly evil. I remembered that Jesus had told the rich young ruler “there is none good but one, that is, God”. But saying Fathers are “evil” seems so much worse than saying someone is “not good”.

I soon discovered that Jesus talked about man’s evil deeds several other times during His Ministry. In the book of Mark, Jesus tells us where evil comes from: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts”. In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Jesus asked a question of those who thought that God wasn’t being fair: “Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”

Jesus proclaimed God’s eternal consequences for all who do evil: “for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5).

Reading Jesus’ words enticed me to dig deeper into scripture. By the time I finished my study there was no doubt in my mind: all humans are evil. I discovered that the reason it’s difficult for us to see ourselves as evil is because our definition of what “evil” is differs from God’s definition. We like to categorize our sins, claiming that some are worse than others. We certainly don’t think that anything we do ourselves is actually “evil”.

I wasn’t surprised when I read that God considered murder and adultery evil; but the prophet Nehemiah preached that not keeping the Sabbath day holy was evil. He also testified that Israelites who married outside the faith committed a “great evil” (13:27). The writer of the book of Hebrews testified that “unbelief” is evil. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy that it is evil to not give money to a poor man in need. In Genesis, he taught the same message about man as what Jesus had taught:
for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is only part of what Biblical Preachers name as “evil”. (The word “evil” appears 624 times in the Bible.) The Apostle Paul understood that God sees all sin as evil when he lamented “but the evil which I would not, that I do” and “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7) In Timothy he wrote that the love of money is the root of all evil.

To the Galatians, he wrote God’s consequence for not following every single command: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” James solidified Paul’s curse when he proclaimed: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” He then gave examples of evil:

“the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” and: “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work”.

Studying God’s Words leaves no doubt that our holy God considers any sin as evil. The writer of Proverbs tells us that “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” On Judgment Day “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

The inescapable conclusion is that everyone who sins is evil! I am so amazed every time I read words from these same Preachers saying that God loves us in spite of our evil! It’s hard to believe, but His mercy is shown to evil sinners! In Galatians, Paul gives us the only reason why:

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

To the Ephesians Paul wrote: “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.” It’s through Christ’s Atonement that our evil hearts are “sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10)

The very same Jesus that proclaimed the dire consequences of evil, shares our only means of escape—it’s through faith alone that we are saved and gain eternal life:

“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.” (John 3:14-16)

It’s the Father’s Will to Save Believers!

Yesterday I received this Family Gem from lds.org:

“Family Prayer Should Be Practiced with Faith and Trust: The practice of Church members is to kneel in family prayer each morning and evening, plus having daily personal prayers and blessings on our food. President Monson said, ‘As we offer unto the Lord our family and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him.’ And so, in praying for temporal and spiritual blessings, we should all plead, as did Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy will be done.’ ” Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers,” Ensign, May 2009, 48

While family prayer was the intended focus of this Gem, my interest turned to the words of Christ’s prayer “Thy will be done.” Elder Nelson tells us that when we ask Heavenly Father for spiritual blessings, we should plead that HIS will be done. I pray this prayer for you every day! That you will place your trust in God’s will. There are so many things that He desires for you, but the most important is His will to give you everlasting life. It is the Father’s will to give everlasting life to those who believe in Jesus:

“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 6:40)

That is the Father’s will!! God chose to save mankind through belief—not works; and not even by adding works to your faith. Scripture testifies that it is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) But this message is foolishness to the world. All one has to do is look at all man-made religions. They claim that something must be done by you before you can go to heaven or live on in some kind of heaven-like afterlife. Only Christianity declares that God has done everything necessary for you to live eternally with Him. These words are foolishness to the wisdom of man:

“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

To the world it is foolishness to “save them that believe”! But God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. He did so on a Cross over 2000 years ago. On the night Jesus died He “fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, it if be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as though wilt.” Despising the shame that the Cross would bring Him, Jesus chose to do the Father’s will. As much as the Father loved His Son, He knew it was not possible for man to be forgiven any other way. Because of His great love for us, the Father’s will was to punish His Son in our place!

I used to think it was foolishness to “save them that believe”. Whenever someone told me they didn’t have to do any works to be saved, I thought that meant they didn’t want to do any works for God. What I didn’t understand until I experienced it; was the depth of love and gratitude I would feel towards my Savior when I believed in Him. It was HIS blood that bought the forgiveness of my sins. The very moment I believed I gave my life and my love to Jesus! Every breath I take is for Him!

It is the Father’s will to spend eternity with those who simply place their “faith and trust in Him”. It takes faith to trust that what Jesus did for you was sufficient. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God? It was He who revealed these words, just a few passages after He proclaimed to us what the will of the Father is:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47)

Can You Be Saved by Faith and Works?

The Epistle to the Romans is my very favorite book in the Bible. The essence of the book of Romans is this: by God’s grace, eternal life is granted through faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ.

A commenter recently asked the question “Why is it that if I believe in works I cannot believe in faith, or the grace of God? Why must these things remain separate?” I responded by taking him to the eleventh chapter of Romans where the Apostle Paul boldly testifies: “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.

In response, the commenter has written: “IF you care to examine the entire chapter of Roman’s 11 you will notice that Paul is not talking about salvation or eternal life. He is talking about being born into the covenant line of Israel, or the church. This is a blessing given by the grace of God that we have done nothing in this life to earn. It is by grace, and not by works.

To examine the eleventh chapter of Romans we must first examine the tenth chapter, and all those before it. When someone writes a letter it is expected that whoever reads it will start at the beginning and read it through to the end. By the time Paul gets to chapter eleven, he has already stated multiple times that salvation is a freely offered gift granted ONLY to those who believe. In fact, through the entire Epistle, Paul has never stopped talking about salvation and eternal life. He hasn’t changed his message or theme: by God’s grace, eternal life is granted through faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ. Because Paul is so sure of this grace, he tells his readers not to give up on the unbelieving Israelite’s. He gives the example of the remnant saved by grace during Elijah’s time, as it was also true for Christian Jews during Paul’s time. All people are saved the same way–only through God’s grace and not through works.

Paul begins his testimony in chapter one: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (verse 16). The salvation he speaks of is eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:23).

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;” (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. 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” (verse 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” (verse 23).

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! (9:30-10:4)

What is God’s truth? Eternal life is purely a gift of 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.

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” (10:9-10).

No One is Good but God!

Mormon prophets testify that to gain eternal life we must obey the commandments. Recently I received a comment pointing me to the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 as proof that LDS prophets speak God’s truth. The commenter writes: “Christ is asked point blank: What must I do to gain eternal life? And Christ’s response? Keep the commandments.”

I absolutely love this story because when you read it carefully it actually shows that a person can’t gain eternal life with their works! This story gives Christians a great example of how we should share the gospel with someone who thinks they can be “good” enough at obeying God’s commands. This story shows that Jesus understood God’s intended purpose of His law. (Read my recent Post from February 11th titled: “Why did Heavenly Father Give Us Commandments?” for more information.)

This young man was someone who thought he didn’t sin very often. Here we read about an arrogant man who truly believed that he was “good”. We can see his arrogance in his response to what Jesus says to him. His first words to Jesus were “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Before he even begins his conversation with Jesus, he already believes that he must “do something good” to gain eternal life. Notice that he doesn’t ask Jesus how to gain eternal life, he already thinks he knows. Jesus responds to this by saying “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” Jesus tells the rich man that only God is good! This gives the young man the opportunity to come to the realization that he (the rich man) is not good.

In response to his question Jesus tells the rich man “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” He does this because Jesus knows the purpose of God’s law!! Jesus understands that this man has to recognize how sinful he is, before he will seek a Savior! Jesus gives this man God’s laws, and He comes down very hard on him. He first gives him the do not commandments:
1) Do not murder 2) Do not commit adultery 3) Do not steal 4) Do not bear false witness.
And then Jesus tells him the do commands:
5) Honour your Father and Mother 6) Love your neighbor as yourself.

And how does the rich man respond? He tells Jesus that he has kept all these commandments from his youth up. This man believed that he wasgood and possibly only lacked “one good thing”. But, do you think that Jesus believed him? In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus had already taught that we must be as perfect as our Heavenly Father! Jesus taught that looking on a woman and lusting after her is the same as committing adultery. Do you think Jesus believed the rich man’s claim that he had always loved his neighbor as himself?

At this point in his life this man sees no need for a Savior. Why would he? He truly believes that he is good enough to gain eternal life with his own works. He had already rejected the message Jesus first gave him—that “only God is good”, and boldly claimed that he was good. So, in response: “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. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

Think about the commandment that Jesus gave to the young man. This would be a very hard thing to do, to sell all you have and follow Jesus. But, Jesus lovingly told him the one thing that would cause this man to look into his heart and see that he was sinful–that he was not good. This is the purpose of the law. God’s law is a mirror for us to look into God’s Word and see that we are sinful and that only God is good! We do not hear anything more about this rich man, but possibly he came to faith later as a direct result of Jesus’ pointing out his sin to him.

God’s Law was given to you as a way to cause you to despair of saving yourself through you’re own works–and then to cling to the perfect works of Jesus! Through faith in Jesus you will be credited with His righteousness! All praise and glory to our Savior Jesus!

Is Jesus Your Substitute or Your Exemplar?

As a Mormon I thought I knew what Christ did for us in His Atonement. I knew He was my Savior and Redeemer. What I didn’t know is that His Role as the Exemplar is unique to Mormonism. LDS Prophets claim that Christ paid for our sins and became our Creditor through the Atonement. He gained immortality for us (bodily resurrection) but we have to qualify for eternal life through our obedience. Heavenly Father sent us to earth to be tested and we needed someone to show us how to be perfect through obedience.

Christ came not only into the world to make an atonement for the sins of mankind but to set an example before the world of the standard of perfection of God’s law and of obedience to the Father. In his Sermon on the Mount the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of his own character, which was perfect… and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives.”

I was amazed when I learned that Christ is our Substitute–not our Exemplar! For thirty six years I never once heard the word “Substitute” in connection to Christ or His Atonement. When I first heard it—I rejoiced because of what it meant. I knew how sinful I was and how much I needed a Substitute. I knew that if my eternal life depended upon how well I followed Christ’s example, I was doomed. I learned that I was not the only person who was unworthy. I discovered that the very reason Christ came to this earth was because every person is unworthy and sinful (Romans 3:10-12). None of us has the ability to meet Heavenly Father’s demands. By nature we are children of wrath! (Ephesians 2:3) No one is righteous; in fact we’re not even good (Matthew 19:17). The Prophet Isaiah testified that even our righteous works are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). Since our eternal destination hangs in the balance of meeting God’s demands, we need a Substitute–not an Exemplar.

The idea of a substitute is not foreign to God’s people. Heavenly Father had actually instituted Christ’s role of substitution through animal sacrifices. He declared that anyone who did not obey His commands must pay for their sin through eternal death. But since every person is sinful no one could be saved without an alternative plan. We see that plan demonstrated in the Old Testament sacrifices. A man’s sin could be atoned for by the shedding of the lifeblood of a substitute sacrifice. When an Israelite sinned, he brought a perfect animal to the Temple and the Priest sacrificed it as an atonement for his sin. If the sacrifice wasn’t perfect it was declared unfit to atone for another’s sin. All these animal substitutes merely pointed ahead in similitude to the perfect Substitute sacrifice—Jesus Christ! And, His perfect sacrifice was the final sacrifice—once, for all (Hebrews 10:10).

Before Christ could sacrifice Himself and become our Substitute, He first had to do what we could not do–live a perfectly obedient life. He successfully obeyed all the commands that God required of us, like visiting the sick, loving our enemies and forgiving those who despitefully used him. He did all of these things for us, in our place, as our substitute! (Romans 5:19) He did this because we couldn’t meet God’s demands to be obedient for ourselves! In a similar way that a substitute teacher takes over and accomplishes the work the teacher was supposed to do, Jesus lived His entire life doing the works we were supposed to do. When you read in scripture that Jesus prayed for His enemies, rest assured that this obedient act has been credited to your account. Jesus took your sins as if they were His own; and in exchange, gave you His perfect works, as if you yourself had accomplished them (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be our Substitute and not our Exemplar (53:4-12). He testified that Jesus would suffer the penalty for our iniquity. We all have gone astray, just like sheep! Even though we deserved punishment, God laid all our iniquity on Jesus. As our substitute He was wounded, bruised and stricken. Our eternal consequence for sin was to be cursed to eternal life with Satan because we failed to continue doing everything God commanded. As our substitute, Jesus became a curse for us! (Galatians 3:10-13). We were all unclean and not able to enter God’s presence; (Ephesians 5:5) but Jesus washed our sins away with His own blood and became sin for us.

In Hebrews we read that Christ offered His body as a perfect sacrifice and in exchange, we have been perfected forever! (10:10-14) “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” We who were sinful and imperfect, are found perfect in God’s sight. This is because Christ was punished for our sins, and covered us with His righteousness: Isaiah 61: 10 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,” Heavenly Father loves you so much He sent His Son on a Mission to be your Substitute! Believe it and then live it through a life of joy and thanksgiving by committing your life to him as a gift of love.

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If You Believe–Eternal Life is Guaranteed!

I subscribe to a service from lds.org called LDS Gems. According to the LDS Website, these Gems “offer inspiration and increased gospel knowledge for both members and nonmembers with quotes from Church leaders on a variety of subjects.” I was emailed a Gem a few months ago with a quote from General Conference about how to gain eternal life. I would like to reference this Gem today because of some comments to this blog stating that most Mormons don’t think they are saved by their obedience:

The scriptures teach us that once we have received the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, our task then is to ‘endure to the end’ (2 Nephi 31:20). . . .
“Enduring to the end, or remaining faithful to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our life, is a fundamental requirement for salvation in the kingdom of God. This belief distinguishes Latter day Saints from many other Christian denominations that teach that salvation is given to all who simply believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ. The Lord clearly declared, ‘If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God’ (D&C 14:7).

These words are from a member of the First Presidency and clearly state the main difference between LDS and Christian beliefs. Mormon prophets and apostles testify that you must keep the commandments to be given the “gift” of eternal life. True to the Faith states: “If we use the word salvation to mean eternal life, none of us can say that we have been saved in mortality. That glorious gift can come only after the Final Judgment.

These words may distinguish LDS from Christians but they are none the less false! LDS leaders claim that “none of us can say” we have eternal life while in mortality and yet, John the Beloved did many times! His testimony is that all who believe in Jesus have eternal life! He wrote “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)

The Apostle John’s message is that the moment you come to faith in Jesus you cross over from spiritual death to eternal life “Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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” (John 5:24). John states “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him” (3:36). Notice that John always uses the “past” tense. Believers already have everlasting and eternal life with God!

The Bible clearly testifies that eternal life is a freely offered “gift” given to those with faith in Jesus. Eternal life isn’t something we earn through obedience. We can’t even qualify for it. It is given only to those who “simply believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ.” If you think you have to qualify for it through obedience, then you don’t have it. But, if you have faith that Jesus is all you need, then eternal life is guaranteed! Not because of anything that you have done or could ever do, but because of what Jesus has already done for you!

Link to LDS Gem:

Has Mormonism changed the meaning of the word “gift”?

This Christmas I would imagine you received at least one gift. But, did you receive any “conditional” gifts? Did anyone tell you that you had to do something for them before you could open their gift? How many gifts are under your tree, waiting to be opened until you meet the requirements of the giver?

It might sound absurd to talk like this or think of “gifts” that we gave or received in this manner. When we know the person that gives us a gift, we realize that we don’t have to “do” something before we open their gift. We trust that the giver of the gift loves us and has given us their gift unconditionally and freely. 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 speaking of spiritual matters in Mormonism, the word “gift” has been redefined! There is really only one unconditionalgift” in Mormonism and that is the gift of immortality (bodily resurrection). 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.” The “condition” attached to this “gift” from Heavenly Father is obedience. Do a search at lds.org in the gospel library and 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 to make. Jesus 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. 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 be cursed 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 must first qualify for it. Imagine His disappointment as you reject this loving gift He made just for you.

Please don’t do this to my Jesus! Don’t reject the gift of eternal life Jesus worked so hard to give you! Through His perfect works He has 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 that Jesus gained this gift for you and you will receive it! Then, spend the rest of your life freely serving God. “Freely” because doing so is your voluntary and unconditional gift of love to Him!

The “fulness” of the Gospel?

Once again, it was not easy reading the Gospel Doctrine Lesson. The words which were difficult for me: “Brothers and sisters, we have the richest blessings that God can give to His children. We have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to be the most open, friendly, happy, kind, considerate, thoughtful, loving people in the whole world.

You hear these words and think you have been blessed with the “fulness” of the gospel. In reality, the gospel has been “stripped” of its fulness! You have not received any “blessings” from God because all blessings are predicated upon your obedience to His laws! I have been struggling with how to explain the difference between the “gospel” that you have and the “gospel” that I know. The best way I can come up with is to compare three gospel blessings provided by these two very different gospels.

The blessing of Eternal life:

A loving Heavenly Father has provided Salvation through His Son. All blessings are unconditional gifts given to His children because of His love. Every child rests in the assurance that their Daddy will take care of them in His home where they will live with Him forever. Eternal life is an unconditional gift given to God’s children through faith! Through the gospel of Christ a child of God can know they have eternal life right now (1 John 5:11-13). The LDS gospel took this blessing away and in its place, gives you a Plan” of Salvation. This “plan” exposes that your eternal destination hangs in the balance of your worthiness! It shows your gospel’s “condition” of withholding any blessing which has not been gained through obedience. Before you can live with your Heavenly Father you must first prove that you are worthy to do so. You can’t even know in this life whether you have done enough to be allowed to enter into his presence.

The blessing of having your debt canceled:

Even though I owed a huge debt to my loving Father, through the gospel of Christ He completely “wrote off” this debt as “paid in full”. In place of my debt, He gives me a mansion in heaven where I will dwell with Him eternally! The LDS gospel stripped away the blessing of being “debt free” and instead “refinancedyour debt, making your oldest brother your creditor. You now owe your debt to Jesus. You must pay off this debt by keeping the commandments, one at a time.

The blessing of forgiveness:

Heavenly Father sacrificed His Son to cover over all sins. Through the gospel of Christ I am one hundred percent forgiven! My Father in Heaven forgave every sin I ever committed over 2000 years ago at the cross! There were no conditions attached to this blessing and I received it the moment I believed in it (Acts 10:43). This blessing of unconditional forgiveness given through the gospel of Jesus Christ has been completely taken out of the LDS gospel. When you sin, forgiveness is withheld until you prove your worthiness to receive it—you must first keep God’s commands. In fact, God withholds his forgiveness of you until you completely forgive all others for any wrongs they have done against you, whether they are repentant or not. Your gospel claims that God doesn’t even hold himself to the same standard he demands from his children. The harshest aspect of the LDS gospel is that God revokes your hard-won forgiveness when you repeat a sin you thought you had finally abandoned.

The richest gospel blessings that God gives to His children are forgiveness and eternal life. These gifts are truly gifts! One cannot qualify for them nor can they be earned. They are undeserved blessings offered to all, solely through the gospel of Jesus Christ! Please do not reject this amazing gospel or you will forfeit the richest blessings God has to offer you!

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