The Plan of salvation

In this months Relief Society Lesson we are reminded that “Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to save us from the Fall and from our sins.” Here we are taught about Christ’s part in the Plan of Salvation:

“It therefore became necessary for the Father to send his Only Begotten Son, who was free from sin, to atone for our sins as well as for Adam’s transgression, which justice demanded should be done. He accordingly offered himself a sacrifice for sins, and through his death upon the cross took upon himself both Adam’s transgression and our individual sins, thereby redeeming us from the fall, and from our sins, on condition of repentance. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith
Chapter 3: The Plan of Salvation, p. 62)

This conditional “plan of salvation consists of the following things:”

“First, we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; we must accept him as the Son of God; we must put our trust in him, rely upon his word, and desire to gain the blessings which come by obedience to his laws.

Second, we must repent of our sins; we must forsake the world; we must determine in our hearts, without reservation, that we will live godly and upright lives.

Third, we must be baptized in water, under the hands of a legal administrator, who has power to bind on earth and seal in heaven; we must, through this sacred ordinance, enter into a covenant to serve the Lord and keep his commandments.

Fourth, we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; we must be born again; we must have sin and iniquity burned out of our souls as though by fire; we must gain a new creation by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Fifth, we must endure to the end; we must keep the commandments after baptism; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; we must so live as to acquire the attributes of godliness and become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom.

Now I testify that these laws which men must obey to gain salvation and which comprise the gospel of Jesus Christ, have been revealed in this day to prophets and apostles, and that they are now administered by his church, which he has again established upon the earth.” (p. 65)

Did you notice all “we must” do? Thankfully, these are the words of false prophets. In contrast, I love the simplicity of God’s true Plan of Salvation as revealed through living prophets and apostles and found in scripture. It was Jesus who revealed this plan to us, and amazingly it’s all about what He has already done for us. The plan of salvations is an accomplished fact! Christ has already been lifted up on the Cross and His blood has covered the sins of the whole world. According to our Lord and Savior, the very moment you believe in Him, you receive eternal life! This is an unconditional gift from Heavenly Father:

“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 3:1-18)

God gave His Son to be lifted up on the cross because He loved us that much. Christ’s mission was to take away the sins of the world, and He did so. Everything necessary for us to live forever with Heavenly Father has already been accomplished. Read the entire chapter of John three to see all that Jesus taught Nicodemus regarding Gods Plan of Salvation. You will learn that the only “spirit children” of Heavenly Father are people who believe in Jesus. The very moment the Holy Spirit brings a person to faith, that person becomes a child of God, and is born-again through the Holy Ghost:

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“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)

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The Strengthening Power of Faith: Through Faith We are Credited With Righteousness!

This weeks Relief Society Lesson claims:

God grants faith as a gift to the righteous… We know that faith is a gift of God; it is the fruitage of righteous living. It does not come to us by our command, but is the result of doing the will of our Heavenly Father.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 17: The Strengthening Power of Faith, p 188)

This isn’t true. In fact it’s completely backwards. It’s not possible for someone to be righteous before the Holy Spirit brings them to faith! The Lesson acknowledges: “We are informed that without faith we cannot please God [see Hebrews 11:6]” (p 182)

The only way to become righteous is through faith in Christ:

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:3-8)

The basic message taught by the prophets and apostles of the Bible is that without faith, every human is evil and doesn’t even come close to meeting God’s demands for perfection. The first time I recognized this was when I read a Sermon about prayer. The Preacher boldly claimed that all the fathers listening to Him were “evil”!

Hearing that made me feel 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”. A little later in His Sermon He even commanded us to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father!

Jesus is the Preacher 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?” When I read His Sermon in context there was no indication that those listening to His Sermon were worse than anyone else. Jesus also told the rich young ruler “there is none good but one, that is, God”.

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?”

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 don’t tend to think that anything we do ourselves is actually “evil”.

It isn’t surprising that God consideres murder and adultery evil, but Nehemiah preached that not keeping the Sabbath day holy was evil. He also testified that marrying outside the faith was a “great evil” (13:27). 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 that Jesus had taught: “for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is only a small part of what God’s Word names 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 about himself:

“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.”

James 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 in God’s eyes, anyone without faith is evil! It is amazing 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.” Every person the Holy Spirit brings to faith is equally evil. 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 “Good News” taught in God’s Word is this:

Jesus not only died for us, He also lived for us. He obeyed every command perfectly, meeting God’s demands for perfection for us–in our place. He is our righteousness!

Heavenly Father credits Christ’s perfect works to all who trust solely in their Savior for righteousness. In God’s sight, all believers wear Christ’s protective robe of righteousness. That’s why eternal life is a free gift given to those who have faith in Christ.

The very same Jesus that proclaimed the dire consequences of evil, shares our only means of escape—it’s through faith alone that we 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.” (John 3:14-15)

Firm in the Faith of Christ: That’s Why I fight So Strongly Against the LDS Church!

Many LDS members ask why I have created this blog. They often wonder why I spend so much energy fighting against “the Church” by witnessing my new-found faith to its members. The answer is love! God has placed such love in my heart for “my people.” I simply can’t stop myself from being a missionary to Mormons–I love doing so. I know what it is like to be LDS and worry whether you have gained forgiveness of your sins. Ever since I met my Savior it has been my hearts desire to share His message of free and full forgiveness with everyone I know.

Your Gospel Doctrine Lesson this week gives a different reason why those who have left the Church often fight “so fiercely against it”. According to Joseph Smith, I am a servant of Satan:

The Prophet Joseph Smith made the following statement to a man who wondered why those who had left the Church often fought so fiercely against it: “Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant”” (Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine, Lesson 31: Firm in the Faith of Christ, p. 140)

I was born into a prominent LDS family. The first member of my family to join the church was John Patten, who baptized his brother David W. Patten (one of Joseph Smith’s original apostles). My father was Bishop, Stake President and Patriarch all his adult life. I was baptized at eight, married in the temple; and for many years never questioned that the LDS Church was the only true church.

Looking back, I realize that I was similar to the Apostle Paul—-in regards to being born of the right heritage, into a church led by leaders who taught false doctrines:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;” (Philippians 3:5)

Like Paul, I believed what I had been taught by my church leaders–that salvation depended upon my own efforts. Even though I often failed, I sincerely tried to follow the teachings of my prophets.

The reason that Paul left his church was because Jesus came into His life. It was then that he met his true Savior, and the Holy Spirit opened his heart to the truth. He realized that his church leaders were teaching false doctrines and that he belonged to the wrong church. We read many times in the New Testament that he fought fiercely against the false teachers who led this church. The reason he did is because of love! Just like me, he desired to share the truth with “his people“. In fact, he was willing to be cursed in exchange for his people to be brought to Christ:

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” (Romans 9:9-14)

Do you notice how Paul overemphasizes his motive: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.“? Maybe the reason he was being so adamant is because his previous church members doubted his motive for fighting “so fiercely against“the Church”.

The truth that Paul so wanted his people to hear is the same message that I share with you. Your leaders teach false doctrines. The LDS Church is the wrong church! LDS prophets proclaim a false gospel. Here is the true message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

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.” (Romans 1:16)

The Gospel of Christ grants Salvation to all who believe! The reason this can happen is because Christ took all your sins and in exchange, gave you His righteousness. Because you are now perfect in God’s sight, you can come into God’s presence:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 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 5:17-21)

Because I believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, I Stand firm in the Faith of Christ!

I beseech you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

LDS Leaders Testify that Being Born-Again is a Process. How Long Have You Been in Labor?

When I was expecting my first daughter, I started having difficulties during my fourth month. When my doctor examined me I was dilated three centimeters. After a short Hospital stay, I was confined to total bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. Unfortunately, during my sixth month my water broke and the contractions began.

After two and a half weeks in the Hospital with intravenous medicine trying to stop my labor, the doctor decided it was time for my baby to be born. Thankfully, the birthing process was very quick. When my daughter Jenifer was born, she was so tiny I could hardly believe it. She had to stay at the Hospital until she weighed four pounds, which took four months.

This weeks Gospel Doctrine Lesson spoke about conversion which reminded me of the similarities between a physical and a spiritual birth. God’s truth is that when a person is brought to faith spiritually (converted) it is an instantaneous event, similar to a physical birth.

The Gospel Doctrine Lesson teaches that “spiritual rebirth is a process” and not a single event:

“What does it mean to be converted? (See Mosiah 5:2; 27:24–26.) Is conversion a single event or a process? Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Except in … unusual circumstances, as with Alma (Mosiah 27), spiritual rebirth is a process. It does not occur instantaneously. It comes to pass by degrees. Repentant persons become alive to one spiritual reality after another, until they are wholly alive in Christ and are qualified to dwell in his presence forever.” (Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual Lesson 22: Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances? p. 99)

Jesus disagrees with this LDS teaching. He is the one who introduced the teaching of spiritual rebirth by using the words “born again”:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

He also testified that it happens in an instant, through the hearing of His Word:

“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)

The Holy Spirit brings a person to faith in a miraculous birth called conversion. Just as a baby is born physically and does not contribute to its birth, when a person is brought to faith, they are “born of the Spirit” and have done nothing to make it happen. When a physical life is created, there are elements necessary to create this new life, so also with a spiritual birth. As Jesus explained above, the Holy Spirit works His miraculous birth using the very Word of God. It is the conduit which creates a new spiritual life. Peter also testifies:

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)

LDS leaders testify that “spiritual rebirth is a process. It does not occur instantaneously”. According to this teaching LDS members take many years in the spiritual birthing process, never to actually be “born again”. It’s like they are stuck in the labor process but never given birth. In LDS re-birth, one must first have “qualified to dwell in his presence forever.”

When someone hears or reads God’s Word and the Holy Spirit brings that person to faith, a new spiritual creature is born, one that did not exist before. At that instant, they are credited with righteousness through faith and can dwell in God’s presence. Every person with a living faith in Jesus, has been brought to faith (born again) in this way—by the Holy Spirit. Before conversion, they were spiritually dead. When they are born again–they are brought to spiritual life, literally “passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24c) Now they are able to do good works that please God.

Today, I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit worked on this miserable being and brought me to faith, opening my eyes and heart to the truth. Now that I know what a “living” faith is, I can clearly see the difference. Contrasting any other faith with a faith in Jesus exposes that all other faiths are “dead”. All who have a faith in Jesus have something that no other person has—a new spiritual creature that lives inside of them and has become a part of who they are.

When the Holy Spirit brought me to faith, I did not want to be a Christian. I had given up on religion and certainly didn’t understand all the things I am explaining to you now. In spite of the fact that I didn’t understand, I had been born-again. There was this new spiritual creature living inside of me that was crying out and acting in ways that I had never before experienced. First and foremost, it wanted to be fed. Just like my daughters who cried out when hungry, my new spirit craved spiritual food and sent me out to find it.

Even though I didn’t understand why at the time, I couldn’t stop myself from going to as many Church services as I possibly could. I would go to three different services on a Sunday and as many others as I could possibly find during the week. I was a thirty-six year old with a “born-again” spirit that needed to be fed voraciously. My hunger was satiated only where God’s Word was being shared—in Christian churches.

It was at one of these services that I heard a message that both my head and heart could understand. The speaker testified that gaining the forgiveness of my sins did not depend upon my works–because that work had already been done by Jesus! After I tested the speakers words with what the Bible taught, I was amazed to learn what my Savior had really done for me. I discovered that all my sins had been washed away with Christ’s blood, shed for me when He died on the cross! Then and there I gave my life to Jesus and my life has never been the same. Every breath I breathe is for my Savior—driven by the new spiritual life that was created in me by the Holy Spirit, and fed by God’s Word working through me.

I pray that the Holy Spirit has brought you to faith through the reading of God’s Word. If you find that what I write is beginning to make sense, then maybe your heart understands what your head has not yet accepted.

We Must Serve Others to Gain Eternal Life? No—We Serve Others Out of Love For God

This week’s Gospel Principles Lesson claims: “We must serve others to gain eternal life. God has said that those who live with Him must love and serve His children (see Matthew 25:34–40).”

Serving others is not a requirement to gain eternal life. There are no requirements for gaining eternal life. Eternal life is a blessing given to believers the very instant the Holy Ghost brings them to faith in Jesus—before they do any acts of service.

Jesus testified:

“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)

After a believer has been given eternal life, she will serve others. Faith alone saves, but faith in never alone. The moment a person comes to faith in Jesus, they become a new spiritual creature. All true believers will serve others—they can’t help doing so because they have been “born again”. But these works of service are not requirements for gaining eternal life—they are fruits of having already been given eternal life. All who love God will serve Him—and others, out of gratitude for all that God has given them. It’s simply a fact that believers will do works that please God.

The Apostle John declared that those who believe in Jesus already have eternal life:

“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.”

Those who believe in Jesus “have” everlasting life. John stated his testimony of this belief even stronger in 1 John 5:

“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.”

Notice again that eternal life is a free gift, given to all who simply have faith in Jesus! And, the Apostle John states he wrote his words so that we can know that we have eternal life!

Believe it, and receive it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the Testimony of Three Witnesses:

Link to Ether Chapter 5:

Having a Faith in Jesus is Different from any other Faith

I was only 22 years old when I found my daughter Laura, dead in her crib. No parent should have to endure the trauma of having their child’s lifeless body lowered into a grave. Twenty-nine years have passed and yet the emotional pain is a vivid memory that time has not erased. Today, I pray that I can use the example of Laura’s life and death as a means of teaching you what a “living” faith in Jesus looks like.

When Laura was born she was very much alive. I knew this fact immediately because when the nurse put her in my arms, she wiggled around and started to cry very loudly. Over the next few months, whenever she was hungry, her cry often told me that she was very much alive. The morning that she died, I was suspicious before I even saw her, because I had not heard that normal cry of hunger. The moment I saw her, I knew that her spirit was no longer in her body. I could see there was no breath of life in her because her tiny chest did not move as it had before.

When a person is brought to faith (converted) it is an instantaneous event, similar to when my daughter was born physically. Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be “born again” and explained what that means:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

The Holy Spirit brings a person to faith in a miraculous birth called conversion. Just as a baby is born physically and does not contribute to its birth, when a person is brought to faith, they are “born of the Spirit” and have done nothing to make it happen. When a physical life is created, there are elements necessary to create this new life, so also with a spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit works His miraculous birth using the very Word of God as the conduit which creates a new spiritual life. Both Jesus and Peter explain:

“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)

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)

When someone hears or reads God’s words and the Holy Spirit brings that person to faith, a new creature is born, one that did not exist before. Every person with a living faith in Jesus, has been brought to faith (born again) in this way—by the Holy Spirit.

I once had faith in the Gospel of Mormonism. That faith was not one that was created by the Holy Spirit—I myself had worked to “develop it by my obedience.” After that faith failed me, I tried a faith in Shamanism and then one in the New Age movement, and on and on I went—searching for something I could place my faith in. Finally I settled on the faith that having faith didn’t really matter.

Today, I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit worked on that miserable being and brought me to faith, opening my eyes and heart to the truth. Now that I know what a “living” faith is, I can clearly see the difference. Contrasting any other faith with a faith in Jesus exposes that all other faiths are “dead”. All who have a faith in Jesus have something that no other person has—a new spiritual creature that lives inside of them and has become a part of who they are. When the Holy Spirit brought me to faith, I did not want to be a Christian. I had given up on “religion” and certainly didn’t understand all the things I am explaining to you now.

In spite of the fact that I didn’t understand, I had this new spiritual creature living inside of me that was crying out and acting in ways that I had never before experienced. First and foremost, it wanted to be fed. Just like my daughter Laura who cried out when she was hungry, my new spirit craved spiritual food and sent me out to find it. Even though I didn’t understand why at the time, I couldn’t stop myself from going to as many different Church services as I possibly could. I would go to three different services on a Sunday and as many others as I could possibly find during the week. I was a thirty-six year old with a “born-again” spirit that needed to be fed voraciously. My hunger was satiated only where God’s Word was being shared—in Christian churches.

It was at one of these services that I heard a message that both my head and heart could understand. I heard the truth that gaining forgiveness of my sins did not depend upon my works—that work had already been done by Jesus! I learned that all my sins had been washed away with Christ’s blood, shed on the cross. Then and there I gave my life to Jesus and my life has never been the same. Every breath I breathe is for my Savior—driven by the new spiritual life that was created in me by the Holy Spirit, and fed by God’s Word working through me.

Heavenly Father knows who does and doesn’t have faith—He can see into our hearts. But for us, it is sometimes hard to tell who does and doesn’t have a living faith. Yet those who have a living faith, move and act in ways that someone without faith cannot do—because they have a spiritual creature living inside them. They will do many works out of love for their God who has already given them eternal life—not because they “have to” but because they “want to”. They cannot help themselves because that is what spiritually alive creatures do.

True good works (voluntary works not done to gain something for you) always follow saving faith—yet faith alone saves! Such works are motivated by gratitude to a loving God who saves undeserving sinners—they glorify God. Works done to gain forgiveness, eternal life or anything else are motivated by a love of self—they glorify self!

James explains to us that there will be those who claim to have a living faith—but don’t. He also tells us how we can tell if someone does not really have a living faith: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26) Just as I knew that my daughter Laura was physically dead because her body was not moving; we can know that someone is spiritually dead if there are no works as evidence that they have a “living” faith.

I pray that the Holy Spirit has brought you to faith through the reading of God’s Word. If you find that what I write is beginning to make sense, then maybe your heart understands what your head has not yet accepted. Turn to God’s Words found in the Bible.

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

I once had a testimony that the Mormon Church was true. When I discovered that my testimony was false I went searching to find the true church. I spent almost nine years between Mormonism and Christianity and met people from all different kinds of faiths. I discovered many people with a strong testimony in their church. I even met Atheists, Shamans and Agnostics with 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 testify is true. It just means they have “faith” in something.

Through all my searching one thing I clearly believed was that I had to do something to live eternally with Heavenly Father. In the back of my head I always remembered that “faith without works was dead”. What I never knew is that these two teachings aren’t the same thing. It was exciting when I discovered that James’ point isn’t “how” we are saved, but how to identify real faith when we see it. He claims that what uniquely identifies a “faith” in the one true God is that it is alive! Faith is a gift from God placed in a person’s heart by the Holy Spirit. At that moment a person crosses over from spiritual death to being born again into a new spiritual life (John 5:24). Just as a newborn baby moves and breathes, someone with faith in God will do works—they just can’t help it! James emphasizes his point by saying that faith without works is like a dead body without a spirit. Even if someone claims to have a testimony of faith, if works are absent, that faith isn’t a true faith, its dead.

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

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

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

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

In the Book of Mormon (Ether) we read about the testimony of a different group of three witnesses. 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.

But, this was not all they claimed in their testimony. They also testified that one day they could be found spotless because of their own works. They testified: “And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ.” This testimony shows that they didn’t know what James knew and taught about Abraham: a person is found spotless in Gods eyes through their faith, and not their works!