I really enjoyed teaching the 5th and 6th grade Sunday School class at my church. It was such a treat getting to know each child and sharing my faith with them. While I was surprised to discover how often these young kids talked to their LDS friends about spiritual matters, I wasn’t surprised that they were confused about the differences between beliefs. To help, I came up with a few illustrations to show the fundamental differences. These illustrations helped to contrast some of the Lessons being taught to their LDS friends with what the Bible teaches.
Today I share with you an exercise I used with my Sunday School Class that contrasts two very important and fundamental differences between Mormonism and Christianity. While both the Book of Mormon (Alma 11:37) and the Bible (Ephesians 5:5) agree that “no unclean thing” can enter the Kingdom of Heaven; the two differences are seen when we look at what God truly demands of us and at His eternal consequences if we fail.
According to LDS beliefs, our efforts at keeping God’s commands are more important to God than how well we keep them. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: “There was only one perfect being, the Lord Jesus. If men had to be perfect and live all of the laws strictly, wholly, and completely [to be eligible for eternal life], there would be only one saved person in eternity.” LDS leaders claim that the majority of people will spend eternity in one of the Kingdoms of Heaven. On Judgment Day, even those who never come to faith in Jesus, including those who hated God and were the world’s vilest sinners, will eventually go to a kingdom of glory.
These LDS beliefs are in direct disagreement with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus commanded us to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father, He really meant it. There is not one single Bible verse that lessens Jesus’ demands for perfection. There is not one passage that claims our best effort is sufficient to gain eternal life. Every Judgment Day scenario in the Bible shows the consequence for any sin is eternity in Hell with Satan.
For my Sunday School illustration I bring out two chairs. Each chair has a piece of paper taped to it, one with the word “God” written on it and the other with the word “Me”. These chairs are placed apart from each other, symbolizing the distance that separates man from God. The point of the exercise is to determine what God requires from man to reach Him and dwell with Him eternally. In this exercise I represent Jesus.
Illustrating LDS beliefs, I place the two chairs on opposite walls of a classroom. The distance between the two chairs is symbolic of the degree of righteousness required by God before man can be judged worthy to dwell in His presence. As I have just shown, this distance is something far short of perfection. Each child stands on the chair labeled “Me” and attempts to jump to the chair labeled “God”. How far they jump is symbolic of their “degree of righteousness” on earth and determines which Kingdom of Glory they will go to. Not one child has ever been able to jump all the way from one chair to the other—but they all tried as hard as they could. No matter how far each one made it, I go to them in my role as “Jesus” and help them walk to where the “God” chair is. This was symbolic of how LDS doctrine teaches Christ’s Atonement saves each person “after all they can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). The fact that they jumped indicated they believed they had to do their best before Jesus would help them. This also shows they did not believe Jesus had fully met God’s demands in their place.
Next we do our exercise with chairs according to what the Bible teaches. Since a classroom really isn’t large enough for this illustration, we pick up our chairs and go outside. We go to a side road next to the Church. I walk as far down the road as I can and put the chair labeled “God” on it. Then, I walk back to the other chair labeled “Me”. This distance is symbolic of the perfection required from God. Each child stands on the chair which is so far away from the “God” chair that it is hard to see. Then, I explain the rules according to the Bible. Symbolic of obeying Jesus’ command to be as perfect as Heavenly Father, they have to jump to where God is. If they don’t make it, in my role as Jesus, I will say to them: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Guess what happens with every child I have ever done this exercise with? They look at how far away the chair labeled “God” is, and then, looking down at me they say “I can’t do it—it’s impossible!!” They won’t even try! In my role as Jesus, I smile and pick each one up and carry them down to the “God” chair. Carrying them is symbolic that Jesus does it for them—they do not and can not help. The fact that they did not attempt to jump indicated they believed Jesus (me) — that anything short of God’s stated requirements was insufficient. Symbolically, instead of attempting to do something that was impossible, they put their faith solely in their Savior and not in themselves.
Can you understand what my illustration exposes? The words from the LDS Lesson explain the true reason why Jesus had to come to rescue us: “There was only one perfect being, the Lord Jesus. If men had to be perfect and live all of the laws strictly, wholly, and completely [to be eligible for eternal life], there would be only one saved person in eternity…”
Guess what? We do have to be perfect! That’s why Jesus came to do it for us—because we can’t do what God requires!
The LDS words expose why faithful Mormons will not gain eternal life. Believing that you don’t have to “be perfect and live all of the laws strictly, wholly, and completely [to be eligible for eternal life]” means that you don’t believe your Savior. It means you won’t say “I can’t do it” and turn to your Savior who did it for you. It means that you won’t give up trying to gain eternal life by your faith and obedience. It means that you will stand before God on Judgment Day in your own woefully imperfect works of righteousness: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Is 64:6)
There was only one perfect being, the Lord Jesus Christ. If Jesus had not come to earth to be perfect for us, in our place, no one could be saved in eternity. Christ’s mission was to meet God’s requirements for us– to be perfect and live all God’s laws strictly, wholly, and completely. Christ accomplished His mission and met all God’s requirements for eternal life. He did this for you—in your place, as your substitute. It is through faith that He has met all the requirements for you, that you are credited with His righteousness. Only through faith in His atoning sacrifice will anyone meet God’s command to be as perfect as He is: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)
All who honestly believe they are credited with righteousness through faith respond to this gift with love, praise and thanksgiving. They will do “all they can do” voluntarily. Not because it is required to gain something for themselves, but simply out of love for their Savior who loved them so much He washed their sins away with His blood (Revelation 1:5).
References for LDS beliefs, taken from two Lessons for 12 & 13 year olds:
“Explain that we came to earth to show that we would do everything the Lord commanded us and serve him with all our might, mind, and strength…read Matthew 5:48: [Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”] “What commandment is given here? Has any person other than Jesus lived a perfect life? (No.) What do you think the Savior meant when he told us to be perfect?”…Enoch knew that in responding to God the test is not our capability but our availability… “There was only one perfect being, the Lord Jesus. If men had to be perfect and live all of the laws strictly, wholly, and completely [to be eligible for eternal life], there would be only one saved person in eternity… Explain that none of us knows when the end of his mortal life will be, but if we are on the right path we will continue until we become as our Father in Heaven is, and we will be able to live with him forever…” (Aaronic Priesthood Teachers Manual 2, Lesson 1: “Who Am I?” pages 2-3)
“The Truth about Heaven and Hell ” Quiz…Have class members mark each statement as “True” or “False.”
1. After we have been resurrected and judged, each of us will dwell in one of three kingdoms of glory. True. Just as there are different degrees of righteousness on the earth, there are kingdoms of differing glory in the next life… To reward many different levels of faithfulness, there will be “many mansions” (see John 14:2)…
5. Hell is a place of never-ending suffering where sinners go. Most of mankind will be there forever because of their wickedness. False. Hell, or spirit prison, is a place for people who have rejected the gospel and people who have died without a knowledge of the gospel. The gospel is preached to them there, and those who accept the gospel and repent of their sins will be released and allowed to enter paradise until the Resurrection and Judgment (see D&C 138:29–34). Most of those who do not accept the gospel there will have to suffer for their own sins but will eventually be resurrected and go to a kingdom of glory (see D&C 76:81–85, 98–106).” Preparing for Exaltation, Teachers Manual, Lesson 8: “The Three Kingdoms of Glory”, pages 38-39.
References for Biblical beliefs:
Now, let’s look at the Bible and determine if Jesus really meant what he said in Matthew 5:48. Reading the passage in context we see that Jesus gave this command while preaching His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5, 6, & 7). In His Sermon we discover that Jesus gave many difficult commands. We read that we commit sins of commission by swearing, getting angry, or judging others. Lusting after a woman is the very same sin as committing adultery. He also gave many commands that expose our sins of omission; such as loving our enemies, forgiving others and turning the other cheek. Amongst these and numerous others comes Jesus’ ultimate command: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Reading this passage in context it is quite evident that Jesus really did mean what He said.
Another aspect of studying scripture is to let the Bible interpret itself. That means that the rest of scripture must agree with our conclusion, and it does! There is not one Bible passage that disagrees with or lessens Jesus’ command to be as perfect as Heavenly Father. James’ testimony supports Jesus’ command: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10). The most compelling evidence that shows Jesus really meant what He said is seen when we read what God’s stated consequences for sin are: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10b). Jesus taught what happens on Judgment Day to those who merely committed sins of omission: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink.” (Matthew 25:41-46).