1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Note: Audio version of this blog entry…
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Acts17.10 “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) recently updated their general handbook. As one who lives quite close to the center of this organization, and regularly engages with its followers regarding its theology, I wanted to review some of the challenge I see as I review this document. My strategy here is simple… I will start off at the beginning, sharing my thoughts here, until I feel called to move onto another subject. You can find the handbook in its entirety at their website. I will use their numbering system to reference specific sections of the book.
John 6.29 “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The Lord taught, “Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:99). As a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you should seek personal revelation to help you learn and fulfill the duties of your calling.
Studying the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets will help you understand and fulfill your duties. (LDS Handbook)
Immediately, this introduction does not talk about the sin of man, the need for forgiveness, the love and grace of God, or the sacrifice of His Son. Instead, the book immediately talks about the duties of a follower. This may be called for, as this could very well be a book focused simply on duties within the organization. However, this is a running them of the LDS faith – a focus on works. A phrase used repeatedly in this book is “The work of salvation and exaltation.” While the majority of LDS followers would argue that they do not believe in a works based salvation, their literature and holy writings paint a different picture. “”For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world“
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”
Corinthians 6:4 – Paul says, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses”
God’s Plan of Happiness
Heavenly Father provided the plan of happiness to enable us to enjoy all His blessings. His work and glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Immortality is to live forever with a resurrected physical body. Eternal life, or exaltation, is to become like God and live in His presence eternally as families. (LDS Handbook)
A big focus in much preaching around this nation, and in the LDS church, focuses on our happiness. However, the Bible warns us that to follow Christ, we will face much hardship. While it is true that those who follow Christ may experience a peach that surpasses all understanding, this is quite different from the happiness often promised by false religions.
False religions want to dangle a carrot in front of the faces of people to get them to join. In the LDS theology, these carrots include progression within a large organization, eternal life with one’s family, happiness and more. This brings up a tragic flaw with these false religions, a focus on man. While Biblical Christianity does teach that one who believes shall receive eternal life, the purpose of that life is not to be happy, enjoy it with family or to eventually become a deity like God. Instead, the Bible says God created us for the express purpose of worshiping Him. (Isaiah 43:7 – [Even] every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.)
In fact, this is one of the reasons I became a Christian. As a young man, I took time to study each of the major world religions and found many of them had a few things in common. They exalted the men who followed their rules, allowed for a way to earn one’s way to heaven, and set up a hierarchy of authority here on earth. Yet, the Bible painted a different picture. Instead of exalting man, it paints man as a sinner (even the ‘saints’) and points squarely at the holiness of God. The purpose of God’s Word is not to elevate man, but to glorify Christ. God does not exist to make us happy or fulfill our desires. We exist to glorify Him. Now, in doing so we fulfill the purpose given by our creator and with that, we do find peace… but this is not an end onto itself.
Eph 2.8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not by works, so that no one can boast.
1.2 The Work of Salvation
“The Work of Salvation and Exaltation. We come unto Christ and assist in God’s work by: Living the gospel of Jesus Christ, Caring for those in need, Inviting all to receive the gospel, Uniting families for eternity.” (LDS Handbook)
First, the Bible makes it clear that works play no role in our salvation. In fact, in later books of the New Testament, Paul outright condemns the idea. The Bible leaves no room for confusion on this topic. Second, this section starts out mentioning the two ‘great commandments’: to love God, and to love our fellow man. I agree on the importance of following these guidelines. However, it then expands on these by adding additional rules or guidelines. This includes such directions as ‘receiving the ordinances of salvation and exaltation,’ ‘enduring to the end,’ ‘Helping others become self-reliant,’ and ‘uniting families for eternity.’
Some of these sound Biblical. Certainly, few Christians would argue with the idea of ‘learning and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at home and the church.’ Yet, mixing some truth with some misdirection is a trademark of the Deceiver. Uniting families for eternity completely contradicts Jesus’ teachings.
Luke 12.53 ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Mat 22.29 Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30In the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angels in heaven.”
This section also touches on making covenants and performing ordnance for the dead. I will save further discussion on these topics for a future entry.
We must be vigilant and alert. The Bible warns us that there would be many false profits. We must equip ourselves with the whole armor of God, including the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, so we may be ready to divide these falsehoods from God’s truth.