In this post I will be looking at chapter 3 in the book, ‘Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Lorenzo Snow. This Chapter is entitled ‘Lifelong conversion: Continuing to advance in the principles of truth.’
What does this mean, ‘Lifelong conversion’?
To a Christian that’s a contradiction in terms, most Christians understand Conversion to be a ‘moment’ a point in life where the decision for Christ is made.
(One point I want to make here is that when I say’ Christian’ I do not wish to offend any LDS readers, I understand that you consider yourselves to be Christians as Christ’s followers, however for the sake of clarity, I will always refer to LDS as LDS and Mainstream Christians as Christians.)
We can see scriptures which give a grounding for the Christian understanding, consider the thief on the cross, who Jesus told, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise,’ He didn’t have the luxury of a life time in front of him, yet Jesus accepted him immediately into his kingdom. Don’t forget, this was a thief, and goodness knows what else, he himself considered his crimes worthy of crucifixion, as he said to his companion, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”(Luke 23:40-41).
Could a man such as this based on his own ability, be able in such a short time, to fully ‘repent’ as LDS Understand the word?
“Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence…” (Moses 6:57) (LDS SCRIPTURES)
Repentance is a big part of salvation in the LDS thinking, repentance also being a process, one must truly repent in order to be saved, according to the LDS book ‘Gospel Principles,’ in order to repent one must; ‘Recognise their sin, feel sorrow for their sin, forsake (stop) their sin, confess their sin, make restitutions for their sin, forgive others, and keep the commandments of God.’
On first read of that list you might think ‘well that sounds ok, their all good things to do!’ But there is a difference in feeling sorrow for sins, being convicted of them, and then as a child of God knowing gods immediate mercy and forgiveness, and feeling condemned, not knowing that forgiveness readily, and feeling helpless as you fight to stop sinning by your own efforts.
To ‘forsake your sins,’ well every Christian desires to do this, but by our own strength? And completely stop? There’s a well-known saying in the LDS culture, which is, ‘You do your best, Jesus makes up the rest.’ You have to do ALL that you can do and Jesus will make up the rest? I ask our LDS readers, are you doing ‘all that you can do?’ and if not what then?
“…go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 82:7)
This is a shocking scripture one that is often overlooked but if you are LDS this is what your Church teaches. Unless you stop sinning completely the next time you sin, all your former sins will return to you! This is the impossible Gospel of Mormonism.
Look how this compares to the true gospel (gospel means good news by the way,)
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Our truly merciful God forgives our sins not based on our righteousness but on His, and then he remembers our sins no more!
Let’s look at another scripture, the sinful woman, the scriptures call her ‘a woman of the city, a sinner,’ she was most likely a prostitute. This woman anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. Speaking to the Pharisee Jesus said…
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
So this woman, well known to be a sinner, was told by Jesus that her sins were forgiven, and that she was saved. Jesus didn’t tell her to go away and apologies to anyone, or to be more sorrowful over her sins, he didn’t tell her to confess all to the bishop. He said that her sins were forgiven and that her faith had SAVED her. He also by the way did not tell her that if she sinned again she would lose that salvation.
On page 68 we find an anecdote, which Snow uses to describe lifelong salvation.
‘Place a cucumber in a barrel of vinegar and there is but little effect produced upon it in the first hour, nor in the first 12 hours. Examine it and you will find that the effect produced is merely upon the rind, for it requires a longer time to pickle it. A person’s being baptised into this church has an effect upon him, but not the effect to pickle him immediately. It does not establish the law of right and duty in him during the first 12 or 24 hours; he must remain in the church, like the cucumber in the vinegar until he becomes saturated with the right spirit, until he becomes pickled in ‘Mormonism,’ in the law of God; we have got to have those things incorporated in our system,’
Notice twice there he mentions Law. That’s where the LDS view comes from that salvation is a process, Mormonism is a religion of works righteousness, and what I mean by that is that you are earning your salvation. Before you argue that you’re not consider this.
If I were to give you a gift, then that’s it, you don’t have to do anything but accept the gift from my hand. Now if you were to insist on paying as much as you possibly could towards the cost of that gift, then by definition it would no longer be a gift, you have worked to pay for part of it. I would also be greatly offended at your offer of payment. This is how God sees our work, if it is work that we think earns us our salvation then the Bible tells us that our works are as filthy rags to Him.
Isaiah 64:6 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.
So should we not work? Should we not obey the laws of God? By no means!
8 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.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Notice the order, we are saved first, ‘unto good works,’ we are saved so that we can work for Him, we are not saved by those works. The LDS Church teaches that salvation is a process because of all the works or laws that it expects you to obey before salvation can come. It has to be that way, if the church teaches that you have to obey all the laws and ordinances in order to be saved then salvation would have to be a process for this to be even remotely possible. But this view simply disagrees with the Bible! Did God change his mind? Or is the Bible conveniently errant in the points that don’t suit the LDS Church?
Why don’t we see all the Laws and ordinances of the LDS Church written in the Bible? Surely if the current LDS Church is the re-establishment of the early Church, then these Laws would have been very important and should have been preserved in God’s word.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 (KJV)
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Who are these verses talking about? Those under the new covenant.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
God did away with the old covenant of Law, replacing it with one of Grace and whoever has accepted the gift offered to them in Jesus’ death on the cross, is under the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:33-34 is speaking of Christians today, He has written His Law on our hearts.
What does this mean?
The Holy Spirit guides us into obedience, convicting us of wrong doing. The Laws and ordinances of the LDS Church are not there in the Bible because they never were there. God never intended to burden us down with Law upon Law, rule upon rule, but he intended us to walk in the freedom of His grace.
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament,(Covenant) that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament (Covenant), they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
The Old Covenant of Law, exposed our sin, the new Covenant of grace brings us freedom from that sin,
The Bible tells us that we can have assurance that we are his.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)
When you put your trust in Jesus Christ, believing on him as the Son of God who died in your place, you become born again, in a moment, receiving the spirit of sonship, as it says also in Romans (I’ve just realised here that the King James does not use the term sonship but adoption, making another point clear, we are adopted into that position, not born into it as the LDS Church teaches.)
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
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:
Believe on His name and you become a child of God, receiving the Holy spirit who assures you that you are his, and this is so true, as a born again believer I KNOW that I am His for the Holy spirit (Ghost) bares witness to this.
Another point to mention here is being born again…
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again
You MUST be born again! What do you think of when you think of birth? Is it a process that takes years? True for some unfortunate women the birthing process can go into days, but there is a moment of birth.
Jesus uses the term ‘born again’ as a way of describing something that happens to us on a spiritual level when we put our trust in Him. Why does he use this term? If he wanted to describe something that too a long time, that was a process, surely he would have put it another way, perhaps saying ‘you must grow up again,’ but no he uses the phrase ‘born again,’ conveying that it is a thing which happens in a moment, the moment of new birth.
The Bible also describes this event as being made into a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
It’s not so clear in the KJV which I Quote for our LDS readers but in other versions it’s more clear…
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
Notice the past tense, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature! It’s instant! God sees that genuine faith in him, that inward turning away from sin, and turning to God, and He makes us into a new creature, born again not of the flesh but of the spirit. Unless you’re into evolution, which I assume most of our readers are not, then we all agree that the making of a new creature by God, is not an event which takes years but happens in an instant. As we read in Genesis, God speaks and it happens.
I know a lot of LDS will find this hard to accept saying ‘well then you can just sin all you like and still get to be with God? That doesn’t sound right!’ I agree! Remember that when you are truly saved by Him He makes you into a new creature, your inwardly changed, you desire the things of God, the old has passed away and the new has come, when you’re a born again believer you don’t keep on sinning (not deliberately anyway) but your heart desires the things of God and to become more like him.
I will leave you with one last scripture to ponder on, and I look forward to your comments.
John 5:24 (KJV)
24 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.