Faithfulness in times of trial: from the shadows into glorious sunshine. Chapter seven in our series of posts on the book, ‘Teachings of presidents of the church: Lorenzo Snow’.
In this post I will be giving thoughts and comments on the above mentioned chapter,
Looking at the issues raised from a Christian perspective.
The chapter begins by describing the trials suffered by the early church as they made their way from Nauvoo, Illinois to their eventual home of Utah more than 300 miles west. A perilous journey which most of us even in this day and age, with our modern equipment and mod cons, I’m sure would not like to take. They did truly suffer for their beliefs, this can’t be denied.
Snow explains his perspective on trials; ‘ I dare say that in the pre-mortal spirit world, when it was proposed to us to come into this probation, and pass through the experience that we are now receiving, it was not altogether pleasant and agreeable; the prospects were not so delightful in all respects as might have been desired, Yet there is no doubt that we saw and understood clearly, that in order to accomplish our exaltation and glory, this was a necessary experience; and however disagreeable it might have appeared to us, we were willing to conform to the will of God, and consequently we are here.
In other words, in the pre-mortal life we looked and saw how bad it was going to be at times and we said we will do it anyway. That would be admirable obviously, but doesn’t the Bible say something about not boasting?
I can almost picture Lorenzo straightening his collar proudly as he speaks. The problem with this scenario is that it does lead to a boastful attitude. If as a faithful Mormon ( speaking fictitiously obviously,) I read and believed what my president had said. Then in times of suffering, I could ( not saying that every Mormon does this, ) say to myself, ‘I’ll be ok, I will get through this, I saw this coming before I came to this world and chose to come anyway so I will endure,’ ( trusting in myself, instead of God!) Or I could have the prideful attitude of thinking, ‘wow these are some tough times I’m going through here, aren’t I great for choosing to go through them! Good for me!” Which is of course, prideful boasting in my own achievements instead of Gods.
That reminds me of a certain passage in the Bible…
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ”But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ”I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The fact is that although I’m sure every Mormon would plead innocence to this, the LDS Gospel, (which is very different from the Christian Gospel,) leads to many opportunities to fall into the sin of pride.
This scripture speaks against earning salvation by works, (which in itself is prideful to think we could do this.) instead of trusting in the saving grace of our saviour. The second man in this passage, knowing that no works of the flesh made him acceptable to God, did not point to his works, ( His keeping the laws and ordinances,) but he came humbly before God knowing that no matter what good he had done, he stood before God as a sinner. He says ‘have mercy on me,’ as he knows what the due punishment is for his sin. The scripture says that he went home justified before God.
Justify – Dictionary definition
v. jus·ti·fied, jus·ti·fy·ing, jus·ti·fies
1. To demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid
2. To declare free of blame; absolve.
3. To free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin. Used of God.
So in this parable, spoken by Jesus Himself, the second man went home having been ‘declared free of blame, free from the guilt and penalty of sin! Why? Because he humbly came before God and said ‘have mercy on me, a sinner.’
2 Corinthians 10:17 But , “let him who boasts, boast in the Lord,” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
“The Lord has determined in his heart that He will try us until He knows what he can do with us. He tried His Son Jesus … Before He ( the Saviour) came upon earth, the Father has watched his course and knew He could depend upon Him when the salvation of worlds should be at stake; and He was not disappointed.
This paragraph highlights a couple of huge differences between Mormon and Christian thought, firstly I’ll look at the statement, “until He knows what he can do with us.”
Wilford Woodruff, Fourth President of the LDSChurch said this…
“God is increasing in knowledge. If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any further, the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind. God Himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end.” ( The Discourse of wilford S Woodruff,3)
…“God’s foreknowledge spans all of man’s experience (premortal, mortal, post-mortal, and immortal) and man’s end (his final condition as an individual) is known by God, “from the beginning.” This foreknowledge may have come as a result of God’s long observation of his children through premortal ages or eons, or it may come as a result of the celestial globe where God resides and where things past, present, and future are continually before the Lord.”…
The God that I worship, the God of Christianity, is very different from the god of Mormonism. My God is the alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. There is no God apart from Him. He knows all and see’s all. He can see past, present and future. He knows all that is, and all that could be. He is not limited by the things that limit us. After all he created time and space, physics and philosophy. Mormonism brings god down, teaching of a god that does not possess all power, knowledge and dominion. But must find that knowledge from observing things outside of Himself.
Coupled with the belief that God was once a man, potentially a sinful man, God is robbed of his glory by this religion.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
1 John 3:19-20
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done.
Similarly, Jesus is brought low, the Mormon Jesus, does not compare to the Jesus of Christianity.
…”He tried His Son Jesus … Before He (the Saviour) came upon earth, the Father has watched his course…”
God the Father, tries his son Jesus to see that he’s capable of the task ahead.
This is not the Jesus of the Bible, who “existing in the form of God, ( So he was already God ) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped ( because he humbly laid aside his Glory temporarily ) but emptied Himself (of the Glory which was His ), taking the form of a bond servant and being made in the likeness of Man” Philippians 2:6-7 (off topic here but notice this bit, “Likeness of Man,” if the LDS interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is correct, why is Jesus made to be in the likeness of man? Wasn’t man made in the likeness of God? This statement doesn’t make sense in the LDS theology of God having a body.)
John 1:14 (NASB)
The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Hebrews 1:3 (NASB) And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and [b]upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
John 17:5 (NASB)
5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Notice in the above two verses, ‘The Son is the radiance of Gods Glory,( or KJV, ‘The brightness of His glory,’) then in John 17 Jesus asks God ‘glorify me together with yourself,’
Jesus is asking the Father to glorify him, ‘with the glory which I had with you before the world was’ This is just before the crucifixion.
Jesus who having lived out His life perfectly, sinlessly, selflessly, facing his final act of sacrifice, to pay the price for the sins of the world. Asks His Father to give Him the same amount of glory he had before he came to earth.
Surely from the Mormon perspective this doesn’t make sense. Is Jesus having done all the father asked of Him not worthy of Exaltation? Or did he possess this level of glory (of an exalted being) before coming to earth? If so how could this be? He hadn’t earned exaltation at that point? Should He be sharing the same level of Glory with the Father before He came to earth?
The second issue the two scriptures raise is that of Gods Glory. Didn’t God say that He would not give His glory to another?
Isaiah 42:8 (NASB)
8 “I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to [a]graven images.
Isaiah 48:11 (NASB)
11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.
God will not give his glory to another! Why then does Jesus ask Him to do this?
This contradiction is no contradiction at all when you understand God in trinity.
Genesis 1:26 is the first glimpse of the Trinity in the Bible.
Then God said let us create man in our image according to our likeness.
Who is speaking here? It says God is speaking, So God is identifying Himself as more than one person.
Deuteronomy 6:4 (NASB)
4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
Why does God make a point of telling us he is one? One what?
One God, as in there is only one God? If that is the case then Mormonism works against this as there are many Gods, even if we are not aware of them they still exist,(in LDS Theology) and God Himself would be aware of them.
So then is he telling us that he is one, because He is one with Jesus and the Holy spirit?
Jesus Himself said it…
“I and the Father are one.”
I know what your thinking! (if your LDS) ‘Jesus was one with the Father in purpose’ Is that really what Jesus meant though?
The following verses say…
31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.
The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was saying, by claiming to be one with the father He was claiming equality with God. Had they understood Him to mean that He was one in purpose, surely a stoning would be a bit harsh!
I’m not going to go into the issue of Trinity further here but I want to challenge you to check it out for yourself. The concept of Trinity came from what the scriptures say, it was not a product of the nicea creed as I have herd some LDS people say. All the Nicea creed did was to put down on paper a statement of the agreed upon beliefs of the church at the time. They came to this agreement through studying the scriptures.
I will stop here, there are more issues that could be discussed from this chapter but for want of time I will have to leave them. Hopefully I’ve given you enough to think about for now.
As always I will look forward to your comments!