In response to the comments made about my June Ensign Review, on the Fairblog Podcast there are a few points I’d like to make.
Firstly, Ned Scarisbrick spends some time looking at my comments on what James Faust had said regarding the expectations of parents to bring up their children in the LDS vein. He agrees that my interpretation, that there can be great pressure on LDS parents and that people can feel very uncomfortable when their children don’t follow the LDS path, is probably true in many cases but that this is a cultural aspect of the LDS way of life and not a doctrinal point. I agree that this is not a doctrinal point, but in discussions with Mormons we often hear or read the expression: ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’. Well, surely these ‘fruits’ are worth examining.
Don’t forget that in his article, James Faust was himself describing some aspects of LDS culture. As it was my remit to review the June Ensign, and being a former Mormon myself, I don’t see it as a problem to comment on these aspects of the article. Is it surprising that, when striving to fulfil all the commands of LDS teachings in order to reach the celestial kingdom, a culture of comparison of people’s behaviour emerges? I think not, and as Mr Scarisbrick acknowledges, this is human nature. Human nature plus a belief system that states that we can only be saved ‘after all we can do’ is very likely to result in such a culture.
In understanding this culture of fear and shame about LDS family members who “leave the flock” it is important to remember that this culture is built on the teachings of LDS leaders. Remember that prophets speak God’s word. So when they say: “I want to bear testimony that no apostate who ever left this Church ever prospered as an influence in his community thereafter” and “You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell.” (from Prophets Harold B Lee and Brigham Young respectively). Ned Scarisbrick didn’t respond to these two quotes in my article, but they demonstrate that in Mormonism, your temporal and eternal happiness is in danger if you abandon the LDS faith. Therefore it is not straightforward to divide cultural and doctrinal matters here.
Scarisbrick then goes on to claim that I have misunderstood Faust’s quoting of Orson Whitney. In Faust’s article he quotes Whitney as saying that ‘the sheep who wander’ will be drawn back into the fold and then, “They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins”. My response to this was to say that the Bible teaches us that “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18) therefore we will not be required to pay our debt to justice and suffer for our sins as Whitney suggested. Ned Scarisbrick believes that I am saying that we do not suffer the consequences of our sins. This is not what I am saying, my point is that we do not have to pay the price for our sins. Sinning certainly leads to negative consequence or suffering, but that is not the same thing as paying our ‘debt to justice’. This is done by Christ alone. As I explained in my article, the prodigal son did not have to pay his ‘debt to justice’ as the Ensign article suggests he would, (though he certainly was suffering the consequence of his sins prior to returning to his father), rather he was welcomed from afar, before even uttering a word and accepted back into the fold without any sort of trial period, penitence, suffering of any kind. This is not what is taught in Faust’s article.
After this, Mr Scarisbrick believes I am confused about the meaning of the term ‘redeemed.’ In my article I comment upon Faust’s quoting from the D & C which says that, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.” (D&C 138: 58-59) According to these verses, people can be redeemed, after death, through repentance and obedience to the ordinances of the house of God. They will not be redeemed by Jesus’ blood. Yet in response to my article Scarisbrick says, “I don’t think the church teaches that we are redeemed by the ordinances of the house of God.” That is what the D & C clearly teaches.
When I pointed out that the LDS view that certain people may be in a position to repent after death is not a Biblical one, Scarisbrick responded with a suggestion based on some verses in 1 Peter 3 which says that by the Spirit Jesus went and preached to the ‘spirits in prison’. This one reference does not build a sufficient case for the LDS doctrine of carrying out essential saving ordinances in the temple for those who have died. Remember that LDS teaching is that they are the restored true church. Is there any evidence that the first Christians carried out temple ordinances for dead people who were ignorant of the gospel in the belief that this was essential for their salvation? No.
Next Scarisbrick responds to a direct quote from Faust’s article made by me. Faust says, “Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned.” So I paraphrased it thus: “He tries to argue that a repentant ‘wayward’ child can be saved through repentance and Christ’s atonement, but that he / she must earn their exaltation.” The response from Mr Scarisbrick to this is that we earn our exaltation ‘symbolically’ and ‘as respect, as honour, as gratitude at what the Saviour has done for us. Can we literally earn our exaltation? No, the church doesn’t teach that.” O.K. so now I’m confused. Faust says that exaltation is much more than salvation and must be fully earned, but the LDS Church doesn’t teach that we can literally earn our exaltation. Hmm.
I pointed out in my article that there is a difference between the LDS meaning of exaltation and the Biblical meaning. I used Revelation 5:9-10 to demonstrate a Biblical understanding because it says, “thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” The response given to this is, “No, no, no.”
Again, Mr Scarisbrick claims that what Faust said in his article is not what the LDS church teaches. This time it is in response to my pointing out that Faust has made two apparently opposing statements: (from my blog post) “Faust then says that ‘The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy’. Yet he has also just stated that it must be fully earned.” Scarisbrick claims this is not what the church teaches, yet Faust himself taught that our exaltation must be fully earned in the article I am reviewing. Hmm, again.
Ned then quotes my article directly, saying: “Also, thankfully, there a great many who leave the LDS faith because they have come to know who Jesus really is, rather than the reduced picture presented by the LDS church.” He says that, ‘If people leave the church for those reasons, they don’t really understand what the church teaches about Jesus.’ Ned suggests that I was raised without this real understanding of the LDS church’s teachings are about Jesus. That is certainly not the case. Rather, it was simply that when Christians got me reading the Bible for myself, the real gospel it contains leapt out at me, and the salvation Jesus offers was radically different compared to the LDS version. Ultimately, the great love of Jesus was truly revealed and I was amazed by this and responded in faith.