In response to the comments made about my April 2013 Priesthood session of the General Conference on the recent fairblog podcast, there are a few points I’d like to make.
Firstly, Ned comments on my point that Dieter Uchtdorf’s four titles for Priesthood holders (Son of Heavenly Father, Disciples, Healer of souls, Heirs to all that he has) could equally apply to all true believers in Christ. He feels that Uchtdorf is not applying these titles specifically to LDS priesthood holders. I accept that Uchtdorf perhaps never stated that these are unique titles to LDS priesthood holders but the tagline states: “I would like to suggest four titles … that may help us recognize our individual roles in God’s eternal plan and our potential as priesthood holders.” It is possible that I have misunderstood this, but I maintain that it is a valid point to say that ALL true believers in Christ would be right to label themselves as a child of Heavenly Father, a disciple, a healer of souls (through the work of Christ of course!) and an heir to all that He has.
Secondly, Ned Scarisbrick takes issue with my use of Hebrews 7:23 -28 to demonstrate that we no longer need such a thing as a ‘priesthood’ since Christ has fulfilled the role of a priest. He does appear to accept that Christ is the one who makes it possible to come to the Father, quoting 2 Nephi 9 in the Book of Mormon, yet he then equates the different roles that are outlined in Ephesians 4 with a priesthood structure as established by God. This scripture is telling us that we have different roles in order to edify and uplift each other and bring everyone into unity with Christ as the ‘body of Christ’. God’s will is for us to support and strengthen each other in this way, but this is not ‘a priesthood’ in the LDS sense of it. Jesus and his followers would never have called such a thing a ‘priesthood’ since their understanding of what it means to be a priest is that which I referred to when quoting Hebrews 7.
Then Ned disagrees with my comments in response to Thomas Monson’s talk in which he presented a four-point formula for being a successful missionary. He felt that I was responding merely to ‘cultural’ traits in my criticism of a ‘checklist mentality’: “Our lives are to be lost to ourselves and given over to love of God and service of others, not reduced to a mere formulaic checklist of life-goals to be met.” Yet how can this be dismissed as simply ‘cultural’? This was a talk by Thomas Monson, the prophet, teaching people about being a good missionary using a four point formula after all. A few paragraphs on, I referred to this ‘checklist’ for Mormons wishing to be exalted, which can be found in their Gospel Principles manual:
“To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in Him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey His commandments.
He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:
1. We must be baptized.
2. We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
4. We must receive the temple endowment.
5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.
In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to:
1. Love God and our neighbors.
2. Keep the commandments.
3. Repent of our wrongdoings.
4. Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.
5. Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
6. Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.
7. Have family and individual prayers every day.
8. Teach the gospel to others by word and example.
9. Study the scriptures.
10. Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.
Finally, each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow His direction in our individual lives.”
If the ‘prophet’ Thomas Monson uses checklists to show how the LDS can be successful missionaries, and the LDS teaching materials use (very lengthy!) checklists to show what is required to be exalted then I think we have moved beyond the cultural here.
Lastly, Ned then goes on to suggest that I don’t understand the distinctions that exist within Mormonism regarding differing degrees of glory. Well, I think he may have missed the point, since I quoted Romans 8 at length, which clearly demonstrates that those who are ‘in Christ’ have been freed from the law of sin and death. (This is what Mormons sometimes refer to as ‘general salvation’, the difference being that faith in Christ is not required according to the LDS.) However, the Bible makes it clear that this is only for those who are ‘in Christ’: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2) I then moved on through chapter 8: “If they are no longer condemned by the law then they are now children of God (v.16) and heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ (v.17).” This is the true Christian understanding of what Mormons may call exaltation, i.e. since we are saved from paying for our sins, we are no longer condemned so we are NOW children of God and are NOW joint heirs with Christ. The Mormon teaching of eternal progression does not apply here. Verse 32 explains that, as joint heirs with Christ, he shall FREELY give us all things.
So the point here is that in Christian teaching, there is an immediate flow of consequences, once you receive Christ you are saved, you are no longer under condemnation, you are now a child of God, you are an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. So there are no degrees of glory. If you claim Christ as your Lord and Saviour and put your faith in Him, then you get ‘the whole lot’! This is the true gospel message, not the LDS version which tells you that to live with God you must fulfil all the requirements of the LDS church. The LDS gospel teaches that we can be with God only when we have done ‘all we can do’. Is this even possible?