General Conference, October 2013, Saturday Morning Review

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Well its that time of the year again, I think for me general conference has always seemed a bit of a boring prospect. Nothing really doctrinal taught anymore, a load of guys being repeatedly told not to look at pornography and so on.

However since a certain admission from a Church Historian about the effects of google on the LDS Church , and more recently a previous general authority from Sweden undergoing a crisis of faith , its become clear that the emphasis has changed to dealing with this significant issue.  I am just going to comment on a couple of the talks with some observations of what struck me from a Biblical perspective but also in light of these recent events.

The first talk is from President Monson, announcing that the LDS Church membership has now topped 15 million worldwide, I think being so upfront with this is likely intended to be a slap in the face to this idea that the LDS Church is really struggling with numbers. However it has been estimated that only around 30% of that number are active.  The reality is many people that leave do not remove their details from the Church records and so are still classed as a Mormon Member even if they have not believed it for years. Also all children under the age of 8 born of Mormon families are included in this number even though they are not baptized, see here.  So while this new membership number may satisfy the faithful that would never dream of digging a little more into it, all is not as it sounds.

As well there are now 80000 missionaries worldwide. This is an impressive number, in years gone by I believe the number of missionaries was going down, this is well and truly not the case now.  More than ever you are likely to come across Missionaries in your home area, this is a great witnessing opportunity for Christians that I hope many will take.

The third talk was from Elder Ulisses Soares of the 70.

Interestingly he quoted Moroni 10:32 which is  a verse from the book of Mormon often quoted by people like myself to show the extent of the expectations on Mormons, it says this:

32 Yea, acome unto Christ, and be bperfected in him, and cdeny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and dlove God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may beeperfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

The underlined part here is key, when you deny yourself of all ungodliness, His grace then becomes sufficient. The speaker here misquotes this a little and skips the “then His grace is sufficient part” and skips to the grace. However the message in this talk still gives the message of the verse. Shortly afterward Soares says “It is our duty to try and be perfect, improve each day,”  Quoting Lorenzo Snow.

For me this is the common issue of the Mormon Church placing impossible expectations on its members, literally telling them to strive for perfection. Studies have shown that Utah has the highest rate of depression in the US. Is it not at all possible Mormons that the 68% Mormon Populated state having the countries highest rate of depression is not down to being constantly told how perfect you need to be?

Biblically we see this in Jeremiah 31, speaking of the New Testament Covenant to come:

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

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.

If you are truly in Christ then your desires will be changed to the point where you naturally desire to serve Him. You wont need to be constantly told to be perfect, you wont need to sit with a bishop once a year going through a checklist to see if you are worthy enough to go into Gods Holy temple, by virtue of being in Christ you will be worthy and righteous to be in Gods presence always, because He lives in you.

Hebrews 10

16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

You enter the Holy place which is no longer a building anyway, by the blood of Jesus, not by your so called, impossible to attain anyway “perfection”. So here is a challenge, at your next temple recommend interview, quote this verse and say its by the blood of Jesus that you are worthy to go into the temple. If that’s not enough for them, your in the wrong Church.

There is lots that I could say about Carole Stephens talk too, but for the sake of time and not bombarding you all too much, I will skip to the talk thats got everyone talking. I may come back to that another time.

So finally we heard from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf 2nd Counsellor of the First presidency, meaning he is the third highest guy in the LDS Church.

Now as an Evangelical Anti-Mormon as we are often called, I am not sure if I am allowed to like a Mormon leader, but either way I do like Uchdorf, He strikes me as a genuinely good man that is doing what he sees as the best thing for his fellow LDS members, and that comes through a lot in this talk. For anyone reading this who has not watched this session I would genuinely ask that you at least watch or listen to this talk. You can find it here.

This talk has been picked up on in the New York Times,  Because Uchtdorf makes a significant admission. He said this:

“We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question,” 

It does not take much internet searching to see that the Mormon Church is losing many members right now because of the historical issues of Mormonism. This is a significant admission that says actually there are things that migh cause people to question. This is good, because hopefully those that are in relationship or contact with ex Mormons but are still faithful Mormons themselves will see that there is some validity to why they left. As well as this Uchtdorf also said something which I thought was very significant and very positive.

“However there are some who leave the church they once loved. One might ask if the gospel is so wonderful why might anyone leave, sometimes we assume its because they have been offended or lazy or sinful, actually it is not that simple. In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.”

For years I have heard the assumption again and again that these are the reasons that people would leave the Mormon Church. I think Uchtdorf saying this will break down a lot of barriers between ex Mormons and Current Mormons. While this is likely his intention with the goal of drawing people back to Mormonism, I would hope this opens up a dialogue both ways., and could also help heal the relationships of many families that have been torn apart as a result of people leaving Mormonism.

Going back to the admission of the admission of the Church doing things in the past that could cause people to question. The issue I still have with this is that these things are totally unnamed. There is still the breathing room left for LDS Apologists to say that any and every reason someone might question Mormonism is still invalid. There is no way of knowing from this what Uchtdorf sees as questionable and what is not. I appreciate that there is not the time for this in his talk but in a way this seems like progress in the Church admitting its faults but in another way there has been no admission at all. Even in the last month we have seen Denver Snuffer excommunicated from the LDS Church because he wrote a book  detailing what he sees many of these questionable things to be. So while Uchtdorf can say there are questionable things and be applauded, we see another Mormon detail what he sees these things to be and get excommunicated. The ridiculous position of the LDS Church hiding from its history still very much stands.

On a more amusing note, a podcast called Infants on Thrones recorded a 9 minute episode detailing what they think Uchtdorf should have said in the interests of being more honest, check that out here.  Its very good.

Finally Uchtdorf said one other thing that really interested me,

“Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Alma 32:21),” he said. “Therefore, please, first doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith.”

As I said right at the beginning of this article the Mormon Church is on damage control right now, you can expect all the more of this in time to come, the message that you should doubt yourself and your perceptions and interpretations of information you might find out, before you doubt the Church. For many this is simply not sufficient anymore, this is the same Church whose leaders have said this:

In the Imporovement Era, June 1945 contains the following quote as part of a Ward Teachers’ message:

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.

Dont let this be the case for you, think and question and make your own decisions. As a Christian I know that doubts can happen in all faiths including mine so I am not saying that Uchtdorfs comment has no validity, however don’t have blind faith, test all things hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess 5:21) and search the scriptures to see if what your leaders are telling you is true. (Acts 17:11) Even the Apostle Paul had to pass the test of the Old Testament with his teaching, do your leaders pass the test of the New Testament?

To finish here is a great story of an LDS Missionary that took that challenge

7 thoughts on “General Conference, October 2013, Saturday Morning Review”

  1. Hi Bobby,

    I would like to address two issues. One is the view that worthiness to serve in the Church and worthiness before God is the same. Every group, organization and agency has a set of standards that must be maintained in order to be considered in good standing. Doesn’t matter if it’s the CIA or the local PTA. The proper history, credentials and behavior is common in all these groups. The standards are different for each group but the concept is the same. The Church is no different. The problem comes from thinking that these standards make us worthy before God. This is not case from a doctrinal view. The only thing that makes us worthy before God the Father is God the Son. Period. The only thing that makes us worthy before God the Son is our offering Him a broken heart and and contrite spirit because that is what make the process of repentance active in our lives. It makes us aware that our sin has seperated us from God and it is our acceptance of His atoneing scarifice that witll allow us to return home. Worthiness before God the Holy Ghost is based on our desire to know God and bring our lives in line with His will for us. He will then inspire and direct us according to each individuals level of understanding and ability and thus over time God grows us up in process of sanctification where at some point in the future we may become perfect. So in a temple recommend interview when I’m ask if I feel worthy to enter the temple my standard response is, “In and of ourselves the only thing we are worthy of is death and hell. The only thing that makes us worthy of anything is the Savior’s atoneing sacrifice. So when I think of worthiness this is what I look to and not myself.”

    The second issue is the interpretation of the Book of Mormon scripture, Moroni 10:32, Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. On the surface your view may be a common interpretation but not a accurate one. First of all if you deny yourself of all ungolliness then you would not need the Savior because you would have no sin. We know that all have sinned and come up short. So what does deny mean in this scripture? Is this just some kind of word game to confuse the reader? I don’t believe this is the case. It is my view that to ‘deny’ yourself of ALL ungodliness is to make no justification for any sin. ALL sin is wrong. You agree to ‘deny’ sin as acceptable in any situation. The only thing that makes us perfect in Christ is His grace. This explanation makes sense to me and I have expressed it in Church with a positive response from those who have addressed this issue. At no time have I been chastised for teaching false doctrine. Perhaps this is just a misunderstanding.

    My best,

    -Ned

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    1. Hey there Ned thanks for the comment.

      So are you saying that there is a difference between having a right standing before God and a right standing before the Church?

      This sounds nice in theory and obviously I would agree with that, however is it not right that in order to be exalted and therefore be with Heavenly Father for Eternity you have to have done all these church things? So if I was LDS and I said in my temple recommend interview I dont want to go to the temple, would that not mean by not going through the endowment and all that entails I would have not carried out the eternal ordnances necessary to go to the celestial kingdom?

      Therefore by not being in a standing with the church that allows me to do certain Church things, I can therefore not be able to be with God eternally? Is that not right? Therefore these things do seem to go very much together.

      I imagine it may be the case that you see these things as a response of genuine faith rather than things you have to do to earn your place with God, however this does not line up with the teachings of LDS Prophets and Apostles.

      Your president Thomas S Monson said this:

      “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want mem- bership. Such blessings must be earned” (Thomas Monson, “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p. 56).

      He also said

      “President Spencer W. Kimball has always been a prolific worker. He spent several summers working on a book which he later en- titled The Miracle of Forgiveness. As one reads the book, particularly the first portion, one wonders if anyone will make it to the Celes- tial Kingdom. However, in reading the final portion, it is apparent that, with effort, all can qualify” (Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand: The Memoirs of Thomas S. Monson, 1985, p. 342).

      Speaking of the Miracle of Forgiveness.

      “Immortality has been accomplished by the Savior’s sacrifice. Eter- nal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 208).

      and Kimball also said

      “Baptism into Christ’s true church by proper authority opens the doors for exaltation in the eternal kingdoms of glory, exaltation to be earned by repentance, by living righteously, keeping the com- mandments of the Lord, and service to one’s fellowmen” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Stone Cut without Hands,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1976, p. 7).

      It seems that these leaders see exaltation meaning being with God eternally not as something that comes from being righteous in the sight of God by virtue of your faith in Christ, but rather your place with God eternally also involves a lot of hard work, it goes without saying I think that this work must be done in the LDS Church, if not I can support that too.

      So therefore it cannot be the case that God right now sees you as fully righteous and acceptable, if indeed you have a lot of work to do in order to be with Him eternally.

      Onto your 2nd point I think you know as well as I do that pinning down exactly what Mormon Doctrine is, is a task and a half, have you listened to this recent podcast?

      http://mormondiscussion.podbean.com/2013/09/20/narrowing-down-doctrine-jon-westover-and-bill-reel/

      It was very interesting but ultimately with no real conclusion, other than whats doctrine for some might not be doctrine for others. The fact that you have been teaching what you have been teaching without chastising far from proves your point. If I was LDS and was teaching a literal approach to Moroni 10:32 I have a feeling I would not be chastised either.

      This BYU Professor appears to take this literally too.

      “The perfect relationship between the atoning grace of Christ and the obedient efforts of mankind is powerfully stated by Nephi: ‘We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). Furthermore, we are invited to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.’ When we deny ourselves ‘of all ungodli- ness,’ then and only ‘then is his grace sufficient’ for us (Moroni 10:32)” (Clyde Williams, BYU assistant professor of Ancient Scrip- ture, “Plain and Precious Truths Restored,” Ensign, October 2006, p. 53).

      The fact remains that reading Moroni 10:32 for what it says leaves us with this interpretation. This leads us onto the whole idea of the impossible gospel of Mormonism as this really does leave people in an impossible situation with standards like this. I imagine you may have heard of that, if not check one of these talks out by Keith Walker

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=impossible+gospel&oq=impo&gs_l=youtube.3.0.35i39j0j0i3j0l7.4959.5358.0.6012.4.4.0.0.0.0.177.414.2j2.4.0…0.0…1ac.1.11.youtube.HrjVJQRi6ag

      I would be interested to hear you do a podcast on this sometime.

      Talk soon

      Like

      1. There are those who see these two scriptures in a very literal manner… ‘We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). Furthermore, we are invited to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.’ When we deny ourselves ‘of all ungodli- ness,’ then and only ‘then is his grace sufficient’ for us (Moroni 10:32)” (Clyde Williams, BYU assistant professor of Ancient Scrip- ture, “Plain and Precious Truths Restored,” Ensign, October 2006, p. 53
        (Bobby) I imagine it may be the case that you see these things as a response of genuine faith rather than things you have to do to earn your place with God, however this does not line up with the teachings of LDS Prophets…

        If this was as you suggest, ‘true doctrine’ then any other opinion or view would be considered apostasy. However there are those, Robert Millet, Stephen Robinson and Brad Wilcox who take a view more in line with the ideas I have expressed. So who is right? I guess that depends on whether you see these scriptures as literal or symbolic representations of gospel principles.

        There are those who do have a very black and white view of life in general. There is good and bad. Right and wrong and when you couple that view with the gospel you can become very legalistic in your world view. This can cause a guilt / fear motivation to the point where life become very mechinical. You HAVE to do or not do this or that. Your checklist becomes longer and longer as you learn more and more. Stress builds and the Savior’s love or acceptance then is based on your behavior. I know this life well because I lived it. I can’t remember the exact day I learned a new gospel world view but I will never forget the lesson I learned when someone ask me, “When the Savior performed His atoning sacrifice how many of your sins were in the furure?
        ” ALL OF THEM! I don’t have to do this or that. I now get to do things because the Lord’s love now flows through me to bless the lives of others. The covenants received through the ordinances of the gospel becomes opportunities instead of obligations. My whole life changed when I started to see the gospel as a work of love. The Savior’s love for us.

        We all grow in different ways. Who is to say what is the correct way to grow? Our lives lived in full color is much richer than those who live in a black and white world. Experience from my own walk on the path.

        I do plan on doing a podcast on this very subject. I will send you a link when it is posted.

        thanks,

        -Ned

        Like

      2. Thanks Ned, I think you likely know as well as I do that no one really knows for sure what exactly Mormon doctrine is on many matters, as in the podcast I directed you too, they had to condlude that for some doctrine is different than for others, I think this is due to a lack of clarity these days on doctrinal issues by your leaders.

        Instead you have BYU professors like Brad Wilcox coming up with very interesting, but also very non official talks like the grace one he did. However we see LDS Prophets and Apostles like Spencer Kimball in past days being very clear and seeming to me to be bringing a very different message.

        Kimball in the quotes I gave and many others seems to be one of these black and white people, out of serious interest what is your view on his book “The miracle of forgiveness”?

        Like

      3. The first part of the book seems to a black and white world view person like there is little if any hope because we all sin and the only way to obtain heaven (exaltation in the celestial kingdom) is to be free from all sin. In the ultimate sense that is true. A real good chance that it is NOT going to happen in this life though.

        The second half of the book is much more in line with how we understand this principle now. A scripture comes to mind from the Book of Mormon, Alma 42:22-24 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

        23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

        24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

        It is my view that this explains the concept quite well.

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      4. Thanks for that Ned, we are gonna be spending some time looking at the Miracle of Frorgiveness next year so more of this to come I am sure.

        Like

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