October 2013 General Conference Review, Sunday Morning by John Tancock

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 This was my first experience of any Mormon ‘meeting’ in decades. I listened to: ‘to my Grandchildren’ by President Henry B Eyring. I found the emphasis that there is only one plan of happiness ‘to follow all the commandments of God’ strangely ‘heavy’ even in as such a warm family friendly talk as this. The talk weaved personal experiences with Bible and Book of Mormon quotes all with the purpose of helping people to forge eternal families.

I am sure ‘singles’ must feel seriously second class citizens in this LDS world. This first talk struck me in its ‘Christian’ feel, it would be so easy for any Churchgoer to slip into Mormonism without having a clue as to its nature and beliefs.I ‘m sure similar language may confuse many Mormons because ‘God’, ‘Gospel’ and many more terms mean something different IN Mormonism compared to OUTSIDE Mormonism. I then listened to Elder Dallin Oaks on ‘no other gods’. He was focusing in on the 10 commandments, he quoted a phrase from Alma 42v8 ‘the great plan of happiness’ (I wish we could wangle a translation that said that in some paraphrase of the Bible !! lol). He talked of births inside and outside of Marriage, co habitation before marriage and same sex Marriage.

There are issues where even the most aberrant sects will agree with mainstream Christianity and I for one would have no issues being the same side of the table as Muslims on Abortion and Mormons on this. In fact I can’t actually say it any better regarding the ‘same sex’ issue than this guy so here it is…….. ‘ But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place. In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited.

I then listened to the Young Womens President Bonnie Oscarson. I was beginning to lose the will to live at this stage. Mainly because the talks although littered and shot through with various Mormon beliefs were often ones I generally could ‘go along with’… be more moral, resist the world, build family etc but they are frightfully bland. It’s true that truth can sometimes appear boring when compared with thrilling, on the edge, scandalous error but that’s only because we often don’t understand truth. The truth of the Grace of God knocks legalism and law keeping into a cocked hat. Anyway here is a quote from Bonnie which sums her talk up really.

“you have [the] primary responsibility for your own conversion. No one can be converted for you, and no one can force you to be converted.”7 Conversion takes place as we are diligent about saying our prayers, studying our scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in temple ordinances. Conversion comes as we act upon the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom. Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Conversion comes as we understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives.” 

Its all a bit Spiritless, ‘keep plodding and living virtuously’, ‘good’ but not Gods best for us. The fact is that in Titus 2v10 it states ‘The Grace of God has appeared and it teaches us to say no to ungodliness….’.

I often switch Grace for Law and I get nodding heads for Law showing that not only Mormons but many Christians misunderstand ‘Grace’. Laws are incapable of producing godliness only Grace. A boy-girl relationship that relies on a list of responsibilities for each is doomed to failure, the relationship based on love and appreciation will succeed. I sloughed on to The Strength to Endure BY ELDER RICHARD J. MAYNES I didn’t have a clue what to expect but apart from assuming that the beliefs and comments of the Book of Mormon are ‘true’, it was helpful, here is a quote When we face adversity in life and our desire is to emulate the attributes of Jesus Christ, it is essential to be spiritually prepared. Being spiritually prepared means we have developed spiritual stamina or strength—we will be in good shape spiritually. We will be in such good shape spiritually that we will consistently choose the right. We will become immovable in our desire and ability to live the gospel. As an anonymous author once said, “You must become the rock the river cannot wash away.” He recounted a story of his great grandfather and his roots back in the UK but his big appeal was to ‘get in shape’ one that might resonate with us and he ‘bore his testimony’ at the end of the talk.

Sadly because there are no objective proofs or pointers of the factual veracity of the Book of Mormon ( no documents, archaeology etc) I always am deeply saddened when I hear a Mormon give testimony. These people are often nice, clean living and have a faith misplaced and founded on a document that because of lack of evidence can be regarded as fiction , the testimony is all the sadder for the ‘back-story’ being so untrue. I long for some kind of conversion of the LDS as happened with the Worldwide Church of God….we must pray.

The contrast with a biblically based faith is dramatic, thousands of ancient documents, more archaeology than we need and many ‘outside of the Bible’ attestations. Elder Richard G Scott talked on receiving strength through the atonement. He used the story of the Sons of Helaman and the words in Alma usually known I think as ‘the stripling warriors’ from the book of Mormon. It was yet a further appeal for more commitment to Church and activity. I reflected for a while on the comparison between real provable history and these accounts in the Book of Mormon, and I also thought that this story was completely out of kilter with biblical revelation in addition to the historical fiction. In saying that I am not in any way questioning the reality of the faith of individual Mormons, I am though questioning its basis and foundation. The final address was by ‘Thomas Monson’ he hardly referred to the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, and I think almost all the quotes were from the Bible . His talk was all the better for that.

He was talking about endurance or perseverance. He quoted this poem which I have seen a few times in Christian material… Good timber does not grow with ease, The stronger wind, the stronger trees. The further sky, the greater length. The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.8 The absolute tragedy of this talk is that as he talks about the importance of ‘the gospel’ as a foundation for life it is the nature of Mormonism to mean something so different to the actual Gospel of Jesus. All the talks indicate that the response to the gospel is to be determined and grit ones teach. We believe that of course but the core of our faith springs from Grace not effort,law or rules…..it is relationship. The experience of working through an entire mornings sessions is a first for me. It has been in equal measure interesting and very sad. All the language is there salvation, gospel, faith, atonement and much more. Sadly the fiction of the Book of Mormon intrudes, misleads, distracts and distresses. So must it be for the Latter-Day Saints, sometimes the impulses to live better are so good , the language of perseverance and faith is encouraging but it is patently obvious they lack the truth and the Gospel of the Grace of God that would rescue these good people from a life and an eternity of trying but not knowing of the utter acceptance of God because of Christ not themselves.

The lack of any evidence for the book of Mormon means either that Mormon faith is more real more strong than mainstream Christian type of faith or of course that it is based on documents and statements that are untrue. The foundation of Mormonism is the vision of Joseph Smith, the fact that he states he saw the Father and the Son contradicts earlier biblical revelation which makes it impossible to see the Father 1 Timothy 6 v16 this would be enough for me to dismiss Mormon claims but the lack of any factual evidence for the Book of Mormon is another clincher. I’m sure Mormon friends will respond with ‘evidence’

I look forward to the discussion. I’ve overall enjoyed my journey through the Sunday session. My experience over the years of individual Jehovah’s Witnesses is mixed, most are nice people but some I have found are far from that . However apart from one Mormon when I was 16 my experience of Mormons is all good. I’m sure that as any individual Mormon looks at these good people speaking in their conference, as they scan the temples and institutions and here ‘the numbers’ they may mumble ‘how can all this be wrong’?

The fact is that even greater institutions are ‘wrong’ and I would encourage all Mormons to trust where the evidence points not just ‘a burning in the bosom’. Peter said ‘we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ’ 2 Peter 1v16. We can investigate and find out the truth of that statement in good measure, I challenge all Mormons to come to a faith like Peter’s. I commend it to you.

One thought on “October 2013 General Conference Review, Sunday Morning by John Tancock”

  1. Good to have your insights John. A Mormon conference session is not for the faint-hearted. Don’t you think Dallin Oaks is the poor Mormon’s Tim Keller? I always smile when I think of it, Of course, you are perfectly correct when you say that what is missing is life. It is all duty, grind, perseverance and ultimate uncertainty. It is also true that it can sound so deceptively Christian and the clue is in the bland nature of much that is said. When you are listening to platitudes about duty you can be pretty sure someone has something to hide.

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