Here are the opening sentences of each of the last two reviews of this book:
This third chapter is entitled ‘None Righteous, No, Not One’ and its purpose is to make it very plain that we are all sinful.
This second chapter is entitled ‘No Unclean Thing Can Enter’ and therefore it focuses largely on sin.
Bearing in mind the extent to which those two chapters cover sin, I was hoping for a little relief when reading chapter 4 for this review. However, the title of this chapter is: “These Things Doth the Lord Hate”. So here we go again, yet more sin.
The chapter outlines the following sixteen areas of sin: Idolatry, Rebellion, Traitors, Sabbath-Breaking, Lovers of Money, Stealing, Unholy Masters, Improvidence, False Witness, Vulgarity, Word of Wisdom Violation, Drug Habits, Covenant Breakers, Haters of God, Ingratitude, Unmercifulness.
In this chapter, Spencer Kimball writes at length about the harmful effects of each of these sins, and summarises only very briefly at the end about how to be free from sin by saying: “As sinners we will better appreciate his love and kindness if similar abhorrence for sin impels us to transform our lives through repentance.” (emphasis added). Once again, we have here a chapter going into great depth about a wide variety of sins, how harmful, grave and dangerous they are, yet with the only, very brief, glimpse of hope being that if we hate sin in a similar way to God, we can transform our own lives so that we will then be aware of God’s love and kindness.
Fortunately, we have a great response to this in Titus 3, one of my favourite selections of verses: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7) Here is the real gospel. We cannot transform our own lives in order to better appreciate God’s love and kindness, rather, we are saved because the kindness of God our Saviour appeared, according to His mercy and are renewed through the Holy Ghost/ Spirit and are justified by God’s grace which in turn means we are the heirs of eternal life, with all that this implies! How much greater is this God than the God of Mormonism who merely says in effect, “Sort yourselves out, keep telling me you’re sorry, and one day I may deem you worthy to receive my love and kindness”!
I would now like to focus on one of the sections in this chapter in particular, namely: rebellion. Of course, this is of special interest on this blog and I also am interested in this part as a ‘rebel’ myself in LDS eyes. So what does Kimball say on this matter. One point he makes is: “Among Church members rebellion frequently takes the form of criticism of authorities and leaders.” Is this sinful? Is any human above or beyond criticism? Many Mormon leaders have suggested that Mormonism should be investigated and will stand up to such investigating:
George Albert Smith: “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”
John Taylor: “I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.”
Joseph Fielding Smith: “If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false.”
Gordon Hinckley:“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.”
Surely then, if these Prophets are all for putting Mormonism and its leaders under scrutiny, then it makes sense not to simply accept all things unquestioningly. Jesus clearly liked responding to questions from the people he encountered and always had a response to those who showed curiosity, interest, faith. Not all questioners went away content, but from reading the gospels it is clear that Jesus not only wanted loyal followers, but wanted the mind engaged and searching too.
Kimball continues: “After a while they absent themselves from Church meetings for imagined offenses, and fail to pay their tithes and meet their other Church obligations. In a word, they have the spirit of apostasy, which is almost always the harvest of the seeds of criticism.” Really? People who question church leaders and don’t take the line: “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” are subject to leaving the church over ‘imagined offenses’? I wonder what Spencer Kimball would have made of Dieter Uchtdorf’s very different line on this issue from last October’s General Conference: “Sometimes we assume it is 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… And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.” If this is so, then surely questioning, criticising, analysing are all part and parcel of what it means to be a follower, to be a faithful member. In addition, if this is so, then surely it is clear that people leave the LDS church due to these errors or inconsistencies rather than due to imagined offenses or sinful behaviour. (It is worth pointing out, of course, that Uchtdorf does not go into any detail about those things that were said and done that were not in harmony with the LDS church’s values, principles or doctrine. That part is left very much down to individual interpretation). God did not create us as intelligent beings, only for us to follow blindly, accepting simply that someone ‘above’ us has done all thinking on our behalf. What a dangerous philosophy that would be!
Spencer Kimball believes that those who betray the church are doing it for selfish ends: “We are not without traitors in the Church today, those who would destroy that which is good to win their own selfish earthly rewards or to accomplish their base schemes.” I wonder how many of those the LDS would call ‘traitors’ are really better off in ‘earthly’ terms since their ‘betrayal’. There is certainly a lot to lose on many levels by leaving the LDS church. Thankfully, many ‘rebels’ leave for the true gospel found in the Bible. And when they have left, they can sing these words wholeheartedly:
“In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”