Mr Ballard’s message was, ‘Don’t leave the boat or you’ll drown.’ Of course, he left us in no doubt
what the ‘boat’ was: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What he meant by ‘drown’ he
left us to imagine.
Last week a couple of Mormon missionaries decided they no longer wanted to continue their
attempt in bringing me through their waters of baptism. I lacked sufficient alacrity in declaring my
confidence in the Book of Mormon as a divine revelation. Of course, they are entitled to leave me
and go fishing in what they will no doubt consider more fecund waters. But before they left I quoted
to them from that same Book of Mormon:
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the
other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb
of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the
whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)
God is opposed to the church of the devil a day is coming when ‘the wrath of God (will be) poured
out upon that great and abominable church’ (1 Nephi 14:15-17). So how could they say to me, ‘Hey,
you’ve got your thing going and that’s fine and we’re going.’?
It’s like this: the whole point of a ‘Restored Church’ (why the LDS version of Restorationism should
be the correct one is another question) is that there had to be an apostasy. And if the apostasy is at
all serious then how can modern missionaries adopt this, ‘You’re OK, I’m OK’ philosophy?
Mr Ballard seemed to take the notion of apostasy seriously when he quoted Brigham Young who
said that if I’m not on the ‘Ole Ship Zion’ I will ‘drown’.
If you told me, Brigham-like, I’m an apostate and that I need rescuing, I would respect that. If you
told me Joseph-like I was in the church of the devil, I would know where things stand.
If I was in real danger of the wrath of God wouldn’t it be loving to give a person like that more than
So which is it? Do missionaries, or for that matter any Mormons, really believe in the seriousness
of the apostasy like the early Mormons like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (in which case they
seem not to care for souls in danger). Or don’t they really believe in such things? Mr Ballard thinks
I am drowning because I am outside the Ole Ship Zion. But how does he preside over a church that
prepares its missionaries in such a way as pass by on the other side?
So when Mr Ballard says members are free to question if they have doubts, I wonder if he thinks
missionary time should be devoted to helping inquirers?
Mr Packer believes that ‘through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved’. I have
italicised that little word ‘may’ since this is decisive. Speaking of those who may ‘qualify for
exaltation’ he says:
‘individually we must meet all of the requirements’
All of the requirements? I am reminded of the call to ‘deny yourself of all ungodliness’ (Moroni
10:32). All?! Has Mr Packer met this requirement he enjoins on others?
This ‘gospel’ is not good news at all because it is law. And the law is not the gospel. The law
tells the sinner what he must do, but has no good news to tell him about what Christ has done.
This ‘gospel’ denies the Scriptural witness to the total inability of sinful man to do enough works to
save or works of a sufficiently meritorious kind to achieve any better standing before a holy God.
For it is by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God, not of works lest anyone boast (Ephesians 2:8)
Could the apostle of Christ, inspired by the Spirit of God, be any clearer?
By works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight (Romans 3:28)
Mr Packer’s Jesus would never have said to the wicked thief, ‘This day you will be with me in
Paradise’, rather, ‘It is too late for you to qualify for exaltation.’
But wait, didn’t Mr Packer say that ‘through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved’?
Doesn’t he say that Christ has done something? That Christ has achieved an ‘atonement’ through his
Well it appears that Mr Packer’s understanding of the atonement of ‘Jesus Christ’ is not that of
Christ and His apostles. It is woefully deficient. How?
The all-sufficient 66 books of the God-breathed out Bible declare of the Lord Jesus Christ:
You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Note carefully the difference between Mr Packer’s atonement and the Scripture’s. Where Mr Packer
has a ‘may’, a ‘might’, a ‘possibility’, God declares the atoning work of Christ to be an effective
reality. ‘He shall save’, not ‘He may save’.
The atonement of Christ does not make salvation a possibility for all but a reality for all who call
on Him in repentance and faith. To add anything as a requirement upon the consciences of men is
to fall into the Galatian heresy. And in case you didn’t realise, the apostle declared that burdening
men’s souls with works as a departure from the faith – it was ‘no gospel at all’ (Galatians 1:7).
Sure, the Galatians took the name of ‘Jesus’ on their lips (Matthew 7:21-23). Of course they
believed in an ‘atonement’ of some kind. But it was an atonement that only did so much. It only took
men a part of the way. It was a deficient atonement to which men must add the filthy rags of their
own righteousness (Isa. 64:6).
However, the gospel of the apostles of the Lord declares a ‘righteousness apart from the law’
(Romans 3:21) and that all are called to repent of self-righteousness and works righteousness and
be ‘clothed’ with the righteousness of Christ.
So to imply that baptisms for the dead and other such acts ‘add stamps to our spiritual passports’
is a doctrine that has been declared ‘anathema’ (Galatians 1:8) by the Spirit-inspired apostle. It is
to ‘pervert the gospel of Christ’ (Galatians 1:7).
Let me end with a better analogy if we wish to speak of passports as gaining access to God’s
There are actually some countries that don’t let you in to their country if you have an Israeli stamp
in your passport. (If you haven’t heard about this prejudice you can look it up – it’s real). It doesn’t
matter what stamps you add to it you can’t get rid of that Israeli stamp. So you can’t get to your
desired destination. But you can get a second passport. This is a clean one and now you have access
to where you want to go.
Jesus gets us a second, clean ‘passport’. He doesn’t merely make it possible for us to earn a second
passport, He earns it for us and gives it to us out of His sheer goodness. Now we have access to our
desired ultimate destiny – heaven.
It comes down to this: who is earning your destiny? Jesus (alone) or you (+Jesus)?
Mr Bednar directed his talk:
…specifically to individuals who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints. I will address a fundamental question many of you may have: “Why are Latter-
day Saints so eager to tell me about what they believe and to invite me to learn about their church?”
He gives the Christian answer in Christ’s words:
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with
you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).
This does not answer why Latter-day saints in particular are keen to share their faith. So he
Latter-day Saints take seriously this responsibility to teach all people in all nations about
the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. We believe the same Church founded by the
Savior anciently has been reestablished on the earth by Him in the latter days. The doctrine,
principles, priesthood authority, ordinances, and covenants of His gospel are found today in
Mr Bednar has assumed there is such a thing as a ‘restored gospel’. But the commission quoted by
Christ makes no such mention. A restoration would, logically, require a universal apostasy (note the
qualifier ‘universal’ – Protestants agree there was some corruption, much apostasy in Romanism in
the Middle Ages but the gospel was never lost; there was never a universal apostasy).
But look again the words of Jesus quoted above: The Lord Jesus rose from the dead and said He
would be with His church ‘ always, even unto the end of the world.’ Do you believe Jesus dear
reader? I do. I believe Jesus has always been with His true church from its foundation to today and
on ’til the return of Christ in glory at the end of this age. But Joseph Smith did not. Joseph believed
Jesus was not with any of the churches of New York state or anywhere else in the 1820s.
So if you believe, like Mr Bednar, in this supposed total apostasy and wonderful ‘restoration’, here
is my question: where was Jesus? Or to put it another way, ‘If Jesus promised to be with His church
always, did He fail?’ Or had Jesus forgotten His promise?
So why are we non-LDS folk being evangelised? We are told:
As members of the Church, we do not receive prizes or bonus points in a heavenly contest.
I cannot search the hearts of the many missionaries I have met. I would not presume to know their
I would dare to venture that any given missionary will have mixed motives as is common
to all people. But I am a little sceptical of this claim by Mr Bednar that it is the interests of the
hearers that are primarily or exclusively in view when a Mormon missionary knocks on my door.
Because the theological system of Mormonism is works righteousness. Of course, Mormons
believe in grace and in the need for God’s help. But any honest Mormon must accept that at root
a Mormon’s progress to exaltation will depend on faithfulness, on doing stuff to please ‘Heavenly
Father’. That does not mean Mormons do mean, nasty stuff – not at all. It doesn’t mean that
Mormons are hypocritical liars who care nothing for others. That would be to twist what I say.
But I do suggest that to claim absolute purity of motive in evangelism with a works righteousness system
is not plausible. At least admit that being personally motived to gain godhood is part of the reason
why a young man will spend two years in a tiny bedsit in a dreary, cold English town away from the
sun-kissed orange groves of California where mum and family love him.
Mr Bednar then said:
Some of you may respond, “But I already believe in Jesus and follow His teachings,” …Our
invitations to you are not an attempt to diminish your religious tradition or life experience.
Bring all that you know is true, good, and praiseworthy—and test our message. Just as
Jesus beckoned two of His disciples to “come and see” (John 1:39), so we urge you to come
and see if the restored gospel of Jesus Christ enlarges and enriches that which you already
believe to be true.
But a parable in response:
Once a man owned Michaelangelo’s David and a nicely dressed man came to him and said, ‘I am
a handy sculptor. I know you have something very nice. I will not attempt to diminish your work
of art. But I can enhance it. I can enlarge and enrich this work of art of yours. Just one thing, it will
cost you a lifetime of service for my efforts.’
How would you answer?
The answer is obvious. But why? Surely the well-dressed sculptor has failed to recognise the
priceless work of art already owned. In short, you cannot improve upon perfection. There is a sense
in which to add is to diminish.
We diminish by addition in many ways: I diminish my carpet by adding spilt wine on it. I diminish
my shoes by adding what a dog has done to the bottom of them. You get the idea…
If I add to the perfection of what Jesus did on the cross by adding my supposed priesthood (are you
a physical descendant of Aaron?), ordinances, doctrines (the Bible is sufficient 2 Timothy 3:16-17),
then I take away from the glory of Jesus Christ.
I appreciated Mr Bednar’s humorous story about the fact that the brother who had been helped
was motivated to help. All that he said is true in that context. And as someone who is outside the
LDS church I want Mr Bednar and any LDS who read this to know that I am also eager to tell you
about what I believe and to invite you to learn about my Saviour. That is why I write these words –
because I have been helped: Not through an organisation but through Jesus Christ. I have not been
helped by a system of works that I may follow that may end in my exaltation, but that I have eternal
life right now just as John in his gospel speaks. Jesus said,
I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will
never thirst. (John 6:35)
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
When Mr Bednar says,
‘…the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ as a prerequisite to
heartfelt and authentic service that stretches far beyond merely “going through the motions,’
He almost sounds Christian. But read his words carefully and we know he is sadly on the works
We also have experienced the cleansing, the peace of conscience, the spiritual healing and
renewal, and the guidance that are obtained only by learning and living the principles of the
Savior’s gospel.It is that word ‘and living’
Can Mr Bednar say, as I can, “I have ‘the cleansing, the peace of conscience, the spiritual healing and renewal’ because Jesus died for me”? Or must he add, ‘these are only for those ‘learning and living the principles of the Savior’s gospel.’?
What a shame that Mr Bednar is unfamiliar with the gospel given by Christ to His Spirit-inspired
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28)