General Conference October 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session, by Jim Gourlay

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Russell Ballard – Stay in the Boat and Hold On!

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

3-4 studies?

 

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?

 

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Alan Packer – The Book

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?

Or again,

 

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

death?

 

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

heaven.

 

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)?

 

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David Bednar – Come and See

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

explains:

 

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

His Church.

 

 

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

motives.

 

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.

 

Why?

 

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)

And

“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

righteousness treadmill:

 

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

apostles:

 

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28)

One thought on “General Conference October 2014. Sunday Afternoon Session, by Jim Gourlay”

  1. My but the LDS church has an Odd relationship with Brother Brigham these days.
    On the one hand they are happy to quote him at conference and hold him up as an example of piety and staunch faithfulness for the brethren.
    Yet on the other they openly and roundly condemn him for his racist stance his “well meaning speculations” on the Adam God Doctrine, his leading by example on polygamy and his doctrine of blood atonement; ALL of which he declared to be scriptural but the modern prophets open declare are definitely NOT church doctrine and were NEVER taught as such, even when they clearly and undeniably were.

    “I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . ” (Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95).

    The Journal of Discourses is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a compilation of sermons and other materials from the early years of the Church, which were transcribed and then published. It included some doctrinal instruction but also practical teaching, some of which is speculative in nature and some of which is only of historical interest.
    LDS. org official statement

    I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” (Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

    not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.
    The Doctrine of Christ
    BY ELDER D. TODD CHRISTOFFERSON
    Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles general conference 2012

    A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.
    Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Trial of Your Faith,” Ensign, (May 4, 2007)

    “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266).

    “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

    “This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church”
    President Gordon B. Hinckley, 1998

    “.. our father Adam … about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. ” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

    “the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine.”
    SPENCER W. KIMBALL
    President of the Church 1976

    “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind . . . the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
    “Race and the Priesthood”, Gospel Topics, LDS.org (LDS Church)

    Brigham Young is on the one hand condemned in all but name as a false prophet who preached false doctrine, and yet on the other is venerated as the second greatest prophet the church ever had, his name still adorns the flag ship university, the pride of the secular arm of the church.
    If one thing and one thing alone where to show up the LDS for the confused and befuddled mass of contradictions and self negating doctrines that it is, that thing would be the Prophet Brigham Young, his teachings and his legacy to posterity

    Like

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