Written by Mark Cares
Without saying it in so many words, this is the perspective more than one Mormon has shared with me.
They have put it something like this. Some have started by asking me if I wanted my children to remain dependent on me for their entire lives. They were making the point that most parents want their children to become independent. So much so, that they worked hard as their children grew to make it happen. Good parents, the argument goes, don’t do everything for their children. Instead, they teach their children the skills they need to be on their own. Then, at the appropriate time, they encourage their children to spread their wings and leave the nest.
After painting this picture, my Mormon friends then make their point. They say this is exactly what our Heavenly Father does for us. He wants us to grow and learn and to be like him. Instead of doing everything for us, he has given us a plan which will help us progress to a relationship like adult children have with their parents – a relationship of love and respect, but also one of independence.
I was reminded of those conversations as I read the talk which opened the recent (April, 2017) General Conference of the LDS Church. It was given by President Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency and one of their most influential leaders. In his talk, he said: “Because He loves us with the love of a perfect Father, He wants us to progress and advance and become like Him. He ordained a plan by which we would come to earth, in families, and have experiences that would prepare us to return to Him and live as He lives.” He says the same thing my Mormon acquaintances told me.
Some Mormons, however, haven’t stopped there. Some have continued by talking about how unloving it would be for Heavenly Father to do everything for us. It’s not what loving parents do. Rather, it’s a sign of bad parenting because it results in stunted, spoiled children. Thus, the title of this article.
How would you respond? Here’s how I respond. I tell them I would agree IF the children are normal and healthy. If, however, I had a child who was born with severe disabilities, it would be the height of cruelty to encourage and expect my child to become independent. I then go on to say that I was not just born with severe spiritual disabilities; I was born spiritually dead. All I could do spiritually was stink. In spite of that, my Heavenly Father loved me so much that he made me spiritually alive in Jesus. I couldn’t do anything – after all, I was dead – Jesus had to do it all for me.
I share all this with you for two reasons. The first is to illustrate how Mormonism’s high view of mankind – that people are basically good, filled with a lot of divine potential – greatly affects how they view God’s role in our salvation. If we are quite healthy spiritually, then God doesn’t have to do much.
Even more important is the second reason. When we talk with our Mormon friends, we need to realize that many won’t initially have a positive view of the message that Jesus has done everything for us. Rather, many will view it as talk coming from a spoiled child (even if they don’t come out and say this to you). It’s only after the Bible convicts them of their sinfulness that they will see the beauty of our gospel. As Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). (It’s important to note Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, who were not healthy, but thought they were.)
This, then, serves as a good reminder that an important part of the truth we speak in love to Mormons is the truth of human sinfulness. Share this truth and pray the Lord opens their eyes to it so they marvel and are not repulsed by the glorious truth of free and full salvation in Christ