A Gospel that is Not Good News

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The most important article, each month, in the LDS magazine, the Ensign, is the “First Presidency Message”. It is always written by one of the three top leaders of the LDS Church. It is usually the first article read by LDS members. For some, it’s the only article they read.

This month’s (September, 2016) message is entitled “After Love, Then What?” It was written by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He begins and ends his message with the statement that “love is the essence of the gospel”.

The word “gospel” literally means good news. The Bible uses it to refer to the incredible news that Jesus gained eternal life for us. It is summarized in the most famous of all Bible passages, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This good news has brought tremendous comfort and peace to countless millions.

In light of John 3:16 and a host of other passages, Uchtorf’s statement that “love is the essence of the gospel” sounds good. The gospel is all about God’s love for humanity.

But that isn’t where Uchtdof goes! In fact, he doesn’t mention God’s love once! His entire article is about how God commands us to love him and our neighbor. According to Uchtdorf, the essence of the gospel is not divine love, but human love. It’s all about our obeying God’s commandment.

That is the opposite of good news. No matter how hard we try, we cannot love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Loving God wholeheartedly means we would never once think of our own glory. We would never once follow our will. We would never once worry about or focus on our needs. We would never take time for ourselves.

The same holds true for loving our neighbor as ourselves. Stop and think what this means to love them “as ourselves”. That means I would spend just as much time on my neighbor’s affairs as I would on my own. I would spend just as much money on their needs as I would on my own. I would be as quick to excuse their faults as I am my own. I would be just as committed to their success as my own. On and on it goes.

How is any of that good news? God’s command to love him and my neighbors painfully reveals how far short I fall. It drives me to despair – to despair of my ability to please God on my own. It causes me to desperately look for help – help God has graciously given me in Jesus Christ. The true good news – the true gospel – is that Jesus did love God wholeheartedly and did love his neighbor as himself – and he gives me the credit for it! Not only did Jesus live a perfect life for me, he also died the death I deserved as payment for all my sins. The good news is that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

There are many LDS members who won’t be bothered by what Uchtdorf wrote. They have deceived themselves into thinking they have done a good job of keeping God’s commandment. But there are just as many, if not more, LDS members who groan when they read such things. They know they don’t love as they should. They are the ones who ears perk up when we share with them the true gospel.

Unfortunately, we can’t easily distinguish between these two groups. But it really doesn’t matter. Our job is to proclaim the gospel to any and all. The Holy Spirit will then use our witness as he sees fit.

May many more Christians lovingly share the true gospel with Mormons so that they too can enjoy the peace, joy, and comfort that it so richly gives.