MORMONISM’S TRAGIC POSSIBILITY THINKING
A Bible story popular in Mormonism is the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man recorded in Matthew 19. Elder Ronald A. Rasband referred to it during last month’s General Conference. This is how he interpreted Jesus’ telling the young man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor: “The young man was being called to a greater service at the side of the Lord to do the work of the kingdom of God on earth, yet he turned away ‘for he had great possessions.’”
Was Jesus really calling him to greater service? Or was he rather trying to point out the young man’s sin to him since he obviously wasn’t aware of it seeing he claimed to have kept all the commandments? According to the Bible, one of the main reasons why God gave the law was to show us our utter inability to keep the commandments! Paul succinctly said this in Romans, “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
The last thing God wants us to have is any illusion that we can keep the commandments. On the contrary, he wants us to despair of our own efforts so that, in desperation, we look to him for help. In fact, he was so concerned that we would clearly see this that we are told the surprising fact that one of the reasons why he gave so many commandments would be so that sin might increase! (“The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” Romans 5:20) He wanted to make sure that people saw that the canyon between them and him was so great that they would not be deluded into thinking that they could bridge it themselves by their own goodness.
Instead of calling the young man to greater service, Jesus was calling him to repent of any and all thoughts that he could do enough good things to inherit eternal life. He wanted the young man to throw up his arms in despair and turn to him for help.
Sadly, Elder Rasband’s message is totally wrong. His talk is just one in a long series of LDS messages that give LDS members not only the impression but also the encouragement that they can keep the commandments. That type of “possibility thinking” not only places a heavy burden on many Mormons but, even more seriously, causes them to rely on their own works in order to be worthy before God. And that is a great tragedy. Because “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10). Trying to do go is not good enough. A person has to continue to do everything. If not, God’s verdict is cursed.
Thank God that that there is more to his message! “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13) Jesus has done it all for us. And he doesn’t ask us to pay him back. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
May we always rest all our hopes of being acceptable to God on Jesus’ works for us. May many more of our LDS friends hear and believe that awesome truth and experience the wonderful peace it gives.