THE LDS FOCUS ON SELF
The LDS Church recently held its General Conference. These conferences are held twice each year. LDS leaders give talks at them which are considered scripture and subsequently printed in their magazine, the Ensign. I recently received my written copy. It will take me awhile to work through it since there are over 35 different talks.
But that is time well-spent. Reading these talks is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, they show me what is currently being emphasized in Mormonism especially since these talks will be studied by LDS members for the next six months. Just as importantly, reading them aids me in understanding the nuances of “Mormonese”. That’s important because often it’s those nuances that reveal the vast difference between Mormonism and Christianity – especially how Mormonism centers people on themselves while Christianity is Christ-centered.
For example, there is the talk by Robert D. Hales, one of Mormon’s 12 apostles. He begins by saying: “Brothers and sisters, of all the lessons we learn from the life of the Savior, none is more clear and powerful than the lesson of obedience.” Already here many Christians would respond with a “What?” For Christians the clearest and most powerful lesson from Jesus’ life is that he came as our substitute – to do for us what we couldn’t do. The most important lesson Jesus taught focused not what we are to do but what he did for us.
To be fair, Elder Hales continues by talking about what Jesus did. But his emphasis is on Jesus as our example. In fact, that is how that section is subtitled. There he briefly talks about the atonement. But again note how he focuses on what people have to do. “When we obey, we accept His sacrifice, for we believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws, ordinances, and commandments given in the gospel.” Salvation is obtained through a person’s obedience! Childlike faith and trust in Jesus is never mentioned.
The remainder of his talk (about 90%) is all about our being obedient. Towards the close he quotes LDS scripture when he says: “Obedience brings blessings, ‘and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.’” It is not surprising that he quotes that scripture because it is a favorite in Mormonism. According to it, there are no underserved blessings. Rather every blessing is predicated on a person’s obedience.
Try to imagine the feelings this instills in Mormons who are experiencing hardships rather than blessings. They easily could think that it is entirely their fault that they are having problems. Or go to the other end of the spectrum. Think of how quickly a person could be filled with unhealthy pride as they experience blessings.
How much more comforting – and truthful – is the biblical emphasis on God blessing us without any merit on our part! No place is that better illustrated than at the cross of Christ. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) We were ungodly. We were sinners. We were dead in sin. But God loved us enough to sacrifice his Son for us. Wow!
There are a lot of things in Mormonism that bother and upset Christians. But nothing is more upsetting than how, in so many different ways, Mormonism downplays God’s amazing grace. Elder Hales’ talk is another example of such a downplaying of grace. (To read his entire talk, click here)