Trying to Live Up to His Example


Some of the most dangerous teachings of Mormonism are the subtle ones. President Thomas S. Monson’s article in the March issue of the Ensign is a case in point. In it he talks about how learning of Jesus will help us find rest for our souls.

Sounds good. On the surface. But a closer look at his words reveal how instead of giving relief, they could easily increase the pressure on many Mormons. President Monson’s entire focus is on how Jesus serves as a wonderful example.

He calls Jesus the “Master Teacher and the Exemplar of the perfect life”. He follows that up by saying: “He it was who declared, ‘Come, follow me.’ ‘I have set an example for you.’”

He continues by expanding on that thought throughout his article. Later he writes: “Because Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient and submissive to His Father, He ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man’. Do we have the determination to do likewise?”

He then concludes with this statement: “When we respond to the Lord’s gentle invitation, ‘Learn of me’, we become partakers of his divine power. Let us, therefore, go forward in the spirit of obedience, following our Exemplar by teaching as He would have us teach and learning as He would have us learn.”

His article is representative of how Mormonism regularly speaks about Jesus as the “Exemplar”. And it is true that the Bible, on occasion, does talk about Jesus being our example. But what it emphasizes is Jesus coming as our substitute.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Those two little words “for us” are some of the most comforting in the entire Bible. And they are sprinkled throughout the Bible. What the Bible emphasizes is that Jesus came to do the work “for us”, in our place, as our substitute.

There’s a huge difference between seeing Jesus as an example or a substitute. Take Monson’s quote about Jesus being the example of a perfect life. That is so disheartening! We all probably know of people who spent their entire lives trying to live up to the example set by one of their parents. That often doesn’t turn out that well. We regularly hear of children of famous athletes or movie stars being miserable and failing miserably as they attempt to emulate their parents.  It is even worse when the parent demands that they follow in their footsteps.

I know that is exactly how many Mormons feel. They realize that there is no way they can follow Jesus’ example. So they give up.

Such Mormons need to hear the tremendous news that Jesus was perfect for them. That he is “our righteousness and holiness” (1 Corinthians1:30). They need to see Jesus as their substitute. That is where they will find rest for their souls.