Chapter 6: Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 89–101
During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Note: In this particular chapter review I will be quoting extensively from a variety of LDS sources. Some may say I overquote, but the honest truth is I want to make my point. Instead of me just saying it, I would like to let LDS leaders and their manuals make the case.
“We declare the divinity of Jesus Christ. We look to Him as the only source of our salvation.”
From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson
During his apostolic ministry as a special witness of Jesus Christ, President Benson frequently bore testimony of the Savior. Acknowledging that “the question is sometimes asked, ‘Are Mormons Christians?’” he testified:
“We declare the divinity of Jesus Christ. We look to Him as the only source of our salvation. We strive to live His teachings, and we look forward to the time that He shall come again on this earth to rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the words of a Book of Mormon prophet, we say … , ‘There [is] no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent’ (Mosiah 3:17).”
President Benson’s declarations of the divinity of Jesus Christ were often linked to the Book of Mormon. “Through the Book of Mormon God has provided for our day tangible evidence that Jesus is the Christ,” he said. He taught that the Book of Mormon’s “major mission” is to convince people of this truth. “Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord,” he noted. “He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature.”
It is not a surprise that Benson’s manual covers the life of Christ. Every “Teachings of Presidents of the Church” manual does. Yet we must ask, does the Jesus as described by Benson and taught in Mormonism compare to the historical Jesus of the Bible? I believe the answer is an unqualified no.
Despite the claim of people who accept that all religions have their own unique paths to God—a system known as Universalism or Pluralism—a belief in a false Jesus is just as dangerous as no Jesus at all because faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Indeed, James 2:19 shows that an intellectual belief in God is not the same as true faith. Paul certainly admonished the Corinthians for accepting a false version of Christ when he said in 2 Corinthians 11:4, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough” (ESV). The apostle added in Galatians 1:6–9:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Heretical views of Christ have plagued Christianity since its beginning. Because of the importance of the belief in Jesus, early heresies (false teachings) needed to be dealt with by the young church. Christian scholar Harold O. J. Brown wrote,
To a degree that is hard for twentieth-century people to grasp, the early church believed that it was absolutely vital to know and accept some very specific statements about the nature and attributes of God and his Son Jesus Christ (Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present, 21).
One more thing I want to add, based on Benson’s reference to the Book of Mormon. Yes, this unique LDS scripture does speak about Jesus, including his visit to the Americas sometime after he ascended into heaven (Acts 1). But as I will show in this review, I think the view of Jesus in the Book of Mormon is a very “Protestantized” version. In this most important sacred scripture the reader will not see a Savior who:
- was created and was the spirit brother of Lucifer
- was born through a relationship between Heavenly Father and one of God’s spirit wives;
- needed to be obedient to become humanity’s lifeline;
- was a lesser god than Heavenly Father;
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
Because of His infinite love for us, Jesus Christ redeemed us from physical and spiritual death.
No other single influence has had so great an impact on this earth as the life of Jesus the Christ. We cannot conceive of our lives without His teachings. Without Him we would be lost in a mirage of beliefs and worships born in fear and darkness where the sensual and materialistic hold sway. We are far short of the goal He set for us, but we must never lose sight of it, nor must we forget that our great climb toward the light, toward perfection, would not be possible except for His teaching, His life, His death, and His resurrection.
These are nice words. They sound good, especially to someone who wants Mormonism to be true. But what the manual fails to show is that Jesus is, according to Mormonism, the first-born son of God the Father in the First Estate, called the preexistence. This view is completely contrary to what is taught in the Bible. According to the LDS view, Lucifer was another son of “Heavenly Father” who wanted to become the savior of the world. One of the more offensive attributes designated to the Jesus of Mormonism is the claim that He is the spirit-brother of Lucifer. Seventy Milton R. Hunter wrote,
The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind. (The Gospel through the Ages, 15).
Mormon educator Jess L. Christensen said:
On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some, especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. . . . Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the First-born of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother (A Sure Foundation: Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions, 223–24. Ellipsis mine).
Ironically, the same passages of the Bible that expound on Christ’s eternal deity also show that Lucifer could not be the brother of Christ. John 1:1–3 says that “all things” (including Lucifer) were made by Jesus, who was, is, and always will be God. Colossians 1:15, the one biblical verse used by Christensen, says, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” However, this has nothing to do with Jesus and Satan being brothers. In fact, it emphatically proclaims Christ’s deity (“image of the invisible God”). Verses 16–17 show that Christ created all things and that He is before all things, holding them together. Just as a person can look into the mirror to see a reflection, so too is Jesus the exact image of God.
BYU professor Charles R. Harrell refutes the commonly held LDS notion, writing, “Paul is not referring to premortal spirit birth, but to Christ becoming the firstborn in attaining God’s glory, a status which would subsequently be attained by ‘many brethren’ (i.e., disciples)” (“This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, 168). Lest there be confusion over the term firstborn, it should be pointed out that the Greek word used is not protoktistos (meaning first created) but rather prototokos (meaning firstborn). Both Hebrews 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 4:4 point out that Christ is the exact representation of God. Referring to Colossians 1, Harrell writes on page 171 that this is “an unmistakable reference to his [Jesus’s] preeminence in the resurrection from the dead.” He adds that “in the New Testament Christ is the firstborn in the sense of (1) being prior to and the source of all creation; (2) being the first to receive exaltation and glory, and (3) being the first to rise from the dead, ‘that in all things he might have the preeminence’ (Col. 1:18).” The Bible adamantly declares Lucifer to be a creation of Jesus and not the brother of Jesus. Besides, Jesus and Satan are as opposite as light and darkness. Satan merely tries to imitate an angel of light in order to fool as many people as possible (2 Cor. 11:14).
Referring to humanity’s premortal existence in heaven, Apostle Robert D. Hales taught that, while we can’t remember this time,
we probably sat in meetings much like this, where the Father’s plan for us was explained. We cannot remember that Lucifer, a son of God the Father, a brother of Jesus Christ, rebelled against God’s plan and, in his rebellion, promised he would bring us all back home. But Lucifer would have denied us our free agency, the freedom to make decisions. We cannot remember that his plan was not accepted by us because, without choice, there would not have been a purpose for coming to this mortal probation. We would not have had opposition or repentance. We would not have learned obedience. (Ensign, May 1990, p. 39).
A church manual says, “After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first’ (Abraham 3:27)” (Gospel Principles, 15). Unfortunately, one third of the spirits chose Lucifer’s plan that denied free choice; everyone who would end up receiving bodies by being born on the earth apparently chose Jesus. Thus,
In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. A third part of the hosts of heaven were punished for following Satan (see D&C 29:36). They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies. Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies, we know that we chose to follow Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. . . . In our premortal life, we chose to follow Jesus Christ and accept God’s plan (Gospel Principles, 16, 17. Ellipsis ours).
Such a view of Jesus has never been held by the historic Christian church.
To have any measure of appreciation and gratitude for what [Jesus Christ] accomplished in our behalf, we must remember these vital truths:
Jesus came to earth to do our Father’s will.
He came with a foreknowledge that He would bear the burden of the sins of us all.
He knew he would be lifted up on the cross.
He was born to be the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.
He was able to accomplish His mission because He was the Son of God and He possessed the power of God.
He was willing to accomplish His mission because He loves us.
No mortal being had the power or capability to redeem all other mortals from their lost and fallen condition, nor could any other voluntarily forfeit his life and thereby bring to pass a universal resurrection for all other mortals.
Only Jesus Christ was able and willing to accomplish such a redeeming act of love.
Jesus Christ … came to this earth at a fore-appointed time through a royal birthright that preserved His godhood. Combined in His nature were the human attributes of His mortal mother and the divine attributes and powers of His Eternal Father.
His unique heredity made Him heir to the honored title—The Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. As the Son of God, He inherited powers and intelligence which no human ever had before or since. He was literally Immanuel, which means “God with us.” (See Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23.)
Again, without critical analysis, this teaching also seems to be in line with basic Christian theology. However, we must understand what Benson (and the Mormon religion) means by saying “The Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh.” Is it the same as what is taught in the Bible?
Since the beginning, Christ’s followers have believed that their Savior was born as a result of a miraculous conception, as attested in Matthew 1:18. Mormon leaders have insisted in a belief of the virgin birth, yet they give a description far removed from that held by Christians throughout the centuries. An instructor’s guide explains how Mormonism disagrees with the traditional doctrine:
The teacher might wish to point out that many people in the Christian world want to believe in Jesus, but only as a great human being, only as a great man. They feel uncomfortable about the concept of the miraculous, virgin birth. Yet if this is denied, all of the Atonement must be rejected as well. It was the inheritance that came from a mortal mother and a divine Father that made the Atonement possible (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Instructor’s Guide Religion 211-212, 14).
What exactly does the leadership mean when it refers to a “mortal mother and a divine Father”? Consider what the 1972 Family Home Evening Manual quoted from tenth president Joseph Fielding Smith on pages 125-126:
Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. . . . Jesus is the only person who had our Heavenly Father as the father of his body.
The manual included a diagram on page 126 (see left) that was made for children of LDS parents to better understand what Smith was saying. “Daddy + Mommy = You,” it says, depicting a man, woman, and child. In the same way, “Our Heavenly Father + Mary = Jesus,” with no drawings to depict any of the three. Yet the concept is clearly understood. A physical relationship took place in Mormonism’s version of the Virgin Birth, contrary to what is taught in Matthew 1:18 that said the Holy Ghost “overshadowed” Mary.
Consider other quotes by LDS leaders:
- “To condescend is literally to go down among. The condescension of God lies in the fact that he, an exalted Being, steps down from his eternal throne to become the Father of a mortal Son, a Son born ‘after the manner of the flesh’” (Book of Mormon Seminary Student Study Guide, 22. See also Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah 1:314 as well as McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 1:78).
- “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost” (Church News, 18 December 2004, 16; Ensign, April 1997, p. 15).
Note: This quote was taken from Ezra Taft Benson, as recorded on page 7 of Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. It comes in direct contradiction of Matthew 1:18, which says that the Holy Ghost did “beget” Jesus. This quote is left out of Benson’s church manual.
- “He is the Son of God, literally, actually, as men are the sons of mortal parents” (What the Mormons Think of Christ, a pamphlet published by the LDS Church, p. 44).
- “Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father” (Gospel Principles, p. 53. Also see Ensign, December 2013, p. 7).
- “Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is called the Only Begotten Son because He is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father . . . Modern prophets have testified: [Jesus Christ] was . . . the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world” (“The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: The Only Begotten Son,” Ensign, December 2013, p. 7. Brackets and ellipses in original).
Since Mormonism teaches that Mary did not have sexual relations with a mortal man but instead was impregnated by an immortal man (Elohim), many Latter-day Saints have no qualms about using this phrase. Harrell describes the difficulties with this position when he writes:
Of course, for Latter-day Saints who hold the belief that Christ was literally conceived by God the Father, the idea of a virgin birth becomes a bit problematic as it would presumably change Mary’s status as a virgin. Bruce R. McConkie gives his resolution to this conundrum by redefining “virgin” to mean a woman who has not known a mortal man: “She conceived and brought forth her Firstborn Son while yet a virgin because the Father of that child was an immortal personage” (“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, 167).
When one considers how Mormonism teaches that every human born on earth is a literal spiritual child of God, the above quotes become even more disconcerting. Indeed, the Mormon version of the Virgin Birth is a very blasphemous concept when its meaning is grasped. After all, this is what it is saying: Heavenly Father (with a body of flesh and bones, parts and passion) literally had relations with Mary (his spiritual daughter from Premortality) in order to incarnate Jesus! If LDS leaders are telling the truth, then we have no other recourse than to assume that the Jesus of Mormonism was created through an incestuous relationship. A Christian who grasps this intended meaning will shudder at the thought of such a teaching.
Even though He was God’s Son sent to earth, the divine plan of the Father required that Jesus be subjected to all the difficulties and tribulations of mortality. Thus He became subject to “temptations, … hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” (Mosiah 3:7.)
Jesus was truly God in the flesh, so Christians are able to say that He is 100% God and 100% man. As Philippians 2:5-11 states:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To qualify as the Redeemer of all our Father’s children, Jesus had to be perfectly obedient to all the laws of God. Because He subjected Himself to the will of the Father, He grew “from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” of the Father’s power. Thus He had “all power, both in heaven and on earth.” (D&C 93:13, 17.)
Here are a few other quotes to provide to show that Benson was not alone in his assessment of Jesus qualifying to become the Savior:
- “Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws” (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 51).
- “Christ attained Godhood while yet in pre-existence, he too stood as a God to the other spirits, but this relationship was not the same one of personal parenthood that prevailed between the Father and his offspring” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 323).
- “Christ worked out his own salvation by worshipping the Father. After the Firstborn of the Father, while yet a spirit being, had gained power and intelligence that made him like unto God; after he had become, under the Father, the Creator of worlds without number; after he had reigned on the throne of eternal power as the Lord Omnipotent-after all this he yet had to gain a mortal and then an immortal body” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 61. Italics in original).
- “That Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited but with one very significant addition. He said, ‘I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.’ This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously he had not” (Russell M. Nelson, “Perfection Pending,” Ensign, November 1995, p. 87).
Just like the quotes regarding the Virgin Birth, these ought to be considered quite blasphemous to anyone who takes the Bible seriously. If you are LDS, please understand why. As Christians, we believe that Jesus always was God, is God, and always will be God. There is no having “to be perfectly obedient to all the laws of God.” As if Jesus had to attain His status as God! The Bible teaches that He never lost a “fullness” of being God. Qualifying to become the “Redeemer” is certainly not part of the vocabulary Christians would have.
As far as “all our Father’s children,” we have previously stated in these reviews that premortality is a doctrine Mormonism shares only with heretics. Jesus and Lucifer are not spirit brothers. Nor are we spirit brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Because [Jesus] was God—even the Son of God—He could carry the weight and burden of other men’s sins on Himself. Isaiah prophesied [of] our Savior’s willingness to do this in these words: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:4–5.)
According to Mormonism, Jesus is “a” god (small g). The differences are admitted by LDS leaders. For example fifteenth president Gordon B. Hinckley exclaimed,
In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ.” “No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages” (“Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads,” Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7).
At a general conference talk a few years later, Hinckley showed that he hadn’t changed his mind when he stated,
As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say (“We look to Christ,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 90).
That holy, unselfish act of voluntarily taking on Himself the sins of all other men is the Atonement.
The stripes of Jesus don’t “heal” anyone in Mormonism, as the previous quote from Isaiah says. Rather, they merely pave the way for Latter-day Saints to walk through the door, but everything else rests on their own backs. D&C 138:4 says, “That through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved.”
Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency, agreed that Jesus taking on others’ sins did not solve the problem for humanity. He told a general conference crowd,
It is hard to know when we have done enough for the Atonement to change our natures and so qualify us for eternal life ( “This Day,” Ensign, May 2007, p. 90).
A much different picture is evident in biblical Christianity.
How One could bear the sins for all is beyond the comprehension of mortal man. But this I know: He did take on Himself the sins of all and did so out of His infinite love for each of us. He has said: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; … which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (D&C 19:16, 18.)
All of the sins of mankind are not paid through the atonement. In fact, two LDS apostles said that it is necessary for everyone to become a Mormon as well as deny oneself and participate in the temple ordinances. These are requriements in order to have full access to the “Atonement.” They said,
“Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of all who will repent and be baptized through the power of the holy Priesthood” (Robert D. Hales, “Blessings of the Priesthood,” Ensign, November 1995, p. 33).
“Thanks to the Atonement, the gift of immortality is unconditional. The greater gift of eternal life, however, is conditional. In order to qualify, one must deny oneself of ungodliness and honor the ordinances and covenants of the temple” (Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Love,” Ensign, February 2003, p. 24, Italics in original).
In spite of that excruciating ordeal, He took the cup and drank. He suffered the pains of all men so we would not have to suffer. He endured the humiliation and insults of His persecutors without complaint or retaliation. He bore the flogging and then the ignominy of the brutal execution—the cross. In Gethsemane and on Calvary, [Jesus] worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It was the greatest single act of love in recorded history. Then followed His death and resurrection.
The cross does not play a central role in LDS teaching when the Atonement is considered. Benson explained elsewhere:
It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.14).
Over the years few positive statements have been made about the cross. For example, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
The sectarian world falsely suppose that the climax of his torture and suffering was on the cross (Matt. 27:26-50; Mark 15:1-38; Luke 23:1-46; John 18; 19:1-18) — a view which they keep ever before them by the constant use of the cross as a religious symbol. The fact is that intense and severe as the suffering was on the cross, yet the great pains were endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.) It was there that he trembled because of pain, bled at every pore, and suffered both in body and in spirit, and would that he “might not drink the bitter cup.” (D. & C. 19:15-19; Mosiah 3:7.) It was there he underwent his greatest suffering for men, taking upon himself, as he did, their sins on conditions of repentance. (D. & C. 18:10-15.) (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 555).
McConkie also taught:
Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 1:774).
In addition, he stated,
And the most transcendent event in his entire eternal existence, the most glorious single happening from creation’s dawn to eternity’s endless continuance, the crowning work of his infinite goodness—such took place in a garden called Gethsemane, outside a city called Jerusalem, when he, tabernacled in the flesh, bore the weight of the sins of all those who believe in his name and obey his gospel (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p. 2).
Even in recent years Gethsemane continues to be emphasized, not the cross. Apostle Russell M. Nelson explained,
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind, even as many as will, shall be redeemed. The Savior began shedding His blood for all mankind, not on the cross but in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all who would ever live. Under that heavy load, He bled at every pore (“The Message: His Mission and Ministry,” New Era magazine, December 1999, pp. 4, 6).
Apostle M. Russell Ballard added,
Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world (“The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2004, p. 85).
A church manual makes the cross an afterthought:
In Gethsemane, Jesus suffered for the sins of all mankind, as if they were His own. His suffering for all these sins were greater than any of us can understand. . . . On the cross, He finished suffering the penalty for Adam’s disobedience and for our own sins (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 57. Ellipses mine).
While Gethsemane certainly was a place of torment, there cannot be an effective sacrifice without the victim’s death. The Bible states:
- Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.”
- Romans 4:25: “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
- Colossians 2:14: “. . . having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
- Hebrews 9:28a: “. . . so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.”
- Hebrews 10:11-14: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Thus He became our Redeemer—redeeming all of us from physical death, and redeeming those of us from spiritual death who will obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
There are two types of salvation, as explained by Apostle James Talmage:
This twofold effect of the atonement is implied in the article of our faith now under consideration. The first effect is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins. As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements—“obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith, 1984, pp. 78-79. Italics in original).
Thus, as Benson has put it, general salvation is resurrection from the dead. Individual salvation is exaltation, obeying all the commandments to attain eternal life.
We may never understand nor comprehend in mortality how He accomplished what He did, but we must not fail to understand why He did what He did.
Everything He did was prompted by His unselfish, infinite love for us.
Christians agree that Jesus has an “unselfish, infinite love for us,” and yet this love is not based on any good works. First John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Verses 9 and 10 of chapter 4 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. First John 5:13 adds, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Eternal life is guaranteed by the One who can be trusted because He never lies nor deceives—His Word is good.
“No other single influence has had so great an impact on this earth as the life of Jesus the Christ.”
Jesus Christ came forth from the tomb, and He lives today as a resurrected being.
Jesus is more than just a “resurrected being.” He is God in the flesh and sits on the right hand of God the Father, equal in power and authority. Unfortunately, the Mormon Church includes Jesus Christ in its name but teaches another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4). One way this takes place is by diminishing who Jesus is. For example, consider how Jesus—as with everyone born onto this earth—lost His ability to remember anything from the preexistence and had to “progress.” Jay E. Jensen, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, explained, “When the Lord came to earth, He had a veil of forgetfulness placed over His mind, as we do, but He, like us, progressed from grace to grace” (Ensign, January 2011, p. 42). One LDS resource traces the teaching back to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith:
As Joseph Smith taught, Jesus was born with a veil of forgetfulness common to all who are born to earth, but even as a child he had all the intelligence necessary to enable him to govern the kingdom of the Jews (see source under Basic Library), because he overcame the veil and came into communication with his Heavenly Father (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Instructor’s Guide Religion 211-212, 13).
Jesus became a god, according to Milton R. Hunter, “through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws.” That effort, Hunter continues, included Jesus’ own baptism:
Although John recognized Jesus as a perfect man, the Master made it clear that it was absolutely necessary for even the Son of God to be baptized. He—like the least of us—must obey every law of the Gospel if He was to receive all the blessings predicated on obedience. (The Gospel through the Ages, 200).
This idea that Jesus was under obligation of the law has been taught by a number of leaders. President Joseph F. Smith said,
Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fulness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fullness (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 153. Also see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, comp. John A. Widtsoe, 68).
Bruce R. McConkie claimed, “Jesus kept the commandments of his Father and thereby worked out his own salvation, and also set an example as to the way and the means whereby all men may be saved” (The Mortal Messiah, 4:434). McConkie’s use of Philippians 2:12 (“work out your salvation”) misses the meaning of the passage. Paul does not use this expression to mean “work for your salvation” as so many Mormons will insist. Rather, as the words literally read, it means that believers “should ‘conduct’ themselves in a manner worthy of their right standing before God at the day of Christ” (Frank Thielman, The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, 138).
Apostle Russell M. Nelson said Jesus achieved His perfection only after His resurrection:
That Jesus attained perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited, but with one very significant addition. He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously, he had not (See Matt. 5:48) (Ensign, November 1995, p. 87, italics his).
It is difficult to understand why Jesus, who allegedly became a god before His mortality, would have to work out his own salvation. Such a comment also fails to take into account that only sinners need to be saved in the first place. To say Christ had to do anything to gain His own salvation should rightfully be considered blasphemous by anyone who holds the Bible dear. Problematic also is the fact that the Jesus of Mormonism is but one of many saviors. According to Brigham Young:
Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter; and every earth, and the people thereof, in their turn and time, receive all that we receive, and pass through all the ordeals that we are passing through (Journal of Discourses, 14:71–72).
Young also taught:
How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity (Ibid., 7:333).
If such comments were true, we could assume that there are literally millions of saviors on millions of worlds! Despite these false teachings, the Bible that Jesus is God and has been from all eternity. John 1:1–2, 14 says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
Christianity has historically taught that Jesus, as very God, took upon Himself the form of a man. This is not to say that at any time His deity was diminished in any degree after His physical appearance on earth (His incarnation). The doctrine of kenosis (“empty”) as described in Phil 2:5-11 states that Jesus voluntarily gave up the exercise of those attributes while here on earth. Jesus was, and is, both divine and human: 100 percent God and 100 percent man. He was conceived through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18–25; Luke 1:35); He lived a sinless life while subjected to human temptations (John 5:19; Heb. 2:18; 4:15); He died a real death and rose again bodily from the dead to conquer sin (Rom. 5:6–10; 1 Cor. 15:3–4); He will return to judge all humanity (John 5:22); He sent the Holy Spirit to empower the believers (John 14–16; Acts 1:8); He can be prayed to (Acts 7:59). Although some Mormon leaders (including Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation, 1:14) say prayers should only be offered to the Father, 3 Nephi 19:17ff in the Book of Mormon supports praying to Jesus. Finally, He is deserving all honor, love, faith, and worship, just as much as the Father (Matt. 10:37; John 5:23; 14:1; Heb. 1:6). At the same time, He shares attributes with the Father because Jesus is also God.
Unfortunately, there are many differences in the version of the Savior from what is taught by Benson and other leaders and what the Bible advocates.
The greatest events of history are those that affect the greatest number of people for the longest periods. By this standard, no event could be more important to individuals or nations than the resurrection of the Master.
The literal resurrection of every soul who has lived and died on earth is a certainty, and surely one should make careful preparation for this event. A glorious resurrection should be the goal of every man and woman, for resurrection will be a reality.
Nothing is more absolutely universal than the resurrection. Every living being will be resurrected. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.)
It is true that every soul will be resurrected: some will rise to life and an eternity with God, and others to a resurrection called “damnation” by the Bible. John 5:29 says, “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
We must be valiant in our testimony of Jesus Christ.
The admission here is that the Atonement alone is not powerful enough on its own to forgive a person from his or her sins.
A most priceless blessing available to every member of the Church is a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His church. A testimony is one of the few possessions we may take with us when we leave this life.
To have a testimony of Jesus is to possess knowledge through the Holy Ghost of the divine mission of Jesus Christ.
A testimony of Jesus is to know the divine nature of our Lord’s birth—that He is indeed the Only Begotten Son in the flesh.
A testimony of Jesus is to know that He was the promised Messiah and that while He sojourned among men He accomplished many mighty miracles.
A testimony of Jesus is to know that the laws which He prescribed as His doctrine are true and then to abide by these laws and ordinances.
To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that He voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, which caused Him to suffer in both body and spirit and to bleed from every pore. All this He did so that we would not have to suffer if we would repent. (See D&C 19:16, 18.)
To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that He came forth triumphantly from the grave with a physical, resurrected body. And because He lives, so shall all mankind.
To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that God the Father and Jesus Christ did indeed appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith to establish a new dispensation of His gospel so that salvation may be preached to all nations before He comes.
To possess a testimony of Jesus is to know that the Church, which He established in the meridian of time and restored in modern times is, as the Lord has declared, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30.)
Having such a testimony is vital. But of even greater importance is being valiant in our testimony.
A testimony of Jesus means that we accept the divine mission of Jesus Christ, embrace His gospel, and do His works. It also means we accept the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith and his successors and follow their counsel. As Jesus said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)
To the Christian, a “testimony of Jesus” is having the understanding that all of the person’s sins are no longer held in condemnation because there is complete forgiveness. Period. End of story.
Speaking of those who will eventually receive the blessings of the celestial kingdom, the Lord said to Joseph Smith:
“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given.” (D&C 76:51.)
These are they who are valiant in their testimony of Jesus, who, as the Lord has declared, “overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.” (D&C 76:53.)
On the first Sunday of each month (fast and testimony), Mormons “testify” how they “know” that the Book of Mormon is true, how Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and how the (capital C) Church is led by a living prophet named (fill in the blank–currrently it’s Thomas S. Monson). When I have heard LDS testimonies, however, there is usually very little emphasis placed on Jesus; Smith and the other LDS leadership always seem to get more acclaim.
Notice too how a “testimony” consists of a person having valiance in the testimony. I have to be honest with you, the more powerful Christian testimonies I have heard come from those who were not very valiant in their lifestyle. Rather, they acknowledged their desperate need for a Savior. Nobody can be valiant in their testimony if its means doing what is impossible to accomplish (keeping all the commandments). It would seem to be impossible to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom, for the rules set by the Mormon Church are filled with legalism, too narrow and harsh for anyone to abide. For more on the Mormon testimony, click here.
Faith in Jesus Christ consists of relying completely on Him and following His teachings.
The fundamental principle of our religion is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it expedient that we center our confidence, our hope, and our trust in one solitary figure? Why is faith in Him so necessary to peace of mind in this life and hope in the world to come?
Our answers to these questions determine whether we face the future with courage, hope, and optimism or with apprehension, anxiety, and pessimism.
My message and testimony is this: Only Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to provide that hope, that confidence, and that strength we need to overcome the world and rise above our human failings. To do so, we must place our faith in Him and live by His laws and teachings. …
In Mormonism, faith isn’t fulfilled merely by placing faith in Jesus alone. There is always an “and” somewhere in the mix. As always, it’s grace and works, which is necessary for any shot at exaltation.
Unless we do His teachings, we do not demonstrate faith in Him.
I agree that we will know a tree by its fruit. But our works are proof of the salvation that has already taken place, not something we must do before we receive salvation. The gospel is pretty well summarized in this short article.
Think what a different world this would be if all mankind would do as He said: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39.)
What then is the answer to the question “What is to be done concerning the problems and dilemmas that individuals, communities, and nations face today?” Here is His simple prescription:
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. …
“Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things, see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:9–10; italics added.)
The Book of Mormon is not accepted as scripture by Christians. There is no language in the Bible that says, sternly, “see that ye do them” as Mosiah states.
“Come ye after me” (Mark 1:17).
We are most blessed and joyful when we strive to be like Jesus Christ.
One of the purposes of this life is for us to be tested to see whether we “will do all things whatsoever the Lord” our God shall command us. (Abr. 3:25.) In short, we are to learn the will of the Lord and do it. We are to follow the model of Jesus Christ and be like Him.
The essential question of life should be the same one posed by Paul: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) …
We need more men and women of Christ who will always remember Him, who will keep His commandments which He has given them. The greatest yardstick of success is to see how closely we can walk each moment in His steps.
Some … are willing to die for their faith, but they are not willing to fully live for it. Christ both lived and died for us. Through His atonement and by walking in His steps, we can gain the greatest gift of all—eternal life, which is that kind of life of the great Eternal One—our Father in Heaven.
There is a conundrum here. How can a gift be received when there is something that must be done in order to qualify for it? Imagine if a grandfather told his grandson, “Lad, I’d love to give you a gift. Here it is. Now, would you mow my grass?” If the gift was worth $50, perhaps two mowings will do the trick. Is that how a loving grandfather approaches the situation? No, a loving grandfather typically bestow the gift before the grandson could even think about mowing the grass. If something is a gift, then there is no earning it.
Yet this illustration is what Mormonism teaches! Doctrine and Covenants 25:15 says, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.” While verse 15 is specifically spoken to Joseph’s wife Emma, verse 16 adds “that this is my voice unto all. Amen.” As Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency, put it, “To receive the gift of living with Him forever in families in the celestial kingdom, we must be able to live the laws of that kingdom (see D&C 88:22). He has given us commandments in this life to help us develop that capacity” (Ensign, June 2011, p. 4).
Over and over again, Mormon Church leaders have stated that, by itself, God’s grace—though vital for the “atonement—cannot fully “save” people from their sins. An unattributed article in the Ensign magazine stated,
What do Latter-day Saints believe about grace? We believe that God’s grace is what ultimately saves us; yet it does not save us without our doing all that we can to live God’s commandments and follow Jesus Christ’s teachings. We do not believe salvation comes by simply confessing belief in Christ as our Savior. Faith, works, ordinances, and grace are all necessary (Ensign, March 2013, p. 21).
To make our point, consider these quotes from the church presidents themselves about the importance of obedience required to attain celestial glory:
- Wilford Woodruff: “If a man does right, is valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ, obeys the gospel, and keeps his covenants, when he passes to the other side of the veil he has an entrance into the presence of God and the Lamb; having kept celestial law he enters into celestial glory, he is preserved by that law, and he participates in that glory through the endless ages of eternity. It pays any man under heaven to obey and be faithful to the law of God the few days he spends in the flesh” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 212).
- Joseph F. Smith: “Every blessing, privilege, glory, or exaltation is obtained only through obedience to the law upon which the same is promised. If we will abide the law, we shall receive the reward; but we can receive it on no other ground” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 153).
- Heber J. Grant: “If you want to know how to be saved, I can tell you; it is by keeping the commandments of God. No power on earth, no power beneath the earth, will ever prevent you or me or any Latter-day Saint from being saved, except ourselves. We are the architects of our own lives, not only of the lives here, but the lives to come in the eternity. We ourselves are able to perform every duty and obligation that God has required of men. No commandment was ever given to us but that God has given us the power to keep that commandment. If we fail, we, and we alone, are responsible for the failure, because God endows His servants, from the President of the Church down to the humblest member, with all the ability, all the knowledge, all the power that is necessary, faithfully, diligently, and properly to discharge every duty and every obligation that rests upon them, and we, and we alone, will have to answer if we fail in this regard” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p. 38).
- George Albert Smith: “Being a member of the Church and holding the Priesthood will not get us anywhere unless we are worthy. The Lord has said that every blessing that we desire is predicated upon obedience to His commandments. We may deceive our neighbors, and we may deceive ourselves with the idea that we are going through all right, but unless we keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father, unless we bear worthily this holy Priesthood that is so precious, we will not find our place in the celestial kingdom” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, p. 53).
- Joseph Fielding Smith: “Through obedience to those commandments which are set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by continuance therein, we shall receive immortality, glory, eternal life, and dwell in the presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, where we shall truly know them” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 237).
- Harold B. Lee: “The greatest message that one in this position could give to the membership of the Church is to keep the commandments of God, for therein lies the safety of the Church and the safety of the individual. Keep the commandments. There could be nothing that I could say that would be a more powerful or important message today” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 35).
- Spencer W. Kimball: “The Savior came ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39). His birth, death, and resurrection brought about the first. But we must join our efforts with his to bring about the second, to attain eternal life” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 29).
- Thomas S. Monson: “Don’t put your eternal life at risk. Keep the commandments of God” (Ensign, May 2010, p. 66).
While some Mormons don’t pretend to be perfect and claim to regularly repent, obeying just some of the commandments is not an option, according to Apostle Russell M. Nelson:
Teach of faith to keep all the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy. Warn them that they will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith (Ensign, May 2011, p. 34. Italics in original).
Bemoaning the fact that many Latter-day Saints don’t follow through on the promises they make every week, Joseph Fielding Smith said, “I wish we could get the members of the Church to understand more clearly the covenants they make when they partake of the sacrament at our sacrament meetings” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 100). As Apostle Robert D. Hales explained,
Each week as we participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, we renew the promise of the Savior’s birth in our own lives. We take Hs name upon us, and we renew our covenant of obedience and our promise that we will always remember Him (Ensign, December 2013, p. 19).
In a talk titled “Obedience to Law is Liberty” at the April 2013 general conference, Apostle L. Tom Perry stated, “We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God’s commandments” (Ensign, May 2013, p. 88). Apostle Dallin H. Oaks stated in that same general conference, “From modern revelation, unique to the restored gospel, we know that the commandment to seek perfection is part of God the Father’s plan for the salvation of His children” (Ibid., p. 98). Seventy Bruce C. Hafen taught, “If we must give all that we have, then our giving only almost everything is not enough. If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings” (Ensign, May 2004, p. 98. Italics in original).
Certainly official church manuals are in alignment with this attitude:
- “Latter-day Saints are Abraham’s seed of the latter days. Their exaltation or eternal life depends on their obedience to the covenants they have made and kept with God” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis – 2 Samuel, p. 62).
- “The Atonement of Jesus Christ assures each of us that we will be resurrected and live forever. But if we are to live forever with our families in Heavenly Father’s presence, we must do all that the Savior commands us to do. This includes being baptized and confirmed and receiving the ordinances of the temple” (Gospel Principles, p. 233).
- “Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life, including increased strength to overcome your weaknesses. This obedience includes actions you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meetings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. The Lord promised, ‘He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven’ (D&C 1:32)” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, p. 135).
- “The Lord keeps His promises: ‘I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise’ (D&C 82:10). We must do our part to qualify for the blessings (see D&C 130:20–22). We should also remember that God determines the then part according to His wisdom and not according to our expectations” (Building an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual: Religion 235, p. v. Italics in original).
- “Have class members find and read Moroni 10:32. [It reads: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in no wise deny the power of God.”] According to this verse, what must we do to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him? (‘Deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness, and love God with all [our] might, mind and strength.’) Explain that ‘deny yourselves of all ungodliness’ means ‘give up your sins.’ We must strive to give up our sins and demonstrate that we love God with all our might, mind, and strength. If we do this throughout our lives, then Jesus Christ, through his Atonement, will help us become perfect” (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, p. 123. Brackets ours).
- “Receiving ordinances and keeping covenants are essential to Heavenly Father’s plan. The scriptures often refer to His people as a ‘covenant people.’ The Lord’s blessings exceed our mortal expectations. To live in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we must receive all of the necessary ordinances and keep all of the required covenants” (The Gospel and the Productive Life Student Manual Religion 150, p. 98).
There are implications in making covenants with God. In a straightforward address given in the Ensign magazine titled “Understanding our Covenants with God,” the leaders stated:
A covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep those conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return. When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the great blessing God can give us—eternal life (see D&C 14:7). Because keeping our covenants is essential to our happiness now and to eventually receiving eternal life, it is important to understand what we have promised our Heavenly Father (Ensign, July 2012, p. 22).
Christ asked the question, “What manner of men ought [we] to be?” He then answered by saying we ought to be even as He is. (3 Ne. 27:27.)
That [person] is greatest and most blessed and joyful whose life most closely approaches the pattern of the Christ. This has nothing to do with earthly wealth, power, or prestige. The only true test of greatness, blessedness, joyfulness is how close a life can come to being like the Master, Jesus Christ. He is the right way, the full truth, and the abundant life.
The constant and most recurring question in our minds, touching every thought and deed of our lives, should be, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) The answer to that question comes only through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. Fortunate are those who so live that their being is filled with both. …
The problem is, Christ was perfect. And we never will be. Of course, it’s great to strive to be like Christ. Yet I completely disagree with the statement that “the only true test of greatness, blessedness, joyfulness is how close a life can come to being like the Master.” No, the only true test is whether or not a person is forgiven of his or her sins. Jesus commended the publican, not the Pharisee. The heroes of the story of the Prodigal were the father and the son who had been lost, not the older son (who the Pharisees identified as representing them in Jesus’ parable!). Jesus said in Matthew 11,
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Considering all that [Jesus Christ] has done and is doing for us, there is something that we might give Him in return.
This is an incredible statement. The way it’s stated, it appears God is looking for a kickback. “Look at what I did for you,” Jesus seems to say. “Now it’s time for you to earn it back.” For the Christian, good works are not done to repay God. Rather, they happen because of the understanding of what God has done first in our lives. A person receiving the ultimate gift will have an “attitude of gratitude.” When someone has blessed you as richly as God has done for the believer through the forgiveness of sins, good works are the person’s desire, not drudgery. After all, Ephesians 2:10—which is placed right after verses 8 and 9 describing how Christians are saved by grace through faith and not by works because otherwise it leads to boasting—declares that believers are God’s workmanship who were created by God to do good works. If we love Jesus and understand what we have been given, we will do what He commands (John 15:14). A great number of quotes from LDS leaders can be easily collected to show how Mormonism demands repayment for the debt so salvation can be earned. What a difference in perspectives!
Christ’s great gift to us was His life and sacrifice. Should that not then be our small gift to Him—our lives and sacrifices, not only now but in the future?
“Small gift”? Mormonism requires more than “small gifts.” It requires full repayment, making it an obligation, not a gift. As Joseph Fielding Smith said,
The Savior was emphatic in his statement that all should come forth, the righteous to receive the blessings of his kingdom, and the wicked to be punished for their rebellion. We may be sure that in his mercy, the Lord will do for all the best that can be done. Some will merit the exaltation, others punishment until they have paid the ‘uttermost farthing.’ The exaltation will be given to those who have kept the commandments and have been faithful to every covenant and obligation upon which the exaltation rests. (Answers to Gospel Questions 3:88-89).
[Those who are] captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. … Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but, more important, they want to live for Him.
Enter their homes, and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians. They stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9.) They have Christ on their minds, as they look unto Him in every thought. (See D&C 6:36.) They have Christ in their hearts as their affections are placed on Him forever. (See Alma 37:36.)
Almost every week they partake of the sacrament and witness anew to their Eternal Father that they are willing to take upon them the name of His Son, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. (See Moro. 4:3.)
Each week, Mormons across the globe promise to “always remember Him” as well as “keep His commandments.” How many are they supposed to keep? According to Henry B. Eyring, every single one:
Third, we promise as we take the sacrament to keep His commandments, all of them. President J. Reuben Clark Jr., as he pled—as he did many times—for unity in a general conference talk, warned us against being selective in what we will obey. He put it this way: ‘The Lord has given us nothing that is useless or unnecessary. He has filled the Scriptures with the things which we should do in order that we may gain salvation.’ President Clark went on: ‘When we partake of the Sacrament we covenant to obey and keep his commandments. There are no exceptions. There are no distinctions, no differences’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1955, 10–11). President Clark taught that just as we repent of all sin, not just a single sin, we pledge to keep all the commandments. Hard as that sounds, it is uncomplicated. We simply submit to the authority of the Savior and promise to be obedient to whatever He commands (see Mosiah 3:19). It is our surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ which will allow us to be bound as families, as a Church, and as the children of our Heavenly Father (“That We All May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998, pp. 67-68).
I differ with Eyring. It’s much more complicated than what he lets on. Truly what is commanded is an impossible guinea pig wheel. The critter gets on it and runs as fast as it can, yet it still never gets anywhere! Try as hard as it might, getting to the finish line just can’t be done. If Eyring were honest, he would admit that not even a general authority can say he’s arrived because he still needs to repent each and every week. This is a clear sign that “all the commandments” have not been kept. And as I quoted above from D&C 58 and 82, there are consequences to not keeping all the commandments.
In Book of Mormon language, they “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:3), “talk of Christ” (2 Ne. 25:26), “rejoice in Christ” (2 Ne. 25:26), “are made alive in Christ” (2 Ne. 25:25), and “glory in [their] Jesus” (see 2 Ne. 33:6). In short, they lose themselves in the Lord and find eternal life. (See Luke 17:33.)
If you are a Latter-day Saint, can you honestly say that you have “lost” yourself in the Lord and have found eternal life? If not, perhaps today is the day! See here for more information.
For more reviews on the Ezra Taft Benson manual, click here.
For more on the topic of Jesus, click here.