During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
Our lives are gifts from God and are to be used in the service of others.
There is … much of poverty and stark want across the world, so much of rebellion and meanness, so much of sleaze and filth, so many broken homes and destroyed families, so many lonely people living colorless lives without hope, so much of distress everywhere.
And so I make a plea to you. I plead with you that with all your getting you will also give to make the world a little better.
If the world is to be improved, the process of love must make a change in the hearts of men. It can do so when we look beyond self to give our love to God and others, and do so with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.
The Lord has declared in modern revelation, “If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” (D&C 88:67.)
As we look with love and gratitude to God, as we serve him with an eye single to his glory, there goes from us the darkness of sin, the darkness of selfishness, the darkness of pride. There will come an increased love for our Eternal Father and for his Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. There will come a greater sense of service toward our fellowmen, less of thinking of self and more of reaching out to others.
When it comes to service, Bible-believing Christians also believe it is important to serve others. Here are some Bible verses to support this idea:
- Matthew 20:27-28: “and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Matthew 23:11: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
- Mark 9:35: “And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
- Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
- Philippians 2:5-8: 5 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
- 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
I think part of what it means to be a servant is speaking up even when the person doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Ephesians 4:15 instructs Christians to “speak the truth in love.” Telling someone about truth even when it contradicts what he or she believes takes some guts, but the most unloving thing a person can do is walk by a burning house and not let those inside know about it!
If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service? None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God. We come into the world not of our own volition. We leave not according to our wish. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.
So many of us use our lives as if they were entirely our own. Ours is the choice to waste them if we wish. But that becomes a betrayal of a great and sacred trust. As the Master made so abundantly clear, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)
My beloved brethren and sisters, the challenge is great. The opportunities are all about us. God would have us do His work—and do it with energy and cheerfulness. That work, as He has defined it, is to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)
It is to minister to those in need. It is to comfort the bereaved. It is to visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction. It is to feed the needy, to clothe the naked, to shelter those who have not a roof over their heads. It is to do as the Master did, who “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.)
A verse that comes to mind is James 1:27, which says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit “orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. First John 4:7-8 also come to mind: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And these verses that follow are also appropriate:
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Why are those who labor in the temples happy? Because their labor of love is in very deed harmonious with the great vicarious work of the Savior of mankind. They neither ask for nor expect thanks for what they do. For the most part, they know nothing more than the name of him or her in whose behalf they labor.
Unfortunately, those working in temples believe something that is not true. Mormons are taught that they can be “saviors on Mt. Zion” by doing work that will release missionaries in the intermediate state. However, the Bible does not teach that there is a second chance of salvation. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Second Corinthians 6:2 adds, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Even Alma 34:32-35 agrees, as it says,
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
Hinckley says, “For the most part, they know nothing more than the name of him or her in whose behalf they labor.” I would say, “For the most part, they know nothing more than what they are told by church leaders.” If the Bible (and the Book of Mormon, for that matter) are true, then it would appear that the work done in the temple is for naught. For more on the topic of baptism for the dead, check out these articles:
- Baptism for the Dead
- Is Baptism for the Dead a Biblical Doctrine?
- Does 1 Corinthians 15:29 teach baptism for the dead?
The Church provides many opportunities for unselfish service.
Brothers and sisters, you will never be happy if you go through life thinking only of yourself. Get lost in the best cause in the world—the cause of the Lord. The work of the quorums, and of the auxiliary organizations, temple work, welfare service work, missionary work. You will bless your own life as you bless the lives of others.
There is no other work in all the world so fraught with happiness as is this work. That happiness is peculiar. It comes of serving others. It is real. It is unique. It is wonderful.
Let the Church be your dear friend. Let it be your great companion. Serve wherever you are called to serve. Do what you are asked to do. Every position you hold will add to your capacity. I have served in many responsibilities in this great organization. Every service brought its own reward.
Make room for the Church in your life. Let your knowledge of its doctrine grow. Let your understanding of its organization increase. Let your love for its eternal truths become ever and ever stronger.
Hinckley teaches that it is important to make “room for the Church in your life.” Unfortunately, many Latter-day Saints have given everything to the church: their trust, their commitment, their lives. When he says “let your knowledge of its doctrine grow,” I would agree if this means it is compared with what the Bible teaches about truth. For instance, I encourage Mormons to read the Gospel Topics Essays and see if what is written by the church historians compares to what any particular Latter-day Saint believes. In this way, “let your understanding of its organization increase.” And finally, I would twist his last sentence and say let your love for truth (not necessarily the “church’s” truth) “become ever and ever stronger.” There is nothing to be scared about. If Mormonism is true, then its colors will shine upon further investigation. And if it is not true, then its colors will pale upon further investigation. To check out the Gospel Topics Essays, click here.
Do you want to be happy? Forget yourself and get lost in this great cause.
Part of the problem is that many Mormons love their religion (and “this great cause”) more than they love the truth. (That might be hard for a Mormon to hear, but I believe it is the “truth.”) Too often Mormons do “forget themselves” and unfortunately leave their reasoning skills behind. The Bible says that it is vital to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21). First John 4:1 says to “test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Instead of Hinckley’s advice, I recommend getting lost in Jesus because He has never disappointed.
To read other reviews of the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, click here.