Chapter 1: Learning by Faith

During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. 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.


Learning requires faith, exertion, and perseverance.

In this system of religion that you and I have received there is something grand and glorious, and something new to learn every day, that is of great value. And it is not only our privilege but it is necessary that we receive these things and gather these new ideas.

Christians would agree that there is something new to learn every day. With that said, we must also understand that truth does not change. Take the law of gravity, for example. If it exists today, it will exist tomorrow (or else we’re no longer going to remain on this planet!). The same is true with God, as what is true for God today—say, His nature and His love for humankind—will be true tomorrow. The problem comes when people create “new ideas” that contradict truth. For Christians, truth comes from the Bible. When someone tries to change the teachings of the Bible, caution is required.

The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement—mentally, physically, morally and spiritually. No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint. It is profitable to live long upon the earth and to gain the experience and knowledge incident thereto: for the Lord has told us that whatever intelligence we attain to in this life will rise with us in the resurrection, and the more knowledge and intelligence a person gains in this life the greater advantage he will have in the world to come [see D&C 130:18-19].

According to Joseph Smith, there is glory in intelligence. Since Mormonism teaches that men can become gods, just as “Heavenly Father” attained His status as the God of this world, it is believed to be vital for His children (humans) to build upon that knowledge in the next life. We’ll look a little closer at this in chapter 5. Needless to say, Christians do not look at the revelations that God supposedly gave Joseph Smith—known as the Doctrine and Covenants, which is Mormonism’s fourth Standard Work—as scripture. Nowhere does the Bible teach that “the more knowledge and intelligence a person gains in this life the greater advantage he will have in the world to come.”

If we continue to build our intelligence into the next life, does that mean God continues to expound His knowledge even to this day? This has been a controversial issue since the days of Brigham Young, but if we are to take this manual literally, it would almost seem that God could not be omniscient, contrary to biblical Christianity. For more information on this, consider the article titled “Christianity Has a Far Greater View of Eternal Progression than Mormonism Does,” found here.

There are some who do not learn, and who do not improve as fast as they might, because their eyes and their hearts are not upon God; they do not reflect, neither do they have that knowledge which they might have; they miss a good deal which they might receive. We have got to obtain knowledge before we obtain permanent happiness; we have got to be wide awake in the things of God.

Mormons reading this manual ought to understand that their own church is telling them, in this correlated manual, to obtain knowledge about God. Yet if Mormonism teaches in a God that is different from the God of the Bible, should anyone be satisfied falling asleep at the wheel? Take time, Latter-day Saints, to compare the God of Mormonism with the God of the Bible. As your own manual states, “Be wide awake in the things of God.” For more information on the proper view of God, see the many articles listed here.

Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow. There must be a labor of mind, an exertion of those talents that God has given us; they must be put into exercise. Then, being enlightened by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, we may get those ideas and that intelligence and those blessings that are necessary to prepare us for the future, for sceneries that are to come.

Notice the phrase “sceneries that are to come.” The afterlife as defined by Christianity is much different than explained in Mormonism. Consider Mormon 7:7 found in the Book of Mormon: “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.” Unbeknownst to the Book of Mormon writers, many Mormons are not looking to “sing ceaseless praises…unto the Father” but instead are preparing at this time to become gods and goddesses of new worlds. Unfortunately for the Latter-day Saint, this idea cannot be backed up by the Bible.

The same principle will apply in all our actions in relation to the things of God. We have to exert ourselves. … This remaining idle without putting ourselves into action is of no use; if we remain perfectly neutral, nothing is accomplished. Every principle that is revealed from the heavens is for our benefit, for our life, for our salvation and for our happiness. We think, perhaps, that it is not necessary to exert ourselves to find out what God requires at our hands; or in other words, to search out the principles which God has revealed, upon which we can receive very important blessings. There are revealed, plainly and clearly, principles which are calculated to exalt the Latter-day Saints and preserve them from much trouble and vexation, yet, through lack of perseverance on our part to learn and conform to them, we fail to receive the blessings that are connected with obedience to them. Let us continue, brethren and sisters, to work in the name of the Lord our God; gathering wisdom and intelligence day by day, that every circumstance which transpires may minister to our good and increase our faith and intelligence.

Some Mormons say that there is not a “works righteousness” element found in their faith. But notice here that Mormons are told to “exert” themselves since this is for the benefit/life/salvation/ happinesss of the individual Mormons. How different this is from Christianity! After all, the goal of the “good and faithful servant” is to bring glory to God Himself, not us. Notice these words from Revelation 19:5-7:

“Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!

   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”

 Consider the fact how the bright and clean linen was merely for the glory of God. Unfortunately, Mormonism turns heaven into a place aimed at the exaltation of created man.

The education of the Spirit is worthy of our best attention.

There is a kind of education worthy [of] the best attention of all, and in which all ought to engage—that is the education of the Spirit. A little spiritual knowledge is a great deal better than mere opinions and notions and ideas, or even very elaborate arguments; a little spiritual knowledge is very important and of the highest consideration. We must not neglect our spiritual improvements while we seek for worldly wealth. It is our duty to make every effort for the purpose of advancing ourselves in the principles of light and knowledge, as well as of increasing around us the temporal blessings and comforts of this life.

I would agree that “education of the Spirit” ought to be the priority. I encourage Latter-day Saints to seek after what Jesus calls the “Spirit of Truth” (see John, 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Instead of yearning after “a little spiritual knowledge,” I encourage you to dig deep and drink in your fill, as we are told to seek after Him and He will make Himself available to us. If what you are believing is not true, ask the God of Truth for help in discerning this and help you have your eyes opened to truth.

The following is such an awesome passage that I just want to give it to you and let you ponder the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18ff):

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

If our minds are too one-sided, paying too much attention to the acquiring of earthly goods, to the neglect of spiritual wealth, we are not wise stewards.

As I will do throughout this review, I will let the readers know when I agree with Snow. And here I do. Earthly wealth cannot be equal to spiritual wealth. As Jesus said in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, it’s worth selling everything to get the promised treasure.

You have heard [some principles] perhaps hundreds of times, and yet it seems to be necessary that these things should be taught us over and over again. Again, it is something like I find in reading the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Every time I read a revelation in that book I get some new idea, although I may have read that same revelation many and many a time. I presume this is your experience, too; if it is not, it is very different to mine.

If Joseph Smith was not a true prophet of God, then he did not hear from God and given revelations, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. If what the Doctrine and Covenants says contradicts the Bible, then it is obvious which book ought to be considered more authoritative.

It is with us as with the child learning the alphabet. The teacher says to the child, “Here is the letter a; will you try and remember it?” The child replies, “Yes, I will try to remember it.” The teacher goes to the next letter, and says, “This letter is b; will you look upon it and try to remember it?” “Oh, yes,” says the child. Then the teacher turns back to the letter a. “What letter is this?” The child has forgotten it. The teacher once more tells the child that it is a, and turns to the letter b, and discovers that the child has forgotten that also, and again has to be instructed on the letter b. This is in the morning. In the afternoon the child is again called up and questioned, and the teacher once more finds that the child has forgotten the letters and has to be taught over again. And so the lesson has to be repeated over and over again, so much so that if the teacher had not had experience, and knew what to expect, he certainly would be discouraged. So it is with the Latter-day Saints. Though we may get tired of hearing things repeated, they have to be in order that we may learn them thoroughly. We must learn them. I know that the Latter-day Saints will eventually learn all the laws and commandments of God, and will learn to observe them strictly. But we have not arrived at that point yet.

While D&C 25:15 says that Mormons are supposed to keep the commandments “continually,” even the understanding of these covenants does not mean there will be success in keeping them. After all, a person can learn about the law and understand that we all fall woefully short. Notice what Paul says in Romans 3:

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

    there is no one who understands;

    there is no one who seeks God.

 All have turned away,

    they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

    not even one.”

 “Their throats are open graves;

    their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

     ruin and misery mark their ways,

 and the way of peace they do not know.”

    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Indeed, the more we know about the law, the more we realize how far short we are. Romans 7:14-25 adds this:

 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Reader, there’s more to it than just learning the laws and commandments of God. This is what it means to be forgiven, a topic we will discuss later in our reviews.


Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.