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.
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
Trials and tribulations help us improve spiritually and prepare for celestial glory.
It is impossible for us to work out our salvation and accomplish the purposes of God without trials or without sacrifices.
According to James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” In a section titled “Suffering for Doing Good,” Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:13-14, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’” According to verse 18, it is “better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” These circumstances help us to trust more in God rather than ourselves and become more dependent on Him rather than on ourselves.
Trials and tribulations have been the experience of the Latter-day Saints. God so designed that it should be. I daresay that in the [premortal] spirit world, when it was proposed to us to come into this probation, and pass through the experience that we are now receiving, it was not altogether pleasant and agreeable; the prospects were not so delightful in all respects as might have been desired. Yet there is no doubt that we saw and understood clearly there that, in order to accomplish our exaltation and glory, this was a necessary experience; and however disagreeable it might have appeared to us, we were willing to conform to the will of God, and consequently we are here.
Of course, Christianity denies 1) the existence of a premortal world; 2) the possibility that human have the opportunity to become gods and goddesses (as fully described in chapter 5—see here for more information.)
The Lord has determined in His heart that He will try us until He knows what He can do with us. He tried His Son Jesus. … Before He [the Savior] came upon earth the Father had watched His course and knew that He could depend upon Him when the salvation of worlds should be at stake; and He was not disappointed. So in regard to ourselves. He will try us, and continue to try us, in order that He may place us in the highest positions in life and put upon us the most sacred responsibilities.
Notice that Snow uses the word “worlds.” What could he be talking about? Does this mean Jesus died not for this world only but for other worlds as well? Of course, this earth is just one of many earths that is inhabited. But if each world has its own savior, as this world has Jesus, then how could Jesus have accomplished something for any other world? Perhaps those readers who attend the LDS meetings will want to ask their teacher the following question: Was Jesus’ atoning work valid for those on this world as well as others? It would be interesting to compare answers with other wards.
If we succeed in passing through the approaching fiery ordeals with our fidelity and integrity unimpeached, we may expect at the close of our trials, a great and mighty outpouring of the Spirit and power of God—a great endowment upon all who shall have remained true to their covenants. …
Some of our brethren have queried whether hereafter, they could feel themselves worthy of full fellowship with Prophets and Saints of old, who endured trials and persecutions; and with Saints … who suffered in Kirtland, in Missouri and Illinois. The brethren referred to have expressed regrets that they had not been associated in those scenes of suffering. If any of these are present, I will say, for the consolation of such, you have to wait but a short time and you will have similar opportunities, to your heart’s content. You and I cannot be made perfect except through suffering: Jesus could not [see Hebrews 2:10]. In His prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He foreshadowed the purifying process necessary in the lives of those whose ambition prompts them to secure the glory of a celestial kingdom. None should try to escape by resorting to any compromising measures. There is no other way in which the Saints can make spiritual improvement and be prepared for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom than through tribulation. It is the process by which knowledge is increased and peace will ultimately be established universally. It [has] been said that if all our surroundings were peaceful and prosperous now, we would become indifferent. It would be a condition that would be all that would be desired by a good many natures; they would not stretch out after the things of eternity.
Snow says that it is impossible to “be made perfect except through suffering.” If he meant that we can be perfected through the suffering of another Person, he would be correct. However, Mormonism teaches that the individual must suffer.
Just as other leaders have done when it comes to the atonement, Snow stresses how this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cross seems to be an afterthought. (For an excellent look at this issue, please see here.) According to the Bible, it is the death on the cross that resulted in the atonement. First Peter 2 explains,
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Notice, “by his (Jesus’) wounds we were healed” is a prophetical reference to Isaiah 53:5. (For a graphic but accurate portrayal of Christ’s sacrifice (which resulted in death), see here.) It was at the cross where Jesus not only bled but He also died. It is difficult to explain some of these beautiful concepts without merely quoting scripture. So in that spirit, let’s consider the second half of Hebrews chapter 9, which one version titles “the blood of Christ”:
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.
It was crucial that the sacrificial lamb was killed, the writer of Hebrews says.
16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Notice that last part: “without the shedding of blood (death of the sacrificial lamb) there is no forgiveness of sins.” Thus, the end of the chapter explains how “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” In chapter 10, the theme continues:
4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Verse 14 is just so beautiful:
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Verse 18 adds,
“And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
To become a true Christian, it must be understood that the sacrifice has been paid IN FULL. There is nothing a person does to add to this payment, just as mailing in additional mortgage payments for a home that is fully paid off is completely nonsensical. According to Snow and the Mormon doctrine, a person must pay the price by making a personal sacrifice. To achieve exaltation, the drumbeat of the LDS Church is “do, do, do.” But in Christianity, Jesus has already paid the price, as He sacrificed Himself for the sins of His people. Hence, the message of hope in the Bible is taht is is “done, done, done.” If you are someone who is trying to earn righteousness in the sight of God, isn’t it about time you gave up trying to somehow qualify for God’s approval? Instead of having the load placed onto your back, as Snow has done in this manual (“You and I cannot be made perfect except through suffering,” insinuating it’s your suffering that is required), it is important to realize that the shed blood of Jesus is fully sufficient to the person who believes.
Take it individually or take it collectively, we have suffered and we shall have to suffer again, and why? Because the Lord requires it at our hands for our sanctification.
Latter-day Saint, it is painful to see all that your leaders require of you. I certainly am not saying that trials are kept from God’s people. But these trials have nothing to do with somehow meriting ourselves before the God of this universe.
When we remain faithful during trials and temptations, we show that we love God more than we love the world.
It’s not easy dealing with temptations. Sometimes we may fail and give in to the sinful things of this world. James 1:13-15 explains, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” When we sin, there can (and will be) consequences (Gal. 6:7). But I would never say that when we lack faith, somehow we love the world more than we love God! This certainly was not the case with Paul, who explained in Romans 7:
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 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.
Suppose I asked a Mormon, “How do you think Paul believed he would be able to escape from being a prisoner to sin?” Common responses I have commonly heard on this topic are “through obedience” or “by buckling up and conquering sin.” In other words, personal accomplishment is required. And while it is true that personal discipline is important when tackling issues like trials and temptations, consider what Paul had to say about this at the end of the previous passage:
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 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.
As our review in chapter 6 explained, there is no possibility that we can somehow attain perfection. Instead, perfection has been delivered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Himself!
Among our trials are temptations, by which we are enabled to show how much we value our religion.
Heap on the guilt, LDS Church leaders, and make it appear that falling to temptations is equal to a person not valuing God. Most Latter-day Saints I know are good, honest, and hard-working people. But they remain human and struggle, sometimes even failing and giving into sin. This tactic is nothing but pure manipulation and will make followers feel plenty of guilt as they struggle with sinful ways.
As we remain faithful, the Lord strengthens us to overcome temptations and endure trials.
At face value, we would agree with Snow’s statement. In the context of James 1 that is talking about trials and temptations comes this verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God has ways to help us overcome, but we must ask Him for help if we hope to receive heavenly wisdom.
Many of you may have severe trials, that your faith may become more perfect, your confidence be increased, your knowledge of the powers of heaven be augmented; and this before your redemption takes place. If a stormy cloud sweep over the horizon … ; if the cup of bitter suffering be offered, and you compelled to partake; Satan let loose to go among you, with all his seductive powers of deceivings and cunning craftiness; the strong relentless arm of persecution lifted against you;—then, in that hour, lift up your heads and rejoice that you are accounted worthy to suffer thus with Jesus, the Saints, and holy prophets; and know that the period of your redemption has approached.
Snow says that the Latter-day Saint may “know that the period of your redemption has approached.” But the Christian’s redemption is already sealed at faith—constituting a “done deal.” In Ephesians 4:30, Paul said, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” He explained in Romans 3:24-26 that believers
are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:30, Jesus is our “wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” And Ephesians 1:7 says that the Christian has “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,” with verses 13 and 14 adding that the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Over and over again, it’s our trust in Christ that provides forgiveness, not good works. Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have an inheritance to the very best place your religion has to offer?
I feel, my brethren and sisters, to exhort you with heartfelt expression. Be of good cheer—be not disheartened; for assuredly the day rapidly comes when your tears shall be dried, your hearts comforted, and you shall eat of the products of your labours. …Be honest, be virtuous, be honourable, be meek and lowly, courageous and bold, cultivate simplicity, be like the Lord; hold to the truth though through fire or sword, torture or death.
And why should the practicing Mormon be of good cheer? At what place will the Saint’s tears be dried? It is impossible to keep the Mormon gospel. Only through a relationship with Jesus can a person have true hope.
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.