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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 22: Carrying the Gospel to the World

Chapter 22: Carrying the Gospel to the World

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.

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 275–86

“We are happy to be engaged in a partnership with our Heavenly Father in the great work of the salvation and exaltation of his children.”

This opening sets the tone for this chapter. As an Evangelical Christian, I would never say I am “engaged in a partnership” with God. It is not biblical to suggest that humans can achieve exaltation, which is equal to godhood.

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

The world is hungry for true religion, and we have it.

I don’t believe the world is “hungry for true religion.” Rather, I think people are hungry for truth. Mormonism certainly is a religion, but if it’s not based on truth, it is a false panacea. In my understanding, “religion” is man reaching out for God. Christianity, however, stresses how God reaches out for people, as laid out by the 66 books of the Bible that tells the story of God’s love for people.

Following the glorious appearance of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith,

Benson is assuming that the reader accepts the First Vision as a historical event. If the First Vision is not true, then Mormonism cannot be true. Consider these articles that details problems with the First Vision:

it appears that the first great responsibility placed upon the restored Church was to carry the gospel to the world—to all our Father’s children.

In Mormonism, “all our Father’s children” is a direct reference to Preexistence/Premortality. If this concept is not true, then humanity is not related. And this would mean that exaltation, or godhood, is also a pipe dream.

It has truly been a great drama of transcendent importance—a drama of sacrifice, joy, hardship, courage, and above all, love of fellowmen. Nowhere upon the face of the earth will you find a human drama to equal it. Yes, it has cost blood, sweat, and tears to carry forth this labor of love. And why have we done it? Because the God of heaven has commanded it; because he loves his children, and it is his will that the teeming millions of the earth shall have opportunity to hear and, of their own free will, accept and live the glorious saving and exalting principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to Mormonism, those who don’t hear the LDS gospel in this life will have full opportunity in the next. According to D&C 137:7, “Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” If this is the case, then wouldn’t it be more loving not to tell others about the LDS gospel? This is especially true since the commands of Mormonism are impossible to keep. With my tongue firmly in cheek, I would request that only those Mormons who are living according to the teachings of Mormonism and doing all they can do be allowed to tell others about Mormonism. Everyone else ought to keep this gospel to themselves. In this way, more people will not have the opportunity to hear but have full ability to progress in the next life. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

It is my conviction that the world needs, as it needs no other thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the people of the world want what the gospel will give, but they do not realize it. They want the anchor which the gospel provides, which gives them the answers to the problems that face them; that brings them a feeling of security and a feeling of inner peace. The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world, my brethren and sisters.

I agree. However, the world needs to hear about the true gospel of Jesus Christ, not a counterfeit gospel as advertised by the Mormon Church. I know that what I just wrote in the previous sentence sounds a bit confrontational, but the point is this: The Mormon believes he has the true gospel, as does the Christian. Both cannot be correct, however. Hence, which gospel is true? That is what needs to be answered.

Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family.

Saying that Mormonism’s gospel is capable of bringing “joy, happiness, and salvation” to humanity is like saying that Pepsi-Cola can fix the hunger problems of the world or that Nike can help the blind receive sight. The product cannot deliver what is promised. It’s nothing more than false advertising.

The world is hungry for true religion, and we have it.

Someone who is “hungry for true religion” will do well to stay away from Mormonism, as it has no “truth” to offer.

This is the glorious message we desire to share with the world, that through God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God has been restored. It is the greatest message since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If the First Vision is true, then Christianity needed a restoration. If it’s not true, then no restoration is needed. The evidence indicates there was no such event. Therefore, Mormonism is not the “greatest message since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” No, the resurrection shines brightly while the First Vision—and the very need for the Mormon Church—pales in comparison.

We accept humbly, gratefully, this major responsibility placed upon the Church. We are happy to be engaged in a partnership with our Heavenly Father in the great work of the salvation and exaltation of his children. Willingly we give of our time and the means with which he may bless us to the establishment of his kingdom in the earth. This we know is our first duty and our great opportunity. This spirit has characterized the missionary work of the Church of Jesus Christ in all ages. It has been an outstanding mark of the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times—our time. Wherever faithful Latter-day Saints are to be found, this spirit of unselfish sacrifice for the greatest cause in all the earth exists. We have a great mission. We must be prepared, both young and old. We must stand as a leaven among the nations, true to the principles of righteousness.

There is no argument that Mormons sacrifice dearly for their faith. Faithful Mormons spend many, many hours dedicated to their faith. However, could their dedication come at a cost greater than what they could ever imagine, the salvation of their souls? If so, then their sacrifice comes with great consequences and should not be something anyone exults in.

We hope that every young man has plans to be a messenger for the Lord.

How do you build in boys a great desire to serve? You do not wait … to help them decide to serve a mission. You help them decide to go when they are nine, ten, or eleven! The home is the seedbed for the preparation of young men. And every young man should be prepared in his home to serve.

Early preparation consists of teaching a young boy how to pray, reading him stories from the Book of Mormon and other scriptures, having home evenings and giving him a portion of the lesson [to teach], teaching him principles of moral cleanliness, starting a savings account for his future mission, teaching him how to work, and providing opportunities to serve others.

We want young men entering the mission field who can enter the mission field “on the run,” who have the faith born of personal righteousness and clean living that they can have a great and productive mission.

The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission. … A young man can do nothing more important. School can wait. Scholarships can be deferred. Occupational goals can be postponed. Yes, even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord.

… Young women … may also have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission. I am grateful my own eternal companion served a mission in Hawaii before we were married in the Salt Lake Temple, and I am pleased that I have had three granddaughters serve full-time missions. Some of our finest missionaries are young sisters.

The age for LDS missionaries entering the field went down a few years ago, from 19 for boys to 18 and from 21 for females to 19. Based on this administrative change, many more missionaries have entered the field. Where there were typically fewer than 60,000 missionaries, today there are more than 80,000. Much of the growth comes because the females are joining at greater numbers than ever before. One of the drawbacks is that missionaries are younger than ever and even more inexperienced. Some are not very mature. Only time will tell, but we wonder if this new policy will result in more returning missionaries questioning their faith when they return.

Member missionaries

We must emphasize the need for more member-missionary work. Experience has proven this is the most fruitful missionary work. Member-missionary work is one of the great keys to the individual growth of our members. It is my conviction that member-missionary work will raise the spirituality in any ward where applied.

I find it interesting how Benson tells the general membership that missionary work is their responsibility, yet I have never (to my recollection) been evangelized by laymembers who initialized an evangelism encounter with me. When the topic does come up, Mormons typically want to evangelize me by having missionaries come to my home.  I don’t consider this personal evangelism.

“The Lord expects us to be missionaries.”

How long has it been since you have invited a neighbor to sacrament meeting or to a stake conference, to come into your home for a home evening? How long has it been since you had a real gospel conversation? These are choice experiences.

A few years ago I was invited to a special Christmas program combining the choirs of a local Protestant church and Mormon ward. Although I disagree with mixing congregations of two different faiths, I attended because of the invitation and out of curiosity to see what this would look like. However, as mentioned earlier, the times that my Latter-day Saint acquaintances have initialized sharing their faith with me is…I can’t recall even one occurrence.

The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use in our missionary work.

The Book of Mormon is for both member and nonmember. Combined with the Spirit of the Lord, the Book of Mormon is the greatest tool which God has given us to convert the world. If we are to have the harvest of souls, we must use the instrument which God has designed for the task—the Book of Mormon.

And reading the Book of Mormon is one of the greatest persuaders to get us on missions. We need more missionaries. But we also need better-prepared missionaries coming out of the wards and branches and homes where they know and love the Book of Mormon. We need missionaries who have a burning testimony of its divinity, and who by the Spirit can challenge their investigators to read and ponder its pages, knowing with complete assurance that the Lord will manifest the truth of it to them by the power of the Holy Ghost. We need missionaries to match our message.

The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use in our missionary work. It shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ. All other things are secondary. The golden question of the Book of Mormon is “Do you want to learn more of Christ?” The Book of Mormon is the great finder of the golden contact. It does not contain things which are “pleasing unto the world,” and so the worldly are not interested in it. It is a great sieve. (See 1 Nephi 6:5.)

There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of the iron rod, and one who is not.

We must not forget that the Lord Himself provided the Book of Mormon as His chief witness. The Book of Mormon is still our most powerful missionary tool. Let us use it.

Just like the First Vision account, the Book of Mormon story is suspicious. Did it really take place? The outside evidence indicates that the Book of Mormon is fiction, not history. If it didn’t take place, then basing a gospel on this work is very precarious. Instead of basing truth on a book with no semblance of credibility, why not focus on God’s Word and the Bible, which is not only historical but also true. Consider the many problems with the Book of Mormon story here.

To be successful in missionary work, we must obtain the Spirit, acquire humility, love the people, and work diligently.

Missionaries sometimes ask, “How can I be successful? How does one become effective in missionary work?” Here are four proven keys to successful missionary work for both missionaries and members alike.

First, strive to obtain the Spirit.

Notice the word “strive.” It’s something that characterizes Mormonism. A person is required to reach God according to this philosophy. Christianity, on the other hand, says that God reaches out to His people.

To be successful, we must have the Spirit of the Lord. We have been taught that the Spirit will not dwell in unclean tabernacles. Therefore, one of our first priorities is to make sure our own personal lives are in order. The Lord declared, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:42.)

How many sins make a person unclean? Twenty? Five? Even one? If it’s just one sin that makes a person unclean, then which Mormon qualifies to have the Spirit of the Lord?

The Savior has given us His law about teaching His gospel: “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:14.)

So should we assume that any LDS teacher of the gospel is without sin?

Second, acquire humility.

The Lord has said that no one can assist with this work unless he is humble and full of love. (See Doctrine and Covenants 12:8.) But humility does not mean weakness. It does not mean timidity; it does not mean fear. [We] can be humble and also fearless. [We] can be humble and also courageous. Humility is the recognition of our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord’s support in His work.

Yet Mormonism breeds pride. Just the fact that a person obtains a temple recommend by claiming to be “worthy” is boasting on what that individual has done.  For more, check out this article.

We cannot do this work alone.

Take out the word “alone” and the Christian would agree.  Salvation is not a cooperative effort. Rather, it’s all about Jesus forgiving all of a person’s sins by doing 100% of the word. As sinful humans, we have nothing to offer. (Is. 64:6; Rom. 3:10).

This is His work. This is His gospel. We must have His help. Plead for it, live for it, pour out your soul to the Lord to receive it.

Please see how big of a difference this really is. In Mormonism, people are told they need God’s “help.” In Christianity, however, it’s all about what God has done. He is the one who performs radical surgery on the unconscious patient. Upon waking, the person realizes that the healing came because of the surgeon and not because of anything he/she had done. 

Third, love the people.

We must develop a love for people. Our hearts must go out to them in the pure love of the gospel, in a desire to lift them, to build them up, to point them to a higher, finer life and eventually to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God. We emphasize the fine qualities of the people with whom we associate, and love them as children of God whom the Lord loves. …

We will never be effective until we learn to have sympathy for all our Father’s children—until we learn to love them. People can feel when love is extended to them. Many yearn for it. When we sympathize with their feelings, they in turn will reciprocate good will to us. We will have made a friend.

We … have a great obligation to love our neighbors. It is the second of the two great commandments. Many of our neighbors are not yet members of the Church. We must be good neighbors. We must love all our Father’s children and associate with them.

How I pray that we will be filled with the love of God for our fellowman!

I too want my neighbors to know about the hope I have found in Jesus. Whether it’s through friendship evangelism or stranger evangelism, we are commanded to share the truth. Peter told his readers that we need to do this with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15-16). May the Latter-day Saint understand that in the same way they are commanded to love folks like me, Christians are commanded to share truth with them. Let’s have a meeting of the minds and do what Isaiah 1:18 says: “Come now, and let us reason together.”

Fourth, work diligently.

If we want to keep the Spirit, we must work.

In Mormonism, the Spirit only stays with those who are obedient. It’s sort of like plucking the pedals of a daisy: He loves me, He loves me not. Christians, however, are sealed with the Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says,

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:22 states,

set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Notice how the Spirit is a deposit offering a guarantee for what is to come. When He resides in a believer’s life, He is not going to leave.

There is no greater exhilaration or satisfaction than to know, after a hard day of work, that we have done our best.

Unfortunately, doing our best is not good enough. Spencer W. Kimball stated,

To “try” is weak. To “do the best I can” is not strong. We must always do better than we can. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 165)

How is it possible to “always do better than we can”? If I can only do so much, how can I do better than this?

One of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work. If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people, and he will be happy. … Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.

In the same book quoted above, Spencer W. Kimball stated,

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209).

Work, work, work. A person can “work” for an entire lifetime but never be able to swim to Hawaii. Despite all the training and dedication, if something is impossible, it can’t be earned. Rather, the only way to get to Hawaii will either being carried by plane or ship. Swimming is not an option. And nobody can live all the commandments, no matter how hard they try.

I know that God lives. This is His work. He has again spoken from the heavens with a message for the entire world; not for a handful of Latter-day Saints only, but for all our brothers and sisters, both in and out of the Church. May God give us strength to carry that message to the world, to live the Gospel, to maintain the standards of the Church, that we may be entitled to the promised blessings.

Finally, this chapter ends by saying how maintaining the “standards of the Church” is what allows a person to “be entitled to the promised blessings.” Yet who can do this? Kimball says it would take a “superman”:

In the context of the spirit of forgiveness, one good brother asked me, “Yes, that is what ought to be done, but how do you do it? Doesn’t that take a superman?” “Yes,” I said, “but we are commanded to be supermen. Said the Lord, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) We are gods in embryo, and the Lord demands perfection of us” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 286).

Latter-day Saint, are you the “superman” to whom your president refers? Or are you just weary? Salvation is not something you earn or even cooperate with God in order to attain. Rather, it’s available…for the asking. Consider reading the following articles:

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