by Sharon Lindbloom
20 September 2022
The Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” newsletter is having a contest. On September 1st readers were asked to submit their General Conference “dream headlines”; that is, headlines readers “would like to see emerge from next month’s General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The 340 submitted headlines are now being published, and readers have an opportunity to vote on their favorites. The newspaper will eventually announce the “ultimate champion.”
The responses received by The Salt Lake Tribune are described as “silly to sober, hopeful to woeful and everything in between.” For example,
- “Counselors in bishoprics to include women for the first time” reflects the wish of many Latter-day Saints that the church would recognize the gifts and abilities of women and incorporate women into positions of authority in the church.
- “A full disclosure of how tithing money is spent. Annual budgets and holdings are made public to all members via church website” gives voice to frustrations over the church’s tight-lipped handling of its finances.
- “New two-member First Presidency announced: Kirton & McConkie” is a sardonic jab suggesting that the LDS church is a corporation run by attorneys rather than a church led by prophets and apostles.
Though not submitted to The Salt Lake Tribune, Mormonism Research Ministry’s staff also wrote a few tongue-in-cheek “dream headlines”:
- “Apostle Holland announces that, due to inflation, the credit-for-trying campaign is officially cancelled.”
- “Apostle expresses dismay that the Church Genealogical Library’s search for First God is infinitely behind schedule.”
- “LDS First Presidency concedes that they don’t keep all of God’s commandments, all of the time.”
- “New revelation verbiage announced: ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to be replaced by ‘It’s happening’”
- “Church Finance: Due to cost overruns in remodel, naming rights for Salt Lake temple sold to Coca-Cola”
- “President Nelson wins annual General Conference poker tournament after an ‘impression from God’ that opponent Henry B. Eyring was bluffing”
Kidding aside, since General Conference is a time when LDS church leadership presents authoritative teachings and official announcements to Latter-day Saints worldwide, this would be the time for significant changes in the church to be revealed. Therefore, here are a few of my own “dream headlines” — things I’d love to see as real reports from the October General Conference.
“First Presidency acknowledges that the Bible is translated correctly after all and is 100% trustworthy”
From the very beginning of Mormonism, the LDS church has cast doubt on the trustworthiness and sufficiency of the Bible. The church’s eighth article of faith qualifies its trust in the Bible when it says, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…” (there is no such qualification regarding the Book of Mormon). The Book of Mormon mocks people who trust in the Bible alone (e.g., 2 Nephi 29:6, 10) and asserts that “many plain and precious things” have been taken out of the Book (e.g.,1 Nephi 13:28). Joseph Smith said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 327). And on it goes.
Christian theologian J.I. Packer once noted, “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible… I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges, and man traps to frighten people off.” Though Mormonism’s assertions about the deficiencies of the Bible are unfounded, the church’s doctrinal undermining of the biblical scripture effectively puts pits, thorns, and hedges between God’s truth and Latter-day Saints. So then, one of my General Conference “dream headlines” would be announcing a new teaching for Latter-day Saints: an acknowledgment of the truth that the Bible is indeed trustworthy in every respect. Then Mormons would be allowed to see the beauty of the biblical Gospel and the hope God has given to those who trust in Jesus:
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7)
“President Nelson Bombshell: There never was a complete apostasy of Christianity”
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed that a great apostasy from the Christian faith had overtaken the church following the deaths of the biblical apostles. According to the Prophet Joseph, God told him in 1820 that, regarding the existing Christian churches, “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
Because of this Great Apostasy, Mormonism says, many things went wrong within the church that Jesus built. Apostate Christianity corrupted the true doctrine of God, lost God’s priesthood authority, wrote and accepted false creeds, corrupted the Bible, and lost the true Gospel (among other things). Therefore, God needed to reset His church and restore it to its original form and function. This He intended to do, Joseph Smith said, through Joseph himself. And Mormonism was born.
According to Mormonism, the Great Apostasy is the entire reason for the “restoration” of the LDS church. This idea is stated very clearly in the church’s multi-volume History of the Church: “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (B.H. Roberts, 1:XL). In other words, if there was not a “complete apostasy from the Christian religion,” Mormonism has no reason to exist.
In fact, there has never been a complete apostasy of the Christian church, and there never will be. To insist that apostasy overcame the church Christ built is to imply that Jesus broke His promises to His people. “I will build my church,” He said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Bible is very clear that the Christian church will exist on the earth until Christ’s return. Christian scholar Robert Bowman explains,
“Having died for the church to make it holy and ready it for Him as His ‘bride’ [see Ephesians 5:25-27], it is inconceivable that Christ would allow the church to die just a few decades after He founded it. The church for the past twenty centuries has been far from perfect, but that is because Christ is not finished with it yet—not because He gave up on it and let it die while it was still in its infancy… The Great Apostasy, then, is a myth. The New Testament not only does not teach it, what it does teach clearly reveals that the church would continue to exist from the time that Christ founded it until the time that Christ returns.” (“The Great Apostasy – Did the Church Disappear?“)
Consequently, another one of my General Conference “dream headlines” would reflect a recognition of the important truths that Jesus keeps His promises, and Jesus cares for His church. Mormonism is unnecessary. Jesus is enough.
“General Conference speakers united in denouncing long-standing LDS doctrine of salvation by grace ‘after all we can do’”
The Book of Mormon includes an LDS salvation passage that says, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23; emphasis mine). In the October 2001 General Conference of the LDS church, James Faust, then serving in the First Presidency, clarified, “Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, ‘for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’” (“The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, November 2001, 18).
LDS leaders have consistently interpreted 2 Nephi 25:23 to mean that, as 11th President of the church Harold B. Lee put it, “The Savior’s blood, His atonement, will save us, but only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 24). According to 13th church President Ezra Taft Benson, “all we can do” includes loving others, praying for our enemies, clothing and feeding the poor, visiting the sick, “leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest,” etc. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 354). In Mormonism, once we do “all we can do,” then and only then God’s grace kicks in (see Moroni 10:32).
It’s commendable and pleasing to God when people strive to obey Him and offer love and support to others. However, 2 Nephi 25:23 is a great distortion of what God actually says about His grace and salvation. In the Bible we’re told “by grace you have been saved,” full stop. There’s no “after all we can do” qualification, no hint that we must clean ourselves up and keep the commandments before God extends His grace to us. In fact, in Ephesians 2:1-10 God says,
“…you were dead in the trespasses and sins…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
I would love to see a General Conference headline announcing the LDS church’s abandonment of its burdensome, unbiblical doctrine regarding salvation, a doctrine that changes God’s true and merciful gift of salvation by grace into something that Mormonism insists must be earned.
A good friend of mine once said, “Mormon leaders put stumbling blocks before those who are trusting them to bring them the truth.” My three “dream headlines” represent a start to the removal of some of those stumbling blocks. The changes expressed in these headlines would demonstrate the church’s desire to honor the God of the Bible; to honor Him by believing what He said in His Word, to honor Him by trusting that He keeps His promises, and to honor Him by recognizing the immeasurable riches of His grace. This, in turn, would clear the path for members of the church to finally come to know the only true God (John 17:3), generating the best headline of all: “Latter-day Saints around the world joyously proclaim, ‘The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’” (Romans 6:23).
To see Sharon’s other news articles, click here.