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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 24: Righteous Living in Perilous Times

During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. 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.

The only way to peace is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is only one remedy for the universal distress—a panacea for the sickness of the world. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the perfect law of life and liberty, which has been restored again in fulfilment of the Scriptures.

I can agree with Smith’s words. However, we must ask the all-important question as to just what is the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” When it comes to Mormonism versus Christianity, there are vital differences that every person ought to consider.

Smith himself said in an October 1918 general conference address: “Time and time again my heart has been melted, my eyes have wept tears of gratitude for the knowledge that He lives and that this gospel called Mormonism is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, that it is the only true gospel upon the face of the earth, that it is in very deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gospel Standards, 197-198). Apostle Richard G. Scott told another conference audience, “Our Father’s plan for salvation in this life with the opportunity of returning to Him would be called the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“Truth Restored,” Ensign, November 2005, 79). Seventy Ronald E. Poelman agreed when, in still another conference message, he said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change” (“The Gospel and the Church,” Ensign, November 1984, 64).

This is in complete agreement with other LDS leaders, including tenth president Joseph Fielding Smith. He explained, “FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. By fulness of the gospel is meant all the ordinances and principles that pertain to the exaltation in the celestial kingdom…” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:159). This meant that “those who reject the gospel, but who live honorable lives, shall also be heirs of salvation, but not in the celestial kingdom” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:133-134). According to twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball, the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation; it is the code of laws and commandments which help us to become perfect, and the ordinances which constitute the entrance requirements” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 502).

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught, “The gospel is the plan of salvation. It consists of the laws, ordi­nances, and eternal truths by conformity to which the spirit children of God can progress and advance until they become like their Eternal Parent” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:27). He also said, “The true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth in the last days through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith. It is found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Mormon Doctrine, 334).

Based on these quotes, here’s what we learn about the “gospel of Jesus Christ”:

  1. Everyone who lives on this earth is supposed to follow the teachings of the LDS gospel;
  2. This gospel includes “all the ordinances and principles” taught by the Mormon Church, which I assume would include baptism into the LDS Church, regular worship in LDS services, the receiving of the priesthood (for males), and temple participation (including marriage for time and eternity), just to name a few;
  3. These are eternal ordinances and principles, applicable for everyone on earth;
  4. If properly completed, this gospel will help us be like our “Eternal Parent,” which would be equal to godhood;
  5. With all of this said, Mormonism preaches the true gospel—not just that, but the “only” gospel, according to McConkie.

For those who are Christians reading the quotes from the LDS leaders above, can you understand why Mormonism should not be called Christian?

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.) These are reassuring words from the Prince of Peace to his faithful followers. Surely there is nothing men need more than the blessings of peace and happiness and hearts free from fear. And these are offered [to] all of us if we will but be partakers of them.

According to Smith, if you reject the Mormon gospel, you cannot comprehend the blessings of peace and happiness.

When the gospel was restored to earth in this dispensation, the Lord repeated what he has said so many times in the Old and New Testaments, that the price of peace and happiness is righteousness. Notwithstanding this knowledge, there are many who appear to think that we can obtain happiness in some other way, but we should all know by this time that there is no other way. And yet by his cunning craftiness Satan has persuaded the majority of mankind from walking in the way that will insure happiness, and he is still busy. The adversary of righteousness never sleeps. But by following the teachings of the Lord, by turning unto him and repenting of sin, by going about doing good, we may have peace and happiness and prosperity

Of course there is peace and happiness when we do the right thing. That’s a no-brainer. But we cannot depend on our success for the assurance of our salvation because there will be, no doubt, times when we don’t do the right thing(s). True peace and happiness is only available through a right relationship with God, understanding that we’re a forgiven people who have been commissioned unto good works. In John 10:9-10, Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Even when we don’t do the right thing, we can rest assured that His love for us does not end.

Paul writes in Romans 8:35-39:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In Mormonism, “peace and happiness” is dependent upon the  individual Latter-day Saint. In Christianity, the work has already been done. If we fail to perform, we should not begin doubting our initial salvation. The gift that we were given frees us to be the people He intends for us to be. While I certainly believe in good works, I want the Latter-day Saint reading this to know that it is possible to have a relationship with God where you do not have to concern yourself with doubts about your salvation when you do blow it, which you will if you are human The assurance of salvation is clear, according to the Word of God.

Paul explains this concept in Romans 7:14-25:

“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(AI) 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!”

As this passage explains, it’s a battle out there. But in the end, it’s our relationship with Jesus that matters the most.

With all the wisdom of the world, no group thus far has been able to point the way for peace with the certainty that it is the way. We … are fortunate to know that there is a way for peace that alone will produce results, and that way is to keep the commandments of God as revealed to the children of men anciently and in our day. If that way were followed, all the problems that are so serious in the world could be solved, and peace would come to this unhappy earth.

Once more, I certainly don’t intend to minimize good works, but true peace cannot be found in our ability to somehow keep all the commandments of God. And until Jesus comes again, there will always be problems in the world, which means peace on this earth will always elude us.

Though the world may be filled with distress, and the heavens gather blackness, and the vivid lightnings flash, and the earth quake from center to circumference, if we know that God lives, and our lives are righteous, we will be happy, there will be peace unspeakable because we know our Father approves [of] our lives.

Smith points out another difference between Mormonism and Christianity. In Mormonism, a person works in hopes that the “Father approves [of] our lives.” In Christianity, a person receives justification of his/her sins and then does good works out of gratitude for the gift that was received. It may seem like a subtle difference to some, but it really is not. Until this concept is understood, true peace can never become reality.

We need have no fear if we do what the Lord has asked us to do.

We need have no fear if we do what the Lord has asked us to do. This is His world. All men and women are subject to Him. All the powers of evil will be controlled for the sake of His people, if they will honor Him and keep His commandments.

D&C 25:15 adds that the commandments must be kept “continually.” A Mormon may explain that falling short is somehow fixed through “repentance.” Yet  D&C 58:43 explains, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” Latter-day Saint, have you forsaken your sins? If you haven’t and commit the same sin again, it shows you really were not repentant.

Spencer W. Kimball is someone who spilled a lot of ink on this issue. On page 212 of his book The Miracle of Forgiveness, he writes, “And incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness.” Listen to several other quotes from Kimball’s classic work:

  • Page 200: “To be forgiven one must repent. Repentance means not only to convict yourselves of the horror of the sin, but to confess it, abandon it, and restore to all who have been damaged to the total extent possible; then spend the balance of your lives trying to live the commandments of the Lord so he can eventually pardon you and cleanse you.
  • Pages 324-325: “Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”
  • Page 360: “We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness. The Lord anticipated the weakness of man which would return him to his transgression, and he gave this revelation in warning: And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 82:7.)”

Latter-day Saint, are you really doing what this important LDS leader says you should do? If so, you would be the first whom I ever met.

If we have the confidence of our Heavenly Father, if we have His love, if we are worthy of His blessings, all the armies of the world cannot destroy us, cannot break down our faith, and cannot overcome the Church that is named for the Son of God.

See, the thing is, I’m not “worthy” of his blessings. Left up with the LDS leaders, just who could ever qualify?

No matter whether the clouds may gather, no matter how the war drums may beat, no matter what conditions may arise in the world, here in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we are honoring and keeping the commandments of God, there will be protection from the powers of evil, and men and women will be permitted to live upon the earth until their lives are finished in honor and glory if they will keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father.

It’s interesting that this is the last chapter of this manual, and the order from Smith as well as the current leadership is quite plain. “Keep the commandments” is the mantra, and every Latter-day Saint is expected to march in step.

I pray that our homes may be sanctified by the righteousness of our lives, that the adversary may have no power to come there and destroy the children of our homes or those who dwell under our roofs. If we will honor God and keep his commandments, our homes will be sacred, the adversary will have no influence, and we will live in happiness and peace until the winding-up scene in mortality and we go to receive our reward in immortality.

I disagree with Smith’s words. Just because God’s commandments are kept does not necessarily mean that the adversary will have no influence. In fact, I think Satan attacks believers harder and stronger when it appears everything is going well. He paints too rosy of a picture here. Latter-day Saint, have you ever had marital problems? Parents, have you ever had kids go AWOL even though they were raised in the right ways? Proverbs 22:6 is a general wisdom statement, instructing, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” However, it is not a forever-and-ever promise (such as you will be saved if you believe in Christ, as Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9-10 say). Good families do get attacked by Satan, and for the LDS Church leaders to put such guilt on its people who sincerely are trying to do the right thing…it’s just wrong.

The Lord has not required something that is impossible. On the contrary, he has given us commandments and advice and counsel that it is possible for all of us to follow in this day and age in which we live. …

But while God certainly wants us to follow His commandments, advice, and counsel, it is impossible to be successful on our own. We are going to fall short and fail—it’s not if but when. And when that happens, where will you put your trust? On your own obedience? Or on what Jesus has done for the cross? I know on whose promise I want to plant my flag!

… Brethren and sisters, we ought to be faithful. The land that we live in should be sanctified by our lives of righteousness. … All that we need is to repent of our sins, turn from the error of our ways, cleanse our lives of impurity, and then to go about doing good. It does not require that we shall be set apart for that purpose. Every man, woman and child in the Church of Jesus Christ may go about doing good and receive the blessing that results therefrom.

Once more, who is responsible, according to Mormonism? Where is the hope?



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