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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, Chapter 2: “My Peace I Give unto You”

During 2016, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, 2015

Teachings of Howard W. Hunter

Jesus Christ is our source of true peace.

In foretelling the birth of Christ more than 700 years before it occurred, the prophet Isaiah used titles expressing great admiration. … One of these titles that is of particular interest in our present world is “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,” Isaiah declared (v. 7). What a thrilling hope for a war-weary, sin-laden world!

To know the biblical Jesus is truly to know peace. But as talked about in my review of the previous chapter, a different Jesus is like having no Jesus at all (2 Cor. 11:4).

The peace for which the world longs is a time of suspended hostilities; but men do not realize that peace is a state of existence that comes to man only upon the terms and conditions set by God, and in no other way.

In a psalm in the Book of Isaiah are these words: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isa. 26:3.) This perfect peace mentioned by Isaiah comes to one only through a belief in God. This is not understood by an unbelieving world.

A belief in God is not enough. I would guess that more than 90 percent of the world believes in some type of higher power. Even animistic religions advocate the existence of ancestor spirits that are more powerful than they. Jesus mocked the religious rulers of His day and called them sons of their father the devil and white-washed tombs—clean on the outside, but inside full of dead men’s bones–despite the fact that they believed in the God of Israel. I’m not discounting the belief in God, but even the demons believe and they “shudder” at the understanding that He exists (James 2:19). Mere ascent to the existence of God and nothing more is not acceptable. I would say that the perfect peace talked about by the prophet in Isa. 26:3 can come only through “a relationship with God,” an idea that is much more in accordance with biblical truth.

When we try to help those who have offended us, when we pray for those who have unrighteously used us, our lives can be beautiful. We can have peace when we come into a unity with the Spirit and with each other as we serve the Lord and keep his commandments.

In Mormonism, keeping the commandments is vital. Now, don’t get me wrong, as there is nothing wrong to do the right thing. My point is that peace only comes through the Spirit according to the LDS religion when a person is doing everything required as defined by the church. Mormonism’s version of the gospel is not based on the relationship I talked about above. According to Mormonism, it’s what we do (not what Christ has done) that qualifies humans for “deserving” His blessings and “meriting” His mercy. As President Ezra Taft Benson explained,

Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442).

A person cannot know he or she is forgiven unless and until the commandments have been kept. Apostle Richard G. Scott said,

Obedience to all the commandments. Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life with strength to focus on the abandonment of specific sins. It includes things you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meet­ings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. The Lord said: “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (“Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign (Con­ference Edition), May 1995, p. 75. Italics in original).

Mormonism does not offer true peace but a lifetime of frustration in not being able to accomplish perfection.

God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement.

Hmm, I find this sentence by Hunter very interesting. Maybe God doesn’t coerce and confront in Mormonism, but His so-called appointed leaders (LDS prophets and apostles) certainly do! For example, if someone doesn’t pay tithing or has an occasional cup of coffee, the person is “coerced” and “confronted” by the bishop who may threaten by using the temple recommend renewal—that all important card necessary to attend the temple and, eventually, eternal life. People are kicked out of God’s “true church” on a regular basis because they don’t do things the way the church leaders say it should be done.  Isn’t that coercion?

There is no promise of peace to those who reject God, to those who will not keep his commandments, or to those who violate his laws. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the decadence and corruption of leaders and then continued in his admonitions by saying: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:20–21.) …

According to Hunter’s standard, “wicked” defines those who don’t “keep his commandments” or “violate his laws.” Which laws? Those defined by the Mormon Church. Hence, a person who says he trust in Jesus and in Jesus alone for his or her salvation and rejects Mormonism’s teachings on authority, salvation, and even Joseph Smith himself is one who will get no peace.

… Indifference to the Savior or failure to keep the commandments of God brings about insecurity, inner turmoil, and contention. These are the opposite of peace. Peace can come to an individual only by an unconditional surrender—surrender to him who is the Prince of peace, who has the power to confer peace.

As mentioned, keeping commandments is how a person goes up the ladder in Mormonism. It comes down to this:

Obedience = Peace

In Christianity, it’s like this:

Faith in Christ (and faith alone) = Peace

A sidenote: Jesus does say in the gospel of John that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. The Christian has no qualms with this concept. Obedience, though, follows faith and is not a prerequisite to receiving God’s gift of forgiveness. Because of the great cost paid on the cross of Calvary, the believer obeys God’s Word “because of “(not “for”) his or her salvation. There is a big difference in motivation for keeping God’s commandments.

It seems that two eternal truths must be accepted by all if we are to find peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come. (1) That Jesus is the Christ, the very eternal son of our Heavenly Father, who came to earth for the express purpose of redeeming mankind from sin and the grave, and that he lives to bring us back to the presence of the Father. (2) That Joseph Smith was his prophet, raised up in this latter-day to restore the truth which had been lost to mankind because of transgression. If all men would accept and live these two fundamental truths, peace would be brought to the world.

Please don’t miss the irony in this paragraph. According to Hunter (and Mormonism), here is the equation:

Jesus + Joseph Smith = Peace

Seriously? The very idea that

Jesus + (Anything) = Peace

is anathema to the ears of the Bible-believing Christian.

Who is Joseph Smith? Is he someone anywhere near the caliber of Jesus? Why does he warrant an entire “fundamental truth” all by himself? In my estimation, this is a man who is ought not be trusted with the salvation of my soul. Consider this piece:  10 reasons why Joseph Smith should not be considered a true prophet of God

If you, yourself, resist … temptations and determine to pay the daily price, to live the Law of the Harvest by clean, moral thoughts and practices, by upright, honest dealings, by integrity and conscientiousness in your studies, by fasting, prayer, and worship, you will reap the harvest of freedom and inner peace and prosperity.

Peace in Mormonism only comes by doing, doing, and doing. It misses the very reason why Jesus came to this earth in the first place.

A life filled with unselfish service will also be filled with peace that surpasses understanding. … This peace can come only through living the principles of the gospel. These principles constitute the program of the Prince of Peace.

Obedience, obedience, obedience is the mantra of Hunter and Mormonism. As if the Prince of Peace had a program with principles that needed to be constituted.

So much in our world is calculated to destroy … personal peace through sins and temptations of a thousand kinds. We pray that the lives of the Saints will be lived in harmony with the ideal set before us by Jesus of Nazareth.

Here’s the problem, Mr. Hunter. Nobody—not even the most faithful of all Latter-day Saints—is able to “live in harmony with the ideal set before us by Jesus.” In this chapter, Latter-day Saints are being told that all they need to do is obey—but they already knew this. They’re told this almost weekly and now in their Gospel Doctrine classes they’re being reminded once more. I think most of them realize how impossible it is to keep these rules and regulations. All you are doing is heaping a load of guilt onto their plates. What they need is the Gospel, which means “Good News”—something that cannot be earned through our efforts or obedience.

If you are someone who realizes that he or she falls short and you’re trying to reach God on your own, consider this article: 10 reasons why a person ought to consider becoming a Christian

One may live in beautiful and peaceful surroundings but, because of inner dissension and discord, be in a state of constant turmoil. On the other hand, one may be in the midst of utter destruction and the bloodshed of war and yet have the serenity of unspeakable peace. If we look to man and the ways of the world, we will find turmoil and confusion. If we will but turn to God, we will find peace for the restless soul. This was made clear by the words of the Savior: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33); and in his bequest to the Twelve and to all mankind, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth. …” (John 14:27.)

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say in John 14. He doesn’t say, “Peace I leave with you…if you keep the commandments.” Rather, His peace is available for the asking. Mormonism has unfortunately screwed it all up by instituting its own rules and regulations (i.e. get baptized by our church, attend church services and don’t watch football on Sundays, don’t drink coffee, attend the temple, get sealed for eternity, etc.). What Mormonism therefore does is steal peace away from its millions of faithful adherents, none of whom thinks they are forgiven of their sins because there’s just a little more they need to do.

We can find this peace now in a world of conflict if we will but accept his great gift and his further invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:28–29.)

Wow, these verses from Matthew seem to contradict the major thrust of this chapter. Jesus wants to give our souls rest, but what rest can there be for the faithful Latter-day Saint?

This peace shelters us from the worldly turmoil. The knowledge that God lives, that we are his children, and that he loves us soothes the troubled heart. The answer to the quest lies in faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. This will bring peace to us now and in the eternity to follow.

In this world of confusion and rushing, temporal progress, we need to return to the simplicity of Christ. … We need to study the simple fundamentals of the truths taught by the Master and eliminate the controversial. Our faith in God needs to be real and not speculative. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can be a dynamic, moving influence, and true acceptance gives us a meaningful, religious experience. One of the great strengths of the Mormon religion is this translation of belief into daily thinking and conduct. This replaces turmoil and confusion with peace and tranquility.

No, Mr. Hunter, the “translation of belief into daily thinking and conduct” did not originate with Joseph Smith and the LDS religion. Putting our faith to work is a biblical theme. (Just read the book of James!) What your religion has done, though, is substitute God’s ability to forgive sinners by instead requiring obedience to the rules and regulations as defined by the Mormon Church. It’s an impossible gospel that will never lead to peace and tranquility.

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