During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding 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.
“It is my desire to remind you of the nature and kind of being that God is, so that you may worship him in spirit and in truth and thereby gain all of the blessings of his gospel.”
I believe this quote is accurate, reflecting on what Jesus said in John 4:24. Yet we must ask, is the LDS version of God the one who ought to be worshipped?
Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith
Beginning with Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the true knowledge of God has been restored in our day.
I am very grateful for the first vision, in which the Father and the Son appeared to the youthful prophet and again restored to man the true knowledge of God.
Through Joseph Smith’s First Vision, “the true knowledge of God” was restored.
In what is known as the First Vision, the teenaged Joseph Smith (1805–1844) supposedly was allowed to see (literally) God the Father in the actual body of flesh that Mormon leaders say He possesses. Joseph Smith’s First Vision is a necessary foundation for the truth claims of Mormonism. President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “There’s no other event in all recorded history that compares with it, not even at the baptism of the Savior.” (Church News, July 1, 2006, 2) According to one church manual,
“For your testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission. The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of the First Vision and the other revelations the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph.”(True to the Faith, 90).
Seventy F. Burton Howard wrote,
“Our own personal salvation depends upon whether we accept and have a testimony of what Joseph Smith saw and heard in the spring of 1820.”(Church News, May 7, 2005, 7)
Without going into too much detail, allow me to list some of the major problems of the First Vision:
- Did the First Vision really take place in 1820? Using the information that we are provided by Joseph Smith, it is possible to pinpoint the revival he described, though it did not take place in 1820 as emphasized by modern Mormon leaders and manuals. Rather, this particular religious excitement took place in 1824. This may not seem too important, but if the revival mentioned by Smith actually did take place in 1824 and not 1820, the visitation by the angel Moroni in 1823 would become Smith’s “first vision.”
- If this event plays such a major role in Mormonism’s history, why is there no mention of it in the early years of the church among the writings of LDS leaders or members, including Joseph Smith himself?
Mormon historian James B. Allen concedes that the First Vision narrative, as understood by modern LDS members, is suspiciously absent for much of Mormonism’s early history. He wrote,
According to Joseph Smith, he told the story of the vision immediately after it happened in the early spring of 1820. As a result, he said, he received immediate criticism in the community. There is little if any evidence, however, that by the early 1830’s Joseph Smith was telling the story in public. At least if he were telling it, no one seemed to consider it important enough to have recorded it at the time, and no one was criticizing him for it. Not even in his own history did Joseph Smith mention being criticized in this period for telling the story of the first vision. The interest, rather, was in the Book of Mormon and the various angelic visitations connected with its origin. (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, autumn 1966, 30)
Allen continued to say “that none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830s, none of the publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of the first vision is convincing evidence that at best it received only limited circulation in those early days.” (Ibid., 30-31) If the First Vision story were actually being circulated, Smith’s detractors would have found this to be a lightning rod for criticism. Yet Allen stated that “the earliest anti-Mormon literature attacked the Book of Mormon and the character of Joseph Smith but never mentioned the first Vision.” (Ibid., 31)
Smith’s critics included Alexander Campbell, E. D. Howe, Ezra Booth, John Corrill, and J. B. Turner. Allen went on to say,
“Not until 1843, when the New York Spectator printed a reporter’s account of an interview with Joseph Smith, did a non-Mormon source publish any reference to the story of the first vision. In 1844 I. Daniel Rupp published An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, and this work contained an account of the vision provided by Joseph Smith himself. It seems probable; however, that as far as non-Mormons were concerned there was little, if any, awareness of it in the 1830’s.” (Ibid.)
Allen says that it was not until 1842 that a detailed account of the First Vision was printed in a Mormon publication. The Times and Seasons began publication in 1839, but, as indicated above, the story of the vision was not told in its pages until 1842. From all this it would appear that the general church membership did not receive information about the first vision until the 1840’s and that the story certainly did not hold the prominent place in Mormon thought that it does today.(Ibid)
As an explanation for why this story is missing, Allen suggests that Smith may have felt “experiences such as these should be kept from the general public because of their extremely sacred nature.” (Ibid., 34) If so, should it be assumed that everyone who allegedly knew of this story had the will to set aside its evangelistic capabilities when speaking to a skeptical prospective convert? Is this even remotely reasonable when one considers that Smith’s encounter has profound importance in bolstering Mormonism’s current view of the Godhead? Consider also that such “sacredness” didn’t seem to prohibit the LDS Church from eventually using this narrative as a missionary tool.
Joseph Smith himself recorded a conflicting view in his 1832 diary, when he claimed he saw only “the Lord” in the “16th year of my age.” Instead of being told by two personages that all the churches were wrong, in this account he claimed to have already known that the churches “had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament.”(Joseph Smith’s 1832-23 Diary, 5) Keep in mind that there were no other witnesses to this event. In essence, in order to accept this account, one must put complete faith and trust in Joseph Smith and him alone.
3. How could Smith see God missing the priesthood?
Even if it were possible for Smith to see God, Doctrine and Covenants 84:21–22 explains that the priesthood would have been needed in order for Smith to see Him:
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.”
Melvin J. Petersen, who taught church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, acknowledged that Smith had no such priesthood in 1820, the year he claimed to have seen God. However, Petersen pointed to John 1:18 of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible to support the idea that Smith saw God, which reads, “No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath bourne record of the Son.” (A Sure Foundation, 79) In noting this dilemma, Brigham Young University professor Charles R. Harrell states,
“Explanations about how Joseph could have seen God before being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood or having received its ordinances have been varied. Early Mormon brethren who confronted this issue concluded that Joseph did hold the priesthood having, in some sense, brought it with him from the preexistence.” Harrell goes on to say, “According to Joseph Fielding Smith, since the priesthood wasn’t yet on the earth, young Joseph was exempt from this requirement.” (This is My Doctrine, 146, n. 65) For more information on Smith’s “First Vision,” see here.
It should be remembered that the entire Christian world in 1820 had lost the true doctrine concerning God. The simple truth which was understood so clearly by the apostles and saints of old had been lost in the mysteries of an apostate world. All the ancient prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ had a clear understanding that the Father and the Son were separate personages, as our scriptures so clearly teach. Through apostasy this knowledge was lost. … God had become a mystery, and both Father and Son were considered to be one unknowable effusion of spirit, without body, parts, or passions. The coming of the Father and the Son placed on the earth a divine witness who was able by knowledge to restore to the world the true nature of God.
LDS leaders have made it a habit over the years to criticize the Christian churches. (See here.) In fact, the very idea that the church “had lost the true doctrine” is very offensive to those of us who believe the biblical teaching to be true. The description of God as found in the Bible is certainly not the God that Joseph Smith taught in his lifetime. Here’s a sampling of Smith’s teaching on God:
“I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345. Italics in original. See also Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 129).
“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-346. Italics in original. See also Gospel Principles, 1997, 305).
“That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith, 42).
There are many problems with this version of God, as described here.
The [first] vision of Joseph Smith made it clear that the Father and the Son are separate personages, having bodies as tangible as the body of man. It was further revealed to him that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, distinct and separate from the personalities of the Father and the Son [see D&C 130:22]. This all-important truth staggered the world; yet, when we consider the clear expressions of holy writ, it is a most astounding and wonderful fact that man could have gone so far astray.
One thing that I find very common is Latter-day Saints who misunderstand the Trinity as described in Christianity. It is often asserted that this was a pagan idea that came later in the life of the church. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Christian creeds were not written to supersede the Bible. According to Christian church historian Philip Schaff, they “never precede faith, but presuppose it.”(The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, 1:5) Schaff goes on to say,
“The Church is, indeed, not founded on symbols, but on Christ; not on any words of man, but on the word of God; yet it is founded on Christ as confessed by men, and a creed is man’s answer to Christ’s question, man’s acceptance and interpretation of God’s word.” (Ibid)
As New Testament scholar Mark Strauss says,
“We can conclude that the later Christological creeds of the church, in which Jesus is confessed as God the Son and as the Second Person of the Trinity, need not be viewed as distortions or evolutionary transmutations of a Jewish rabbi into a divine Lord. They can rather be seen as a natural development arising from the church’s reflection on and contemplation of the words and deeds of the historical Jesus.”(Four Portraits, One Jesus, 489)
Creeds were written as a means of accurately explaining what the Bible conveys. The Athanasian Creed took up the task of describing the Godhead in a way that complements the Bible’s teaching on this subject. For example, the early church could not accept the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate gods (tritheism) because this violated the many verses that confirm the existence of only one God. (For example, Deut. 6:4; Is. 43:10; 44:6-8; 45:5-6, 14, 21-22; 46:9-10; Mark 12:29; James 2:19). In part, the Athanasian Creed says,
“We worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity: neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance [Essence]. For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. . . . And yet they are not three Gods: but one God.”
It should be noted that the Christian church has historically remained faithful to monotheism (one God). The struggle was explaining this “oneness” within the Godhead without rejecting the individuality of each member. Typically we can find that those who reject the Trinity are unwilling to admit the simple reality that God is bigger than we can ever imagine.
Christian apologist James White describes the Trinity this way: “Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (The Forgotten Trinity, 20, 26) As White correctly notes, the Trinity solves problems rather than creates them. After all, the doctrine helps explain the concept of one God while allowing for the three persons being fully and completely God.
A common objection is that the word Trinity is never used in the Bible. Mormons who use this argument are vulnerable to the same criticism since unique LDS words like premortality, Heavenly Mother, and temple endowments are never mentioned in the Bible. There is no evidence that marriages took place in Jerusalem’s temple or that Communion was served with water. Yet Latter-day Saints have held these to be true concepts.
The Savior said, “My Father is greater than I;” [John 14:28]
In this verse Jesus was referring to a position of authority and not His nature. Consider Philippians 2:6-8, which says how Jesus, who “in the form of God,” did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV) According to Paul, Jesus was in the “form” of God but “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” In other words, Jesus became a servant even though He was, by nature, the Master. He came to earth to serve by becoming a man, even dying on a cross as all humans do. Yet the passage continues in verses 9-11:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
When an ordinary American citizen is compared to the President of the United States, I ask, who has greater authority? While the President is equal in nature (he’s human), he’s greater in authority (position). In the same way, because Jesus—though he retained His status as deity—humbled Himself to take on a fleshly body, meaning that the Father was “greater” in authority than Jesus. Referring back to John 14:28, it says the Father was greater than, not better than, Jesus. According to Philippians 2, every person living on this earth has a choice: to call Jesus “my Lord and my God” in this life, as Thomas did when he touched the wounds of Jesus, or to wait until after death when it is too late.
and he invited his disciples, after his resurrection, to handle him and see that it was he, for, said he, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” [Luke 24:39.]
Jesus had a resurrected body, different from the body He had on the earth. With this new body, he could walk through walls and perform feats different from what He had before. Yet He could also be physically handled (such as by Thomas in John 20:27-29) and could eat food.
The apostles clearly understood the distinct entities of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to which they constantly refer in their epistles; and Paul informed the Corinthians of the fact that when all things are subjected to the Father, “then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” [1 Corinthians 15:28.]
The misunderstanding of the Trinity by thinking that Christians don’t believe that the three Persons of God were distinct in Person. As mentioned earlier, Jesus came to bring glory to the Father, and through it all, glory will be brought to Him as “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Joseph Smith beheld the Father and the Son; therefore he could testify with personal knowledge that the scriptures were true wherein we read: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [Genesis 1:27.] This was to be understood literally, and not in some mystical or figurative sense.
To show how badly Genesis 1:27 is taken out of its context, see here.
To exercise faith in God and worship Him, we must have an understanding of His characteristics.
One of our revelations tells us that if we are to be glorified in Christ, as he is in the Father, we must understand and know both how to worship and what we worship. (See D&C 93:19–20.) It is my desire to remind you of the nature and kind of being that God is, so that you may worship him in spirit and in truth and thereby gain all of the blessings of his gospel.
We know that God is known only by revelation, that he stands revealed or remains forever unknown. We must go to the scriptures—not to the scientists or philosophers—if we are to learn the truth about Deity. Indeed, John’s great prophecy about the restoration of the gospel by an angel who should fly in the midst of heaven says that it was to occur so that men could come to a knowledge of the true God and be taught: “Fear God, and give glory to him … and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:7.) In other words, beginning with the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, men once again would be called upon to worship and serve their Creator rather than the false concepts of Deity that prevail in the world.
If you are a Latter-day Saint, my question to you is this: How do you know that your version of God—the product of Joseph’s Smith changing theology and currently taught by your church’s leaders)—is not one of those “false concepts of Deity that prevail in the world”?
In every age the Lord’s prophets have been called upon to combat false worship and proclaim the truth about God. In ancient Israel there were those who worshiped images and pagan gods, and Isaiah asked: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” (Isa. 40:18, 28.)
Much of the world today does not have this knowledge of God, and even in [the Church] there are those who have not perfected their understanding of that glorious being who is our Eternal Father. To those without this knowledge we might well say: “Why dost thou limit the glory of God? Or why should ye suppose that he is less than he is? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, is infinite and eternal; that he has all power, all might, and all dominion; that he knows all things, and that all things are present before his face?” In section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which directed the Prophet Joseph Smith to organize the Church again in this dispensation, we have a revealed summary of some of the basic doctrines of salvation. As to Deity the revelation says: “… there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them.” (D&C 20:17.) …
Although not quoted in this manual, Joseph Fielding Smith declared,
“The Prophet taught that our Father had a Father and so on. Is not this a reasonable thought, especially when we remember that the promises are made to us that we may become like him?” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:12).
He also wrote,
“Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:47. Italics in original).
When it is claimed that God “is infinite and eternal,” I think the average reader–taking the plain meaning of this statement–would initially take this to mean that He has always been God. This concept is certainly taught in the Bible. Yet it’s not what Smith means, contradicting Psalm 90:2, which says that God is “from everlasting to everlasting.” This idea coincides with Moroni 8:18 (among others) in the Book of Mormon, which says, “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
To me, D&C 20:17 contradicts Joseph Smith’s God from top to bottom. After all, it says that He is “infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting,” and He is an “unchangeable God.” How does someone like Smith get around the language depicted in the LDS Standard Works? Perhaps it could be argued that God is “infinite” but not “infinitely” God. Or that He is “unchangeable” in this realm. These are semantically silly games. God has never been anything but God—in any realm! This is not the God worshipped in Mormonism.
Go go back to the last two years of official LDS teaching manuals (featuring George Albert Smith and Lorenzo Snow) and the famous Lorenzo Snow couplet (“As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become”), quoted in both volumes. Snow’s God is the same God worshipped by Smith. In this being God cannot be infinite; rather, this version God is nothing more than an advanced state of me. Trust me, I am not looking for an advanced Eric; such a god is not worthy of being worshipped. Rather, I am looking to worship the Almighty Creator of the universe, the One who desires a relationship with His creation.
God is our Father; he is the being in whose image man is created. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s (D&C 130:22), and he is the literal and personal father of the spirits of all men. He is omnipotent and omniscient;
Stop here. As Smith has correctly noted, God has a body of flesh and bones and not spirit, as taught in John 4:24. By saying God is the “literal and person father of the spirits of all men,” He refers to the premortal existence where all humans (and the demonic spirits) were initially conceived in a spirit state. This is classic Mormonism, fully understood by anyone who comprehends Mormonism. If this is so, then how is it possible that God can be “omnipotent”? To show how silly a notion this is, I ask the Latter-day Saint: Is God’s God from the previous world when Elohim was a human also an omnipotent being? Is it possible that there are potentially many thousands, even millions, of “omnipotent” gods in existence? If so, then how is it even possible for more than one God to be “omnipotent”? After all, if there are even two gods who are omnipotent, then who would win a battle, man to man? It reminds me of the debates fans of comic books have over who would win a battle between Batman and Superman or Spiderman and the Hulk. Or, going to Greek mythology, who would win on a battle on a neutral site: Poseidon or Hercules? Depending on your favorite icon, a number of arguments could be made. But what can’t be made is that these gods are “omnipotent.”
The language used by Smith is nonsensical. His god cannot be “omnipotent” if there is potential for multiple gods in existence who also possess omnipotence.
he has all power and all wisdom; and his perfections consist in the possession of all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, all truth, and the fullness of all godly attributes. … If we are to have that perfect faith by which we can lay hold upon eternal life, we must believe in God as the possessor of the fullness of all these characteristics and attributes. I say also that he is an infinite and eternal being, and as an unchangeable being, he possesses these perfected powers and attributes from everlasting to everlasting, which means from eternity to eternity.
This too is nonsensical language. The God of Mormonism was once a man and therefore cannot be considered unchanging. He has not always been god “from everlasting to everlasting” or “from eternity to eternity.” The Mormon can only speak about his god in this realm, as He was not “god” in the previous realm. Words used in this way—though they sound very religious and even “right on” for those not familiar with Mormon doctrine—are truly meaningless, just puffs of air emanating from a false prophet’s lungs.
We know that our Heavenly Father is a glorified, exalted personage who has all power, all might, and all dominion, and that he knows all things. We testify that he, through his Only Begotten Son, is the Creator of this earth and of worlds without number. God is a personal being and the Father of our spirits.
We are the spirit children of God our Heavenly Father. … We are members of his family. … We dwelt with him for long ages in our premortal life. … He ordained a plan of progression and salvation which would enable us, if faithful and true in all things, to advance and progress until we become like him.
For more on the falsity of premortality, see John Divito’s rejoinder to Allan Wyatt here. Also, for explanations of prooftexts used by Latter-day Saints to support premortality, see Ecclesiastes 12:7, Jeremiah 1:5, John 9:1-3, and Hebrews 12:9.
We are taught in the Scriptures that God is literally, and not in a figurative sense, our very eternal Father. The words of our Redeemer spoken to Mary near the tomb from which he had risen and gained the victory over death, are most sublime and filled with glorious meaning: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” [John 20:17.] In these words the truth of the Fatherhood of God is emphatically pronounced by his only begotten Son, who declares that he is our Brother and that we have the same eternal Father.
This is absolutely not the meaning of John 20:17. Rather, this is Joseph Fielding Smith interjecting his presuppositions into the passage. Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes explain,
“Prior to the incarnation, Christ had only a divine nature (John 1:1). But in the incarnation (John 1:14), Christ took on a human nature. In his humanity (Phil. 2:6-8) it was proper that Christ acknowledge the Father as “my God.” After all, Jesus was “made like His brethren in all things” (Heb. 2:17). As a human Jesus acknowledges God as do all other humans. However, Jesus in his divine nature could never refer to the Father as “my God,” for Jesus was fully equal to the Father in every way regarding his divine nature (John 10:30).” (When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations, 190).
I am grateful that the knowledge of God and his laws has been restored in our day and that we who are members of the Church know he is a personal being and not, as some sectarians have said, “a congeries [a disorderly collection] of laws floating like a fog in the universe
Have I mentioned how offensive it is for Latter-day Saints to create a straw man (a logical fallacy, the last time I checked) of the God I worship?
… The thought comes to mind that notwithstanding the countless number of worlds and the great magnitude of many of them, they are a means to an end, and not the end itself. The Father is creating worlds for the purpose of peopling them—placing upon them his sons and his daughters. We are informed in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, that by and through the Son of God, the “worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” [D&C 76:24.]
This idea is certainly not biblical; the Mormon has to resort to other works in the Standard Works to support it.
We learn from these scriptures from which I have read and from other revelations from the Lord, that man is the most important of all our Father’s creations. In the same vision given to Moses, the Father said: “And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” [Moses 1:38–39.] From this, and other scripture, I say, we learn that the great work of the Father is to bring to pass the salvation of his children giving unto each that reward which each merits according to his works. I feel most assuredly that our Father in heaven is far more interested in a soul—one of his children—than it is possible for an earthly father to be in one of his children. His love for us is greater than can be the love of an earthly parent for his offspring.
I agree that Jesus came to bring eternal life to His people, but certainly not in the manner taught in Mormonism. Nowhere does the Bible teach that men can become gods of their own worlds.
I was asked by a brother one time if a man could be perfectly happy in the celestial kingdom if one of his children was not permitted to enter there. I told him that I supposed that any man who was so unfortunate as to have one of his children barred from the celestial kingdom would, of course, have feelings of sorrow because of that condition; and that is just the position our Father in heaven is in. Not all of his children are worthy of celestial glory, and many are forced to suffer his wrath because of their transgressions, and this causes the Father and the whole heavens to have sorrow and to weep. The Lord works in accordance with natural law. Man must be redeemed according to law and his reward must be based on the law of justice. Because of this the Lord will not give unto men that which they do not merit, but shall reward all men according to their works.
In that case, we must consider giving up now because we’re all doomed. After all, Isaiah 64:6 says that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works “lest any man should boast” (i.e. look what I did!). Show me your works (i.e. baptism, temple work, abstaining from hot drinks, etc) and I will ask you, “Are those righteous works?” After all, they’re not “unrighteous works,” are they? The only answer a Mormon could give is “Yes.” So what should we do with Titus 3:5, which says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost”?
I constantly ask Latter-day Saints if they are abiding what D&C 88 calls a “celestial law.” How often do I hear, “Well, I’m not perfect.” And then the Mormon wants to talk about repentance (i.e. “That’s what repentance is for.”) Some Mormons seem to almost brag about how often they repent, which is fascinating because the more a person repents, the more of an admission this is this this person is continually breaking the laws of God.
After all, isn’t repentance admitting that you are not keeping celestial law? So if you, as a faithful Latter-day Saint, are doing your best and trying hard and yet still failing, then can you really wish for God to reward you “according to (your) works”? Isn’t the place you’re at leave no hope unless there really is mercy? It saddens me that a leader like Smith can talk about the “law of justice”—which, by the way, I believe in—and then say we can get around this law by good works. It’s the language of all religions in the world, claiming that God demands for us to do, do, do. And yet, Jesus says the work is already done! What a contrast between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.
… I am satisfied that our Father in heaven would, if it were possible, save all men and give unto them celestial glory, even the fulness of exaltation. But, he has given unto man his agency and man is under the necessity of obeying the truth according to that which is revealed in order to obtain the exaltation of the righteous.
According to Smith, it’s impossible to attain the celestial glory (and exaltation) without doing what is necessary in obedience. But as I said, I have never met a Mormon who is “obeying the truth” in the ways it has been revealed by the LDS Church. I quote from that impossible gospel account as written by twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball:
“Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin. To try with a weakness of attitude and effort is to assure failure in the face of Satan’s strong counteracting efforts. What is needed is resolute action.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164).
He then tells a story of an army officer and a soldier who promises to get a message to another office. The officer becomes upset when the soldier says he would try. “I don’t want you to try,” he screamed. “I want you to deliver the message.” The soldier then said, “I’ll do the best I can.” This was not good enough. “I want you to deliver the message.” Finally, the soldier says that he would “do it or die.” No, “the request is a reasonable one; the message is important; the distance is not far; you are able-bodied; you can do what I have ordered. Not get out of here and accomplish your mission.”
Then Kimball said this:
“It is normal for children to try. They fall and get up numerous times before they can be certain of their footing. But adults, who have gone through these learning periods, must determine what they will do, then proceed to do it To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong enough. We must always do better than we can. This is true in every walk of life.” (164-165)
When I ask Latter-day Saints if they are keeping the celestial law as commanded by God in D&C 88 as well as Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer Kimball, I’m told that nobody’s perfect or that they’re trying their best or that is what repentance is for. Show me the scriptural reference in Mormonism’s standard works where such attitudes are considered keeping God’s commandments.
It was never the intention of our Father in heaven to leave men to grope and feel their way in darkness and that without any light to guide them, and expect them under such conditions to find their way back into his kingdom and into his holy presence. That is not the way of the Lord. All down the ages from the beginning our Father in heaven has shown his kindness for his children and has been willing to give them direction. From the earliest times the heavens have been opened, the Lord has sent messengers from his presence to divinely appointed servants, men holding the authority of the priesthood who have been commissioned to teach the principles of the Gospel, to warn the people and teach them righteousness; and these men have received this knowledge, this inspiration and guidance from these messengers from the presence of God. This is true of our own dispensation. There is no need for men to shut their eyes and feel that there is no light only as they may depend upon their reason, for the Lord has always been willing to lead and direct and show the way. He has sent, as I say, messengers from his presence. He has sent revelation. He has commanded that his word be written, that it be published, so that all the people might know it. I say to you, and to the whole Church, and, for that matter, to the whole world, that a gracious and loving Father has in these last days spoken again from heaven to his servants the prophets.
And so, here we go: In these last days, Mormon teachers have claimed that all authority has been given to Joseph Smith and the succeeding prophets. We are thus commanded to follow their ways. But, Dear Friend, what if Smith and these leaders describe another God, another Jesus, another path to salvation…hence, another gospel? If what these men have taught (or continue to teach) is contrary to God’s Word? Should they be followed blindly? I believe these teachings ought to be looked at critically so we can determine if it aligns with the Bible. If it does not, it ought to be completely rejected, or we are in danger of swallowing the false gospel hook, line, and sinker. Please do your homework before accepting just any old gospel.