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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 8: The Church and Kingdom of God

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 116–26

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.

Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith

After centuries of spiritual darkness and apostasy, the Lord has restored His gospel and organized His Church on the earth.

The Lord [has] restored the gospel and organized again his Church upon the earth. The reason for such organization and restoration is the fact that for centuries the world had been in spiritual darkness, without the authority, and without the understanding; they knew not how to worship the living God. …

The everlasting covenant had been broken; the correct understanding of gospel principles had disappeared through apostasy; the right to officiate in the ordinances of the gospel had ceased among men. It became necessary that all this might be restored, and that faith might increase among the people through an opening of the heavens and a restoration of the gospel.

There is a huge argument of silence when Mormons describe what they call the “Great Apostasy.” According to Mormon teaching, the period of the “great apostasy” that took place after the death of the apostles “lasted well over a millennium. During this period, man-made creeds and practices were substituted for the plan of salvation that Jesus had taught.”(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 430-431, 59).  In an October 2010 general conference talk, Apostle Neil Anderson said,

Some ask, “Aren’t there many of other faiths who love Christ?” Of course there are! However, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having a witness of His reality not only from the Bible but also from the Book of Mormon; knowing His priesthood has been restored to the earth; having made sacred covenants to follow Him and received the gift of the Holy Ghost; having been endowed with power in His holy temple; and being part of preparing for His glorious return to the earth, we cannot compare what we are to be with those who have not yet received these truths. (“Be Thou an Example to the Believers,” Ensign, November 2010, 41).

If you are a Latter-day Saint, please realize how offensive this type of talk is to Evangelical Christians! In fact, please understand what Joseph Smith-History 1:19 means; if true, then it is true that Christians are up to their necks in apostasy. If it’s not, then Mormonism has not reason for ever being founded.

The Bible is clear that Jesus would never leave nor forsake His church. When Peter declared in Matthew 16:16 that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responded, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (v. 18).9 Despite Jesus’ clear indication that nothing would prevail against Christ’s church, Apostle Orson Pratt stated, “Jesus made his appearance on the earth in the meridian of time, and he established his kingdom on the earth. . . . the kingdoms of this world made war against the kingdom of God, established eighteen centuries ago, and they prevailed against it, and the kingdom ceased to exist.” (Journal of Discourses 13:125)

Mormonism teaches that this “rock” upon which the church is built is “revelation,” even though the Bible plainly declares the rock is none other than Jesus Christ. Acts 4:11–12 verifies this: “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Mormons often cite 1 Timothy 4:1 to substantiate their claim of a complete apostasy that necessitated the need for a restoration brought forth through Joseph Smith and the LDS Church.

However, Paul said that only “some shall depart from the faith.” While there certainly have been many different apostasies, it is historically inaccurate to say that God’s Spirit and power completely left the world, along with His authority. Ephesians 5:25–32 illustrates Christ’s concern for the welfare of His church. When speaking on the subject of husbands and wives, Paul used the comparison of Christ and the church:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church . . . This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. God has always had a people.

Even in the Old Testament when it seemed that everyone in Israel had failed God and turned to idol worship, there was always a remnant who refused to serve any other god. The prophet Elijah thought he was the only one who remained faithful to the Lord, but God told him there were still seven thousand men in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Jesus loves the church as much as a husband loves his wife. He promised that He would be with His people to the very end (Matt. 28:20), and He always keeps His promises.

For a further look at this issue, I encourage you to look at the following articles:

So the Lord sent his messengers from his presence, with the fulness of the gospel, and with power, and the authority of the priesthood to bestow upon men, and gave them commandments … because the Lord knew the calamities which were to come upon the world, and it was his will that a proper warning, and the opportunity to receive the gospel be given unto men that they might repent and turn from their evil ways and serve the Lord [see D&C 1:17–23].

We announce that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth, the only place where men may come to learn the true doctrines of salvation and find the authority of the holy priesthood.

“True doctrines of salvation”? There are a number of things that a potential new convert won’t be told. See here.  Mormonism denies fundamental teachings of the historic Christian church, including:

My beloved brethren and sisters: I am grateful beyond any measure of expression for the blessings the Lord has given to me, and to the faithful members of his church in the various nations of the earth, and to all his children everywhere.

I thank him every day of my life that he has restored in these last days his everlasting gospel for the salvation of all who will believe and obey its laws.

Mormonism comes down to obedience. Do you keep the covenants or not? See here.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in literal reality the kingdom of God on earth.

I desire to say that no man of himself can lead this church. It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is at the head. The church bears his name, has his priesthood, administers his gospel, preaches his doctrine, and does his work.

He chooses men and calls them to be instruments in his hands to accomplish his purposes, and he guides and directs them in their labors. But men are only instruments in the Lord’s hands, and the honor and glory for all that his servants accomplish is and should be ascribed unto him forever.

If this were the work of man, it would fail, but it is the work of the Lord, and he does not fail. And we have the assurance that if we keep the commandments and are valiant in the testimony of Jesus and are true to every trust, the Lord will guide and direct us and his church in the paths of righteousness, for the accomplishment of all his purposes.

It’s easy saying that one’s church is true. If you look at faiths like Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses, adherents to these faiths also claim to have absolute truth. However, it’s impossible for religions holding contrary beliefs to all be true. Somebody has got to be wrong. The Mormon should ask, Why is my church true? Because it stresses family relationships? Because the church is growing? Or ? I’m less concerned with the “fruits” of Mormonism and more concerned that what this religion stands for is based on the Truth.

To all members of the Church throughout the world I would like to say that this church has a divinely appointed mission to perform under the direction and leadership of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and that nothing will stop his plans pertaining to it. It will fulfill the designs of our Father in heaven. I hope the Saints throughout the world daily thank the Lord for being members of his church and for the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith in restoring the gospel for our joy and happiness.

To the honest in heart in all nations we say: The Lord loves you. He wants you to receive the full blessings of the gospel. He is now inviting you to believe the Book of Mormon, to accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, and to come into his earthly kingdom and thereby become heirs of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom.

There never was a time since the organization of the Church when a man led the Church. It was not so in the days of Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young; it has not been so since. It is the Lord’s work, and do not forget that it is the Almighty who is going to do this work, and not man.

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth, and that as now constituted and officered it has the Lord’s approval and is moving in the course so directed.

Let all men know assuredly that this is the Lord’s Church and he is directing its affairs. What a privilege it is to have membership in such a divine institution!

Again, because Mormonism is so different from the teachings of the Bible, how can a person know for sure that the “Lord” is directing the LDS Church’s affairs?

The Lord has set up in his church a priesthood organization headed by apostles and prophets. And he has also given other organizations … to aid and assist in the priesthood.

The Mormon Church is based on the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. However, the New Testament does not support the idea that these  priesthoods are necessary for humans; instead, Christians have authority as “children of God” through their belief. Contrasting Christians with the rest of the “world” (who “knew him [God] not”), 1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (esv). Paul distinguished between “children of the flesh” and “children of God” in Romans 9:8. Galatians 3:26 says it is “by faith in Christ Jesus” that believers become children of God, while John 1:12 says that “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

A royal priesthood is provided to all Christian believers. First Peter 2:9–10 states that Christians “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . [who] now have obtained mercy.” Even though Christians are priests in this spiritual manner, they are called to offer themselves as “living sacrifice[s]” to God (Rom. 12:1). As holders of this priesthood, believers are commanded to stand and intercede for people, not to offer blood sacrifices for the cleansing of their sins but to pray that they might turn to the one who cleanses from sin, namely, Christ Jesus.

While Mormonism offers the priesthood only to males, the New Testament makes no such distinction when it comes to those whom God has called to Himself. This authority is available to all believers, regardless of gender. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is this priesthood, held by all Christians, that provides authority to pray directly to the God of this universe, to boldly proclaim the gospel truth wherever they go, and to know that when they die they will enjoy eternal life with God. There is no greater authority than this.

For more information, see here.

In every gospel dispensation there are special needs to be met, problems to be solved, and help that must be given to assist and aid the members of the Church in working out their salvation “with fear and trembling” before the Lord. (See Phil. 2:12.)

Hence we have auxiliary organizations [Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School] to aid and assist the priesthood. They are so organized as to meet the needs of the people in whatever social conditions may exist. They are part of the government of God and are set up to help members of the Church perfect their lives and do those things which assure them of joy and happiness in this life and eternal life in the life to come. …

The Church and its agencies constitute in effect a service organization to help the family and the individual. Home teachers, priesthood leaders, and bishops are appointed to lead those with whom they labor to eternal life in our Father’s kingdom, and the auxiliary organizations are appointed to aid and assist in this great work of salvation.

We cannot stress too strongly the great need to utilize all of these programs for the benefit and blessing of all our Father’s children. …

If all of us do all of the things we should in carrying forward the programs of the Church, the Lord will bless and prosper us so fully that success shall attend our labors, and out of it all peace and joy will be our lot here and eternal glory hereafter.

Christians certainly believe in good works as part of the sanctification process. Notice how the verse in Philippians is translated “work out” and not “work for” your salvation. A Christian who catches a glimpse of what Jesus Christ did on his or her behalf will quite naturally have a desire to serve God. Consider what your attitude would be if a kind couple gave you a gift of $10 million, an outrageous amount that most people will never earn in a lifetime. Would you naturally respond by wanting to spray-paint graffiti on your benefactors’ house, throw lye in their grass, and kick their beloved family dog? Or, since you were given a gift that could never be repaid, would you be ever grateful? If you found out they needed someone to mow their grass and feed the dog while they were away on vacation, wouldn’t you be the first to volunteer? The answers are obvious.

Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). He is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother and offers a life that benefits His people both temporally and spiritually. We value His friendship and willfully follow His directives, knowing they are for our good and not meant for harm. When it is understood that God justified His people freely through no act of their own and gave them a gift that can never be repaid, then the role of good works in the Christian’s life becomes clear. Please, however, don’t think that Evangelical Christians don’t believe in good works. Consider this rebuttal to a review done on one of our chapters in Mormonism 101.

Never refuse to serve. When a presiding officer asks your help, be glad to accept and give the best you have to that labor. The Lord expects this of us, and we are under covenant to do so. This course brings joy and peace, and at the same time those who serve receive the greatest blessing. The teacher gains more than the one taught; the blessing returned to us when we accept a call to work in the Church is far greater than the blessing we can impart to others. He who refuses to perform any labor or shirks responsibility when it is given him in the Church is in grave danger of losing the guidance of the Spirit. Eventually he becomes lukewarm and indifferent to all duties, and, like the plant that is not cultivated and watered, he shrivels up and dies a spiritual death.

Your able service does not go unnoticed by that God whom you serve and in whose work you are engaged.

“Your able service does not go unnoticed by that God whom you serve and in whose work you are engaged.”

It is my prayer that all of us, working together as true brothers and sisters in the Lord’s kingdom, may so labor as to accomplish the great work that lies ahead.

Good works are not to be minimized. However, the Bible is clear that these things we do are not chalked up by God as brownie points to attain heaven. As Matthew 7 states,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,(R) but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

For more information on this topic, see here.

The gospel itself has been the same in all dispensations; the plan of salvation is the same for all our Father’s children in every age. From time to time it has been lost by apostasy, but whenever the Lord has had a people on earth, they have been offered the same laws and truths of salvation that he has revealed to us.

But there is one great added thing we have received in this age that has never been had before. In this dispensation the Lord has decreed that the Church shall never again be led astray; this time the gospel is here to stay. This time the revealed truth is destined to prepare a people for the second coming of the Son of Man, and the Church will be established in all parts of the earth when the Lord comes to usher in the millennial era of peace and righteousness.

If the Christian church was led astray once by apostasy, who is to say this type of event could happen again? Is there any biblical reference to support such a notion? While Mormons like to point to biblical passages to support the idea that there was a “Great Apostasy,” they don’t seem to have any verses to show this type of event couldn’t happen again.

We are members of a world church, a church that has the plan of life and salvation, a church set up by the Lord himself in these last days to carry his message of salvation to all his children in all the earth. …

I know and testify that the Lord’s purposes on earth shall prevail. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is here to stay. The Lord’s work shall triumph. No power on earth can prevent the spread of truth and the preaching of the gospel in every nation.

I leave my blessing with you and my assurance that God is with his people, and that the work in which we are engaged shall triumph and roll forth until the eternal purposes of the Lord are fulfilled.

Based on the presuppositions of the Mormon leaders and their followers, this is true. But is there a possibility that the Mormons could be wrong on this most important issue of all?

For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.


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