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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 11: “I Seek Not Mine Own Will, but the Will of the Father”

During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. 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 Lorenzo Snow

When we seek God’s will, we follow a course in which there will be no failure.

We must ask, what exactly is “God’s will.” There are two types of will: sovereign and moral. The sovereign will of God involves everything—whether good or bad—that takes place. Even evils acts can fall under this category, as nothing takes place unless it is God’s will. Therefore, Acts 2:23-24 can say, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Even though God allowed an evil thing to take place, still glory was brought to His name.

In addition, there is the moral will of God. Every person has the right to refuse doing what God intended. When He explained not to be sexually immoral, it’s possible to break this command. When He says not to lie, steal, cheat, dishonor parents, or take His name in vain, you have every ability to do or not do the right thing.

We can know that His “will” has a powerful effect on those who are His children. John 6:38-40 reads, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

The key is believing in the right Jesus and the right God. The Bible surely warns against following gospels that are not true.

That is the key by which a person can always be successful. Paul says: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 3:14.]

A grand object that every Latter-day [Saint] ought to have before him constantly. What is that prize? … “All that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” [D&C 84:38.]

In Christianity, this prize at the finish line is Jesus and being with Him forever in heaven. For Mormonism, the goal is for every human to progress to godhood, following in the footsteps of God the Father. These are much different goals.

As we obey God’s will, He gives us power to succeed in His work.

Of ourselves we can do nothing. As Jesus said: “Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” [John 5:19.] He came into this life to do the will of his Father, and not his own will. Our desire and determination should be the same. When things come up that require an exertion on our part, we should bring our wills into subjection to the will of the Father, and feel to say, what is the will of our Father, whom we are here in the world to serve? Then every act that we perform will be a success. We may not see its success today or tomorrow, nevertheless it will result in success.

According to Snow’s words, it is impossible to do anything by ourselves. He says that “when things come up that require an exertion on our part, we should bring our wills into subjection to the will of the Father. Then, he says, “every act that we perform will be a success.” Granted, it might not happen overnight, but eventually we will be able to do whatever we set out to do. 

These words make me wonder. If “every act” will be a success, as he promises here, then perhaps we can learn to slow down and even cease our sinning ways. Based on this logic, we should be able to find success in the end. Since the leadership of the Mormon Church seems to emphasize perfection (see the review of chapter six of Snow’s manual), then I must wonder if faithful Latter-day Saints are 1) slowing in their sinning as the mature in their church; 2) if repentance for such a person will become obsolete, especially toward the end of the person’s life. If this is not true, then why did the editors for the church include these words in a current 2013 manual?

Twelfth President Spencer Kimball expalined, “Trying is not sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tried to abandon sin.” He went on to say, “To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong. We must always do better than we can” (The Miracle of Forgivenes, pp. 164-165). Indeed, some might say, “I do my best and Jesus does the rest.” That might be a catchy saying, but the fact is, if a Mormon is actually obeying celestial law, there is nothing left for Jesus to do. If it is possible, and even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, then Mormons should continue to get better until they end with success.

“And Moses said unto God, who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” [See Exodus 3:11.] …

“And Moses said unto the Lord, O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore nor since thou has spoken unto thy servant, but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” [See Exodus 4:10.] …

We see in these passages which I read, that God called upon Moses to accomplish a certain work; Moses felt his inability and incompetency to do that which was required of him. The work was too great. It was too profound in its nature and character, and it required that which Moses felt he did not possess in power and ability; and he felt his weakness, and he asked God to look to others. … He objected in his feelings, and so talked to the Lord saying: Who am I that I should be sent forth to accomplish this great work,—for it is impossible that it can be accomplished by any such ability that I possess. …

These are the feelings and the notions that Moses possessed and he wished to impress God with the same. So it has been from the beginning; when the Lord called upon individuals, they felt their inability, and so is it when elders are called to address you. So it is with the elders who are called to go forth to the nations of the earth as ministers of the gospel. They feel their inadequacy. They feel their insufficiency. …

Many Mormons feel inadequate when it comes to doing everything they are supposed to. Consider the book written by LDS apologist Anthony Sweat “I’m Not Perfect. Can I Still Go to Heaven?” (See a review of the book here.)  The standards are set very high for Latter-day Saints, and they recognize that they cannot do what is required to please God. These words involving impossible tasks will only frustrate the Mormon even more.

Now, when Jeremiah was called, he felt the same as did Moses. He said that the Lord had called upon him to be a prophet, not only to the house of Israel, but to all the surrounding nations. He was but a child, like Joseph Smith, when God first appeared unto him. Joseph was only about 14 years of age—but a child as it were—unknown, as far as the wisdom and learning of the world was concerned—so with Jeremiah, when God first called him—he said: “I am but a child. How can I accomplish this great work you require at my hands, to discharge these great responsibilities you propose to lay upon my shoulders?” He set his heart and feelings at the idea of doing this great work. But God told him, … for his comfort, “I knew you before I formed you in the belly.” He said He knew him in the [premortal] spirit world, that he would accomplish that which the Lord required at his hands; “and before thou camest forth from the womb, I sanctified thee and ordained thee to be a prophet to the nations.” [See Jeremiah 1:5–6.] He went forth, and through the power of the Almighty, Jeremiah accomplished that which the Lord required at his hands. …

Snow wrenches Jeremiah 1:5 out of context to make it say something it never was meant to say. Based on his LDS presuppositions, he assumes this passage is speaking about the preexistence. In Jeremiah 1:5, the prophet is told by the sovereign God of the universe that He has a plan for the prophet that was formed before Jeremiah’s birth. Does this mean that humans had a relationship with God in premortality? The answer is, quite simply, no. Notice that this verse says God knew Jeremiah before his birth; nowhere does it intimate that Jeremiah knew God. If God is omniscient (all-knowing) and sovereign, we would expect Him to know Jeremiah. The Bible is full of passages stating that God is in sovereign control, and, as such, His plans cannot be thwarted by anyone. In fact, it’s clear that God has a plan for everyone. It was God who determined who our parents would be (thus determining where we would be born), the color of our skin, the number of hairs on our head, and even our natural temperament. Nothing about our existence surprised God. He knew us, but nowhere is it inferred that we knew Him before birth.

We have been called to act in God’s name, and we acknowledge His hand in all the good we do.

What we do we perform in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and are willing to acknowledge the hand of the Almighty in everything we do. When Moses stood forth as the deliverer of the Children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage, he did not present himself in the manner of a common deliverer, but he went in the name of the Lord God of Israel, having been commanded to accomplish their redemption by the power and authority which he received from God. And from the moment that he appeared before them in this capacity, until he had accomplished his work, he acted in and through the name of the Lord, and not by his own wisdom or ingenuity, nor because he possessed superior intelligence to the rest of mankind. The Lord appeared to him in the burning bush, and commanded him to go forth and accomplish a certain work, which concerned the peace, happiness and salvation of a great people; and its success and prosperity depended upon the carrying out of the order of things revealed to him by the God of Heaven. His success and prosperity were made perfectly sure from the fact that the work to which he was assigned was not a thing of his own invention, but it emanated from Jehovah. …

It is so in reference to ourselves. The great work now being accomplished—the gathering of the people from the nations of the earth had not its origin in the mind of any man or any set of men; but it emanated from the Lord Almighty. We depend upon God; and in all our works and labors, and in all the success that attends us in our labors, we feel that it has been God who has wrought it.

I would agree that, whatever we do, we can have success if we are willing to give God the glory. God can give us power. But, is the God whom we hope to worship truly the one whom we are worshipping?

We came into the world for a great purpose, the same as Jesus, our elder brother, to do the will and works of our Father; in this there is peace, joy and happiness, an increase of wisdom, knowledge and the power of God; outside of this are no promised blessings.

For example, a person who says that Jesus is “our elder brother” is making a huge error, for this is not who Jesus is. It’s like describing Abraham Lincoln as the senator from Alabama who is 5-foot-10 and ran a failed presidential campaign in 2012 against a man named Obama. You say, “Hey, I know the name Abraham Lincoln, but the way you describe him doesn’t sound like the Abraham Lincoln I know from history.” I reply, “Does it really matter as long as we are talking about the same person?” The answer? Of course it matters! The historical Abraham Lincoln is nothing like the Abrahm Lincoln described above. As 2 Corinthians 11:4 puts it, it is possible to have a false Jesus who is really no Jesus at all; Galatians 1:8-9 says that a false gospel is worse than no gospel at all, and it ought to be eliminated. Unless we are talking about the Jesus of the Bible, just using the name of Jesus by itself is not good enough.

Thus let us devote ourselves to righteousness, help each and all to be better and happier; do good to all and evil to none; honor God and obey His Priesthood; cultivate and preserve an enlightened conscience and follow the Holy Spirit; faint not, hold fast to what is good, endure to the end, and your cup of joy shall be full even to overflowing, for great shall be your reward for your trials and your sufferings under temptations, your fiery ordeals, your heart yearnings and tears; yea, our God will give you a crown of unfading glory.

If a gospel that you happen to follow is wrong, there will be no “crown of unfading glory.” If you are a Latter-day Saint, I encourage you to determine whether or not:

Do the research and make sure of which God you are serving, as this is the most important decision anyone could ever make. Contact us at MRM ([email protected]). We care!

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