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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 19: Missionary Work: “To Reach Every Human Heart”

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

Having received the fulness of the gospel, we desire to help others rejoice in the same blessings.

To be able to say this, several assumptions must be made:

1)      Mormonism is the fullness of the gospel.

2)      Blessings come from following Mormonism.

However, if Mormonism is not what Snow advertises it to be, then Mormonism does not offer blessings that extend into eternity.

When a man receives knowledge, he is prompted to impart it to others; when a man becomes happy, the spirit that surrounds him teaches him to strive to make others happy. … Is there any chance of a man becoming happy without a knowledge of the gospel of Christ? … Though in the world [people] try to make themselves happy, still they are not successful in what they strive to accomplish. They cannot be happy, except upon one principle, and that is by embracing the fulness of the gospel, which teaches us not to wait till we get into eternity before we begin to make ourselves happy, but it teaches us to strive here to make ourselves and those around us rejoice in the blessings of the Almighty.

Every person should desire to follow nothing but the truth. I agree with second LDS president Brigham Young when he said,

“Be willing to receive the truth, let it come from whom it may; no difference, not a particle. Just as soon receive the Gospel from Joseph Smith as from Peter, who lived in the days of Jesus. Receive it from one man as soon as another. If God has called an individual and sent him to preach the Gospel that is enough for me to know; it is no matter who it is, all I want is to know the truth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 16).

Third president John Taylor explained,

“We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word ‘all,’ comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, p. 213).

He also said,

“If any person in the religious world, or the political world, or the scientific world, will present to me a principle that is true, I am prepared to receive it, no matter where it comes from” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, p. 215).

All people come into any situation with presuppositions, or rose-colored glasses. Each person sees things with a certain point-of-view. This is true for all people in all places and all times. One of the most difficult jobs each human being must encounter is to resist relying merely on his or her preconceived notions and tackle issues by considering all sides. For a Christian, this means putting down the Bible and taking an objective look at atheism, Islam, and even Mormonism in order to fairly consider their truth claims. And for Mormons, setting aside the Standard Works and the teachings that may have been inputted into them since Primary is crucial so an objective look at other points of view, including biblical Christianity, can be made.

I agree with Snow when he says we ought not “to wait till we get into eternity before we begin to make ourselves happy, but it teaches us to strive here to make ourselves and those around us rejoice in the blessings of the Almighty.” The Bible says that today is the day of our salvation and that we should not think there is a second chance after death (Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 6:2). For that matter, even the Book of Mormon agrees (see Alma 34:32-35). Too often, when talking about this topic, many Latter-day Saints have told me that we will all “find out in the end” what was true and not true. But waiting until after death is too late, despite the LDS teaching that people can receive this after-death chance in Spirit Prison. If you are a Latter-day Saint reading this article, I commend you. Perhaps you are curious about what the “other side” is saying about your teachings. Or maybe you are seriously looking into the possibility that Mormonism is not the fullness of the gospel. Whatever your reason, look hard at the claims being made on this site. If a particular view is wrong, it will be shown to be wrong through objective testing. If, however, serious errors pop up concerning Mormonism when it is examined under a magnifying glass, then the sincere seeker after truth ought to determine just what is truth and embrace that wholeheartedly.

This, then, should be our aim and object: to learn to make ourselves useful; to be saviors to our fellow man; to learn how to save them; to communicate to them a knowledge of the principles that are necessary to raise them to the same degree of intelligence that we have ourselves. Go and make friends among the individuals by whom you are surrounded; or select one and try to start his feelings, his faith, his circumstances and his mind and try to enlighten them and if they are sinners, endeavor to save them from their sins, and bring them from their bondage in which they are placed to participate in the light and liberty which you participate in, for in this way you can do good through the information which the Lord has imparted to you.

By attempting to enlighten someone, you must first have the truth yourself. If you want to “endeavor to save them from their sins, and bring them from their bondage,” you better make sure that you have embraced the light yourself. And do you know beyond a shadow of a dobut that you are saved from your sins?

Where do you see yourself in the following quote by twelfth President Spencer Kimball:

“It is true that many Latter-day Saints, having been baptized and confirmed members of the Church, and some even having received their endowments and having been married and sealed in the holy temple, have felt that they were thus guaranteed the blessings of exaltation and eternal life. But this is not so. There are two basic requirements every soul must fulfill or he cannot attain to the great blessings offered. He must receive the ordinances and he must be faithful, overcoming his weaknesses. Hence, not all who claim to be Latter-day Saints will be exalted” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 9. Italics in original.)

Are you overcoming your weaknesses? And are you in obedience to the law? Sixth President Joseph F. Smith reported,

“Every blessing, privilege, glory, or exaltation is obtained only through obedience to the law upon which the same is promised. If we will abide the law, we shall receive the reward; but we can receive it on no other ground” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 153.)

Eighth President George Albert Smith explained,

“Being a member of the Church and holding the Priesthood will not get us anywhere unless we are worthy. The Lord has said that every blessing that we desire is predicated upon obedience to His commandments. We may deceive our neighbors, and we may deceive ourselves with the idea that we are going through all right, but unless we keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father, unless we bear worthily this holy Priesthood that is so precious, we will not find our place in the celestial kingdom” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, p. 53).

Eleventh President Harold B. Lee says that it is “simple”:

“He has given us in another revelation the formula by which we can prepare ourselves as the years pass. ‘Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am’ (D&C 93:1). Simple, isn’t it? But listen again. All you have to do is to forsake your sins, come unto Him, call on His name, obey His voice, and keep His commandments, and then you shall see His face and shall know that He is” (The Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 34).

I disagree. I don’t think the LDS gospel is simple. There is no hope in Mormonism. If the Latter-day Saint cannot know for sure what 1 John 5:13 describes—that we may “know” that we have eternal life—then he or she cannot know that they themselves are saved from their sins. The demands on the Mormon are many. Giving “almost” your best is not good enough. Seventy Bruce C. Hafen explained,

“If we must give all that we have, then our giving only almost everything is not enough. If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings” (“The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2004, p. 98. Italics in original).

Seventy Robert C. Gay taught a General Conference audience:

“This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances” (“What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2012, p. 35).

If the Latter-day Saint is unable to claim the conquering of sin and must resort to excuses, procrastinations, and doing things their way, how can such a person have the ability to tell others about how to be saved from their sins?

We dedicate our lives which we hold as not dear to us, in order that the world may understand that there is a God in the eternal worlds; in order that they may understand that God has something to do at the present time with the affairs of the children of men. The world is passing into feelings and opinions of infidelity. Even among the Christian portions of the human family, thousands and tens of thousands, though they are not willing to confess it because of being unpopular, do not believe that God has anything to do with the children of men. We have to stand forth and make sacrifices in order that that belief and knowledge may come to the children of men.

I’m not sure what Snow meant when he said that, among “Christians,” the belief is that God does not have “anything to do with the children of men.” I don’t believe that was true back in Snow’s day, and it certainly isn’t true with Bible-believing Christians today. We have a message that we desire to share, as we explain how Jesus Christ came into humanity’s realm to live among us, die, and then raise again on the third day. Christians believe that having belief in Jesus and what He did for them is what justifies them before an all-holy God (Rom. 10:9-10). They share truth with other people with the very message that God does indeed involve Himself with people. As Romans 11 puts it, blessed are the feet of those who bring good news that explains how people can be forgiven of their sins.

Unlike Mormonism, there is hope in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which I as a Christian will proclaim to my dying day.

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