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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 20: The Kingdom of God Moves Forward

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

Mormonism, a nickname for the real religion of the Latter-day Saints, does not profess to be a new thing, except to this generation. It proclaims itself as the original plan of salvation, instituted in the heavens before the world was, and revealed from God to man in different ages. That Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other ancient worthies had this religion successively, in a series of dispensations, we, as a people, verily believe. … Mormonism, in short, is the primitive Christian faith restored, the ancient Gospel brought back again—this time to usher in the last dispensation, introduce the Millennium, and wind up the work of redemption as pertaining to this planet.

Mormon leaders such as Snow have claimed that their religion goes back to the very beginning of Christianity and is the proper vehicle in which God may be properly worshipped. One LDS Church manual put it this way:

“For some time after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Church continued to teach the truth, and thousands of people from many cities joined the Church. However, in time some who had joined the Church refused to obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel and changed them to suit their own ways of thinking. Many members, including the Apostles and other priesthood leaders, were persecuted and killed. As these men were killed and others fell away from the truth, the Church lost the authority of the priesthood. Eventually, the priesthood no longer remained in the Church. For many centuries, the fulness of the gospel was not on the earth. Those churches which were organized during the Apostasy did not have the priesthood. As a result, they could not receive direction from God or perform the ordinances of salvation” (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, p. 12).

Another manual reports:

“Without revelation or priesthood authority, false doctrines began to be taught and the true Church of Jesus Christ was lost. God allowed truth, as well as His priesthood authority, ordinances, and Church organization to be taken once again from the earth because of the apostasy of His children. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches. False ideas were taught and knowledge of the true character and nature of the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrine of repentance became distorted. Baptism and other ordinances and covenants were changed or forgotten. The gift of the Holy Ghost was no longer available. This period of time when the true Church no longer existed on the earth has come to be known as the Great Apostasy. It lasted until the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual: Religion 130, p. 66).

According to Mormon teaching, “the Lord commanded Joseph Smith not to join any church because all of them were wrong (see Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20; see also 2 Timothy 4:3–4; Mormon 8:28, 32–38)” (The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual Religion 327, p. 56). Not only were they wrong, but God supposedly told Joseph Smith that all their teachings were an abomination in His sight.

Many Latter-day Saints get angry when Christians say that Mormonism is not the same as Christianity. They feel it’s rude to say they are no “Christian” because, after all, they believe in God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and Jesus. But wait. Isn’t saying that “Mormonism is the primitive Christian faith restored” the same as saying that Mormonism has its roots in truth and everyone else calling themselves “Christian” does not? If Mormonism is true, then Snow is exactly right. And if it is not true, then its roots are not in truth. There is much at stake in determining whether or not the claims of Mormonism correspond to truth.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built on a sure foundation, and it will continue to move forward in spite of opposition.

Brethren and sisters, God has set up His Church and Kingdom on the earth for the benefit and blessing of the human family, to guide them in the way of truth, to prepare them for exaltation in His presence and for His glorious coming and kingdom on the earth. His purposes will be accomplished in spite of all the opposition which may be brought against them by wicked men and the powers of darkness. Everything that stands in the way of this work will be removed. Nothing will be able to withstand His power, but everything that He has decreed will be fully and perfectly accomplished. The love of God for His people will continue and abide and they will triumph in His might. Now talk about this kingdom being destroyed! … Why, you might as well try to pluck the stars from the firmament or the moon or the sun from its orbit! It never can be accomplished, for it is the work of the Almighty. The kingdom of God moves on with force and power, and with grand and glorious success. This work is built on a sure foundation, being founded on the rock of ages. … No matter who are lost by the way and make shipwreck of their faith, the Church will go on.

If Mormonism is true, surely it will be able to withstand the powers of darkness. Yet many people are leaving the Mormon Church, especially in the last few years. The damning information that can be easily found on the Internet has caused many faithful members to leave. When they find out the truth about Joseph Smith and his 33 wives, including how a third of them were married to other men or another third were teenagers–these were not just “widows” who had no other prospects–these once-faithful members become disgusted, especially since Smith never repented for these atrocities. They don’t receive satisfactory answers to the problems inherent with the Book of Mormon, the book of Abraham, and the accounts of the First Vision. Even the church historians cannot appease the most faithful of Latter-day Saints. (For an example of what I am talking about, see our series on the Swedish Rescue on our Podcast site. Hear part 1 of several dozen episodes, aired in August/September 2013.)

In addition, the church convert rates have decreased in recent years. For example, in 1990 the church grew by well over 4% with 330,000 converts. After 2000, the numbers have never gone over 300,000. In 2012, the church grew by fewer than 280,000, which is less than a 2% growth rate. Again, part of the reason must be due to the fact that damning information is now available with just a few clicks on a keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, as I am not saying that popularity or growth necessarily indicates truth. And I do believe that truth will prevail. I just don’t think that Snow’s promise that “everything that stands in the way of this work will be removed” will ever prove to be true.

This Church will stand, because it is upon a firm basis. It is not from man; it is not from the study of the New Testament or the Old Testament; it is not the result of the learning that we received in colleges nor seminaries, but it has come directly from the Lord. The Lord has shown it to us by the revealing principle of the Holy Spirit of light and every man can receive this same spirit.

It is simple to say that the Mormon Church will stand because “it has come directly from the Lord,” but Jesus did say that we need to worship God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. How is it possible to love something that we don’t know? Perhaps the Mormon ought to study the Old and New Testament closer, although doing so could be very dangerous to a person’s beliefs in the claims of Mormonism since so much of LDS teaching contradicts the Bible. And while Snow may criticize the colleges and seminaries, learning what the Bible teaches by studying it in a systematic fashion can be instrumental in leading a person to doubt the claims of Mormonism and its leadership, even though they make the claim that their teachings are from God.

… He gives us a knowledge of what we shall do, inasmuch as we are willing to sacrifice our lives rather than go contrary to that knowledge. He opens to us the secrets of the celestial kingdom, and he is constantly communicating to us things that we never knew before. This knowledge and intelligence is growing upon us continually.

Mormonism contradicts the teachings of the Bible. So how is it possible for God to reveal “to us the secrets of the celestial kingdom”?  When someone is giving information that “we never knew before” and which is directly contradicted in the Bible, warning bells ought to sound. Jesus warned in Matthew 7 that there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. First John 4:1 commands the Christian to “test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Beware of anyone who is nothing more than a “Johnny come lately” who says he has information available nowhere else and uses Bible proof texts to support the case that certainly contradicts biblical teaching.

… We have received too much knowledge to be thwarted in our purposes. Those who desire to persecute and overthrow Mormonism, let them go on and do their work. … Our work is to grow in the knowledge of God, to keep the commandments of God, to be faithful and to continue to increase and to become more and more perfect as we advance in years.

Some Mormons like to label what we do at Mormonism Research Ministry as “anti-Mormon.” It’s a label we think is unfair. After all, a “Mormon” is a nickname for someone who follows The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I agree that I am against Mormonism—call me “anti-Mormonism, if you like—I am not against the Mormon people. I merely disagree with the philosophy of the Mormon religion. Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second president, declared, “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 126).

I also agree wholeheartedly with Young when he taught,

“If I should hear a man advocate the erroneous principles he had imbibed through education, and oppose those principles, some might imagine that I was opposed to that man, when, in fact, I am only opposed to every evil and erroneous principle he advances” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 251).

Third President John Taylor added,

“If any man under the heavens can show me one principle of error that I have entertained, I will lay it aside forthwith, and be thankful for the information” (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 50).

Why are Christians who are just as sincere as the Latter-day Saints criticized for disagreeing with Mormonism? If truth is the intended destination, then any criticism should be welcomed. If Mormonism is true, it can and will stand the tests. And if it is not true, then the Latter-day Saint ought to grateful for the information. To use the words “persecute” and “overthrow” in the same sentence is misleading, to say the least.

We are the people of God, and He will protect us as we go forward and do all that He requires.

In many instances … where the destruction of the people of God seemed imminent, and there appeared no way of escape, … suddenly there arose something or another that had been prepared for their salvation to avert the impending destruction. We find this in the case of the Israelites when led by Moses. When they came to the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army in their rear threatened their destruction, there seemed no way of escape, but at the very moment when deliverance was required, behold, it appeared and they were delivered [see Exodus 14:10-25]. So it has been and so it ever will be with us. Notwithstanding our difficulties may appear very great, yet there will be means provided for our escape if we ourselves perform the duties incumbent upon us as the children of God. But it may become necessary in the future—and this is the point I wish to make—for some of the Saints to act the part of Esther, the queen, and be willing to sacrifice anything and everything that is required at their hands for the purpose of working out the deliverance of the Latter-day Saints.

Notice the word “if”—“if we ourselves perform the duties incumbent upon us as the children of God.” What are these duties? Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains:

“What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: ‘All cov­enants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13-14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 408. See also Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 231 and 232, p. 50).

Seventy Adhemar Damiani said,

“This redemption is conditioned on our having faith in His Atonement, our repenting from our sins, our keeping the covenants we make with the Lord, our obeying all His commandments, and our enduring to the end. Obeying the sacred covenants and all the commandments qualifies us to receive the remission of our sins, allowing us to live clean and pure lives in the presence of God as resurrected and exalted beings” (“The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator, Ensign, March 2004, pp. 11-12).

Twice the word “all” was used in regards to the commandments to talk about the responsibility of the faithful believer. Seventy Robert C. Gay told 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).

Snow said that the Mormon must “be willing to sacrifice anything and everything that is required at their hands for the purpose of working out the deliverance of the Latter-day Saints. So the question is, which Latter-day Saint has done what is said to be required?

… The Lord has said, “I have decreed in my heart, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy; for if ye will not abide in my covenant, ye are not worthy of me.” [See D&C 98:14-15.] We have something to live for; we have everything to die for. But there is no death in these matters. There is salvation and there is life if the people of God—those that call themselves after the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—will keep His commandments and do that which is acceptable in His sight. It is not in the economy of the Almighty to permit His people to be destroyed. If we will do right and keep His commandments He will surely deliver us from every difficulty.

Question to Latter-day Saints: Do you keep the covenants of God? If not, D&C 98 says you are not worthy of Him. Do you keep the commandments? If not, you will be destroyed.

The Bible offers a much different plan, one that promises eternal life based on the gift provided by Jesus Christ and not based on what we can do for God. Living the Mormon gospel the way the LDS scriptures and leaders put it is an impossible venture. Salvation is not based on one’s personal efforts but on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

It is time for us to humble ourselves before God and accomplish the work He has entrusted to us. It is the business of those who profess to be engaged in His work to move on, to go forward, … without murmuring or having to be urged; so long as there remains a step forward to be taken, that step should be taken. It is now time for the Latter-day Saints to humble themselves before the Almighty. … It is time now for the Latter-day Saints to find out wherein they have committed themselves; it is time for the Latter-day Saints to repent of their sins and follies and call upon the Almighty, that His aid may be given; … that we may go forward and accomplish the great work entrusted to our care.

Mormons are commissioned to “humble” themselves before the Lord. Listen to how twelfth President Spencer Kimball put it:

“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repen­tance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That de­pends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 324-325).

Listen to the requirements to receive forgiveness:

1)      Total repentance (which, in context of D&C 58:43, means forsaking sin, something Spencer Kimball clearly agreed with)

2)      Meeting the requirements (i.e. keeping the commandments)

3)      Works (repeated)

4)      All-out total surrender

5)      Great humility (repeated)

6)      Broken heart/contrite spirit

7)      Sincerity

8)      Attitude

In contrast, Romans 10:9-13 says,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Which pathway makes more sense?

We may increase in knowledge and power, and in our ability to build up the kingdom of God upon the earth, and that, too, by our diligence, our humility and faithfulness to the covenants we have made.  It may appear through our ignorance in not understanding fully the ways of the Lord and His purposes, that in our onward march in carrying out the programme before us, we sometimes come to a stopping place for the time being, but the fact is, there is no such thing in the programme, and there cannot be, providing the people continue their labors putting their trust in the promises of God. …

If you are a Latter-day Saint, are you keeping your covenants? If so, then you must not be needing to repent. After all, repentance means that you will not commit that sin again. However, I have yet to find a Latter-day Saint who makes covenants at their baptism, temples, and chapel (sacrament meetings) and yet doesn’t regularly repent, which is nothing less than an admission that they haven’t been faithful to their previous covenants.

The Lord very possibly may cause a heavy pressure to bear upon us, such as will require great sacrifice at the hands of his people. The question with us is, will we make that sacrifice? This work is the work of the Almighty and the blessings we look for which have been promised, will come after we have proven ourselves and passed through the ordeal. I have no special word to this people that there is, or that there is not, before them a fiery ordeal through which they will be called to pass; the question with me is, am I prepared to receive and put to a right and proper use any blessing the Lord has in store for me in common with His people; or, on the other hand, am I prepared to make any sacrifice that He may require at my hands? I would not give the ashes of a rye straw for any religion that was not worth living for and that was not worth dying for; and I would not give much for the man that was not willing to sacrifice his all for the sake of his religion. Well, I [say] to one and all, Move on! move on, and see the salvation of the Lord, and not stand still.

The question is, is it even possible for any individual to make enough of a sacrifice to attain exaltation? Instead, why not rely on the sacrifice provided on the cross by Jesus Christ?

Romans 3:25-28: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

First John 4:10 adds, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Until the Latter-day Saint realizes that eternal life only comes through a relationship with God, there will only be frustration and angst in trying to achieve something that is impossible to earn. Relieve yourself of this heavy pressure (burden) and enjoy what God has to offer!

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