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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 3: Lifelong Conversion: Continuing to Advance in the Principles of Truth

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

Gaining a testimony is a good starting point for Latter-day Saints.

The foundation upon which we have placed our faith is grand and glorious. I know this for myself. I had been in this Church but a short time when I succeeded in securing the most perfect knowledge that there was a God, that there was a Son, Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith was acknowledged of God as His prophet. It was a knowledge that no man could communicate. It came through a revelation from the Almighty. That is a very good starting point for a Latter-day Saint, and it is something that every person, who has any ambition at all to advance in this path, will need at some time or other. He will come into circumstances of such a nature that he will need strength, and that strength will come from a knowledge of the fact that the path in which he is traveling will lead him to the possession of his highest and best desires.

In Mormonism, receiving a “testimony” is vital for each individual Latter-day Saint. Using what they believe is precedence from James 1:5 and Moroni 10:4, LDS missionaries typically encourage potential converts to pray about the Book of Mormon. It’s truth will be seen by the person who is sincere with good intent by way of a good feeling about the Mormon gospel.

However, the missionary will not tell the potential convert just how much has to be assumed to “get to the starting point” in the first place. For example, you have to already agree “that Joseph Smith was acknowledged of God as His prophet.” To get to this point, there are major assumptions, including:

  1. How the LDS gospel originated “from a revelation from the Almighty,” with Smith actually seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ in what is known as the First Vision, even though there are multiple versions of this story. See problems with this account, see here and here
  2. Smith was actually visited by the “Angel Moroni,” assuming that this is even a real person;
  3. The Book of Mormon is actually a book of history and not fiction.

With so much at stake, it seems that Snow and the Mormon Church ought to be encouraging potential converts to follow the example of Paul. After all, consider what Paul told the believers in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

If the system of Mormonism is true, the following verses ought to have talked about how converts could come to such an assurance by merely praying about the religion as well as the resurrection of Jesus. But instead, he encourages them to research the topic:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

How different is this from Mormonism? Instead of encouraging potential converts to:

  • check out the First Vision account that Joseph Smith had and see if it’s consistent with the facts
  • study the history of the Book of Mormon to determine if the events talked about here have any evidence
  • read the Bible to compare how closely it alligns (or doesn’t allign) with Mormonism 

The LDS Church requires blind faith. This was never required of the saints in the biblical times and it certainly shouldn’t be required today.

Brethren and sisters, there are some things that you and I ought to think about. The time is come when it behooves every man and every woman to know for themselves in relation to the foundation on which they stand. We should all strive to get a little nearer to the Lord. It is necessary for us to advance a little and obtain a full knowledge of those things which we should more fully understand. It is the privilege of every Latter-day Saint.

Snow says that every person ought “to know for themselves” about the church’s foundation. Again, this should have been a perfect opportunity to suggest they read their Bibles and determine how closely the LDS Church is following its teachings. There is no way to “obtain a full knowledge” and “more fully understand” without doing some investigation yourself. The Bible suggests we should do more than just “pray.”

First John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Meanwhile, Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

How can we tell the “good fruit” from the bad? It is not just having beautiful buildings or having members volunteer their time for church projects. Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists have similar “fruit.” Rather, the doctrines of this church must coincide with orthodoxy as proclaimed in the Bible. We have written on this topic in chapter five of our book Answering Mormons’ Questions.

We can increase in our faith and spiritual knowledge.

Men and women can increase their spiritual knowledge; they can grow better as years multiply upon them.

I have no problem with increasing spiritual knowledge. The question is, however, on what basis are they increasing their “knowledge”? If the foundation is built on error, then anything built on top of this will fall as well.

I feel that the Latter-day Saints are advancing; that they are receiving an education. We are getting up higher and higher. We are advancing to a higher condition and sphere and to a higher plane, and we are receiving such an education that the wisdom of the world with all its attainments and false doctrines and principles, will have no effect upon the Latter-day Saints, for they are rising above the theories and hypothesis of human inventions and soaring in things of truth that raise the mind, exalt the understanding, and establishing them[selves] more and more fully in the true principles of life and glory. We are filled in our hearts with these truths and we cannot tell the day or the hour in which our faith has been increased, but we feel, when we look back over the last week, month or year, that we have increased in faith and in the knowledge of faith and power of God; we know that we have got nearer our God and we feel that we are in fellowship with God our Father.

Snow says that Mormons are “getting higher and higher” in their faith.  He talks about the education they receive that apparently helps them discern the “false doctrines and principles” of the world. Unfortunately, since Mormonism’s foundation is faulty, the whole system is shaky. While it is possible for a Mormon to “know that we have got nearer our God and we feel that we are in fellowship with God our Father,” my response is “how do you know”? Is this based mainly on a feel? And why have I never met a Mormon who knew for sure that he or she was forgiven? If the Mormon is getting “higher and higher,” you would think this knowledge would eventually come. For more on this topic, listen to two Viewpoint on Mormonism podcasts, Part 1 and Part 2.

If we desire to increase in our faith and spiritual knowledge, we must exert ourselves. Every man has got to learn to stand upon his own knowledge; he cannot depend upon his neighbor; every man must be independent; he must depend upon his God for himself entirely. It depends upon himself to see if he will stem the tide of trouble and overcome the impediments that are strewn in the pathway of life to prevent his progress. A man can get information by the operations of the Holy Spirit, and he approaches to God and increases in his faith in proportion as he is diligent. It is impossible to advance in the principles of truth, to increase in heavenly knowledge, [unless] we exercise our reasoning faculties and exert ourselves in a proper manner. . . . So in regard to us, respecting the things which we are undertaking. If we expect to improve, to advance in the work immediately before us, and finally to obtain possession of those gifts and glories, coming up to that condition of exaltation we anticipate, we must take thought and reflect, we must exert ourselves, and that too to the utmost of our ability.

An individual undertaking to learn to play upon a flute at first finds a difficulty in making the notes, and in order to play a tune correctly there is a great deal of diligence and patience required. He has to go on, to pause, to turn back and commence afresh, but after a time he is enabled, through a great deal of exertions, to master that tune. When called upon to play that tune afterwards, there is no necessity for remembering where to place the fingers, but he plays it naturally. It was not natural at the first; there had to be a great deal of patience and labor, before it became natural to go through with the tune.

If Mormonism is true, then it will coincide with the facts, as already discussed in this article. Just like the person playing the flute must focus on fundamentals, so too should anyone looking for truth. There are many ways out there, with world religions a dime a dozen. Which path is true? When it comes to Joseph Smith, the First Vision, the Book of Mormon and other important foundational truths of this religion, the facts should coincide with the LDS claims. And the teachings of the Bible, which are good fruit, ought to also be supported by the teaching of the Mormon Church…if it really is true.

Second Timothy 2:15 says “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” To the Latter-day Saint who wants an increase in faith, do yourself a favor and study the Bible. Do what Brigham Young said: “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, 126).  I wholeheartedly agree. I just don’t believe it stands the test.

As we dig deep into the things of God and remain faithful, our religion becomes a part of our being.

There is a danger of our being satisfied with a superficial advancement, with merely advancing on the surface. We talk of walking in the light of the Spirit and of feeling it upon us, but do we do these things? We ought to dig deep into the things of God, lay our foundation upon the rock, until we come to that water which shall be in us an everlasting fountain of eternal life.

Once more, I agree. And what is the foundation? According to 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, it is Jesus Christ Himself, as Paul writes: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Just what does the Mormon Church teach about Jesus Christ? Unfortunately, the church contradicts biblical teaching in so many ways! As 2 Corinthians 11:4 says, it’s possible to have “Jesus” in your church’s name, but if it’s not the correct teaching of Jesus, it’s like having no Jesus whatsoever. Consider doing some study and seeing how this is true. Click here.

There are men among us upon whom the Spirit of the Almighty once rested mightily, whose intentions were once as good and pure as those of angels, and who made covenants with God that they would serve Him and keep His commandments under every and all circumstances. … But how is it now with some of those Elders? They do not feel so to-day. Their affections are set upon the things of this world which the Lord has enabled them to acquire, that they wait now until they are called, and in many instances when called, they obey more out of a desire to retain their standing and position, than a real heart-felt love of the labor to which they may have been called. This is the condition of all men, no matter how well they start out, who allow their thoughts and affections to run after the world and its ways, and it is a plain and indisputable proof that when this is the case with men they love the world more than they love the Lord and His work upon the earth. Having received the light of the everlasting Gospel, and partaken of the good things of the kingdom, and being of the seed of Israel and heirs to great and glorious promises, we should labor with fidelity and diligence to accomplish what God has designed to do through us; we should be men and women of faith and power as well as good works, and when we discover ourselves careless or indifferent in the least, it should be sufficient for us to know it in order to mend our ways and return to the path of duty.

These words ought to instill fear into the heart of every single Latter-day Saint, as Snow readily acknowledges that there were Latter-day Saints in his day who once had good intentions. However, he says, they apparently remained in the church merely to keep their good standing in the church. How do you know your bishop really has retained his testimony? How do you know the mission president isn’t just staying with his position because of a six-figure tax-free income? (Curious? See here.)  How do you know that your general authorities haven’t had all their bills paid, with a million dollars in the bank, and are sticking with the “status quo” for worldly power and prestige? Your eternal destiny rests in the teachings of these men. Have you ever considered the possibility that they may have misled you?  However, according to Hebrews 4:12, God’s Word never fades away. This can also be trusted!

Stick to the ship of Zion. If boats come to the side, showing beautiful colors and making wonderful promises, do not get off the ship to go to the shore on any other boat; but keep on the ship. If you are badly used by any of those that are on the ship, who have not got the proper spirit, remember the ship itself is allright. We should not allow our minds to become soured because of anything that the people on the ship may do to us; the ship is allright, and the officers are allright, and we will be right if we stick to the ship. I can assure you it will take you right into the land of glory.

I’m not trying to be flippant, but sticking to the “ship of Zion” is no better than relying on the “good ship lollipop.” If this ship has holes in its foundation, it is sinking, no matter how good a feeling the passenger might feel as he smells the ocean breeze. Those who rode on the Titanic’s maiden voyage must have felt good about its superior build and safety features. Even after striking an iceberg, many of the crew members reassured the passengers that there was nothing to worry about. How crazy it would have sounded for someone to think that an iceberg could have sunk the entire ship!

Today, I believe that there are more than 14 million LDS passengers on deck, very comfortable with their testimony (and the LDS system as a whole). Whistling as they watch the sunrise over the horizon, they fail to realize that the ship has structural flaws, even if it looks like it’s doing just fine. Most Mormons are not looking for trouble and don’t want there to be any problems with the LDS gospel. Unfortunately, there will come a time when the ship won’t “take you right into the land of glory” but to the bottom of the sea. Then it’s too late.

I will [present a] figure in regard to bringing about and getting this spirit in us, and digging deep that we in the time of storm, may not be driven off. Place a cucumber in a barrel of vinegar and there is but little effect produced upon it the first hour, nor in the first 12 hours. Examine it and you will find that the effect produced is merely upon the rind, for it requires a longer time to pickle it. A person’s being baptized into this church has an effect upon him, but not the effect to pickle him immediately. It does not establish the law of right and of duty in him during the first 12 or 24 hours; he must remain in the church, like the cucumber in the vinegar, until he becomes saturated with the right spirit, until he becomes pickled in ‘Mormonism,’ in the law of God; we have got to have those things incorporated in our systems.

There is no doubt that the longer time a person has been in Mormonism, the harder it is to get him to think objectively. It is possible to become so saturated with the teachings of this religion that it becomes very difficult to see the problems associated with this religion. If you have been in this religion a long time, realize that your desire of wanting Mormonism to be true will not make it that way. Perhaps you have been blissfully ignoring the warning signs. There is still time to abandon ship and utilize the Lifeboat that has been made available to you. For those of you who are recent converts, consider the possibility that the missionaries, your family members, your friends, and even your neighbors might have been misled themselves. It doesn’t matter how good their intentions might be. As I’ve said before, the only way to know for sure if Mormonism is all it is cracked up to be is study its fruit, which are contained in its teachings. If this religion a person is leading in the wrong direction, consider the real Lifeboat who can always be depended on.

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