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.
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
In his first general conference address as President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow taught, “We are dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord to aid us and to manifest to us from time to time what is necessary for us to accomplish under the peculiar circumstances that may surround us.”
A Latter-day Saint who reads this very first paragraph will certainly presume that the “Spirit of the Lord” can be made available to those clinging to the LDS gospel. If Mormonism is a “false gospel,” as Paul warned the Galatians about in the first chapter of his letter to them, then it is impossible that the Holy Spirit can be revealed through this false religion. As he explained, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gosepl otehr than what the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” He repeated himself in the next verse: As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gosepl otehr than what you accepted, let him him be eternally condemned.”
Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are led to all truth and strengthened in our faith.
There [is] a certain blessing connected only with obedience to the gospel, that [is] the gift of the Holy Ghost. … The Savior, who undoubtedly knew best about the nature and character of this gift, said it should lead those who received it into all truth and show them things to come [see John 16:13]. It should be more than that spirit which proceeds from God, filling the immensity of space and enlightening every man that comes into the world [see D&C 84:46]; the gift of the Holy Ghost should lead into all truth, and show them things to come.
I agree that the Holy Spirit can and will lead a person into all truth. Unfortunately, Jesus Himself said that there would be many “false prophets” who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt. 7:15). He continued: “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.”
What does this fruit look like? Some Mormons might point to the church’s humanitarian efforts. According to its own almanac, the LDS Church gave $1.116 billion to humanitarian aid to 167 countries from 1985 through 2009. Breaking this down over 25 years, an average of about $45 million worth of aid per year was given. This amounts to about $5 a year per member, which makes the $1.1 billion number not sound as impressive. And let’s just suppose that the church decided to increase its giving by, say, ten times. This would still make the Mormon Church fall far short of the annual giving by three of the biggest Christian humanitarian agencies around the world. In just 2009 alone, Feed the Children distributed $1.2 billion worth of food, supplies, and aid, an annual total that is more than the LDS Church has donated over two and a half decades. In addition, World Vision ($1.1 billion) and Samaritan’s Purse ($294 million) took care of the needs of the less fortunate and responded in times of natural disasters. These groups also work to increase agricultural output and improve living conditions. Many Protestant churches are very active in humanitarian works as well, including the Salvation Army, which believes that “God raised up The Salvation Army according to his purposes for his glory and for the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel.”
As far as social issues, consider that a Mormon who decides to leave the church can end up sacrificing family relationships, sometimes even a marriage relationship. Indeed, the reality that they will never be able to leave the religion without giving up relationships most precious to them has caused many Mormons to remain in the church. Responding in a survey that asked, “If you could speak with a top church leader, what would you ask or tell him?” one male said, “Stop hurting marriages by driving a wedge between spouses on this issue. I have gone through hell and back and nearly divorced. We desperately need a General Conference address telling spouses to not divorce an otherwise good spouse over non-belief. I have several friends who have been divorced over primarily this issue, and my own marriage is still on the rocks due to it, even though I am fully active.” (“New Survey Highlights Causes, Costs of Mormon Faith Crises”)
While approximately 70 percent of Utah’s population belongs to the LDS Church, it has a higher depression rate per capita than any other state. According to one health report, one in five Utah women use antidepressants. One Ogden, Utah, psychiatrist said these numbers “may be a good thing because it means people are getting help for their depression rather than ignoring the problem.”(“Nearly 1 in 5 Utah women use antidepressants, Salt Lake Tribune, September 6, 2010, A1). Lifelong Mormon physician Kent Ponder interviewed nearly three hundred LDS women and in a 2003 paper concluded:
“Utah residents currently use more antidepressant drugs, notably Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride, introduced in 1987), than the residents of any other US state. This problem is closely and definitely linked to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Approximately 70 percent of Utahans are affiliated with the LDS Church. Jim Jorgenson, director of pharmacy services for the University of Utah, confirmed that Utah has the highest percentage of anti-depressant use, hypothesizing that large families, larger in Utah than in other states, produce greater stress. (Large Utah families are primarily Mormon families).”
Suppose for a moment, though, that pragmatic results really should be used to determine truth. Who gets to decide who is producing the best fruit? Whatever presuppositions are brought to the decision-making process by the one doing the judging certainly will be the overriding factor in choosing a “winner.” Understand that I am not criticizing the LDS Church for giving aid to needy causes or even implying that it should give more. Rather, the point is that good works do not determine the validity of the truth claims of any church or organization. Indeed, Mormons would have to admit that they are not the only ones striving to help others, and there are other groups that very well could be doing it better.
Notice how Matthew 7:18-20 says, “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.” When it comes to the fruit of Mormonism, the theological heresies that are taught in this religion is a very big concern. If a religion teaches an incorrect view of God, Jesus, salvation, and God’s authority, it is leading it followers to eternal damnation. If so, then how can this be considered a religion that is guided by the Holy Spirit?
But, Mormons often say, their church has many good works. Again, they can point to their beautiful buildings, their humanitarian aid, their welfare programs, and the good deeds of their membership. Pointing to these things shows that good works are being trusted in for the hope of attaining the celestial kingdom rather than in Jesus Himself. Don’t get me wrong, as I fully realize that a Mormon will say Jesus is vital to his church and faith—after all, His atonement provided the path for the Mormon’s potential godhood—but so much more is required to acheive the exaltation that a Mormon hopes to reach. No matter how good a person thinks he is (i.e. getting baptized, temple work, attending services, not drinking hot drinks, having a good family, etc.), that person still falls short. Listen to what Matthew 7:21 adds:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
When they make their appearance at the Great White Throne Judgment, how many Mormons will point to their “good” works as a reason for why they should be admitted into heaven? Isaiah 64:6 says that all of our righteous acts are the same as filthy rags in God’s sight. When the Mormon realizes that he can never do enough to merit God’s mercy, then this person is ripe for accepting the amazing gospel of grace, which is the only way of salvation according to the Bible.
Furthermore, in speaking of its effects, the Apostle [Paul] says: “The spirit is given to every man to profit withal. To one is given faith.” Not a common, ordinary faith, which some people pretend to at the present day; but a faith which enabled its possessors to be sawn asunder, to be cast into dens of lions, fiery furnaces, and to undergo tortures of every description. This was the kind of faith that the Holy Ghost conferred upon those who possessed it, enabling its possessor to stand in the midst of every difficulty, defy every opposition and lay down his life, if necessary, for the cause that he had espoused. There was an almighty inspiring power in this faith, given by the Lord through the Holy Ghost, which no other principle could communicate. To one was given faith, to another knowledge, not that which is gained by reading books merely, but knowledge from the Almighty. A self-inspiring principle was upon them, which was tangible, giving them a knowledge of the cause they had espoused. They knew by revelation from God that the cause they had obeyed was true, it was revealed to them in a manner they could not dispute, and they knew for themselves. They were then established … upon the rock of revelation.
A Christian who reads this paragraph, outside an LDS context, would easily agree with these words. After all, faith is extremely important in biblical Christianity. Hebrews 11 contains what we call the “Hall of Faith,” filled with stories of Old Testament saints who were acknowledged for their incredible faith. They were, as Snow writes, “established upon the rock of revelation.” From where is the source of revelation today, according to Mormonism? It is revelation that comes through the LDS Church. Consider page 95 of the LDS Church manual Gospel Principles:
“When Jesus lived on the earth, He established His Church, the only true Church. He organized His Church so the truths of the gospel could be taught to all people and the ordinances of the gospel could be administered correctly with authority. Through this organization, Christ could bring the blessings of salvation to mankind.”
According to Mormonism,, the authority of God left the earth soon after the death of the biblical leaders. Gospel Principles continues, “Men organized different churches that claimed to be true but taught conflicting doctrines. There was much confusion and contention over religion.” What was needed was “New Revelation from God,” and this came through the First Vision. Thus, “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told him not to join any church because the true Church was not on the earth. He also said that the creeds of present churches were “an abomination in his sight.” (p. 96) The manual adds, “Beginning with this event, there was again direct revelation from the heavens. The Lord had chosen a new prophet [Joseph Smith]. Revelation continues to this day through each of His chosen prophets.”
According to Mormonism, the Holy Spirit can only be given in full form to those who hold the restored priesthood and who belong to the true church, which Mormons call The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While a Mormon might smile at Christians and even say that “Evangelicals are Christians too,” the knowledgeable Latter-day Saint most certainly understands that anyone outside the LDS Church is missing God’s complete and full revelation, which can only be received through the teachings of the LDS Church.
Peter in preaching to the people said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For this promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” [Acts 2:38–39.] This gift of the Holy Ghost is a different principle from anything that we see manifested in the sectarian world. It is a principle of intelligence, and revelation. It is a principle that reveals things past, present and to come, and these gifts of the Holy Ghost were to be received through obedience to the requirements of the gospel as proclaimed in those days and as proclaimed by the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these days. It was upon this rock that their faith should be grounded; from this quarter they should receive a knowledge of the doctrine they had espoused, and we are told by the Savior “that the gates of hell should not prevail against them.” [See 3 Nephi 11:39.] …
The requirements for having a true faith are as follows:
- Get baptized (of course, by one with priesthood authority, a male who is in good standing with the Mormon Church)
- Be confirmed and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- “Obedience to the requirements of the gospel as proclaimed…by the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these days.”
With this, then, “the gates of hell should not prevail against them.” But can the gospel of Mormonism even be kept? If you are a Latter-day Saint, I invite you to look at the following article and see how what I am saying is very true. Click here.
… The foundation upon which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built is the rock of revelation—upon the rock that Jesus said He would build His church, and the gates of hell should not prevail against it [see Matthew 16:17–18]. We have not received this knowledge through flesh and blood, we have not received this testimony from man, we have not received it through the reading of the Bible … or Book of Mormon, but we have received it through the operations of the Holy Ghost, that teaches of the things of God, things past, present and to come, and that takes of the things of God, making them clearly manifest unto us. You cannot take this knowledge from us by imprisonment or any kind of persecution. We will stand by it unto death.
The question I must ask is, “How do you know you have ‘received it through the operations of the Holy Ghost’?” (I’ll deal with this question later in this review.)
Every Latter-day Saint can have the Holy Ghost as a friend to give counsel.
There is a way by which persons can keep their consciences clear before God and man, and that is to preserve within them the Spirit of God, which is the spirit of revelation to every man and woman. It will reveal to them, even in the simplest of matters, what they shall do, by making suggestions to them. We should try to learn the nature of this Spirit, that we may understand its suggestions, and then we will always be able to do right. This is the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint. We know that it is our right to have the manifestations of the Spirit every day of our lives.
According to Snow, it is the “right (of a Mormon) to have manifestations of the Spirit every day of our lives.” According to the teachings of Mormonism, though, this “right” is given only to those who are obedient. In the July 2012 Ensign magazine, an article titled “Understanding Our Covenants with God” (22-25) explains what the fine print is. It begins: “’As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ explains President Thomas S. Monson, ‘sacred covenants are to be revered by us, and faithfulness to them is a requirement for happiness.”
In the third paragraph, it reads, “A covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep those conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return.” Notice, if you keep your end of the bargain, then God promises that He will keep His. What’s your responsibility? Obedience, obedience, and more obedience. The next paragraph explains, “When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us—eternal life (see D&C 14:7).” Although the magazine doesn’t quote the cited verse, D&C 14:7 says, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” As it can be seen, it is impossible to receive eternal life (exaltation, or the very best Mormonism has to offer) unless a person not only keeps all the commandments but endures to the end of time. Stringent requirements, indeed!
The article continues, “Because keeping our covenants is essential to our happiness now and to eventually receiving eternal life, it is important to understand what we have promised Heavenly Father.” It goes on and explains each of the covenants:
- Baptism and confirmation: “When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. We also promise ‘to serve him to the end.’”
- The Sacrament: “We ponder the covenants we have made to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments.”
- The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood: “Heavenly Father gives His oath (guarantee) to bestow certain blessings upon those who keep the covenants associated with receiving the priesthood.”
- The Endowment: At the end of this section, the Latter-day Saint is told that “you can learn more about the principle behind the covenants we make in the endowment by studying the following: ‘Obedience,’ Gospel Principles (2009), 2000-206.”
- The Sealing: “As in other ordinances, individual faithfulness to our covenants is required for the earthly ordinance to be sealed, or made valid, in heaven by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Individuals who keep their covenants—even when their spouse does not—do not forfeit the blessings promised in the sealing.”
Can it be any more obvious what the unsigned article is saying? Indeed, keeping covenants is crucial. This is classic Mormonism, pure and straight. D&C 1:31 says that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. According to Moroni 10:32, only when a person denies him/herself of all ungodliness is God’s grace sufficient for that person. Alma 11:37 says that it is impossible for a person to be saved in their sins, so D&C 25:15 commands a person keep the commandments continually. And D&C 82:7 explains how former sins don’t go away, only hanging over your head and returning when you sin again. It says, “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”
Are you a Latter-day Saint who thinks Snow was correct in his assessment that you have the “right” to have the Holy Spirit made manifest to you? If so, then notice Snow’s words above, that “we will always be able to do right. This is the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint.” To have the Holy Spirit, you must be doing right. Who is he kidding? After all, are you able to successfully keep all the commandments?
Persons come to me very anxious to receive counsel upon some subject or other. They need not come to me always (under some circumstances, of course, it would be highly proper), for the Spirit is within them to bring about good and to accomplish the purposes of God. … It is not always necessary for them to come to the President of the Church, or to the Twelve, or to the Elders of Israel, to get counsel; they have it within them; there is a friend that knows just exactly what to say to them. From the time we receive the Gospel, go down into the waters of baptism and have hands laid upon us afterwards for the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have a friend, if we do not drive it from us by doing wrong. That friend is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, which partakes of the things of God and shows them unto us. This is a grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark.
President Snow said that you “may know the light” and not “grovel continually in the dark.” Do you struggle with sin? Would you believe that Paul did, according to Romans 7:15-24? He wrote:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? “
What would be the rhetorical answer to Paul’s final question? If we were to listen to the Mormon Church leaders, it would be: “Fully obey the commandments of the church and remember the covenants.” Instead, Paul wraps this up in verse 25 by saying, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can have true deliverance. This is not the gospel message presented by the Mormon Church.
The Holy Ghost can bring us happiness and peace of mind.
The Lord has established certain constitutional desires and feelings in our bosoms, and it is so with all mankind, with the whole human family. There are implanted and interwoven in their constitutions certain desires and capacities for enjoyment, desires for certain things that are in their nature calculated to promote our peace and well-being, that answer their feelings and promote their happiness, but how to obtain the gratification of those capacities and desires the world [does] not know nor understand, but the Lord has seen fit to put us in the channel and in the way of understanding those things by being faithful and walking in the light of the Holy Spirit and receiving truth.
All people long for truth and a real meaning to life. We don’t want to have a faith based on fraud. Before we can be “faithful” to the truth, we should be aware about what it means to “receive truth.” As I have previously stressed, if a religious system is spiritually bankrupt, it is certainly not a faith worth following.
It is the privilege of the Latter-day Saints to live in the Gospel in such a way that they will feel approved of God. Of course, we do things sometimes that we are ashamed of when we come to consider them, but we repent of them in our hearts and determine to do them no more. That is all the Lord asks of us; and men and women who so live, live without condemnation. They have righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost.
If Latter-day Saints truly want to live in the Gospel in such a way that they will feel approved of God,” they must see if they are doing what 2 Timothy 2:15 says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When the “word of truth”—God’s Word, the Bible—is explored in an objective way, it will be clear that Mormonism’s teachings are in complete denial of its teaching.
If we keep the light of the Spirit within us, we can so walk in the gospel that we can measurably enjoy peace and happiness in this world; and while we are traveling onward, striving for peace and happiness that lies in our path, in the distance, we shall have a peace of mind that none can enjoy but those who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Mormonism, the only way to “keep the light of the Spirit” is to be fully obedient. It is what Snow calls “striving for peace and happiness.” Latter-day Saint, are you striving to keep the commandments? (When a person strives, it means that he has not yet attained.) However, in Christianity, there is the possibility of having a “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:6). First John 5:13 even says that true believers can “know that (they) have eternal life.” This is an assurance that no Mormon can know he or she has, for they normally know that they struggle with sin and thus fall short according to Mormonism’s standards.
We need the assistance of the Holy Ghost as we endure trials, fulfill our duties, and prepare for celestial glory.
There are many important things required at our hands, and many things which we can do, when assisted by the Spirit of the Lord, which may at times seem almost impossible to accomplish.
No, Mr. Snow, it’s not “seem almost impossible to accomplish” but rather “is impossible to accomplish.” After all, Mormonism can never give someone the assurance that the job is done, paid in full by the Master.
It would be simply foolish indeed to expect the Latter-day Saints in these days to comply with the celestial law, with the law that proceeds from God, and with his designs to elevate the people into his presence, except they were sustained by a supernatural [heavenly] power. The gospel promises this. It promises the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is divine in its character, and which is not enjoyed by any other class of people, and which we are told by the Saviour, should lead into all truth, and inspire those who possessed it, and give them a knowledge of Jesus, a knowledge of the Father, and of things pertaining to the celestial world; that it should inspire those who possessed it with a knowledge of things to come, and things that were past; and inspire them to an extent that they should enjoy supernatural gifts—the gift of tongues and prophecy, to lay hands upon the sick, by which they should be healed.
When it comes to celestial law, Mormonism offers an impossible gospel. Within the Mormon Church, we wonder, where are the gift of tongues? Of prophecy? Are these things even done by General Authorities? If so, these issues are certainly not talked about at general conferences.
Those who received this gospel were promised these supernatural power[s] and gifts, and a knowledge for themselves, that they might not depend upon any man or set of men, in regard to the truth of the religion that they had received; but that they should receive a knowledge from the Father that the religion came from him, that the gospel came from him, and that his servant had the right and authority to administer those ordinances, so that no wind of doctrine should shake them or remove them from the path in which they were walking; so that they might be prepared for the glory that should be revealed, and be made participators therein; so that they might endure any trial or affliction that it should be the will of God to be brought upon them, to prepare them more fully for celestial glory; so that they should walk not in darkness, but in the light and power of God, and be raised above the things of the world, and be superior to the things around them, so that they might walk independently beneath the celestial world, and in the sight of God and heaven, as free men, pursuing that course that should be marked out to them by the Holy Ghost, that course by which they could elevate themselves to knowledge and power, and thus prepare themselves to receive the glory that God proposed to confer upon them, and to occupy the exalted position to which God designed to raise them.
And how is a Mormon supposed to receive this “knowledge from the Father”? Many Latter-day Saints will likely point to James 1:5 in the Bible, which is the verse claimed by Joseph Smith that led to his “First Vision” of God the Father and Jesus. It says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Notice, this is referring to “wisdom” and not “knowledge,” which are two different things. Knowledge comes through study; it is not a “pray about something and feel good” feeling. As quoted above, 2 Timothy 2:15 says we are to use our minds and study out God’s revealed and special revelation. First Thessalonians 5:21 says to “test everything.” When determining whether or not we are being told the truth, we are supposed to “test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The importance of studying God’s Word, the Bible, and then comparing its teachings to the teachings of a religion like Mormonism is what all believers are commanded to do.
We should so live that we shall know that our course of life is acceptable to God. We should understand the voice and whisperings of the Holy Spirit. In the day when the sky is not obscured by clouds, we discover surrounding objects, their beauty and purpose. So are we dependent on the Spirit of God for light upon the principles of truth and salvation. No professing Latter-day Saint can enjoy any great degree of happiness unless he thus lives, and thus places himself under divine guidance.
Latter-day Saint, I believe is is vital to be fully dependent upon the Spirit of God—of this, I will not argue. But the only way to know for sure that it is the Spirit of God to whom you are listening and not your flesh or the false teachings of man is to doublecheck with the Bible. If the two don’t coincide, then reject that religious system!
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.