by Sharon Lindbloom
6 August 2018
I received my August 2018 edition of the LDS Church’s Ensign magazine last week. Bundled with the Ensign was a supplement: The text of a “Worldwide Youth Devotional” titled “Hope of Israel.” This devotional was presented to the youth of the Mormon Church in June by LDS President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy.
President Nelson took his title from an LDS hymn of the same name, a hymn that designates the “youth of Zion” as Israel’s hope. President Nelson affirmed this idea in his closing remarks when he said,
“As I conclude, I invite you to stand with the youth from all around the world and experience the thrill of being a member of the Lord’s youth battalion in ‘Zion’s army’ by singing our closing hymn, ‘Hope of Israel,’ because this hymn is all about you!… You are the hope of Israel…” (“Hope of Israel,” Supplement to the Ensign, 17)
In the devotional, President Nelson praised his young audience, telling them,
“Our Heavenly Father has reserved many of His most noble spirits—perhaps, I might say, His finest team—for this final phase. Those noble spirits—those finest players, those heroes—are you!… My beloved younger brothers and sisters, you are among the best the Lord has ever sent to this world.” (Supplement, 8, 16-17)
Yet, as revealed in President Nelson’s talk, Heavenly Father’s most noble and finest players are a very long way from meeting the high standard set forth in the Book of Mormon salvation passage 2 Nephi 25:23. This verse says,
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
The youth of the LDS Church, the “Hope of Israel,” are not doing all they can do; therefore, they are living outside of a state of saving grace.
President Nelson revealed this when he told his audience about questions he had asked a group of LDS youth. President Nelson asked what each individual would be willing to do, what each individual would be willing to sacrifice, and what behaviors each individual would be willing to change in order to answer the latter-day prophet’s invitation to “help gather Israel” (i.e., teach people Mormonism’s “restored gospel” and baptize them into the LDS Church). They responded,
“I would be willing to do more family history work. I would be more open and make a greater effort to talk with others about the gospel. I would be a good example… I would do more baptisms for the dead…” (Supplement, 12)
They would do more, and more still. They said they would:
- Change aspects of how they live and choices they make
- Learn a new language
- Lend out their copies of the Book of Mormon
- Be the very kindest person they could be
- Spend less time on sports
- Spend less time with friends
- Invite friends to the temple
- Cut down on phone and screen time
- Cut out Sunday afternoon naps
- Study the scriptures more
- Spend less time on social media
- Do more member-missionary work
- Post spiritual messages on social media
- Study General Conference talks
- Eat healthy food
- Stop thinking everything is about themselves
These are things LDS youth said they would do. If they would do them, they could do them, but they aren’t doing them, so they are not doing “all [they] can do” as required by 2 Nephi 25:23.
According to late LDS President Ezra Taft Benson,
“‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. ‘After all we can do’ includes living His commandments. ‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. ‘After all we can do’ means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving ‘succor [to] those who stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:15)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto Him (see Matthew 25:34-40; D&C 42:38). ‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 354. Brackets in the original)
The highly praised youth of the LDS Church, said to be Heavenly Father’s most noble spirits, are admittedly not extending their best efforts. They could do more, but they choose not to.
President Nelson’s devotional displays a poignant example of Mormonism’s Impossible Gospel. It is impossible to consistently do “all we can do,” for there is always something more that could be done. Simple things like spending less time with friends. Like choosing healthier foods. Like posting one more spiritual meme on social media. Like reading one more verse in the Book of Mormon before turning out the light at night.
LDS youth, as great as they actually are, fall far short of doing all they can do. Therefore, according to the LDS Church, they are unable to receive God’s grace and are unworthy to dwell with Him eternally (see True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 77). Yet President Nelson believes they are the Hope of Israel. Thankfully, he is wrong.
The Bible says God is the Hope of Israel. In Jeremiah 14, as God pronounces judgement on Judah for their sin, Jeremiah pleads for deliverance:
“Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O LORD, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?… Yet you, O LORD, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us.” (Jeremiah 14:7-9)
Later through the prophet Jeremiah, God calls people to trust only in Him. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,” He says, but “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” Jeremiah was moved to respond,
“A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is our sanctuary. O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:12-14)
Truly, God is our hope. We are not to trust in the so-called “Lord’s youth battalion”; this would be turning away from the Lord Himself, from the fountain of living water. We are to trust in the LORD; our trust isthe Lord. He alone heals us. He alone saves us. He alone is our praise.
I am eternally grateful that the true hope of Israel is our faithful and able God, the One who promises “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2). He doesn’t offer it only “after all you can do”; He tells us it is “the gift of God.” He does not require us to “expend our own best efforts” to acquire it, (see “Grace,” LDS Bible Dictionary); it is His “free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6).