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Review of “Pure Truth, Pure Doctrine, and Pure Revelation” (President Russell M. Nelson)

By Mike Rabus

The first talk given in the October 2021 General Conference was delivered by 17th President Russell M. Nelson, which is published in the November 2021 issue of the church magazine known as the Liahona. Although it was a brief talk, there are two truth claims made by Nelson that caught my attention. Perhaps you will find this helpful in your discussions with LDS friends and missionaries.

  • The LDS Church is the sole provider of pure truth.
  • Mormons should believe they can obtain all that God has through a qualification process.

President Nelson began with this invitation:

…to listen for three things: pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ, and pure revelation.  Contrary to the doubts of some, there really is such a thing as right and wrong.  There really is absolute truth—eternal truth.  One of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth. {2} I can assure you that what you will hear today and tomorrow constitutes pure truth.

It is nice that Nelson is encouraging LDS members to search for truth. I too am interested in correct belief because God delights in truth (Psalm 51:6). All truth comes from God, so it should be honoring to God if truth is sought after and followed. To the contrary, everything other than truth does not come from God and therefore should be avoided.

A general definition of truth is that it is what corresponds to reality.  For example, if a religious organization says something about the nature of God that doesn’t agree with the real nature of God, then that belief is wrong. Having the correct belief about the nature of God is extremely important.

If the truth claims of Mormonism are correct, as Nelson claims in this article, then I would be more than willing to drop my current beliefs and follow this religion. After all, I want to follow the truth. But if the truth claims of Mormonism are not correct, I will not follow them, and I think it’s important to share the dangers of having those beliefs.

I’ve had discussions with Mormons where I’ve been told, “My beliefs are true for me and your beliefs are true for you.” Don’t be caught off guard by this common argument. While two contradictory beliefs could both be wrong, they both cannot be true.

When someone insists truth is relative, I will point to the Law of Non-contradiction, which stresses that something cannot be A and non-A at the same time. Don’t be surprised to hear that a Mormon’s truth is determined by a good feeling or experience. There is no value in believing subjective truth that can easily change on a whim or is dependent on a feeling or experience.

There are a lot of truth claims offered by LDS Church leaders that contradict the teaching of the Bible. These include what is taught about the nature of God, Jesus, and salvation, just to name a few.

I suggest asking the Latter-day Saint if it honors God to believe something that isn’t true. For example, does it honor God to think that humans have the potential to become gods just like Him if Almighty God is the only true God in existence? I think the answer is obvious.

Getting back to the article, footnote {2} references D&C 123:12, which says:

For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

I’m not sure if there’s a particular sect, party, or denomination that Nelson is referencing in this footnote, but I’d argue he’s applying it to everyone who isn’t a member of the LDS Church. This verse reminds me of the official account of Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, as recorded in the Joseph Smith History 1:18-20:

18 . . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

20 He again forbade me to join with any of them . . .

Mormonism’s leaders claim that theirs is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Joseph Smith insisted that he was told how the other churches were wrong, just as current president is saying.

I like to point this out to Mormons when they espouse that Mormonism is merely taking my Christianity and making it a little better. Is that what God really thinks if Mormonism is true? That we could just take something that is “wrong” and an “abomination in his sight” and add a little to it to make it the true faith?

The truth claims of the LDS Church are particular to this organization, and I want to make sure my Mormon friends understand how far apart we stand on certain matters. And I want them to own their Mormon beliefs because this will allow our conversations to be more effective and meaningful. Just because we both believe in God and Jesus Christ doesn’t mean we have almost the same beliefs.

Nelson goes on to talk about how powerful the pure doctrine of Christ is:

It changes the life of everyone who understands it and seeks to implement it in his or her life.  The doctrine of Christ helps us find and stay on the covenant path.  Staying on that narrow but well-defined path will ultimately qualify us to receive all that God has. {3} Nothing could be worth more than all our Father has!

My attention elevates when I hear Mormon leaders say that we can “qualify” to receive all that God has, and I’m thankful that Nelson covers this in the very first talk in general conference. In all my conversations with Mormons, I have never been told that I can have “all that God has,” but isn’t that exactly what Mormon doctrine teaches? Shouldn’t this be advertised right away?

Mormonism teaches that we are here on earth during our mortal probation to prove to Heavenly Father that we qualify to be gods like him. My Mormon friends will say these are truths that are taught much later to prospective Mormons, but I’d argue they need to be discussed right away. When I begin the conversation in this way, I have found it helps take the conversation to a deeper level.

In a recent conversation with a Mormon friend, I wanted to quickly move the conversation to how the truth claims of Joseph Smith can’t be trusted. I started with just one topic: the nature of God and if we  can obtain that same nature. I told him that the Bible specifically describes God as being God from all eternity and showed how there is no other god like Him. Before Him there was no god, and after Him there won’t be another god, as Isaiah 43:10 puts it.

Then Joseph Smith came along in the King Follett Discourse and said,

We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity.  I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

Smith went on to describe how God used to be a human as all humans are now. He explained how God had to go through a mortal probation just as all humans have done. So should we trust Joseph Smith if he’s making truth claims that contradict the Bible? I don’t think so, and I want Mormons to understand that we can determine truth only by seeing what God says in the Bible.

I encourage you to challenge Mormons to own this piece of LDS doctrine about qualifying for godhood.  Some of them might not understand it–or claim they don’t understand it–so bringing it out early in the  conversation is important to lay out the obvious differences in Mormonism and Christianity.

Concerning this matter of becoming exalted as gods is the opposite of my belief as an evangelical Christian. Mormons desire to prove how good they are to God so they can become like Him, while evangelical Christians know that they can never be worthy to become God.

Additional reviews of General Conference messages written by Mike Rabus can be found here.

 

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