Reviewed by Eric Johnson
“For the Strength of Youth” is a small 44-page booklet, which is approved by the LDS First Presidency and meant for the young people in the LDS Church. It was updated in December 2011 “to address the issues youth face today–to teach them the doctrine behind the standards and the promised blessings of obedience” (Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, “Church Releases New Products for Youth, Children,” Ensign, April 2012, p. 74).
The booklet is considered to have authority, as Seventy Stanley G. Ellis stated at the last General Conference:
“Along with the scriptures, some great sources for finding the Lord’s way are True to the Faith, For the Strength of Youth, and another teachings of the living apostles and prophets” (“The Lord’s Way,” Ensign, May 2013 (Conference Edition), p. 37).
David L. Beck, the Young Men general president, declared,
“It is our hope that these standards will be thoroughly studied in our homes and in Church classes, and that the principles taught in them will go down into the hearts of the youth in the Church” (Ensign, August 2012, p. 75. Also see Ensign, April 2012, p. 75).
In this review, written for pre-teens as well as teenagers, we’ll quote from this booklet as our source material. I was a teacher for almost two decades, specializing in educating teenagers at the high school level. If you are a Latter-day Saint, my goal is not to tear down your faith but rather to have you think through important issues that every person must consider. As you will see in this review, I agree with much of what is said. Where I disagree is when the LDS Church makes it appear that living a clean, moral lifestyle is required by God in order to attain forgiveness. I will show that this impression is certainly not biblical.
Every Latter-day young person ought to consider truth and issues that every person in this life must consider. It truly is time to stop borrowing mom and dad’s faith and begin taking ownership of your own faith. If Mormonism is true, then it ought to be followed with reckless abandon; if it’s not true, then it is imperative to discover what is true.
From page 2 to 44, the complete words from the booklet are underlined, which sets it apart from my responses that are provided throughout the booklet. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know ([email protected]).
Agency and Accountability
Wherefore, men . . . are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death. 2 Nephi 2:27
Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose right from wrong and to act for yourself. Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct your life is one of God’s greatest gifts to you. While here on earth, you are being proven to see if you will use your agency to show your love for God by keeping His commandments. The Holy Ghost can guide you in using your agency righteously.
You are responsible for the choices you make. God is mindful of you and will help you make good choices, even if your family and friends use their agency in ways that are not right. Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone. As you do this, you set an example for others to follow.
It is true that all people have choices, all of which come with benefits or consequences. In Mormonism, agency is the idea that each person can choose right and wrong with the freedom to do either. Christianity also says that we have choices to make.
There is one difference, though, as Christianity teaches that original sin came to humanity through the agency of Adam. According to Romans 3:10, nobody is righteous, “not even one.” Verse 23 clearly says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is what Christians call original sin, which taints all of humanity.
Where does this concept originate? The apostle Paul talks about this in Romans chapter five. Listen to his explanation:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man,(how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In a nutshell, this passage explains how sin permeates everyone through and through. According to the Bible, if we think that somehow our righteous acts can appease God, we are sadly mistaken. Isaiah 64:6 says that all of our righteous acts add up to nothing more than filthy rags in God’s sight. This is why Paul stressed the importance of faith in Jesus. We’ll come to this later in this review, but please know that there is nothing in your power that can give you enough credit to wash away the ultimate consequences of sin, which Romans 6:23 says is eternal death.
So far, this doesn’t look promising, does it? But before a cancer patient qualifies for treatment in a most radical manner, he or she must believe that the bad news delivered by the doctor is legitimate. Only then will this person do whatever is humanly possible to find a cure.
While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make. Some sinful behavior may bring temporary, worldly pleasure, but such choices delay your progress and lead to heartache and misery. Righteous choices lead to lasting happiness and eternal life. Remember, true freedom comes from using your agency to choose obedience; loss of freedom comes from choosing disobedience. You are also responsible for developing the talents and abilities Heavenly Father has given you. You are accountable to Him for what you do with your talents and how you spend your time. Choose to do many good things of your own free will.
Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This is very true. The author of this booklet says that “true freedom comes from using your agency to choose obedience.” Actually, true freedom comes by first understanding that obedience cannot bring freedom. Only faith in Christ can free a person from the sin that would otherwise keep us from heaven.
The Mormon Church leaders teach their followers that a person can hope for the “celestial kingdom” by “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3). This includes getting water baptized by one with authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, repentance, and getting married in the temple, among other requirements. While it is generally taught that Christ’s “atonement” provides a general resurrection for all humans, only those who are obedient can even have a chance at the very best this religion has to offer.
In Galatians 2:21, Paul explained that “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” In fact, the Bible clearly states that it is grace that provides salvation through a person’s faith. As Ephesians 2:8-9 adds, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Someone might say that these verses are referring to a general resurrection of all humankind. But it can’t because “faith” is not a requirement to be resurrected to one of three kingdoms. Neither can it refer to exaltation because “works” are required to attain celestial glory, but Paul says that this salvation comes “not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works so that no one can boast.”
How does a person get into a right relationship with God? According to Romans 10:9-10,
“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. 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.”
Verse 13 adds, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Someone might argue that such an attitude minimizes good works. The answer to this legitimate question is, in the strongest sense imaginable, not at all! Following the part that says grace is what “saves” a person through faith and not works—Ephesians 2:10 declares, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
It’s amazing how God has prepared good works for believers’ lives before we ever had belief and, in fact, before we were ever born. This is why the Christian can completely agree with James 2:20, 26, which says that “faith without works is dead.”
To illustrate this point, allow me to give you a story that I have often told. Imagine a young man whose family and friends attended his 16th birthday party. Grandpa gives him a card, which the boy opens. “Dear Grandson, I love you,” it says. “I have deposited 10 in the bank for your birthday. I hope you enjoy it. Love, Grandpa.”
What would the typical reaction be for a teenager? If he is like many teens, sincere appreciation may very well be lacking. After all, a measly $10 bucks could make Grandpa appear to be cheap. We can predict that this young man will toss the card and not think much about it. However, there will come a time when he could use a few extra dollars, such as when he needs gas for his car. Driving around town, he decides to stop by the bank and get his money so he can put a few gallons into the vehicle.
He walks up to the teller and hands her his passbook. She looks at the computer screen, types some numbers on her keyboard, and then returns the passbook with a crisp new $10 bill. As he merrily walks away, imagine his disgust when he realizes that a huge joke has been played on him. He storms back to the teller, raising his voice and exclaiming, “How dare you! What a cruel hoax!”
The teller looks at him, befuddled. “What are you talking about?” He glares at her in a demanding way. “Why did you put $9,999,990 into my passbook?” Looking firmly at him, she responded, “Well, you took out $10. Take that away from the $10 million in your account, this is what you have left.”
What do you think the boy does when he realizes that his grandfather gave him $10 million, not $10. After all, this is more money than 90% of all Americans will ever make in a lifetime of work. Would his attitude be one of anger toward his grandfather or of deep love and appreciation?
If the young man has any sense, he would choose the latter. A normal human being would not desire to throw lye in his grandfather’s yard, kick the man’s dog and spray graffiti onto his garage door. Instead, he will want to personally thank his grandfather, even finding out if there is anything he could do for him.
Upon realizing that his grandfather had to let go of the gardener because he didn’t have any money left after putting together the big gift, the boy decides to mow the man’s grass for him. In fact, it feels good to do something nice for somebody who has made such a sacrifice. It felt so good that the grandson decides to come back each week to mow the grass. He feels that it is the least he could do.
Would this same grandson have any right, at the end of a year, to suggest that he was able to “pay back” Grandpa? Hardly. The money was a gift; it was never intended to be paid back. Mowing the grass shouldn’t have been a task performed to earn the $10 million because even doing this for 40 years (times 52 weeks a year) would result in 2,080 mowings, or more than $4,800 per mowing. The average yard company wouldn’t consider charging even 1 percent of this amount!
Good works matter after faith and grace have taken place. But it’s not a matter of how much you keep the man-made rules of Mormonism that gives a person the ability to claim forgiveness from sin. This is what Jesus wants to do in a person’s life. Instead of tossing the birthday card aside because it doesn’t appear to have worth, I challenge you to pick up the Bible and see what He has told you in His love letter to humanity. A closer look can show how valuable Jesus’s gift is! When this gift is accepted—cashing the check, so to speak—there will be a natural desire to please God. Good works–known as the fruits of the spirit–will follow. But good works will never be enough to earn the gift.
Galatians 5:4 says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Whether this involves physical circumcision, dietary law, or going to church on Sunday, no rules and regulations will ever attain the peace that God offers. This is a much different gospel than what Mormonism teaches, as eternal life–also known as exaltation–is based upon your desire, your effort, and your obedience.
Consider how Jesus criticized the Pharisees even though they were the most righteous people of that part of the world. If Jesus didn’t commend these folks for their many righteous efforts, why would He commend your good works? Jesus even gives a warning in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 7:21-23: “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.(S) 22 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?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Some day you will make an appearance at the throne of God. When Jesus asks you why He ought to let you in, what will your response be?
Virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light. Doctrine and Covenants 88:40
A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually find an eternal companion.
You should not date until you are at least 16 years old. When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality. Invite your parents to become acquainted with those you date.
Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards. Remember that a young man and a young woman on a date are responsible to protect each other’s honor and virtue. Plan dating activities that are safe, positive, and inexpensive and that will help you get to know each other. Go only to places where you can maintain your standards and remain close to the Spirit.
Young men generally take the initiative in asking for and planning dates. Always be kind and respectful when you ask for a date or when you accept or decline one. While on a date, be courteous as you listen to others and express your own feelings.
As you enter your adult years, make dating and marriage a high priority. Seek a companion who is worthy to go to the temple to be sealed to you for time and all eternity. Marrying in the temple and creating an eternal family are essential in God’s plan of happiness
First of all, I have no problems with the advice given on dating. Certainly dating can be a very constructive way for two people to get to know each other better. The rule that someone should be 16 years of age is not necessarily biblical; it was an age first suggested by a Mormon president. Perhaps it’s a wise command, but why 16? Why not 17?
Regardless, dating can be a good thing. To Latter-day Saint youth, I would suggest dating only those who are like-minded with you. After all, if you date outside your faith, you create a scenario where somebody is going to have to chance in order to take this relationship to the next level. I have advised my own children this same way. In fact, my daughter Carissa helped me produce some videos on this topic. I invite you to see them:
As far as taking a companion “to the temple to be sealed to you for time and all eternity,” LDS leaders want you to believe that “marrying in the temple and creating an eternal family” is a possibility for faithful members. But this cannot be! Think about the logistics of Mormonism’s teaching on this issue. The image given in LDS videos is that grandparents, parents, and children/grandchildren will be together in the celestial kingdom. But, consider these questions:
- Does Heavenly Father have his parents and grandparents residing with him here in this world? (If so, what evidence is there to support such a notion? If not, then can we really say that Heavenly Father is residing with his family for eternity?)
- Does your family have any “black sheep” or rebellious people? If so and they reject Mormonism, is it really possible for them to ever be with your family?
- If a Mormon man and woman are faithful, and so were their parents and grandparents, and so were their children, then we can expect that all of them found spouses to marry in the temple. If the grandparents were faithful, won’t they be in their own realm/world? Won’t the parents be in their own realm/world? And won’t the children who marry in the temple and remain faithful also be in their own realm/world? Doesn’t this appear that only husbands and wives can be together in eternity if the other relatives will be in their own worlds?
While the videos produced by the church make it look like a creation straight from a Norman Rockwell painting, the ideas that nuclear families can reside together throughout eternity doesn’t make logical or biblical sense. Rather, the Bible describes heaven as a place where all believers who are saved by the blood of the Lamb will spend eternity together, regardless of their blood relationship.
Dress and Appearance
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1 Corinthians 3:16–17
Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.
Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.
Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.
Honestly, this is good advice for either the Latter-day Saint young person or the Christian. Remember, I said at the beginning that I would be honest and agree with the booklet if its advice was sound!
Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.
Biblically, there is no admonition against tattoos, body piercings, or the number of earrings. Many may point to the passage in Leviticus to support a ban on tattoos; however, this passage is taken out of context. (For more information on this topic, see here.) As far as an admonition from the Lord, the passage in Leviticus that many point to is taken out of context.
It is true that an outright ban with no biblical justification can become legalistic. With that said, though, many Christian young people don’t understand that tattoos are, for the most part, permanent. It can have a big impact of a young person’s future, including possible prejudice from employers when applying for jobs later in life. While there is a laser removal process, it is quite expensive and painful. I suggest that the young person consult his or her parents and other adults to make sure a tattoo is a wise choice. If a tattoo is important, then I would suggest having it done on a place where it can be covered up with clothing.
Show respect for the Lord and yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities. This is especially important when attending sacrament services. Young men should dress with dignity when officiating in the ordinance of the sacrament. If you are not sure what is appropriate to wear, study the words of the prophets, pray for guidance, and ask your parents or leaders for help. Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”
Again, the Bible does not give very much description when it talks about how God’s people ought to dress for church services. I think it’s important to dress in a respectful manner, no matter what style we wear. There are also different cultures to consider. The way to dress for a church in Texas may be different from, say, West Africa or Alaska. The Bible does not specifically say we must wear white shirts, dark pants, and, for the ladies, dresses that cover their knees. Of course, our style should not be immodest and take away from the spirit of the service, distracting those who are trying to worship God. A revealing low-cut blouse or short shorts could cause another person to stumble. As Paul explained to the Corinthians, we have freedom in Christ, but it’s not good if our freedom causes others to stumble. (For more on this topic, study 1 Corinthians 8 and 10.)
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. Doctrine and Covenants 130:18
Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. He wants you to educate your mind and to develop your skills and talents, your power to act well in your responsibilities, and your capacity to appreciate life. The education you gain will be valuable to you during mortality and in the life to come.
Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children.
Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you. Plan now to obtain an education. Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices if necessary. Share your educational goals with your family, friends, and leaders so they can support and encourage you. Maintain an enthusiasm for learning throughout your life. Find joy in continuing to learn and in expanding your interests. Choose to actively participate in the learning opportunities available to you.
Generally speaking, getting a post-high school education is a wise investment. A person will expand his or her horizons with additional study. Horizons will be expanded and a person will become more marketable in the working world, providing many more opportunities than without any college experience. I recommend college and even post-graduate work for my own children because I know how valuable this will be to their future. As a parent, I will do everything I can to help them go. There is a sacrifice to be made, but the end result is very much worth it. Some young people, however, do not have the make-up for college. They may be better suited to attend trade school or learn through an apprenticeship program. This is where wise counsel and research during the high school years could pay off. Understanding that there are other opportunities out there is important, as “education” does not have to merely involve college.
Your education should include spiritual learning. Study the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets. Participate in seminary and institute. Continue throughout your life to learn about Heavenly Father’s plan. This spiritual learning will help you find answers to the challenges of life and will invite the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
I also agree that spiritual education is important. When the writers of this booklet say “study the scriptures,” they mean all four of the Standard Works. I suggest to a Latter-day young person to focus their attention on the Bible, especially the Gospels and the epistles. Consider using a modern translation. Read with no presuppositions. If the Bible really is what it claims to be—the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16)—then its teachings will coincide with truth. If Mormonism is true, then truth should be evident when reading the Bible.
Some good translations to consider are the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the English Standard Version. All four can be found here. . In addition, please consider taking the “Romans Challenge.”
Entertainment and Media
If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. Articles of Faith 1:13
You live in a day of marvelous technologies that give you easy access to a wide variety of media, including the Internet, mobile devices, video games, television, movies, music, books, and magazines. The information and entertainment provided through these media can increase your ability
to learn, communicate, and become a force for good in the world. However, some information and entertainment can lead you away from righteous living. Choose wisely when using media, because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you.
Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.
We live in an amazing time of history. Technology that was futuristic just two decades ago is common today, including cell phones wirelessly bringing up the Internet and on-demand television. These tools can be used for good, but they can also be a huge distraction. Romans 12:1-2 says,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
It may sound like an oxymoron that a sacrifice can be living. After all, the very idea of sacrifice in the Bible demands death. Yet God commands for His people to live in this world and yet consider themselves dead to the thinking of this world. This, Paul declares, is what “proper worship” is all about. Then he says to not “conform to the pattern of the world”—J.B. Philips translated this as “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Like Jell-O, many people allow the world’s system to shape their very thinking and world view. Take, for example, homosexual marriage. What has traditionally been declared unlawful by the Christian church is now open for debate, and many who call themselves “Christian” have allowed the winds of change in the political climate to dictate their thought processes. The Bible says that this is not the way it should be! If a Christian hopes to be able to understand what God’s will is all about, he or she must undergo a “transformation” of the mind.
The advice is good. If something—a movie, music, or television show—is leading you away from the mindset that ought to characterize a Spirit-filled believer, it is better to walk away. Instead of allowing the world to dictate our thought processes, we should allow God to infiltrate our lives and thus encourage the fruit of the Spirit as described by Paul in Galatians 5 (“love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc.) to permeate our very being.
Pornography in all forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as an unexpected exposure or a curious exploration can become a destructive habit. Use of pornography is a serious sin and can lead to other sexual transgression. Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of selfworth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.
If you are involved in pornography, cease now. Seek the help you need. Your parents and bishop can help you take the steps necessary to repent and rid yourself of this destructive habit.
Sin done in private has a power over our very souls. Speaking out sin to a trusted parent, friend, or other trusted individual can help us deal with very destructive sins. The power of pornography is lessened when it is dealt with through the help of other people. If you are a Christian, God will not leave nor forsake you because of this sin. But it can have negative consequences. Sin like this is never satisfied. It always wants to move to the next level for a new thrill and satisfaction. As Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?”
Some teens may say that they have never had sex (outside of marriage, of course) or don’t take things too far with a girl or boy friend. Therefore, they don’t have sexual sin, and adultery is something they’ve never done. Still, each of us is a sexual human being; if we’re honest, we will admit that we struggle with lust. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Many might argue that lust is not “as bad” as literally sleeping with other people. Jesus’s point, though, is that even improper thoughts goes against God’s will. LDS President Joseph F. Smith said,
“We hold that sexual sin is second only to the shedding of innocent blood in the category of personal crimes. . . . We proclaim as the word of the Lord: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.” [Exodus 20:14.] ‘He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith.’ [D&C 63:16.]” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 156. Ellipsis in original.).
This is a very powerful quote that is found in an authorized manual published by the Mormon Church. If you are a Latter-day Saint young person, have you “looketh on a woman to lust after her”? If so, then according to Joseph F. Smith (and your current leadership, since they published this book), you have committed adultery in your heart. The first half of Smith’s quote is exactly right. But notice the next part: such a person does “not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith.” According to this LDS president, this sin is equal to “denying” the faith. Even the mere thought of lusting is a very serious sin!
This is not to say that Christians don’t struggle with sin. Of course we do! Consider Paul’s confession in Romans 7:15ff:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 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. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Becoming “sinless” is impossible. Fortunately, this is not the requirement necessary for a person to have a relationship with God. Rather, what does Paul say will “rescue” us from sin that leads to death? It is faith in Christ and receiving the forgiveness He offers. Notice that this gift is not earned by mowing the grass perfectly each time, thinking that my effort somehow pays the benefactor back for his sacrifice. While I agree that sin ought to be avoided and pornography is a destructive sin, please don’t think that disciplining yourself to avoid issues with pornography will somehow earn you God’s favor. It won’t.
Take care that your use of media does not dull your sensitivity to the Spirit or interfere with your personal relationships with others. Spending long periods of time using the Internet or a mobile device, playing video games, or watching television or other media can keep you from valuable interactions with other people. Be careful that your use of social media does not replace spending time with your family and friends.
Guard your safety and the safety of others by taking great care about what personal information and images you share through technology. Do not communicate anything over the Internet or through texting that would be inappropriate to share in person. Obey the laws that govern sharing music, movies, and other copyrighted items.If you are not sure whether something is appropriate to watch or listen to, talk to your parents and other adult leaders. The Holy Ghost will give you strength to make correct choices.
Generally, this is great advice. Once more, though, don’t think that combatting issues of wasting time or gossiping on Facebook will earn your God’s favor.
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. . . . Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord.
Jesus Christ. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
If you read the Bible and understand its words, it will be very clear that marriage is not “essential” to God’s eternal plan. Marriage is a wonderful blessing provided by God. But getting married, whether for time or (in Mormonism) eternity is just not biblical.
If it was, then ask yourself:
- Why doesn’t the Bible explain that marriage is essential?
- In fact, if the Book of Mormon is true and a person could get closer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book, why doesn’t it explain that marriage is essential?
- Why does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 7:8, “Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do”?
- In fact, why does he say the following in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35?
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
- Why did Jesus say in Matthew 22:30,” At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”? For more information, see here.
Marriage as a requirement for exaltation did not originate with the apostles from biblical times. Instead, this teaching started with Joseph Smith. It was not a former-day teaching, only a teaching taught by Latter-day Saints.
Being part of a family is a great blessing. Your family can provide you with companionship and happiness, help you learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and help you prepare for eternal life.
Strong families require effort. Your family will be blessed as you do your part to strengthen it. Be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of family members. Many problems in the home come from family members speaking and acting selfishly or unkindly. Seek to be a peacemaker rather than to tease, fight, and quarrel. Show love for your family members each day. Share your testimony with your family through words and actions. Your righteous example can make a difference in strengthening your family.
Honor your parents by showing love and respect for them.Obey them as they lead you in righteousness. Willingly help in your home. Participate in wholesome family activities and traditions. Join your family in family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evenings. Keeping these commandments strengthens and unifies families. If your family does not do these things together, pray and study the scriptures yourself. Your example may encourage your family members to join you. Strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters. They can become your closest friends. Support them in their interests, and help them with challenges they may be facing. God desires that all of His children come into the world as part of an eternal family with a mother and father who love and care for each other and for their children. If this is not your experience, be patient and continue to live righteously. Look for worthy role models.
Overall, this is good advice. While nuclear families might not live “forever” as a unit, they are certainly vital for this life.
Prepare now to fulfill your divine roles as a husband or wife and as a parent. Commit to marry in the temple and establish your own eternal family.
As mentioned before, marriage is not a command, and thus husband and wife do not play “divine roles.” And it is impossible for nuclear families to be together forever. Logically, only the husband and wife can be together, and even that is a long shot because living according to a “celestial law” is required. See here for more information.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40
Everyone needs good and true friends. They will be a great strength and blessing to you. They will influence how you think and act, and even help determine the person you will become. They will help you be a better person and will make it easier for you to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards.
To have good friends, be a good friend. Show genuine interest in others; smile and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, and refrain from judging and criticizing those around you. Do not participate in any form of bullying. Make a special effort to be a friend to those who are shy or lonely, have special needs, or do not feel included.
As you seek to be a friend to others, do not compromise your standards. If your friends urge you to do things that are wrong, be the one to stand for the right, even if you stand alone. You may need to find other friends who will support you in keeping the commandments. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost as you make these choices.
This is good advice.
As you strive to live the gospel, you will encourage your friends to do likewise. Set an example of keeping the commandments, participating in Church activities, preparing to serve the Lord throughout your life, and remaining worthy to attend the temple.
Yet here is where the church veers off. The unique Standard Works do not talk about “striving” to live the gospel; it rather talks about actually living them.
First of all, 1 Nephi 3:7 states, “The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” Does this verse say that it’s possible to keep all of God’s commandments? How are you doing at this?
Second, consider Alma 11:37: “And I say unto you again that he [God] cannot save them [his people] in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.” Again, I ask, do you struggle with sin? If so, doesn’t this tend to prove that you, as a Mormon, are still “in your sins” and are “unclean”? If you are, doesn’t this mean you are not saved?
Third, Moroni 10:32 explains, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.” Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? If not, doesn’t this verse tend to prove that you have yet to receive the grace that is sufficient to cleanse you of your sins? If you have not denied yourself of all ungodliness, when do you think you will eventually do so?
Fourth, D&C 25:15 says, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.” How many commandments must you keep continually? Some? Most? All? If all, how are you doing at this?
Fifth, D&C 58:43 says, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” How many sins must you forsake? Have you forsaken all of your sins? If not, doesn’t that mean you have not truly repented?
Sixth, D&C 1:31 states, “For I the Lord cannot look upon in with the least degree of allowance.” In light of the answers you’ve given to the above questions, do you think God will overlook the sins you struggle with and have yet to overcome?
You might think that trying to do your best is good enough in the ledger of God. Doing the best you can might be admirable, but according to President Spencer W. Kimball, this is not good enough. Instead, a person must do what he is told. In his classic book The Miracle of Forgivensss, Kimball wrote,
“An army officer called a soldier to him and ordered him to take a message to another officer. The soldier saluted and said, ‘I’ll try, sir! I’ll try!’ To this the officer responded: ‘I don’t want you to try, I want you to deliver this message.’ The soldier, somewhat embarrassed, now replied: ‘I’ll do the best I can, sir.’ At this the officer, now disgusted, rejoined with some vigor: ‘I don’t want you to try and I don’t want you to “do the best you can.” I want you to deliver this message.’ Now the young soldier, straightening to his full height, approached the matter magnificently, as he thought, when he saluted again and said: ‘I’ll do it or die, sir.’ To this the now irate officer responded: ‘I don’t want you to die, and I don’t want you merely to do the best you can, and I don’t want you to try. Now, the request is a reasonable one; the message is important; the distance is not far; you are able-bodied; you can do what I have ordered. Now get out of here and accomplish your mission’” (p. 164).
He then said,
“It is normal for children to try. They fall and get up numerous times before they can be certain of their footing. But adults, who have gone through these learning periods, must determine what they will do, then proceed to do it. To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong. We must always do better than we can. This is true in every walk of life” (pp. 164-165).
According to an LDS president, accomplishing the task at hand is more important than the motivation to get it done. The bottom line demanded by Mormonism’s God is determining just what have you done lately.
Invite your friends of other faiths to your Church meetings and activities. Help them feel welcome and included. Many people have joined the Church through the example and fellowship of their friends. Also make a special effort to reach out to new converts and to those who are less active.
While you are inviting your Christian friends to your church, perhaps consider trading off and seeing a service at their church. Compare your faith to others. As my friend Peter Barnes used to say, “Truth will never run from error but error will always run from truth.” While you are young, you ought to expand your horizons. Don’t just assume that your religion is true merely because you grew up in it. Rather, investigate it. As J. Reuben Clark said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed” (The Church Years, p. 24).
It was President Brigham Young who declared, “Our doctrine and practice is, and I have made it mine through life—to receive truth no matter where it comes from” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 11). He also taught, “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).
John Taylor taught,
“We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word ‘all,’ comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, p. 213).
He also said,
“If any person in the religious world, or the political world, or the scientific world, will present to me a principle that is true, I am prepared to receive it, no matter where it comes from” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, p. 215).
All of this is good advice. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. If your faith is true, it can and will stand up to investigation.
He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious. Doctrine and Covenants 78:19
The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Gratitude will turn your heart to the Lord and help you recognize His influence and blessings in your life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you.
In your prayers, pour out your heart to your Father in Heaven in thanks for the blessings you have received. Be specific in thanking Him for His goodness, for your family, for friends, for leaders and teachers, for the gospel, and for His Son, Jesus Christ.
You also express gratitude to the Lord by the way you live. When you keep His commandments and serve others, you show that you love Him and are grateful to Him. Express your gratitude to others for the many ways they bless your life.
Except for the interesting quote from D&C 78:19, I have no arguments.
Honesty and Integrity
Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Exodus 20:15–16
Be honest with yourself, others, and God at all times. Being honest means choosing not to lie, steal, cheat, or deceive in any way. When you are honest, you build strength of character that will allow you to be of great service to God and others. You will be blessed with peace of mind and self-respect. You will be trusted by the Lord and will be worthy to enter into His holy temples.
Being “worthy” to be able to enter the temple in Jerusalem was not a concept from the Bible. For more on this issue, see here.
Dishonesty harms you and harms others as well. If you lie, steal, shoplift, or cheat, you damage your spirit and your relationships with others. Being honest will enhance your future opportunities and your ability to be guided by the Holy Ghost. Be honest at school; choose not to cheat in any way. Be honest in your job, giving a full amount of work for your pay. Do not rationalize that being dishonest is acceptable, even though others may think it does not matter.
Closely associated with honesty is integrity. Integrity means thinking and doing what is right at all times, no matter what the consequences. When you have integrity, you are willing to live by your standards and beliefs even when no one is watching. Choose to live so that your thoughts and behavior are always in harmony with the gospel.
Indeed, integrity matters.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good. Ephesians 4:29
How you communicate should reflect who you are as a son or daughter of God. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Good language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others invites the Spirit to be with you. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith, hope, and charity.
Choose friends who use good language. Help others improve their language by your example. Be willing to politely walk away or change the subject when those around you use inappropriate language.
Speak kindly and positively about others. Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking. Avoid gossip of any kind, and avoid speaking in anger. When you are tempted to say harsh or hurtful things, leave them unsaid.
Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misusing the names of Deity is a sin. When you pray, address your Father in Heaven in reverent and respectful language. The Savior used such respectful language in the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9–12).
Do not use profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, and do not tell jokes or stories about immoral actions. These are offensive to God and to others.
Remember that these standards for your use of language apply to all forms of communication, including texting on a cell phone or communicating on the Internet.
If you have developed the habit of using language that is not in keeping with these standards—such as swearing, mocking, gossiping, or speaking in anger to others—you can change. Pray for help. Ask your family and friends to support you in your desire to use good language.
With this, I am in full agreement.
Music and Dancing
Praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing. Doctrine and Covenants 136:28
Music can enrich your life. It can edify and inspire you and help you draw closer to Heavenly Father. Music has a profound effect on your mind, spirit, and behavior.
Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Some music can carry evil and destructive messages. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Do not listen to music that uses vulgar or offensive language or promotes evil practices. Such music can dull your spiritual sensitivity.
Learn and sing the hymns. Hymns can lift your spirit, move you to righteous action, and help you withstand the temptations of the adversary.
I am in agreement that music is very powerful and can influence a person in many ways. As far as hymns, for many young people the hymns of yesterday are not agreeable with their personal choice in music. One of the wonderful things that has taken place in Christianity in the past few decades is Contemporary Christian music. There are radio stations around the country dedicated to playing God-centered music full-time. One national station is called K-Love. Go and listen to some of the music, paying attention to the lyrics. The music has an upbeat tempo but is filled with encouraging songs; there is no fear of “vulgar or offensive language” or anything promoting “evil practices.”
When listening to music, be courteous to those around you. Keep your music at a reasonable volume, and remove your earphones when others are talking to you or want you to be part of their activities. Remember that the Spirit speaks with a still, small voice. If you listen to music constantly, you may not have the quiet time you need for thinking, feeling, and receiving spiritual guidance.
I understand what the writer is trying to say as it appears so many people can’t operate without noise. Young people may tune everything (and everyone) out by using ear buds attached to their IPod. However, if the beat is distracting, it might be difficult to concentrate. I prefer uplifting background music when I’m writing or concentrating on something else. I prefer smooth jazz and Christian music. For me, having this in the background breaks up the monotony. Using wisdom, every Christian should decide what is best and godly with the consumption of the media, including music.
Dancing can be fun and can provide an opportunity to meet new people. However, it too can be misused. When dancing, avoid full body contact with your partner. Do not use positions or moves that are suggestive of sexual or violent behavior or are otherwise inappropriate.
Attend only those dances where dress, grooming, lighting, lyrics, music, and entertainment contribute to a wholesome atmosphere where the Spirit may be present.
There is nothing wrong with dancing as long as it doesn’t place a person in a position of temptation. The advice here is good.
Physical and Emotional Health
All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings . . . shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge. Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–19
Your body is a temple, a gift from God. You will be blessed as you care for your body. Choose to obey the Word of Wisdom (see D&C 89). When you are obedient to this law, you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life. You gain the blessings of a healthy body, an alert mind, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. You will be prepared to serve the Lord. Never let Satan or others deceive you into thinking that breaking the Word of Wisdom will make you happier, more popular, or more attractive.
To care for your body, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice balance and moderation in all aspects of your physical health. Also, avoid extremes in diet that could lead to eating disorders. Do not intentionally harm your body. Avoid dangerous activities that put your body at risk of serious injury.
Do not drink coffee or tea. Never use tobacco products or any form of alcohol; they are addictive and harmful to your body and spirit.
This is not a biblical admonition. Rather, it is a command that didn’t come about until it was created by Joseph Smith. Concerning Smith, one author reported,
“Was Joseph’s conduct exemplary? Being so constantly exposed before his people how could he have fooled them? Apostle Amasa Lyman thought perhaps not all were fooled. He told fellow-Apostle Abraham H. Cannon: ‘Joseph Smith tried the faith of the Saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time, he had preached a powerful sermon on the Word of Wisdom, and immediately there after, he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. Some of the brethren were tried as was Abraham of old’” (Lamar Petersen, Hearts Made Glad).
Let’s consider D&C 89, which contains “a Word of Wisdom.” It teaches:
- Vs. 5: Strong drink prohibited
- Vv. 5-6: Homemade wine should be used for the sacrament (yet water is used in services despite God’s directive)
- V. 7: Strong drink is made for washing the body
- V. 8: Don’t use tobacco, but use it for sick livestock
- V. 9: “Hot drinks” are prohibited
- V. 11: Herbs and fruit should be eaten in season
- Vv. 12-13: Meat should be eaten “sparingly,” only in winter or when there is no food
- V. 14: Grain should be eaten
- V. 15: Meat should be used “only in times of famine and excess of hunger”
In verse 9, “hot drinks” are indeed prohibited. So why do many Mormons abstain from coffee and tea but imbibe “hot” chocolate. Notice, coffee and tea are not directly mentioned in the text and must be inferred. Second President Brigham Young explains it this way:
“This Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of hot drinks and tobacco. I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee—the beverages in common use” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 212).
This interpretation appears to be an example of eisegesis (reading “into” the passage) rather than exegesis (taking meaning “out of” the passage). It seems selective to state that tea and coffee are somehow banned but hot chocolate is OK. Some might suggest that tea and coffee are harmful to the body. While too much caffeine can surely have a negative effect, there is scientific evidence that some tea and coffee can actually be beneficial to the body.
Consider the other aspects supposedly revealed by the Word of Wisdom. How many Mormons:
- Use alcohol to wash their bodies?
- Use tobacco for sick livestock?
- Eat fruits and vegetables only in season?
- Eat meat only in the winter or times of famine.
Some have insisted that Joseph Smith was way ahead of his time. According to the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, the evidence shows that there were temperance societies around during Smith’s day proclaiming the negative effects of alcohol and tobacco. It seems that Smith was nothing more than a product of his day. On their website, they write:
“In recent years a number of scholars have contended that the revelation is an outgrowth of the temperance movement of the early nineteenth century. According to Dean D. McBrien …. the Word of Wisdom was a remarkable distillation of the prevailing thought of frontier America in the early 1830’s. Each provision in the revelation, he claimed, pertained to an item which had formed the basis of widespread popular agitation in the early 1830’s:
A survey of the situation existing at Kirtland when the revelation came forth is a sufficient explanation for it. The temperance wave had for some time been engulfing the West…. In 1826 Marcus Morton had founded the American Temperance Society…. In June, 1830, the Millennial Harbinger quoted … an article from the Philadelphia ‘Journal of Health,’… which article most strongly condemned the use of alcohol, tobacco, the eating intemperately of meats…. Temperance Societies were organized in great numbers during the early thirties, six thousand being formed in one year… On October 6, 1830, the Kirtland Temperance Society was organized with two hundred thirty nine members…. This society at Kirtland was a most active one…. it revolutionized the social customs of the neighborhood.”
McBrien then goes ahead to point out that the Temperance Society succeeded in eliminating a distillery in Kirtland on February 1, 1833, just twenty-seven days before the Latter-day Saint revelation counseling abstinence was announced, and that the distillery at Mentor, near Kirtland, was also closed at the same time (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp. 39-40 ).
In his book The Burned-Over District, pages 211-12, Whitney R. Cross points out that ‘the temperance movement … began much earlier… During the 1830’s it attained national scope. … Further, if alcohol was evil because it frustrated the Lord’s design for the human body, other drugs like tea, coffee, and tobacco must be equally wrong … Josiah Bissell…. had even before the 1831 revival ‘got beyond Temperance to the Cold Water Society—no tea, coffee or any other slops.’ ” (All ellipses in original.)
If Joseph Smith was a prophet and his revelation was ahead of its time, then why were so many similar ideas floating around during his day?
According to President Heber J. Grant as quoted in a church manual, obeying the Word of Wisdom could be the difference between having enough money to pay the bills or going bankrupt. He said,
“Many a professed Latter-day Saint in hard times has lost the home that sheltered his wife and his children, who, if he had observed the Word of Wisdom, would have been able to save it. The violation of the Word of Wisdom has meant the difference between failure and success. By observing the Word of Wisdom, sufficient money to pay the interest on the mortgage would have been forthcoming, with additional help to take care of his family and farm” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p. 193).
This is such a serious command in Mormonism that one’s personal salvation is at stake. President George Albert Smith explained,
“I sometimes wonder if Latter-day Saints realize that [the Word of Wisdom] has been given to us for our exaltation; not only for our temporal blessing, but to prepare us for spiritual life” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, p. 207).
The view of these LDS leaders is contrary to the Bible. In Matthew 15:11, Jesus explained, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them,but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” God is more interested in our hearts than he is in determining whether we’ve imbibed hot drinks or partook of bar-b-q during the summer!
Being under the influence of alcohol weakens your judgment and self-control. Drinking can also lead to alcoholism, which destroys individuals and families.
I agree that abuse of alcohol is wrong. Yet while Mormons (and anyone else) are free to be teetotalers, to create an absolute “it is always wrong” prohibition once more smacks of legalism. The Bible speaks about alcohol negatively only when it is abused. Regardless of the argument that the alcoholic content of the wine in Jesus’s day was less than it is today, it was still possible to get “drunk” on it. In Acts chapter 2, the apostles were accused of being drunk on the Day of Pentecost . And Ephesians 5:18 commands the Christian to not get “drunk” on wine. We must also wonder what Isaiah meant in chapter 25 when, speaking of the future, he wrote, “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.” As mentioned earlier, Joseph Smith’s propensity to drink is discussed in a forthright way. Smith even had a distillery in his home, even after the Word of Wisdom was supposedly given by God!
Honestly, every person needs to know him or herself well enough to be able to create boundaries. To speak as if alcohol is evil enough to prohibit someone getting a temple recommend–necessary for getting to the celestial kingdom–is nothing less than a silly man-made regulation. As Colossians 2:16-23 says, in part, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink. . . Since you died with Christ to the elementary spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Don not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with us, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
Avoid any drink, drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that is used to produce a “high” or other artificial effect that may harm your body or mind. Some of these include marijuana, hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals. Use of these substances can lead to addiction and can destroy your mind and your body.
Addictions harm your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. They damage relationships with family and friends and diminish your feelings of self-worth. They limit your ability to make choices for yourself. If you are struggling with any type of addiction, seek help from your parents and your bishop now.
Your emotional health is also important and may affect your spiritual and physical well-being. Disappointment and occasional sadness are part of this mortal life. However, if you have prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or depression, talk with your parents and your bishop and seek help.
In all aspects of your life, seek healthy solutions to problems. Do all you can to safeguard your physical and emotional health so that you can fulfill your divine potential as a son or daughter of God.
Sound advice that any clergy member or school counselor would recommend.
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:43
The Savior suffered for our sins and gave His life for us. This great sacrifice is called the Atonement. Through the Atonement, you can receive forgiveness and be cleansed from your sins when you repent. Repentance is more than simply acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness
Technically, according to Mormonism, the “Atonement” is nothing more than the ability for all people on earth to receive a resurrection after death. The only way to truly receive forgiveness and be cleansed from sins is to repent and stop doing the sin.
Consider the verse quoted at the beginning of this section. According to D&C 58:43, a person is truly repentant only when he or she confesses and then forsakes the sin
President Spencer W. Kimball cites this verse at the beginning of chapter 12 in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness. In the chapter titled “Abandonment of Sin,” he writes, “In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his way and started on a new path. Someone has said that there is only one way to quit a bad habit and that is to stop” (p. 163).
He explains on page 203 how “repentance must be wholehearted.” He explained,
“Repentance must involve an all-out, total surrender to the program of the Lord. That transgressor is not fully repentant who neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, fails in his family prayers, does not sustain the authorities of the Church, breaks the Word of Wisdom, does not love the Lord nor his fellowmen. A reforming adulterer who drinks or curses is not repentant. The repenting burglar who has sex play is not ready for forgiveness. God cannot forgive unless the transgressor shows a true repentance which spreads to all areas of his life.”
Earlier we told the story Kimball gave about the army soldier and his officer. To quote him again, he said, “‘I don’t want you to die, and I don’t want you merely to do the best you can, and I don’t want you to try. Now, the request is a reasonable one; the message is important; the distance is not far; you are able-bodied; you can do what I have ordered. Now get out of here and accomplish your mission’” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 164).
In the next section of this chapter, Kimball explained how there is “no forgiveness without repentance.” He said that “the Lord cannot save men in their sins but only from their sins” (p. 166). And on page 169, he explains how “forgiveness (is) cancelled on reversion to sin.” He quoted D&C 82:7, which says that “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”
In a church manual, Kimball is quoted further:
“In his preface to modern revelation, the Lord outlined what is one of the most difficult requirements in true repentance. For some it is the hardest part of repentance, because it puts one on guard for the remainder of his life. The Lord says: ‘. . . I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.’ (D&C 1:31–32. Italics added.) This scripture is most precise. First, one repents. Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point. This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 43. Ellipsis in original).
You might be a typical young person who realizes that he or she is not perfect. Welcome to the club! Everyone who is breathing with a beating heart struggles with sin and is tempted to revert to the ways of old. As we said earlier, even the apostle Paul struggled with sin. Perhaps you think that it is just a matter of time before you can conquer sin. You might believe that when you get older, you’ll be better at not sinning or even desiring to sin. To show how inaccurate an assessment that is. I have an assignment for you. The next time you go to a church service, find the oldest person there. Ask if that person has conquered their sins. I’m guessing that, if they are honest, they will tell you that they too have not yet arrived in eradicating sin from their lives.
It is motivated by love for God and the sincere desire to obey His commandments. Satan wants you to think that you cannot repent, but that is absolutely not true. The Savior has promised you forgiveness if you will humble yourself and make the effort that repentance requires. If you have sinned, the sooner you repent, the sooner you begin to make your way back and find the peace and joy that come with forgiveness. If you delay repentance, you may lose blessings, opportunities, and spiritual guidance. You may also become further entangled in sinful behavior, making it more difficult to find your way back.
It is admirable that a person loves God and has a sincere desire to obey God’s commandments. I am not attacking this. What I am saying, though, is the requirement mandated by the Mormon Church leaders is impossible to keep.
Some people knowingly break God’s commandments, planning to repent later, such as before they go to the temple or serve a mission. Such deliberate sin mocks the Savior’s Atonement. To repent, you need to confess your sins to the Lord. Then seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and restore as far as possible what has been damaged by your actions. As you strive to repent, seek help and counsel from your parents. Serious sins, such as sexual transgression or use of pornography, need to be confessed to your bishop. Be completely honest with him. He will help you repent. If you have a question about what should be discussed with the bishop, talk with your parents or with him.
When you do what is necessary to repent and receive forgiveness, you will know for yourself the power of the Atonement and the love God has for you. You will feel the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which will bring you great strength, and you will become more like Him
As brought out in earlier quotes, the only way to fully experience “forgiveness” the Mormon way is to forsake the sin. Latter-day Saint, have you forsaken your sins? If not, then how can you ever expect to experience true forgiveness according to your chuch leaders’ standards?
In a very sarcastic tone, Spencer Kimball mocked the view held by millions of Christians all over the world when he wrote on pages 206 in The Miracle of Forgiveness:
“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by an is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”
Kimball claimed that a belief in salvation by grace alone takes away for the need of repentance and could provide a “license for sin” via a “shallow, meaningless confession of sin.” This cannot be. Remember the story of the 16-year-old boy and his grandfather. As we discussed, would this young man have a desire to harm his grandfather as a response to his $10 million birthday present? Or would he want to do anything possible to serve this man who gave up everything in order to provide the gift?
Sabbath Day Observance
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8
The Lord has given the Sabbath day for your benefit and has commanded you to keep it holy.
Honoring the Sabbath day includes attending all your Church meetings. Go to sacrament meeting prepared to worship the Lord and partake worthily of the sacrament. During sacrament meeting, be reverent and willing to learn. Refrain from activities that would distract you or others during this sacred meeting. Be on time for your meetings. As you do these things, you invite the Spirit of the Lord to be with you.
Prepare during the week so that you can reserve Sunday for the many uplifting activities that are appropriate for the Sabbath day. Such activities include spending quiet time with your family, studying the gospel, fulfilling your Church callings and responsibilities, serving others, writing letters, writing in your journal, and doing family history work. Your behavior and dress on the Sabbath should show respect for the Lord and His holy day.
Sunday is not a day for shopping, recreation, or athletic events. Do not seek entertainment or make purchases on this day. Let others know what your standards are so they can support you. When seeking a job, share with your potential employer your desire to attend your Sunday meetings and keep the Sabbath day holy. Whenever possible, choose a job that does not require you to work on Sundays.
Observing the Sabbath will bring you closer to the Lord and to your family. It will give you an eternal perspective and spiritual strength.
Keeping the Sabbath is another legalistic issue in Mormonism. First of all, we should point out that the “Sabbath” according to the Bible lands on Saturday. Christians did move their worship day to Sunday but, technically, this is not the Sabbath of old. In Jesus’s day, there was a group of people known as the Pharisees who turned this into a day filled with regulations of do’s and don’ts. Jesus didn’t agree with their regulations and purposely did things to defile their understanding of this day. Mark 2:23-26 explains,
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ 25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Jesus also healed on the Sabbath, causing the Jewish leaders to become indignant. Human regulations placed upon something good—a Sabbath, which was meant for rest of God’s people—were condemned. So when the LDS Church says a person can’t shop or recreate but must instead write letters and do family history work, I must ask, “Where in the Bible can we find instructions telling us such things?” Is this not similar to the situation of the Pharisees?
There is nothing wrong with worshipping with other believers on Sunday and partaking in a day of rest. The body cannot operate 24/7 at the pace we set for ourselves in this modern day. A person who doesn’t get enough rest is bound to break down. But to turn what God intended for good and turn it into a day full of rules and regulations is nothing less than legalism.
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17
Service to others is an important characteristic of a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is willing to bear other people’s burdens and to comfort those who need comfort. Often Heavenly Father will meet the needs of others through you.
There are many ways to serve others. Some of the most important service you can give will be within your own home. You can also serve in your Church assignments, school, and community. You can serve by doing temple and family history work. You can serve by sharing the gospel with others now and as a full-time missionary in the future. Often the most meaningful service is expressed through simple, everyday acts of kindness. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost each day to know whom to serve and how to help meet their needs. Follow the example of the Savior as you serve others.
As you devote yourself to serving others, you will draw closer to Heavenly Father. Your heart will be filled with love. You will learn that service and sacrifice are ways to overcome selfishness. You will enjoy happiness that comes only from giving service to God and others. Your capacities will increase, and you will be an instrument in God’s hands to bless the lives of His children.
Serving others is a good thing.
The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.
I have always taught my students and children that they ought to go ahead and have as much sex as they want. I then pause before adding, “your future spouse to have.” Why is it that so many want to play the field but, when it’s time to look for a spouse, they aren’t necessarly looking for someone who has plenty of sexual experience?
Read 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 to see the standards that God intends for our sexual relationships and the importance of keeping the marriage bed pure, as Hebrews 13:4 puts it.
When you are sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of an eternal and loving family.
According to Mormonism, marriage in the temple is the way to start an eternal family. As stated earlier, an “eternal” family is an impossible concept. If your parents, grandparents, and children all get married for eternity so they can begin their worlds, then how will they ever be with you? The illogical nature of such a structure has never been fully considered by many Latter-day Saints.
You protect yourself from the spiritual and emotional damage that come from sharing sexual intimacy outside of marriage. You also protect yourself from harmful diseases. Remaining sexually pure helps you to be confident and truly happy and improves your ability to make good decisions now and in the future.
The Lord’s standard regarding sexual purity is clear and unchanging. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Do not allow the media, your peers, or others to persuade you that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable. It is not. In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious. They defile the sacred power God has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5).
Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.
Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.
While I agree with the vast majority of these three paragraphs, the last sentence is simply not true. Remember how we talked about lust earlier in this review? Lust is a sexual sin. Does this mean that every time a Christian lusts that the Spirit of God leaves him or her alone? If this is the case, who can ever have the Spirit of God because we are, by nature, sinners through and through.
Avoid situations that invite increased temptation, such as late-night or overnight activities away from home or activities where there is a lack of adult supervision. Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in any type of pornography. The Spirit can help you know when you are at risk and give you the strength to remove yourself from the situation. Have faith in and be obedient to the righteous counsel of your parents and leaders.
Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.
Victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent. If you have been a victim of abuse, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult, and seek your bishop’s counsel immediately. They can support you spiritually and assist you in getting the protection and help you need. The process of healing may take time. Trust in the Savior. He will heal you and give you peace.
If you are tempted to commit any form of sexual transgression, seek help from your parents and bishop. Pray to your Father in Heaven, who will help you resist temptation and overcome inappropriate thoughts and feelings. If you have committed sexual transgression, talk to your bishop now and begin the process of repentance so that you can find peace and have the full companionship of the Spirit.
Make a personal commitment to be sexually pure. By your words and actions, encourage others to do the same.
Growing up and reaching your sexual peak—which happens in the early 20s for men and women— before you are married can be very difficult. Sex is one of those gifts that can be badly mishandled and a cause for grief in the years to come. Following God’s way rather than the world’s is so very important.
Tithes and Offerings
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, . . . and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing. Malachi 3:10
Choosing to live the law of tithing will be a great blessing throughout your life. A tithe is one-tenth of your income. In order to enter the temple, you must be a full-tithe payer.
Paying tithing is a sacred privilege. When you pay tithing, you show gratitude for all that God has given you and return to Him a portion of what you have received. Tithing is used to build temples and meetinghouses, translate and publish the scriptures, do missionary and family history work, and in other ways build God’s kingdom on earth.
Your attitude is important in paying tithing. Pay it because you love the Lord and have faith in Him. Pay it willingly with a thankful heart. Pay it first, even when you think you do not have enough money to meet your other needs. Doing so will help you develop greater faith, overcome selfishness, and be more receptive to the Spirit.
Each year, schedule a time for tithing settlement with your bishop. This is a meeting in which you review your contributions and declare whether you have paid a full tithe.
Tithing settlement is when a person/family “settles” with the church and contributes the rest of the 10% tithe that wasn’t paid during the year. Without the tithe, a person cannot get a temple recommend. Where in the Bible can we find Jewish believers not being permitted to enter the temple’s courts merely because they drank wine or hot drinks? Or because they did not wear special undergarments? Or that they did not pay a full tithe?
Honestly, this is not a biblical concept. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Of course, financially supporting a church by giving a portion of one’s income is admirable. According to the Bible, generous giving is certainly commanded. But to turn something meant for good into a legalistic rule of minutia is never what God intended. To withhold a temple recommend—a small card needed in Mormonism if a person hopes to attain exaltation—to those not paying the whole tithe is quite cruel. In Mormonism, obeying the rules is what a person does in order to somehow have a hope for the celestial kingdom. In Christianity, obeying what God commands is what a person does because of a person’s understanding of the sacrifice made by Jesus to forgive him or her of the stain of sin. The motivation is completely different.
Obey the law of the fast by fasting each month, if health permits. Fast Sunday is usually on the first Sunday of the month. A proper fast day observance includes not eating or drinking for two consecutive meals and giving a generous fast offering to help care for those in need. Fast with a purpose. Begin and end your fast with prayer, expressing gratitude and asking for help with special needs you or others may have. Fasting will strengthen your self-discipline, fortify you against temptations, and bring the Lord’s blessings into your life. As you obey the law of tithing and the law of the fast, the Lord will bless you both spiritually and temporally.
Once more, the LDS Church has taken something that, on the surface, is good (fasting) and turned it into a legalistic requirement (“if health permits”). Jesus gave a parable that ties both tithing and fasting together (as the LDS Church has done in this section of the booklet). This is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector told by Jesus in Luke 18:9-14:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else,(Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’”
Work and Self-Reliance
Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent. Doctrine and Covenants 60:13
Work is honorable. Developing the capacity to work will help you contribute to the world in which you live. It will bring you an increased sense of self-worth. It will bless you and your family, both now and in the future.
Learning to work begins in the home. Help your family by willingly participating in the work necessary to maintain a home. Learn early to handle your money wisely and live within your means. Follow the teachings of the prophets by paying your tithing, avoiding debt, and saving for the future.
Set high goals for yourself, and be willing to work hard to achieve them. Develop self-discipline, and be dependable. Do your best in your Church callings, schoolwork, employment, and other worthwhile pursuits. Young men should be willing to do what is needed to be prepared to serve a fulltime mission. Heavenly Father has given you gifts and talents and knows what you are capable of achieving. Seek His help and guidance as you work to achieve your goals.
The Lord has commanded us not to be idle. Idleness can lead to inappropriate behavior, damaged relationships, and sin. One form of idleness is spending excessive amounts of time in activities that keep you from productive work, such as using the Internet, playing video games, and watching television.
Do not waste your time and money in gambling. Gambling is wrong and should not be used as a form of entertainment. It is addictive and can lead to lost opportunities, ruined lives, and broken families. It is false to believe that you can get something for nothing.
One of the blessings of work is developing self-reliance. When you are self-reliant, you use the blessings and abilities God has given you to care for yourself and your family and to find solutions for your own problems. Self-reliance does not mean that you must be able to do all things on your own. To be truly self-reliant, you must learn how to work with others and turn to the Lord for His help and strength.
Remember that God has a great work for you to do. He will bless you in your efforts to accomplish that work.
Generally, I find no problems with what is said here. Being industrious and self-sufficient is a biblical principle, especially in the book of Proverbs.
Go Forward with Faith
By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Alma 37:6
The standards presented in this booklet are a guide to help you make correct choices. Review the standards often and ask yourself, “Am I living the way the Lord wants me to live?” and “How have I been blessed by living these standards?”
To help you become all that the Lord wants you to become, kneel each morning and night in prayer to your Father in Heaven. Express to Him your gratitude and the desires of your heart. He is the source of all wisdom. He will hear and answer your prayers.
Study the scriptures each day and apply what you read to your life. The scriptures are a powerful source of personal revelation and guidance and a constant strength to your testimony.
Strive each day to be obedient. Follow the standards in this booklet, and encourage others to live them as well. Remember the covenants that you have made and that you have the opportunity to renew each week when you partake of the sacrament. Strive to keep these covenants. If you make a mistake, don’t give up on yourself. Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to seek His help and keep trying.
When you get baptized and take the sacrament, you make covenants (promises) that certainly will be impossible to keep. So you repent. But as the Doctrine and Covenants and Spencer Kimball strictly taught, repentance is only good if a person forsakes the sin. And for the advice that the church gives in the last sentence (“keep trying”), we saw how an attitude of “to ‘try’ is weak. . . . We must always do better than we can.”
To fulfill the gospel of Mormonism, it is vital to keep the commandments continually (D&C 25:15). When you don’t, you can’t know that you are forgiven. The message of Christianity is that you can be forgiven through faith in Christ. Then you can keep the commandments. Which way makes more biblical sense? Continually failing and never knowing if you’ve got what it takes to attain the very best place your religion has to offer? Or knowing that God who loves you so much wants to have a relationship with you. All you need to do is cash the check, given to you with no obligation by the Savior! And the wonderful promise given in 1 John 5:13 is that we might then “know” that we have eternal life.
When possible, attend the temple and feel the joy and peace that come from serving in the house of the Lord. Prepare yourself for the temple covenants you will make in the future.
Temple “covenants” that, unfortunately, will be impossible to keep by anyone but Jesus.
Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, commit to serve a full-time mission. This is a priesthood duty. Keep yourself clean and worthy, and work diligently to prepare yourself to represent the Lord as a missionary.
In all circumstances, follow the teachings of the prophets, the other authorities of the Church, and your local leaders. They will lead you in paths of happiness.
Be humble and willing to listen to the Holy Ghost and respond to His promptings. Place the wisdom of the Lord above your own wisdom.
As you do these things, the Lord will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself. He will increase your opportunities, expand your vision, and strengthen you. He will give you the help you need to meet your trials and challenges. You will gain a stronger testimony and find true joy as you come to know your Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, and feel Their love for you.
My intention in writing this review is to get the Latter-day Saint young person to understand that there are important differences between the teachings of Mormonism and the Bible. If Mormonism diverts from biblical truth, then it ought not to be followed. If you are a Latter-day Saint young person, let me encourage you to read the Bible. See what it says. Take the book of Romans challenge available on our website. Determine truth by studying the issues, as 2 Timothy 2:15 (“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth) says. In all things, make sure what you believe is supported by the Word of God.