by Sharon Lindbloom
28 June 2021
The New Testament apostle Paul told the Corinthians,
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
Paul’s faith and testimony of Jesus was anchored in Christ’s death on the cross for the salvation of the lost:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 22-24)
Paul’s testimony stands in stark contrast to the testimony of Quentin Cook, a modern-day apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a new Church News video made in honor of the death of Mormonism’s first prophet, Joseph Smith, Quentin Cook testifies,
“My faith and my testimony is in Jesus Christ. I bear my solemn witness that Jesus Christ lives, that it’s the doctrine and the principles and the ordinances that He provided for us that will allow us to return to live with the Father and the Son.” (“A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”)
Mormonism’s third Article of Faith supports Mr. Cook’s statement:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
The faith’s fourth Article of Faith provides the first principles and ordinances that Mormons believe were given to Joseph Smith by God (i.e., faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, and reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost), but there are many more than this. Joseph Smith taught that the principles of Mormonism’s restored gospel are like rungs on a ladder:
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel–you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 268)
The first four rungs of this ladder are spelled out in the fourth Article of Faith. Two of them are principles, two are ordinances. Mormonism’s additional “ordinance” rungs include things like priesthood ordination, washing and anointing, temple sealing, and temple endowment – all, along with baptism and confirmation, essential to a person’s salvation/exaltation.
In addition to the two “principles” listed in the fourth Article of Faith, more principles can be found in the LDS church’s book titled, “Gospel Principles.” This book consists of 47 chapters, each one detailing important principles of Mormonism. The book includes principles like eternal families, free agency, the correct way to pray, living prophets, continuing revelation, obedience to church leaders, extra-biblical scripture, apostacy of the Christian church, restoration of the true church, the sacrament, fasting, tithing, etc.
Joseph Smith taught that in order to arrive at the top of this prodigious ladder, you must keep climbing until you learn (and achieve) all of the principles of exaltation. And current LDS apostle Quintin Cook agrees. “…[I]t’s the doctrine and the principles and the ordinances…that will allow us to return to live with the Father and the Son,” he says.
The biblical apostle Paul’s testimony was of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Where, in the midst of all these LDS ordinances and principles of which Quentin Cook speaks, does the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ come in? The LDS church likes to quote the Book of Mormon, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26), but here, on this Mormon ladder of salvation/exaltation that will allow a person “to return to live with the Father and the Son,” Christ is a bit difficult to find.
Mormon doctrine does include teachings on Christ and His atonement, and these should not be overlooked. Yet while Jesus is part of the bigger picture of LDS salvation/exaltation, He really gets lost in the clutter of all the principles and ordinances that make up the LDS exaltation to-do list.
There is such a contrast between the testimony of Mormonism’s modern-day apostle Quentin Cook and that of the biblical apostle Paul – or the biblical testimony as a whole, for that matter. According to Mormonism, Jesus delivered doctrines, principles, and ordinances to aid people in achieving salvation. According to the Bible, Jesus delivered me.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death [i.e., sin]? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:24—8:2)
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
Jesus Himself was “delivered up for our trespasses”:
“It [faith] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 4:24-5:2)
By way of illustration, the contrast between the biblical apostle Paul’s testimony and LDS apostle Cook’s testimony can be found in a story that was often told by late Christian apologist Ron Carlson. In the story, Dr. Carlson’s friend, Lou, explained how biblical Christianity differs from all the other religions in the world. While the religion represented in this story is Buddhism, the principles also apply to Mormonism.
“When I was a Buddhist I felt like I was in the middle of a large lake. I was drowning and I didn’t know how to swim. As I struggled to keep my head above water, I looked out towards the shore and saw Buddha walking up to the edge of the lake. I was going under for the third time, when suddenly Buddha began shouting out instructions to me, teaching me how to swim. Buddha shouted, ‘Kick your legs and paddle your arms.’ But then Buddha said, ‘Lou, you must make it to shore by yourself.’ As I desperately struggled to follow the instructions of Buddha, I looked out towards the shore again, but this time I saw Jesus Christ walking towards the edge of the lake. However, Jesus did not stop at the edge of the lake. Jesus dove into the lake and he swam out and rescued me! And once Jesus had brought me safely back to shore, then he taught me how to swim, so that I could go back and rescue others!”
LDS apostle Cook’s testimony about the “principles and ordinances” that Jesus provided can be likened to the instructions that Buddha gave Lou: kick your legs, paddle your arms, and get yourself to shore. The biblical apostle Paul’s testimony is that Jesus jumped in and rescued him. Jesus delivered Paul from certain death. And Jesus is willing to deliver you, too, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13). If you recognize the truth that you cannot kick and paddle yourself to shore via Mormonism’s principles and ordinances, call out to Jesus. According to God’s mercy, He will rescue you (Titus 3:4-6).
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
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