Saturday, March 7, 2009

Salvation For Satan?

I have been discussing the idea of salvation by faith and not by works a lot lately. It seems that each time the topic comes up, a LDS person has to ask, “If all I have to do it believe, why then are the demons and Satan not saved when the Bible says that they believe in God?” I think this is such a strange question for them to ask. Let’s take a look at it and answer it from the LDS perspective.

From the LDS point of view, you don’t really even have to get into the discussion of Faith vs. Works. The answer is very simple. They (demons and Satan) are actually not eligible for salvations no matter what they do.

In the Pearl of Great Price you will find the Mormon account of our “pre-mortal” existence. It tells of a grand council in Heaven before the world was created. At this meeting, two plans were presented to God. The first was from Satan who had a plan that provided a way for everyone to be redeemed and not one soul would be lost. The cost of his plan would be our agency to choose for ourselves and he would take all of the glory for himself. The other plan was from Jesus who offered himself as a savior, leaving our agency intact and giving the glory to Heavenly Father.

God chose Jesus’ plan and Satan rebelled, becoming the devil and a war started. Satan managed to lead 1/3 of the host of heaven away from God and they were all cast out of heaven, becoming demons. Once they were cast out, they lost what is called their “first estate”. In the October 2006 General Conference, Elder L. Tom Perry said the following about the first estate.

“We first heard about the plan of salvation before we were born, in what the scriptures call our first estate (see Abraham 3:26). What occurred in this first estate is dimly understood, but we do know that we lived there as spirits, children of our Heavenly Father, and we made certain steps of advancement to prepare for the opportunity of housing our eternal spirits in earthly bodies.”

He goes on to say,

“We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not, however, like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him and enjoy all the blessings that He enjoys without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body.”

As Elder Perry pointed out, those who have been or will be born on this earth kept their “first estate”. Once Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven, they lost their “first estate” and they were no longer able to be born into a physical body and learn to be like God. No amount of works or faith can change their eternal fate and they will never experience salvation.

If this is the Mormon answer to the question and under their own doctrine, such salvation is not possible for Satan and his demons, why then even ask it? By asking it, they unwittingly poke a hole in their own argument of why “faith alone” is not true because their alternative is not a possible solution.

Do Satan and his demons believe in God? They certainly do. They are part of the unseen spiritual realm which I think has access to both the spiritual world and ours which is something hard for us to comprehend because we only have visual access to our world (with very few exceptions). I imagine this takes them out of the faith category and puts them into the knowledge one. They KNOW who Jesus is and that is why they fight so hard against what God is doing for and through His people. Unfortunately for them, Jesus came to save the human race and they are not part of that.

I have heard it said that Satan cannot be saved because he will never submit himself to God’s will which is part of being “born again”. Knowing what I do about his character and goal, I would say that this statement makes perfect sense to me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grace and Salvation

I have been looking into the topic of Grace and the roll it plays in salvation lately and have spent some time in my mind contrasting the Mormon view with that of the Christians. I’m going to try to put my thoughts on paper here the best I can about this subject. Let’s start by quoting a 2001 Mormon General Conference talk. Keep in mind the highlighted section when reading the story of the school boy and see if you can find the contradiction.

"I am profoundly grateful for the principle of saving grace. Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“ ‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’

“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

“ ‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”
"James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 18)

The first part of the quote establishes the LDS view on salvation and the roll grace plays in it. He chooses to quote 2 Nephi 25:23 that says, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

Notice the end of the story. Tom, who is obviously a representation of Christ, volunteered to take the punishment for the small boy. The boy did nothing to deserve this intercession but Tom gave it willingly despite the wrong done by the boy. There was no works involved, no “after all we can do”. Instead, the only thing the small boy did was acknowledge (after the punishment has been handed out) he sinned and proclaim his love and gratitude for Tom and what he did for him forever.

This story seems to line up more with the Christian view

Romans 10:9-10
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Foust goes on the quote another Mormon leader by saying…

With reference to our mortal acts and the Atonement, President J. Reuben Clark Jr. contributed this valuable insight when he said:

“I feel that [the Savior] will give that punishment which is the very least that our transgression will justify. I believe that he will bring into his justice all of the infinite love and blessing and mercy and kindness and understanding which he has. …

“And on the other hand, I believe that when it comes to making the rewards for our good conduct, he will give us the maximum that it is possible to give, having in mind the offense which we have committed.”

If the above statement is true, then there is no hope for salvation as a member of the Mormon church. It is a LDS belief that “no unclean thing can dwell with God”. If that is true, and the power of grace does not kick in until you have done “all that you can do”, then where is your hope? Can you ever really say that you have exhausted all of your resources and done absolutely everything in your power to live the “law” and be perfect (sinless)? If your answer to this is no, then it is my hope that you will see the freedom and peace Christ offers everyone in the Bible. Paul sums it up so well in the following versus.

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:13
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Christ often speaks of the folly found in trying to keep the law as a way to gain salvation. It is not found in the law, but in a sincere belief in Him who died for us even though we can do nothing to deserve or re-pay such a gift.

In the 29 years I spent in the Mormon church, there was never peace in my life. No amount of work or effort was ever enough. Instead of encouragement, reprimand and threats of Satan’s power to control were often given as motivation to do more.

Does Christ want us to be good, moral, and righteous people? Of course He does. The question that begs to be asked then is; are we striving to do and be those things by trying to live by the law and be sin free? Or, are we alive in Christ and because we recognize the grace given to us once we believe on His name, there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve what has been already given to us?

The idea that we can in some way, earn part of our own salvation diminishes the sacrifice made on the cross and limits the power God has to save us.

I see the following verses as Christ's direct words to people who put too much emphasis on the law like Mormons and many other legalistic religions.

Matthew 11:28-30
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tithing and Paid Clergy

While serving a LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain; I had the chance to speak with thousands of people concerning the LDS church. I am regularly reminded of things we would focus on and teach. I don’t remember this actually being in the discussions taught to potential converts but one of the things we would make sure to mention is that the LDS church does not have a paid clergy and that it is run by an all voluntary group of men and women. I normally would not have a problem with this but there are a few things that have stuck out in my mind that now make me wonder why it is set up this way.

I have been attending a non-denominational church with my wife and I am amazed at the depth and quality of teaching they do there. They explain and teach with such clarity. Each sermon or lesson is firmly rooted in multiple scriptures which are often explained using the original Hebrew or Greek text to help ensure that the correct connotation of key words are understood. Listening and taking in this information has been amazing. Here is where I am going with this. In the LDS church, every Sunday is like “open mic” night, where amateur speakers are given 5-20 minutes to teach. Some take this very seriously and spend a good amount of time preparing but a large percentage of those asked to speak probably spend only a few hours on their talk at best. The problem with this is that there is no real depth and quality of teaching which leads to members who are not fed spiritually. There also is no quality control so the person selected that Sunday could slip in many opinions or bad interpretations of scripture and doctrine. I think this is part of the reason it is practically impossible to pin down Mormon doctrine. 100+ years of “un-official” teaching will do that. If you look back on the past 5-10 years of General Conference where the prophet and apostles speak, you will see the same basic teachings time and time again. No depth, no substance, just the same lifeless words taught just 6 months before. Why is that? Should the “true church” be able to give their members more? I certainly think so and I would expect them to.

The other thing is part of the temple endowment ceremony (before 1990 when it was removed). I think I have talked about this before but it applies here so I will just mention it again. In the endowment, Satan paid a “sectarian minister” to lead away those looking for God by using false teachings and doctrine. Why put that image and idea into every stalwart LDS member who went to the temple? What was the purpose of that? (You can read the actuall transcript by going to my "temple" section and reading about the changes made over the years.)

With those things in mind, let’s take a look at the following verses from the Bible paying special attention to verse 4.

2 Cronicles 31:2-12

2 Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, [a] to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the LORD's dwelling. 3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD.

4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.

5 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. 6 The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps. 7 They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel.
9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 10 and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over."
11 Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done. 12 Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts.

So, those who lived in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas brought their tithes, which included many different things to the priests and Levites so they could divide it amongst themselves so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.

I find this interesting because they were told to take the tithes given by the people and use it so that they would not have to worry about those basic needs and be able to devote the greater majority of their time studying, teaching and administering the Law of the Lord. This is exactly what churches with paid clergy do with the tithes and offerings they bring in and the amount of preparation and care given to those they pastor can be easily seen.

Why then do Mormons not do the same thing? Interestingly enough, they used to.

D&C 42:71-73
71 And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families asupported out of the property which is bconsecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned;
72 Or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop.
73 And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.

I have not been able to find when and why this changed but it appears that for many years the LDS church did the same thing that they later taught was an abomination in their temple. I will keep looking to see if I can find anything authoritative on why this change happened and post it if I find it.

I don’t think that this is a huge issue personally except for the fact that the members of the LDS church are not getting fed in the way they could or should be and that is a shame. I merely bring it up as another example of where the LDS church strays from the Bible and short changes its faithful tithe payers in the process. Those who have grown up LDS unfortunately have no idea what kind of understanding and knowledge they are missing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

It seems like I keep reading about fruits and vines lately so I thought I would post something that came to my mind this morning. I think everyone knows the phrase, “by their fruits you will know them”. It is a very common phrase in the LDS church and other religious circles. It is something that is used in both a positive and a negative context and can often be self serving as I'm sure some will say that about what I am going to say.

While reading the following passage I had a moment of clarity which is happening more often.

Matthew 7:15-20

15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

17Likewise EVERY good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree CANNOT bear bad fruit, and a bad tree CANNOT bear good fruit.

19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

I’d like to focus some attention on verses 17 and 18. I added some emphasis to highlight some key words. If we are to believe these verses, then I think all would agree on the basic premise that good tree = good fruit and bad tree = bad fruit.

The question I had was; where does the tree get its nourishment? The food it eats is in the soil where it is planted and the roots are what not only anchors the tree but feeds it. Following basic logic, if the food in the soil is not good or sufficient then the tree will be weak and lacking in the ability to produce fruit at all since all of its energy must be spent in just staying alive. If the roots stay at the surface and do not go deep into the soil then it will be vulnerable when droughts, storms and other problems come, which is inevitable.

Understanding this we can also conclude that…

Good food+deep roots = strong tree & good fruit
Bad food+shallow roots = weak tree & bad fruit or no fruit at all

Why am I taking my time to explain this? Because I think it has a direct relationship to Mormonism. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jesus, in the same breath, warns us about false prophets and then tells us how to discern who they are. I have spent almost a year now talking about the Mormon tree’s roots, what it eats, and the fruit it ultimately bears. I have had people ask me in the past, and I think I even blogged about it once, what were some good things in the LDS church? I used to try to find a few “good fruits” but have come to understand that it is incapable of bringing forth good fruits because the food it eats (doctrine, teachings and rituals) contain poison that cripples it. It is further damaged by its roots (history) that are rotten and now only remain on the surface to try to survive.

Again talking about fruit, Matthew 12:33-37 says:

33"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

I know that Mormons look to their leaders, past as present, with adoration and honor but this can only be because they do not know what their past really looked like and who these men were and are still today. It is my hope that some will be filled with enough curiosity to look for themselves at what their church is really founded on and what kind of soil they are taking their “nourishment” from.

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. I can only imagine how black and diseased the hearts of the LDS prophets are to have started and now continue a church founded on false doctrine and deceit. One day, those who aided in the proliferation of the Mormon church will have to give an account of the things they said and did. This blog is my attempt to undo the part I played in "spreading the gospel" so I will not be condemned by my words while I was LDS.

I cannot say enough how glad I am to be free from that toxic religion. While my tree is not yet fully healed from years of malnourishment, it is starting to become stronger and the roots are searching deeper into rich soil to find living water.