Mormonism: The Not Even Once Club

An interesting movement is afoot in the Mormon world. Wendy Nelson, wife of Mormon apostle Russell M. Nelson, has written a children’s book on the topic of covenant-keeping. This sounds like a good fit for Mormon kids, but LDS adults are petitioning for The Not Even Once Club to be removed from the shelves of Deseret Bookstores. They say the message of the book is psychologically “damaging” to kids, and will cause them “to feel needless shame and humiliation.” Yikes.

NotEvenOnceClubAccording to Deseret Book, The Not Even Once Club is “an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them. Not even once.” As one reader explains, it tells the story of a little boy who wants to join a club of which the other kids in his Mormon ward are members. The club provides many “benefits” (like candy and games), but the only way to become part of the fun is to pledge that he will never “break the Word of Wisdom, lie, cheat, steal, do drugs, bully, dress immodestly, or break the law of chastity. Not. Even. Once.” As long as the children keep their promises, they get to be part of the club and receive “jars of pretzels and popcorn and candy” from their Primary teacher. But any instance of a child breaking his or her covenant results in expulsion from the club (and a loss of all of its benefits).

Missing from the story is any appeal to grace, forgiveness and the Atonement of Christ. Mormon parents are upset over this and the resulting message the book conveys to kids: That they can (and must) be perfect; that obedience and flawlessly keeping their covenants keeps them safely in the “club.”

The book’s publisher, Deseret Book, says there is an “emphasis on the atonement of Jesus Christ” in the back of the book, found in an included “Guide for Parents and Children.” Yet concerned Mormons say it is not enough, one explaining that this mention of the atonement is “in tiny print” coming “right after a paragraph urging exact obedience.”

The idea that one receives rewards for keeping the commandments and is deprived of them for failing to keep the commandments “is not LDS doctrine but is twisted,” wrote one commenter at the Rational Faiths blog. “It is not the [LDS] Gospel of Jesus Christ,” wrote a reviewer at Amazon.com. But unless she deliberately set out to misrepresent Mormonism, author Wendy Nelson (and probably her apostle husband), thinks the message of her book conforms to Mormon doctrine. The publisher thinks so, as well. Authoritative Mormon teachings also seem to support the premise of the book. For example:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21)

“We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 442)

“I have many times repeated what my grandfather said… ‘There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory. On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory.’ And he said, ‘If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line.’ What does that mean? It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, keeping all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel.” (George Albert Smith, Conference Reports, Oct. 1949, 5-6. See also The Presidents of the Church Teacher’s Manual, 132)

“Each command we obey sends us another rung up the ladder to perfected manhood and toward godhood; and every law disobeyed is a sliding toward the bottom where man merges into the brute world.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 153).

Indeed, while some Mormons are rightfully decrying the unbiblical message of The Not Even Once Club (i.e., necessary and attainable perfectionbased on one’s own obedience/righteousness), the Mormon Church at large seems to agree with it. As LDS blogger Edward Jones notes,

“A system that finds it necessary to assess the spiritual worthiness of individuals will almost inevitably fall back on works because they are concrete and measurable. Either you have paid your tithing or you haven’t. Only God can know whether you paid your tithing out of love, so human administrators gradually lose interest in intentions altogether. Focusing only on correct actions, we find ourselves back with the Pharisees.

“This, of course, is the current state of the Mormon church. We give constant lip service to Christ’s atonement, but our highest aspiration is never to come within a hundred feet of it. If only we can prevent people from performing wrong actions, we think, they can return safely to heaven, untouched by the world and I would add, untouched by Christ’s grace.

“This clearly is the view of Wendy Watson Nelson…”

And this is clearly the view of at least some Mormon leaders who believe they have been called and equipped by God to proclaim Gospel Truth. As Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote,

“To the saints his everlasting counsel is: Obey, obey, obey; keep the commandments; earn the attributes of godliness–and then, and then only, cometh salvation!” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:124).

Join the club? No, thank you.

It’s much better to be adopted into the family of God, made a son or daughter according to His great love and purpose, with no fear of ever being cast away. This is what God, in His magnificent mercy, offers us.

Eph1.5“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. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Forgiveness, Salvation, Worthiness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to Mormonism: The Not Even Once Club

  1. Kate says:

    Old Man,

    I don’t think anyone is saying that you were never a Christian. We don’t know what is in your heart and we don’t know what you have gone through. What I am saying is if someone deliberately shuts God out it’s not God’s fault. He is there for us. Like the prodigal son, He will welcome us home. There are however, people who confess God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. This is what I am talking about. I’m not talking about people who fall away and who God is working in. We can all fall away, but God is there for us when we turn to Him. From what you say, this very thing happened to you. It’s so hard to get across what we mean with a keyboard. I’m sorry that I have offended you, it was not my intention. I think that you misunderstand what it is we are saying.

  2. falcon says:

    Old Man,
    Your post is kind of coming out of left field for me.
    Are you implying that someone said something they really didn’t say? I’m at a loss as to what you are referring to.
    What I said as far as getting saved and behaving one’s self was me boiling down all of the theology to the basics of faith and walking in a manner in which God intended us to walk. And that all of the discussion about the details of Calvinism and Arminism is an academic exercise for me since I believe in faith followed by a life style consistent with God’s holiness.
    I have no clue as to why the things that happened to you did nor did I have any knowledge of the details of your life story when I posted.

    So forgive me but I think you’re applying a meaning to what has been written that certainly wasn’t intended by me since I know next to nothing about you.

  3. Mike R says:

    We’re here to remind the Mormon people of their peril ( Matt 24:11) , and to point them to the
    One True God . We get to share with Mormon HOW to be forgiven and receive eternal , i.e. how
    to be saved ( Eph 2:8-9) . It’s the “how ” that is the focus : Mormonism’s “plan ” of salvation
    is a system of rules , laws, regulations that Mormons must comply with in order to gain eternal
    life ( exaltation) , but true gospel as revealed in the New Testament is different . That difference
    can sometimes be blurred by the tactics of some Mormons who like to use analogies and such
    but the difference is not small , and the consequence is to serious for embracing imitations—
    Gal 1:8 .

    It’s easy for christians to get side tracked with phrases like ” once saved always saved ” , that
    can be an in house debate . But the Mormon people are in dire need of knowing the true Savior
    and the true gospel He authored —- i.e. they need to hear how to be saved . We get can share
    that good news with them here .

  4. cattyjane says:

    Sorry guys. I wasnt trying to drag in a once saved always saved discussion. I was trying to point out that the lds works for eternal progression are man made laws not commanded by God and are therefore worth nothing. I did not mean for it to take this spin.
    Old Man,
    Your awesome! Dont leave. You are needed here. Im the one that caused the trouble. Sorry. 🙁

  5. Kate says:

    Cattyjane,

    I don’t feel apologies are needed for the topic. We often take the conversation in a different direction especially after so many comments. We should be able to discuss things that come up. We all have different writing styles, personalities, and beliefs. It’s so easy to misunderstand what others are meaning in this environment. It would be easier if we were sitting in the same room together. Anyways, no worries, you didn’t do anything wrong.

  6. Old man says:

    Kate, MJP, Falcon & Mike R

    This affair has been playing on my mind for the last several hours so I thank all of you for responding so quickly. I’m quite sure that however it may have come across to me at the time, no offence was intended by anyone. I did feel however that what I said earlier in the day was not being taken seriously at all & I reacted to that. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I overreacted in which case I am probably guiltier of causing offence than any of you. It’s a fact that sometimes when we feel misunderstood or under pressure we say things that might be better left unsaid. Over the years I’ve seen so much of the ‘easy believer’ attitude that I have perhaps become a little cynical.
    Having said that I stand by what I said concerning forgiveness & chastisement, to experience the former is wonderful but without the latter we will never grow into the spiritual adults whom God wants us to be. Please don’t think I’m saying that every Christian should needs chastisement but the Christian walk definitely does involve suffering. The tendency among many Christians is to concentrate on forgiveness almost exclusively, & to the detriment of, that other, equally important aspect, of Gods love, that of correction. Our God is indeed a loving God but His love is seen at work not only in forgiveness but equally in the way He disciplines us.

    Finally a word to cattyjane, thank you for your kind words, they are much appreciated but please, whatever you do, don’t hold yourself responsible for any of this, if anyone is guilty of stirring up a hornets nest it’s me, I’m old enough & daft enough (as we say over here) to know better. Take note of what Kate said to you, she’s spot on with her analysis.

  7. Mike R says:

    Old Man,
    I echo cattyjane , —– don’t feel you have to leave . You’ve been a blessing .

  8. falcon says:

    Kate,
    “Sitting in the same room together” ? Now that’s a scary thought! Would we have coffee and donuts? I think the only two that I’ve met personally are rick (really scary) and Sharon (not scary at all).

    Yea, about the last thing we want to is confuse a Mormon with are all of the little theological tributaries that come up when Christians begin discussing doctrine.

    Mike’s right of course. The important thing for Mormons to do is recognize who God is, what He did for us and how we are to respond. Beyond that, I stick with the eight or nine basics that I post here occasionally and that’s pretty much it.

    Let me emphasize however, I really do depend heavily on God’s grace. He sustains me and I know I don’t deserve it but it’s a free gift He offers and I’m more than willing to accept it.

  9. johnnyboy says:

    @ falcon
    As a person who is fresh out of Mormonism, I am actually very interested in how different Christian faiths interpret things such as a “once saved always saved”. This post has been informative for me.

    Also, I too come from a half Armenian catholic and half pioneer mormon family (both on my fathers side). Let’s just say that they are all kinds of messed up in religious dogma and laws. It makes for some interesting thanksgiving dinner time discussions (or yelling matches). My mormon side goes all the way back to one of Joseph’s plural wives, which I didn’t know of until recently.

    @old man
    You are a great voice on here especially for those questioning Mormonism. It would be a shame to lose you.

  10. Kate says:

    Falcon,
    I was thinking as I was cleaning the kitchen tonight. As someone who hasn’t been a Christian very long, there’s tons of stuff I don’t know. I love when the discussion gets deeper, I have learned so much. I don’t just take your word for it either, I can’t tell you how many times I have went to the Bible to verify or googled half the day away because of something grindael has posted. We talk about the LDS missionaries not laying out Mormonism, the whole truth, up front. Why should it be any different for Christinity? I want to know what Christians believe. I think questioning Mormons need to see it as well. Yes they need to know “how” but then what? What happens after the “how?”

  11. Kate says:

    Oh and I guess I could bring the coffee if you bring the donuts hahaha!

  12. Rick B says:

    Falcon said

    I think the only two that I’ve met personally are rick (really scary) and Sharon (not scary at all).

    Kate said

    I don’t just take your word for it either,

    Kate, this is one time I am saying, dont listen to Falcon, I’m not scary at all. My wife says your a dork Falcon, and she says it with great sarcasm and love.

    Kate, you can visit anytime, I will make dinner any thing you want.
    You can see a picture of me if you want to. http://www.rickthechef.com

  13. falcon says:

    Hay you guys, are you really sure you want to get deep into the weeds on Christian theology and doctrine and the various views on certain subjects?

    Won’t that just confuse these souls?

    Don’t you realize that these Mormons need milk before meat?

    I just couldn’t resist that!

  14. johnnyboy says:

    I only drink pure and delightsome milk, and I only take meat in times of famine.

  15. Kate says:

    Rick,
    If I lived closer I would take you up on your offer to cook for me! Sadly, my travel fund is empty due to my recent escapades in Europe. Maybe one day we could work that out. It would be fun to meet some of you guys!

    Falcon,
    I know the Bible mentions milk before meat, personally I prefer all of the meat upfront, I think I’m smart enough to sift through it 🙂 Of course if I have questions, I can always ask someone. BTW, I know you were only joking.

  16. MJP says:

    Folks, I think I am the one who propagated the discussion. I thought it an interesting topic, and thought others could benefit by a deeper discussion of Christianity. I never intended it to go where it did, and apologize if it offended people. I definitely think there is room for disagreement on the matter, as it is not one of the key aspects of Christianity.

    I would say the only key areas are defining who Christ was and who God is (Trinity), how we are saved (faith/belief– necessity of works after belief an open question), and the Bible (its fullness and it being the literal word of God).

    Beyond that, there’s room for disagreement.

    Anyway, Old Man, you are right to bring up the issue of chastisement. The Christian walk is hardly easy. Even when we focus on his grace, we are going to stumble, and I do think God intentionally allows us to stumble. You are exactly right when you say: “…I stand by what I said concerning forgiveness & chastisement, to experience the former is wonderful but without the latter we will never grow into the spiritual adults whom God wants us to be.” I don’t know if I can word the idea any better. Without suffering, we will never grow, or at least never fully grow to the people God wants us to be. This does not make suffering any easier– but its important to know that as Christians, we will suffer. Christ made that abundantly clear.

    This site has challenged me in many ways. When confronted with LDS doctrine, one is forced to look at our own beliefs. I welcome the opportunity to do so, and I can say that I have grown through the discussions here. Thank you all– even the LDS posters.

  17. cattyjane says:

    Falcon and Johnnyboy,
    Do you know how annoyed that milk statement used to make me when I would question things in lds doctrine? Ug!

    Kate,
    Thats exactly it isnt it! To be able to see the whole picture of things, how the OT fits with the NT. To see forgiveness, salvation and repentance reflected perfectly between the two helps to understand that there was nothing more needed after the writings of the NT apostles. To see the word of God speak against the works of man in the OT and then see God come in the flesh in the NT to confirm that the works of man are not pleasing gives a much bigger understanding of how God speaks to us very clearly in his word about what is and isnt ok.
    I think its very important to dig into the word of God with a deep understanding. If what a person believes to be light is actually darkness than how great that darkness must be Matthew 6:22-23. The way I see it is that the more light and truth that we can shine into a person by revealing the word of God to them, than the less darkness there will be.
    I dont know how everyone else in here realized that the lds church wasnt true, but for me to come to that realization was through a deep study of OT and NT. I had to see how they were a perfect unit. I had to see why the lds temple isnt a true restoration of temple practices. I had to see how God is ONE and the same from OT to NT. That didnt come by milk for me…and yes there were some deep sorrowful moments during my study.
    Some may come by milk and some have to come by meat. I think it depends on the level of stubborness and resistance to doing things Gods way and not our own way.
    I have become so blessed by God over this last year, even during the tough times. I have seen his hand on my life this last year and how he has brought me closer to Him.
    Today we can celebrate that we serve a God who delights in our good works of obedience that he has asked of us but we also celebrate a God that does not remove himself from us every time we fall on our face. We serve a merciful God who is slow to anger and abundant in mercy Psalm 145:8-14. If we seek after truth and seek HIS will than He will show that truth to us. We serve an Amazing God and the more I learn, the more that I can see that.

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  19. Love says:

    No one is in the “not even once club”. Joseph Smith even explained the parable of the lost sheep by saying that the 99 “righteous” were really the “99 self righteous” and were “damned anyway”. We are all the “one” and we need to see that we are lost and need Jesus Christ as a Savior. Joseph Smith got it right, it’s the self righteous members today that are off base. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and this is His church, but it needs correction through the leadership. Don’t leave the church, help it get back on track with it’s true doctrine of Christ which is that He is the only name and means by which we are saved. (The Book of Mormon is filled with this true concept)

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