The April issue of Ensign magazine (pages 38-42) includes an article by LDS Seventy (First Quorum) Richard J. Maynes. “The Eternal Importance of Honesty” is itself a breath of fresh air in its own honesty. The article clearly reflects traditional LDS teachings, the sort of ideas Mormons like to believe aren’t really Church doctrine.
To begin, Mr. Maynes expresses the imperative of being honest:
“The big questions for each Latter-day Saint are these: Will I be true to the covenants I have made with the Lord in the waters of baptism and in the holy temple? Will I be totally honest with the Lord?”
Then he goes on to explain what it means to be honest with the Lord.
“…when we are honest, we act upon our knowledge by obeying the commandments.
“…being honest with [Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ] means we are true to the covenants we have made with Them (see Deuteronomy 6:2-5; 8:11). We make promises to the Lord when we are baptized, and we make additional promises to Him as we participate in temple ordinances.
“There is nothing more important than being true to the covenants we have made with the Lord. Our eternal life depends upon the principle of honesty.”
Mr. Maynes then explains the inverse,
“…when we break a commandment, we are actually breaking our word, our promises, and our covenants. We are also being dishonest with the Lord and, as a result, we are subverting His work.”
Mr. Maynes’ article then includes a story about marble sculpting in the Golden Age. After pointing out that an excellent sculpture requires flawless marble as its base, Mr. Maynes writes,
“In a gospel context we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to be righteous, not just appear to be righteous” (emphasis mine).
Finally, in a section subtitled “Honesty and Gospel Principles” Mr. Maynes writes,
“The doctrine taught by Jesus Christ and revealed to prophets throughout the ages is true and needs to be understood and applied is we want to return to live with Him and His Father. Basic principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are not negotiable. They represent the foundation upon which life is lived in the celestial kingdom.
“It is true that we can exercise our agency and choose not to live celestial law, but it is also true that we will ultimately be compelled to accept the result of that decision when our inheritance is justifiably telestial or terrestrial.
“Honesty is the trait that connects the promises we have made to the Lord to our everyday actions. If we are honest we will keep the covenants we have made in the waters of baptism…and we will keep the covenants we have made in the holy temples of the Lord…
“Remember, the Lord expects us as members of His Church not only to appear to be good but also to actually be good.”
My question to Latter-day Saints is this: When you made your covenants with the Lord at baptism, and as you renew them each week during sacrament, do you promise to try to keep His commandments? Or do you promise to actually keep them? If you’ve been to the temple, did you promise to try to keep your covenants? Or did you promise to actually keep them?
Mr. Maynes’ article does not talk about repentance. It does not talk about trying to keep covenantal promises. It says that eternal life depends on being honest with the Lord by actually keeping and obeying all covenants and commandments. One cannot appear to be good or, by implication, merely be getting better; one must “actually be good,” which is defined as “keeping the covenants” made at baptism and in the temple.
Mr. Maynes’ teaching, as unwelcome as it may be to Latter-day Saints who recognize that they are not keeping their covenants, is entirely consistent with that of many LDS Authorities. For example, Spencer W. Kimball made it clear that “Trying is not sufficient” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 164). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept…” (The Way to Perfection, 206).
Here’s the problem. Mormonism says that God requires people who wish to spend eternity with Him “not only to appear to be good but also to actually be good,” in that they keep all their covenants and obey all the commandments. But the Bible says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
What, then? What hope have we? This:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:21-28).
My friends, you cannot achieve eternal life through the restored gospel of Mormonism. It is impossible. But God offers you another way, a sure and perfect way, to be reconciled to Him and embrace His gift of eternal life: receiving the flawless righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.