In Monday’s post, I quoted from an article found in the July 2014 Ensign magazine titled “Becoming Perfect in Christ” that was written by Seventy Gerrit W. Gong. When Gong’s words are put next to the teachings of the LDS leaders, there seems to be a disconnect. I will continue to quote from the section of his article titled “Perfectionism” and then provide citations from LDS manuals and leaders—which I’ll indent—that I believe shows another side.
Gong: “Faith acknowledges that, through repentance and the power of the Atonement, weakness can be made strong and repented sins can truly be forgiven.”
“This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209).
Gong: “Happy marriages are not the result of two perfect people saying vows. Rather, devotion and love grow as two imperfect people build, bless, help, encourage, and forgive along the way. The wife of a modern prophet was once asked what it was like being married to a prophet. She wisely replied that she had not married a prophet; she had simply married a man who was completely dedicated to the Church no matter what calling he received. In other words, in process of time, husbands and wives grow together—individually and as a couple. The wait for a perfect spouse, perfect education, perfect job, or perfect house will be long and lonely. We are wise to follow the Spirit in life’s important decisions and not let doubts spawned by perfectionist demands hinder our progress.”
“There is not one requirement of the Lord that is non-essential; every requirement that He has made of us is essential to our perfection and sanctification, to prepare us to enjoy celestial glory” (President Brigham Young, November 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:284).
Gong: “For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?” For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and make time to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthy does not require perfection.”
“I would emphasize that the teachings of Christ that we should become perfect were not mere rhetoric. He meant literally that it is the right of mankind to become like the Father and like the Son, having overcome human weaknesses and developed attributes of divinity” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 26).
Gong: “For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things you do well, however large or small. For those who fear failure and who procrastinate, sometimes by overpreparing, be assured and encouraged that there is no need to withdraw from challenging activities that may bring great growth! Where needed and appropriate, seek spiritual counsel or competent medical attention to help you relax, develop positive ways to think and structure your life, reduce self-defeating behaviors, and experience and express more gratitude. Impatience impedes faith. Faith and patience will help missionaries understand a new language or culture, students to master new subjects, and young single adults to begin building relationships rather than waiting for everything to be perfect. Faith and patience will also help those waiting for temple sealing clearances or restoration of priesthood blessings.”
“Christ came not only into the world to make an atonement for the sins of mankind but to set an example before the world of the standard of perfection of God’s law and the obedience to the Father. In his Sermon on the Mount the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of his own character, which was perfect, or that might be said to be an autobiography, every syllable of which he had written down in deeds,’ and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives” (President Harold B. Lee, The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles manual, p. 57).
Gong: “As we act and are not acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14), we can navigate between complementary virtues and achieve much of life’s growth. These can appear in “an opposition,” being “a compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11). For example, we can cease to be idle (see D&C 88:124) without running faster than we have strength (see Mosiah 4:27). We can be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27) while also periodically pausing to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10; see also D&C 101:16). We can find our lives by losing our lives for the Savior’s sake (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25). We can be “not weary in well-doing” (D&C 64:33; see also Galatians 6:9) while taking appropriate time to refresh spiritually and physically. We can be lighthearted without being light-minded. We can laugh heartily with but not haughtily at. Our Savior and His Atonement invite us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” As we do so, He promises that His grace is “sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).”
(Eric Johnson’s analysis of this part): The heart of this verse is conveniently left out. In context, Moroni 10:32 says, “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, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” In other words, the grace of God can come only after a person denies himself “of all ungodliness and lov(ing) God with all your might, mind, and strength.” This has a much different connotation than “His grace is ‘sufficient for you.’”
Gong: “For those burdened by cares to find perfection or to be perfect now, our Savior’s freely given atoning love assures us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).”
“In the context of the spirit of forgiveness, one good brother asked me, ‘Yes, that is what ought to be done, but how do you do it? Doesn’t that take a superman?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but we are commanded to be supermen. Said the Lord, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) We are gods in embryo, and the Lord demands perfection of us’” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 286).
So there you have it. Mormonism’s current version of “perfection” versus the way a number of other LDS leaders took it to mean. According to Gong, as long as a person is doing his or her best, the Savior is apparently standing by and applauding in a reassuring manner. However, presidents such as Young, Lee, and Kimball seemed to have a different perspective. No wonder it’s so confusing for anyone to understand just what the religion of Mormonism teaches about just what is required for the celestial kingdom.
I would say to any LDS member who is suffering under the burdens placed on them by the religious system they are in, come to Christ and be perfected in the shed blood of His cross.
I’m not so interested in what people say as in what they do. Gong, in his article, is suggesting things that run contrary to LDS religious expectations and culture. Unless the LDS church leadership is willing to stand up at General Conference and articulate these things Gong says and therefore set a new direction for the church, it’s all meaningless blather.
The fuel that runs the LDS system is involvement. Former members complain that they were kept so busy with church related work that their families suffered; which goes contrary to what the church articulates regarding families.
I think this is a good place to play the LDS “opinion” card because this is all Gong offers. Until the church is willing to change, nothing will change in the lives of the people.
I would suggest that a good place to start is coming to a realization of who God is.
Mr Gong quotes Matt 11:28-30 , but I wonder if the Mormon people really understand what
Jesus was saying when He asked , ” Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden….”
Mormon leaders have constantly reminded that Jesus this their exemplar , that to do the works
He did , to live as he lived , is the ” way” they can merit / earn eternal life . That’s why Mormon leaders have called their gospel a ladder , each rung is a rule , regulation , law , that can enable
a sinner to climb up to God’s home above and become just as He is , an Almighty God .
But this is not the New Testament’s teaching at all . Jesus is more than our example , He was
our substitute on the cross . It is only by trust in Jesus’ obedience , and His being clothed with
His righteous alone makes us worthy enough for God to let us in His home above . Abandoning
the way of personal religious deeds , church activity to qualify a person to stand before God
as worthy to be given eternal life is not the way — but it is a way to become weary and heavy
When Jesus asked people to come to Him it means to personally meet Him , bow before Him
and talk to Him . Prayer to the risen Savior is at the heart of the Christian life and devotion .
Sadly , Mormon leaders have taught LDS that only Heavenly Father is to be prayed to :
” We always pray to our Father in heaven , and to Him alone ….we don not pray to the
Savior or to anyone else .” [ Missionary Preparation Student Manual , chapter 5 / p. 40 ] .
The Mormon people have been detoured from the true gospel of salvation ( Rom 1:16 ) and
embraced a imitation , and this is the result of following men who have fooled them into trusting
their claims of authority . To have a personal relationship with Jesus , to know Him , transcends
following Him as a example on how to live a moral lifestyle , it commences with bowing before
Him and talking to Him — asking for pardon of sins . Upon admitting the inability to merit
eternal life through striving to qualify for it through church activity and such , Jesus will then
freely pardon and give the the gift of eternal life , — the Way to the Father and His home above
is thus gained — Jn 14:6 , and sweet communion with the Father and Jesus is the blessing
one experiences walking life’s road — 1 Cor 1:9 .
That’s the cure for encountering the heavy burden created by religious leaders — like those
who run the Mormon church .
The LDS church and Mormonism in general, is a mess of mixed messages. Not only that, we have learned that something isn’t “official” unless it’s voted on at GC. So what’s the deal with this article? Are the LDS sect members free to ignore it? If practices aren’t deemed “official” I would guess that it gives the rank-and-file a lot of latitude for interpretation and implementation. That is except that there’s a ton of cultural manipulation and pressure on these folks to conform to some spoken as well as unspoken social mores. And of course it’s a big difference if someone is in the Salt Lake City LDS bubble or if the member lives in a different part of the country.
I’m sure that this doesn’t happen all that much (ahem) but I hear that some LDS folks aren’t all that straight with the bishop during the interview to get the temple recommend.
This article by Elder Gong seems to be similar to other articles by church leaders in the last
year or so , like those in the recent series on the church’s web site attempting to answer
hard questions on Blacks and the Priesthood , Polygamy , Mormons can become Gods etc .
Mr Gong also tries to calm LDS concerns and this time it concerns how LDS have been taught
work hard in the church in order to qualify to merit eternal life . Christians have been quite
vocal to remind LDS that the system they find themselves by embracing the ” gospel teachings ”
of their leaders should be called an another gospel ( Gal 1:8 ) , and has even been termed an
impossible gospel by some christians seeking to alert Mormon friends of it’s error and futility.
Mr Gong seems to attempt to reasure Mormons that the Mormonism’s “restored ” gospel is
not a scenario of obligations , rituals , rules, that are a heavy laddened system of works
designed to perfect them and thus qualify for receiving eternal life in God’s home above .
What Mr Gong does is thus similar to how Mormons leaders like to say that LDS can become
” like ” God when asked about the eternal progression doctrine of Mormonism . By saying
“like ” God rather than the more precise ” Become Gods just exactly like Heavenly Father ” it
makes it easier in public to downplay what Mormon leaders have taught on that subject .
The way Mormon leaders treat their flock , by downplaying or dodging some of their teachings
in public venues ( like the Ensign mag ) is a sad affair .
The Mormon people deserve better .
I think you missed a quote from the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith which is in the latest Priesthood manual –
The article you are quoting from is talking about those who are going to the extreme of perfectionism, not just living by the commandments but expecting everything they do or have to be the perfect thing – for instance he mentions looking for the perfect future spouse and missing those around them whom they can marry. It is telling them they do not need to be so stringent in their lives and to relax. Yes we need to strive to be perfect in keeping the commandments but not everything in our lives has to be perfect.
It is like the phrase you all use – saved by faith despite our works. You believe that this does not give someone license to do what they want, but there are many out there that understand it in that sense, especially when some people teach it like Martin Luther did by stating that once one believes they can commit hundreds of murders and adulteries a day and still be saved; or that once saved we should commit a little sin each day to rub our salvation in Satan’s nose.
Then you said –
When you committed yourself to Jesus didn’t you deny yourself of all ungodliness or did you say to Him, I believe in Thee but I will still live a decadent life the way I please? Isn’t denying ungodliness a part of coming over into faith saying I place my life in your hands and I am willing to do Thy will? And isn’t loving God with all our might, mind and strength part of faith, or can we hate God but still have saving faith in Him?
The difference between my response and a Latter-day Saint’s when it comes to having faith is that all the “good” works that I can do are done in response to what God has done for me, not as my first step toward perfection. There is a huge difference. According to the Bible, I become perfect (justified ) before anything good I do because justification is not based one iota on my works. In fact, I was justified regardless of what future good works God knew I would do. When I came to the cross, I realized that I could not repay even a farthing for the gift of grace and mercy He bestowed upon me. I may try to “deny ungodliness” all day long, but I know myself and realize I have too many weaknesses to make this is an impossible goal. It’s Jesus + Nothing = Imputation of God’s righteousness in my life. It’s a done deal and the assurance of salvation I have is my guarantee. Mormonism, on the other hand, stresses that a person’s good works is what leads her on the path toward justificaiton. When Spencer Kimball quotes Matthew 5:48, he says,
“Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anyting from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal. ” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 209)
How are you doing at that? See, you can’t “try” or “do the best you can,” Kimball clearly taught. Rather, “perfection really comes through overcoming.” “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works,your attitudes.” (325)
Ralph, I have the assurance of my salvation, according to 1 John 5:13. And guess what. I don’t pretend that the grace given to me provides license to sin. So remove any preconceived notions about Christianity’s view of good works, which truly are a part of sanctification and are therefore important. These just have nothing to do with justification. Romans 3:28 states, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
As a Mormon, you are coached to keep your nose to the grind, stretch yourself, and maybe in centuries you’ll have that happy moment. As for me, I wouldn’t have that kind of time and patience. In fact. my moment has already come and “now I am happy all the day.” It could happen for you too, friend, by relieving yourself of Mormonism’s nonbiblical commands and coming to Jesus, naked with nothing–not even a farthing– to offer. Only then will you be able to trust in His works rather than your own. The freedom that comes with this understanding blows my mind.
After reading Eric’s response to your post I hope you can see where the LDS sect Mormonism that you practice is not Christianity. It’s not even a distant cousin.
You’ve made a decision to follow what some man says that one of the gods told him, instead of following what the Bible reveals what God says. I know you think that you’ve had some spiritual experiences which reinforces what you have come to believe. Those of us who post here and who are born again by the Spirit of God also have spiritual experiences but they are supported by God’s Word.
Ralph even non-religious people can have spiritual experiences. They can have confirming feelings supporting what they choose to believe in. This comes right out of the soul of man and not the Spirit of the Living God.
You need to come to the knowledge of the truth about God and His Christ. Jesus is God, not “a god” who is the off spring of one of the Mormon gods and one of his many wives.
I praise God that He has declared me righteous based on my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for me. I am perfect in God’s eyes based on this faith and not my efforts at moral living. We walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh but even our best efforts cannot add one thing to what Jesus has done for us.
My prayer for you Ralph is that you will come to know who Jesus is and what He has done for those willing to trust Him totally for their salvation.
“It is like the phrase you all use – saved by faith despite our works. You believe that this does not give someone license to do what they want, but there are many out there that understand it in that sense, especially when some people teach it like Martin Luther did by stating that once one believes they can commit hundreds of murders and adulteries a day and still be saved; or that once saved we should commit a little sin each day to rub our salvation in Satan’s nose.”
Actually, the logic you have used doesn’t represent the view of most Christians or Christ. The scripture clearly states (see below) that we should not use grace to sin. The apostle Paul writes, “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. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 ff)
Ralph, you have using a straw man argument. In order to engage the discussion that Eric has begun, you should appropriately represent his views. You are not doing so, and as a person who seems to represent LDS values, this is a poor example of your faith. Shouldn’t you be expressing your faith in your works?
Also, there are two types of perfection delineated by Prophet Fielding Smith. One is perfection that is also known as exaltation. And the other is perfectly overcoming all sin.
Your quote (from Prophet Fielding Smith) is again a straw man representation of Prophet Fielding Smith’s discussion about exaltation. He does mention that:
“To enter the celestial [kingdom] and obtain exaltation, it is necessary that the whole law be kept…Do you desire to enter the celestial Kingdom and receive eternal life? Then be willing to keep all of the commandments” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p.206
“Isn’t denying ungodliness a part of coming over into faith saying I place my life in your hands and I am willing to do Thy will? And isn’t loving God with all our might, mind and strength part of faith, or can we hate God but still have saving faith in Him?
Repentance is a change of mind.
Sanctification (the move to remove sins from our life) is an inner cleansing that happens after conversion. (Romans 6:22, ESV)
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:47-48, ESV)
Jesus states(above) that our complete forgiveness happens before our obedience. Grace cannot be works. (Romans 11:6, ESV)
“And isn’t loving God with all our might, mind and strength part of faith, can we hate God but still have saving faith in Him?”
Where in the world did that come from Ralph? I read something like that and it reminds me of how totally confused you’re thinking is. Those are dichotomous statements. “Can we hate God but still have saving faith in Him?” Really bizarre thinking Ralph but then I remember you think Mormon. The LDS thought pattern is such that they can keep two contradicting statements in their minds at the same time and believe they are both true. It’s a form of cognitive dissonance of which LDS folks are famous for.