My daughter took The Not Even Once Club book off my shelf and wanted me to read it as a bedtime story. I can’t blame her: it has fun and inviting pictures.
I told her it was not a book I agreed with. “Why not?” We read through it slowly together. Here were my follow-up discussion questions:
- Who can be in the “Not Even Once Club”? You? Me? Have you ever lied, or cheated, or bullied, or stolen?
- Can you rightly promise God that you will never do things like that ever again?
- Is that a promise anyone could ever keep?
- Should we make promises that we can’t keep?
- If someone thought they were in the “Not Even Once Club”, do you think that would make them feel better than other people?
- There is only one person on earth who could ever rightly be in the “Not Even Once Club.” Who is he?
- Jesus has a “Grace Club.” How does one enter in this club? How does one stay in this club?
- Do people in Jesus’ “Grace Club” want to do bad things? How do they want to live?
- Should they promise that they will never do any bad things?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
I guess it must be the years I spent in training in Catholic school, with the endless scenarios the nuns presented us, that eventually led me to believe that while I could always try to do the right thing, I am and always will be a wretched sinner.
So where does that leave someone, wanting to do right and always at some point falling short? For a while, in my early twenties, it led me to go head long into sin. The strictness of the Catholic system with all of the rules, regulations and classification of sin; the endless examination of my sins, running off to confession, not taking communion because I thought I may have stepped over the line, the hypocrisy I saw in the system made me give up.
I concluded there was no God.
Today, after forty-three years of being born again by the Spirit of God, I still see myself as a wretched sinner not ever able to reach God’s unflinching standards even on my best day. I’ve reconciled myself to my sin nature and unlike my response early in my adult years, I now embrace the tension between (my sin nature), God’s standards, my behavior and the grace God extends to me.
It’s all a matter of coming to grips with the reality of being human. In a way it’s like success in baseball (?). In baseball if you can get a hit one-third of the time up, you are vastly successful. I think my life is like that. Now least anyone wonder, I don’t give myself over to licentiousness and debauchery. I don’t go about intentionally sinning. Sin just seems to happen.
To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am. Who will free me from this body of death.” Paul says that it’s just hopeless. The more he tried to do good, the more he failed. He then concludes with saying that thankfully through Jesus Christ He has hope and is free.
Mormons really have trouble coming to grips and understanding what the Bible tells us about sin, forgiveness and grace. They are in an earned reward program that is suppose to end with them becoming gods. It’s this false premise that keeps them on the LDS treadmill and locked in a losing battle with their own flesh. Even the promise of “after all you can do” can’t free them from what must be internal conflict and anxiety.
The Good News is that God has provided a solution for us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Trusting in Him gets us off the performance try and fail paradigm. While I hesitate to say that we can’t out sin God’s love, mercy, benevolence and forgiveness for fear it will be misunderstood, the fact is that God’s provision for us in Jesus is all we need for eternal life.
There is a radical difference between the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as presented in the Bible, and the LDS gospel as presented by Joseph Smith. At it’s very core, Christianity is about One God. Not “one god” of this world, but One God period. God makes it very clear in Isaiah that He knows no other gods. That’s pretty definitive and final. So the LDS doctrine that there are many gods and that men who are compliant with the LDS system will become gods also is false.
Interestingly enough, at the beginning of his religious quest and in the BoM, Joseph Smith was pretty conventional in his ideas about the nature of God. There’s a reason why even within Mormonism there are those who see Smith as a fallen prophet. I’d say he was never a prophet at all, actually.
To our LDS friends I’d say that perhaps it’s time for them to try and understand what they reject about the nature of God and His plan of salvation as presented in His Holy Word the Bible. That means coming to a point of accepting that just maybe the Gospel didn’t disappear from the earth with the death of the apostles and just maybe the Bible hasn’t been corrupted. I know that’s a big step to take but reading the Bible with the innocents of a child will bring understanding.
I liked what Falcon said about batting averages and it occurred to me that there might be a kind of key to reaching mainstream “chapel Mormons,” something like the training videos that batting coaches use in baseball. I thought I’d share one with you for whatever it’s worth.
Before Mormons will listen to the Christian concept of grace, their minds and hearts need to be opened so they will consider the possibility that their leaders have taught them incorrectly. As you know, this is extremely difficult.
One good way to open an LDS mind is to show them that their founding prophet, Joseph Smith, lied to them about LDS doctrine, without actually calling him a liar. One easy way to do that, I would think, is to simply tell them that Smith said a number of things that you actually agree with, and then quote him with approval where he denies practicing polygamy. The LDS have an extremely difficult time criticizing anything Joseph Smith has said or done, and they are usually pleased when someone agrees with Joseph Smith.
Try quoting Smith from the LDS sources listed here, especially from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Chapter 1, verse 4, p. 251, and from the Church’s 1800’s newspaper, “Times and Seasons.” (It’s best to have a copy of the D&C page handy because the Church has deleted it from current versions of the D&C.) Every primary source you need is quoted and linked to here:
If the Mormon you’re talking to is ignorant of LDS history and recent events, he or she will probably be somewhat pleased with your support. This includes most LDS missionaries (although they may mention that later prophets introduced polygamy, which is fine). If, on the other hand, the Mormon is familiar with LDS history, he or she will probably register some surprise that Joseph Smith made those statements. In both cases, their minds and hearts may begin to open.
Then simply state that it’s “unfortunate” his own Church has refuted him. Then quote the LDS Church’s Gospel Topics essay on polygamy in Nauvoo.
While your Mormon is digesting this information, you can then point out that it’s also unfortunate that Joseph chose to be deceitful about marrying 14-year-old girls and the wives of other men.
If your Mormon hasn’t recoiled in terror by now and fled, you may have an honest listener. You can then catch them a bit off guard and get them focused by pointing out that polygamy isn’t the most important thing that Joseph got wrong. It’s grace. At this point your Mormon may be receptive to hear what the Bible says about grace and why it’s important. And may your batting average be .500.
What a superb post you have shared with us. Thanks. Your followup questions are very thoughtful. As you correctly point out, there is only one in the Not Even Once Club. (And it is not Joseph Smith. And it is not this book’s author.)
I am happy to be a member of Jesus’ Grace Club.
The Catholic church of my era was very systematic when it came to dealing with committed sin. I remember in third grade, in preparation for my first communion, I also had to make my first confession. The nun took us one-by-one to the back of the classroom and practiced with us. We learned how to do the intro: “Bless me father for I have sinned. This is my first confession.” Later on we’d give the timeline on our last confession. We’d then tell our sins and make an act of contrition which was also a memorized prayer that I’ve forgotten after all these years. It’s sort of embarrassing to admit that given the number of times I said it. I looked it up:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”
There are different versions but I think this is pretty close to what I use to repeat. The priest would then give us “absolution” and our penance which was usually to say three Hail Marys and Four Our Fathers or maybe five Hail Marys. I was then all squared away but the problem is a person can’t get very far without sinning again.
I could go into more detail of what was required of a practicing Catholic, but the post would be way too long. So I did this until I became a young adult, quit the church and then later became born again by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
I don’t do rules, regulations, rituals or laws any more. The life I lead is in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in gratitude to the Father for what he has done for me through His Son, my behavior reflects my faith. As the apostle Paul suggests, I walk in the Spirit while crucifying the flesh. In doing so I am continually cleansed of my sin by the Blood of Christ Jesus. It’s such a better way to approach my relationship with God.
I remember having a protracted and somewhat passionate discussion some time ago with our poster cattyjane regarding sin, grace, forgiveness, the Law, and the wide ranging topic of standards of behavior and God’s expectations of us.
Some people, I believe, are content with religious legalism. There are rules, laws, regulations and in some sects strict enforcement with sanctions. There is a certain amount of security in this type of a system but there is also a significant downside. That includes wondering if the person is meeting the expectations and worry/anxiety about perhaps not. There is also pride with some believing that they are meeting and exceeding the behavioral goals.
When a person is working on becoming a god, legalism is the way to get there.
Various Christian sects have their own form of legalism and since Mormonism sprung from Christian evangelical revivalism and Methodism, at least there is some hold-over.
“In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc.,). This legalism can take different forms. The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation. The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation. The third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed.”
With Mormons the whole point of the behavioral system and other rules is so the men can become gods and the family can be reunited in the Celestial Kingdom. While the idea is that you do all that you can and then the Mormon god extends grace to make up the short fall, the system doesn’t allow for slacking. A Mormon never knows if they’ve ever done enough.
There’s a better way but to discuss this without clarifying the difference between God as revealed in the Bible and the “god” revealed by Joseph Smith would be to miss the point. The difference makes a difference in the Gospel, the nature of God, the nature of man and our final destiny.
I’ve not read this book but from what I can tell from listening to others is that it is another veiled attempt to make the system of rules that is the Mormon gospel appear to be the true gospel of salvation .
We always circle back to a couple of themes and in this case it has to do with the Smith claim that the “gospel” was lost from the earth after the death of the apostles and needed to be restored. That’s where Smith conveniently presented a starter gospel and then embellished it as he went along. He had a favorite technique called “continuous revelation” which basically gave him license to steal, metaphorically speaking.
He could add or subtract as he wished because his followers bought into his claim of being a prophet and that he was getting messages from God. Early on he had a bunch of followers jump ship as he went from the Book of Commandments to the Doctrines and Covenants. They had joined Smith under another premise, that they all could receive direct messages and they didn’t appreciate Smith’s playing fast and loose with some of the original fundamental truths of Mormonism.
David Whitmer said:
“I will prove that God called Brother Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon only, and that he was not called to organize and establish the church any more than the rest of us Elders. That God commanded him that he should pretend to no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon, that God would grant him no other gift.”
My point is obvious. First of all the Gospel of Jesus Christ was never lost nor was the Bible corrupted in translation. Secondly, what Joseph Smith “revealed” at first didn’t stand the test of time because he made it a fluid revelation, subject to change at will.
The LDS are following a false gospel and one that has no hope attached to it. Being devout, sincere and moral won’t get the job done unless someone comes to know who Jesus is and what He has done for those willing to put their faith in Him.
You’re correct in your assessment of Mormonism because there was total /complete apostasy . The true gospel of salvation has been available for 2000 years , and people ever since then upon reading the scriptures or hearing the gospel message preached from them , and who responded , were saved and the gospel of salvation that Paul preached still saves sinners today Rom 1:16 . That’s the beauty and power of the authentic ” good news ” of Jesus Christ !
As you know what Mormon leaders did in order to sell their teachings was to claim that
Christianity died off soon after the deaths of Jesus’ apostles , the gospel those apostles preached became polluted / altered by men who mixed in their own ideas to it thus rendering it “another gospel ” unable to save those who accept it — 2Cor 11:4 . Salvation was therefore unavailable for 1700 years until Joseph Smith arrived on the scene in 1830 , then allegedly the true church/gospel was
re established . This is the Mormon message and it sells well because it is presented by cleverly using half truths and emotion to convince investigators it’s authentic .
The Mormon ” restored ” gospel of Jesus Christ should be called the “revised ” gospel of Jesus Christ , since Mormon leaders have succumbed to creating a imitation gospel , one that appears on the outside like the authentic one but which is a mixture of bits of the true one combined with the doctrinal innovations from Mormon leaders . A latter days example of Gal 1:8-9 .
The Mormon people can be free from following men whose claims of authority over them have been weighed and found wanting . It will difficult because most Mormons seem to not be able to see that someone dressed in a white shirt and tie , clean shaven , and polite as someone who could be a false prophet . Throw in the possible loss of family or close friends and the thought of leaving Mormonism can scare a lot of Mormons . But spiritual freedom is at stake , and Jesus wants LDS to follow Him and what He gave His apostles to preach concerning a relationship with Him , being fully forgiven , and receiving complete salvation — this is in the New Testament . He has warned LDS and everyone living in the latter days to beware of prophets claiming to be sent by Him but who are only well meaning individuals — Matt 24:11 — Mormon prophets are such men . LDS simply don’t need them .
a typo in the first sentence of my last post : There should be a ” no” before the words ” total / complete apostasy ” .
I always get a kick out of Mormons who claim that Christians believe that having been saved by faith they can now sin with impunity. First of all, a clear headed reading of the Book of Romans teaches the exact opposite. But think of this. The Mormon gospel is universalist and has everyone being saved regardless of faith or no faith or a life of total debauchery. A person’s level of “works” gets them assigned to either level one, two or three of Mormon reward. For we Christians, we’re going to be in level two.
Now there is a Mormon hell, it’s called Outer Darkness and its where LDS drop outs go.
Where does all of this come from? It’s not in the Bible. It’s not even in the fantasy tome the BoM. This is the results of false prophets on steroids. If an idea came into their minds they think it’s a message from the Mormon god.
In some instances, I think it comes down to whether or not the LDS has any curiosity regarding their religion and Christianity. If someone is satisfied or perhaps even afraid to look into things, their curiosity will be fairly low. Some LDS are in the program, chugging alone, life is good, why even bother to make any inquiries?
I often think about Landon Lamborn’s story. A guy at work tells him that he’s just read “Under the Banner of Heaven” and that there are some interesting things in the book about Landon’s (LDS) religion. Landon had read another book by this author, liked it and decided to give this one a read. Now here’s a very bright guy (Landon), he’s a life long Mormon with deep family roots in the religion, has served a mission and is very active in church programs. He reads “Banner” and all of a sudden he has questions and his curiosity is aroused.
As is typical, the more he researched Mormon history the more disturbed he became. He started asking more questions and before you know it, he’s being excommunicated. The story gets more interesting because he finds out that the bishop is going to read his ouster from the pulpit on Sunday. The newspapers get a hold of it and a controversy ensues.
Any LDS reading this will think, “Who needs this kind of trouble?”, and I’d agree with them. Problem is with Landon it was a question of integrity. He couldn’t just go along to get along once he found out what he hadn’t known previously.
What I find interesting about all of this is how little the average church going LDS member knows about their religion. It hasn’t been unusual for an LDS member to show-up on this blog and tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about regarding the LDS religion. When challenged to look for themselves, they get stuck. They learn the truth and if they take it any further their world will be rocked. So at that point the only think that can be done is to come up with some rationalization that what they’ve found is true but it doesn’t matter because “……the church is true and does a lot of good and….” fill in the blanks.
The serious nature of all of this is that a person’s eternal destiny depends on getting things right.
Amen to that. You’re absolutely correct.
For many people, including most Mormons, “integrity” means “conformity” and that’s where it stops.
So where does the LDS gospel come from? Well it doesn’t come from the Bible. It doesn’t come from the Church Fathers. It doesn’t even come from the early heretics. And as an after thought, it doesn’t come from the BoM. The LDS gospel has to come from some place or someone. The Salt Lake city LDS even have a different gospel than other Mormon sects.
So this narrative was spun by Joseph Smith and then embellished by other Mormon “prophets” most notably Brigham Young.
When the apostle Paul received the gospel, he said that he hadn’t received it from any man but had received it as a revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul eventually went to Jerusalem and presented the gospel to the apostles and they gave him the thumbs up. In-other-words, what he had received was consistent with what the early Church was teaching. In his writings, Paul clearly lays out what that gospel is. Guess what? It’s not the LDS gospel?
Now Mormons can protest that all sort of conspiracies left the LDS gospel out of the Bible but the fact is that this LDS gospel never existed before Joseph Smith.
When an LDS repeats the points of the testimony over and over again, it has the effect of indoctrinating the person into the mind-set of Mormonism.
The Bible tells us over and over again what our mind set should be. The mind set on the Spirit of God follows after God’s expectations for us. Does the LDS church speak for God? Certainly not. That’s because the god of Mormonism is not God. An LDS might ask, “How can that be?”. Does it matter how we view God. Yes it does. God clearly tells us in his word that we are not to have any other gods before him. In the LDS religion, there is not only the god of this planetary system but millions if not billions of gods all former men, all with their own planetary systems to rule.
In order to believe what the LDS church teaches, a person has to give themselves over to a diluting spirit.
The Spirit of God leads us to all truth. He testifies to the Son and what the Son has done for us. An LDS person would do well to read the Bible, putting aside the false charge that God’s Word has been corrupted. It is there, and there alone that appears the Wisdom of God.
Thank you for sharing with us your story. It is wonderful to hear what God has done in your life, and the love, grace, and salvation you have come to know.
Thank you for the shout out. My coming to Christ so many years ago makes me wonder sometimes if my testimony has any validity any more. What I mean by that is sort of like “OK buddy, what have you done lately?” There’s more to the story of course and I shared it with the MM when they came charging up my rather long farm yard drive way.
I don’t know if LDS are impressed with Christian testimonies or evidence from the Bible. But then I recently heard former Mormon bishop Earl Erskine say that you never know what might work in getting these folks’ attention.
The LDS are of the mindset that their church is the pathway to the Celestial Kingdom and that their behavior is largely responsible for the achievement. They are slaves to the LDS church because they believe that it’s through that system that they will achieve the goal of becoming gods.
As Christians we don’t labor under the assumption that our works merit anything. The works bring glory to God. That’s the point of repentance and coming to God in faith in His Son Jesus Christ. It’s the reason for maintaining a strong moral code.
My hope and prayer is that some day I’ll come to know that all my years of banging away on this keyboard did some good for the Kingdom of God. Praise and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.