Contrasting the religion of works with the gospel of grace
In the pursuit of righteousness before God, pangs of guilt and doubt clouds our understanding of our relationship with Him. We are far more prone to understand God based on our own terms, or experiences, or what seems fair.
Rory McIlroy, the PGA Championship, and being right with God
Professional golfer Rory McIlroy came back to win a stunning victory in the PGA golf tournament a few weeks ago. Despite weather delays and difficult conditions, a thrilling battle ensued on the final round with the last shot played in near darkness.
A story of grace extended through unsuspecting hands
God’s grace extends from the most innocent of hands.
In his profound mercy, the Lord will use unsuspecting circumstances to lead and guide souls to the truth of the gospel. He can even use an eleven year old boy like myself and a simple invitation to his piano recital.
My mother was a piano teacher. Naturally, it was expected that I take piano lessons. Thought I grumbled and complained to get up extra early on a school day to practice, I knew there was no way out.
I complained about this to my best friend’s grandmother, who I called Grandma Hawes. She lived next door to my friend in a small one bedroom house. A retired school teacher and in her early 80’s, she just smiled and encouraged me to keep practicing. “Someday,” she said, “I will appreciate it.”
Weeks later, while my friend and I were playing outside her yard, Grandma Hawes came out to tend to her roses and inquired about my piano lessons. I told her that I was preparing for an upcoming spring recital and wasn’t too excited about the prospect. Without giving much thought, I invited her to come along.
This year’s spring recital happened to be at a small Lutheran church that had a grand piano in its sanctuary. My mother knew the church secretary and received permission to conduct the spring recital on a Sunday evening.
The big night arrived and I was shocked to see a familiar face in the back row. Always prim and proper, there sat Grandma Hawes with her familiar shock of white hair. She actually accepted my invitation and was probably more shocked than I that she drove to my recital and was sitting in a small padded pew. It was the first time in over fifty years that she had stepped inside a church.
As I grew older, I didn’t see my friend as much, nor Grandma Hawes. Upon graduating from high school, my parents held an open house in my honor and invited all of our neighbors and friends.
Towards the end of the evening, a final knock came at the door. I opened the door and there stood Grandma Hawes. She had grown older and was now using a walker. My friend’s parents had driven her down the street to my house and stood sheepishly behind her. Grandma Hawes had firmly insisted that she come to my open house.
But that was something different about her.
With a wide smile and an expression of sheer joy, she reached out her hands to grab mine. “I want to thank you, David,” Grandma Hawes exclaimed, “for inviting me to your piano recital.” Her eyes began to glisten with tears. “Afterwards, I stood in the foyer of the church and something caught my eye on the bulletin board. It looked intriguing, so I came back to that church the following Sunday. And I haven’t missed a Sunday since. I have you to thank for that, David.”
Raised in a family that only went to church twice a year, I didn’t know nor grasp the significance of what she was telling me. Feeling awkward, I simply smiled, nodded, and returned her warm handshake.
Grandma Hawes came to faith and was baptized at that small Lutheran Church. Within a year after my open house, the Lord called her home to heaven.
An invitation from a boy to attend a piano recital at a church. Harmless, unassuming, extended without much thought. Yet God used the most innocent of hands from an un-churched boy like myself to extend his grace and mercy.
I came to know the Lord while a freshman in college and look forward to seeing Grandma Hawes in heaven. I can already see her warm eyes of understanding, love and sheer thankfulness. I truly believe she was praying for me.
And I get to return her thanks with eyes glistening with tears.
Contrasting the Easter messages between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity
Our Christian faith, as Paul attests, rests on the certainty that Christ has risen. The true gospel message centers on Christ’s completed work on the cross and the victory assured to us by his resurrection. Grace bestowed. Faith alone. These are the words that resonate during Holy Week.
This will not be the Easter message that Mormons will hear this week.
The celebration of Easter is downplayed in the Mormon Church and there is no attention given to Good Friday. Instead, like most teachings of the LDS Church, attention is given to the works of human beings rather than the works of Jesus Christ. In a recent message reflecting on Easter, President Thomas Monson, the current living prophet of the LDS Church, stated, “So that we might have every chance of success, He provided a Savior, who would suffer and die for us.”**
Mormonism teaches that life begins in a person’s pre-existence as a spirit child begotten by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The purpose of life on earth is to obtain mortal bodies so that people may experience a time of testing to prove themselves and qualify for what God has prepared for us in the heavenly realm. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus Christ came to this earth to mark the way to perfection. He is Heavenly Father’s literal son who was born into mortal flesh. Through his life and the Atonement, he passed the test and has become a god. Now, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “beckon us to follow [him] and to become perfect, as They are perfect.”*
The emphasis on Christ’s suffering on our behalf is placed on Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane rather than the cross. The pain and agony experienced in the Garden caused his pores to bleed and drained him of strength. The cross simply became the instrument of finalizing his physical death. For this reason, you will not see a cross at a Mormon church, nor do Mormons wear crosses as jewelry around their necks. As one Mormon told me, “If your brother were executed by a hangman’s noose, would you want to wear that as a reminder of his death?” Mormons maintain that as a result of Christ’s atonement, all people are “saved” from physical death and will be resurrected. Christ’s resurrection is simply an example of what will happen to us as a result of his Atonement. This act is the Mormon definition of Christ redeeming our soul. A Mormon will say, “He lives and we will too.” This phrase is the central point of a Mormon’s Easter celebration. Right here is an example of the true nature of Mormon doctrine. Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Mormons say the same thing. But what they mean by it and how they get to this point is totally different from what the Bible says about the redemptive work of Christ.
A Mormon’s Easter celebration will typically focus on the joy family members will receive by being reunited after death. It’s now up to us to obey God’s instructions to get to the right kingdom of glory. Throughout our mortal life, Heavenly Father has given us means to receive guidance for our “safe return” back to him in the celestial kingdom. “By obedience…, we can qualify for that ‘house’ spoken of by Jesus when He declared: ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.” (ref. John 14:2-3) Mormons teach that Jesus’ atonement made it possible for all people to be resurrected. Our obedience will dictate how far our soul can eternally progress and qualify for heavenly rewards. Ultimately, the desire of Mormons is to have their entire family be together for eternity.
In one Easter message entitled, “He is Risen!”, President Monson shared a story of a fifteen year old boy who recently died from an illness. The boy’s father sent a message to Monson that included a photograph of his dying son on a hospital bed. His older brother was standing next to the bed holding his mission call. The caption beneath the photograph read, “Called to serve their missions together – on both sides of the veil.” It also included a letter from his sister who was serving an LDS mission in Argentina. She wrote, “I know that Jesus Christ lives, and because He lives, all of us, including our beloved brother, will live again too. .. We can take comfort in the sure knowledge we have that we have been sealed together as an eternal family. … If we do our very best to obey and do better in this life, we will see him again.”**
That is the Mormon understanding of Easter. Christ has done his part and by his perfect life and death, we have been given the opportunity to fulfill our eternal potential and become like him in every way. Monson concludes his Easter message by declaring, “I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return.”*
Now it’s up to us to be obedient till the end of our mortal life.
What a different gospel then the one presented in the Bible!
Because Jesus declared, “It is finished!”, and then rose triumphant on Eastern morning, we have full comfort, peace, and assurance. We know that our inheritance in heaven is secured, not by our works but by his great work on our behalf. Our rooms in the presence of God are finished, because our sins have been fully paid for by the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
“He is risen!” And so will we, because Jesus has done it all.
*”The Race of Life” by President Thomas S. Monson (April, 2012, General Conference)
**”He is Risen!” by President Thomas S. Monson (May, 2010, Liahona magazine)
A Christian’s reflection on touring the LDS temple in Boise
Recently the Boise Mormon Temple finished its renovations and opened itself up to the public for a month of tours. Last week, my husband and I took one of their tours. Everyone was greeted with a welcome brochure which explained the LDS temple and temple worship. It began, “For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the house of the Lord – the most sacred place on earth….. Because the temple is unique place, only the finest materials and craftsmanship are used in its construction.” With that build up, I was expecting a “Wow!” factor, but instead was met with something like the facades of buildings in the old west – a trying to make something look bigger and nicer than it really was. I have seen cathedrals, churches, state buildings, and even some people’s homes that were more remarkable. What did impress me, however, were all the obvious ceremonial rituals and traditions that took place within its walls. That was a little eerie.
Buildings are man-made, however, and upon reflection, what touched my heart the most throughout the tour, even from our arrival, was the amount of LDS volunteers and hosts there were at the temple that day, all dressed in black and smiling. Before even parking our car, we must have passed about 8 LDS smiling gentlemen acting as parking lot attendants. There were LDS people stationed all over directing you where to go to start your tour. Inside the stake house, there was an LDS person about every 10-15 feet or so directing or just standing – always with a smile. An elderly couple was assigned to give about 8 of us a tour. There were about 10 people seated directly outside the Temple waiting to put paper shoe covers on our shoes so as not to dirty the floors inside. Inside the Temple, again, there were numerous smiling LDS gentlemen and ladies standing around making sure the tours went smoothly. Everyone was very friendly but seemed a bit nervous if asked questions. As we left the temple, there were others waiting to take off our shoe coverings. What touched my heart was, oh my, all these LDS people – how can we ever reach them all – and this is just a small sampling! With the facades of their smiles, they are heading down the wide road towards damnation. How overwhelming it seems to reach them with the truth of the Bible, the truth about works’ righteousness, the truth about sin, the truth about God’s complete and total forgiveness! So many lost – so many deceived!
I asked God to show me a verse of encouragement and my amazing Savior did just that! My Bible readings and devotions recently have been on God’s sovereignty and while reading a little book on God’s promises, Galations 6:9 just popped out at me. Then turning on my computer today, I received my “Daily Bread” from Pastor Gabb – something I just subscribed to yesterday. Guess what the Bible verse was for today? That is right, Galations 6:9!!! So in closing here is that verse and a prayer from me.
“Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don’t give up.”
Dear awesome LORD, thank you so very much for your encouraging Word! Help us not grow tired of praying, of witnessing, of doing good. Do not let the devil discourage us in any way, shape, or form. May we live our lives in service to You, trusting in Your sovereign timing and sovereign ways. May we also trust that, at the right time, a crop will be gathered into Your kingdom. I believe, LORD; help me with my unbelief!