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.
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.
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)
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!
Witnessing Christ means standing on the edge with feelings of fear and inadequacy, and by faith, jump into the assurances that God’s Word alone creates faith; that God desires all men and women to be saved; and God loves everyone just as much as he loves us. When those golden opportunities arrive to witness Christ, usually unexpectedly, we take a deep breath, say a short prayer, and dive into the message of what Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross.
This is why I like to think of witnessing as an adventure. You never quite know what to expect. The following story is a great example.
This past month, I received an e-mail from a gentleman whose church is going through a Bible study I wrote on witnessing to Mormons entitled, “Preparing for the Adventure.” The class quickly became “standing room only.” The adventure began when a church member showed the student worksheets to her next door neighbor who happened to be a Mormon. The following Sunday, the Mormon lady decided to accompany her neighbor to the worship service and the Bible study.
Shortly into the Bible study and without warning, the lady stood up to identify herself as a member of the LDS church and was there solely for the purpose of making sure the study was “accurate” in its presentation of Mormon teachings. She repeatedly attempted to defend her church throughout the class and pointed to the Bible to back up the teachings. Because the members of the class didn’t anticipate the woman’s presence and in addition were unfamiliar with the language and theology of the LDS Church, the Mormon woman became the focal point of the class and not the material. Since the woman was planning on coming back the following week, they asked me what the church ought to do.
There is a persecution-complex among many Mormons. They will react vigorously to any statement or materials perceived as anti-Mormon. They are routinely cautioned that such materials are from the devil. In a public setting like a Bible class, Mormons will staunchly defend their church as one would defend a family member against false accusations.
It has been my experience that most Mormons are respectful at seminars or presentations I conduct. However, if caught with an unexpected LDS visitor who attempts to dominate a class or a seminar, we can be respectful, yet firm in providing guidelines for discussion while offering the invitation to speak privately.
And that’s what happened with the Mormon visitor.
She must have been surprised to find out that the Bible study offers a respectful and unique perspective on the culture and the language of the LDS church, especially the amount of stress placed on its members to be worthy. Noting the respectful tone and the attention to accuracy presented in the study, the LDS lady confided in a private conversation that there are many people like her who would like to leave the Mormon Church because of the stress. What could have been a disaster turned out to be a golden opportunity.
On the outside, Mormons do appear impenetrable. When the LDS lady at the Bible class trumpeted her church’s teachings, she came across as a valiant and faithful Mormon. But inside, she was hurting.
The adventure of witnessing Christ most often includes sowing a seed of God’s saving message for all people, including Mormons. We shouldn’t be fooled by outer appearances. So, take that leap of faith when God presents you with golden opportunities to witness and trust that God’s Word can penetrate any heart. It was no accident that the LDS lady came to a Christian church and it will not be an accident when the Lord places a Mormon in your midst.
The forgiveness of sins is the hallmark of the Christian believer. Resting on Christ’s completed work on the cross, a righteous soul grasps hold of free and full forgiveness of sins by faith in God’s promises that it is so. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” is the cry that rings in the jailer’s ears after he desperately asks, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer of faith still remains true today. A forgiven saint perfected in Christ is declared not guilty. The comfort and assurance associated with this new status of being a child of God is what distinguishes a believer from a non-believer.
Standing at the doorframe of this truth is a dangerous false answer where the focus is on the “do” rather than the “done” of salvation. Cloaked brilliantly under the guise of Christianity, the gospel of Mormonism proclaims a restored truth, a literal third testament that denies the truth found in God’s Word. With an attempt to satisfy the inner human longings of cooperating with God — that somehow we can attain salvation on our own and be declared worthy based on our own merits – the LDS church is gaining a foothold in our modern world. This is really nothing new. The innate desire to find purpose and meaning through human effort — to cast idols apart from the one true God — has been a part of our world from the very beginning. In essence, Mormonism is an idol of our time. The triumph of human effort supersedes the victory achieved by Christ, thereby robbing people of the joy of forgiveness found only in the promises of God’s Word. The danger of a false gospel not only robs souls of comfort and assurance associated with faith, but leads down a path toward eternal destruction. The greatest example of this can be found in the LDS teaching of repentance.
In the “restored truth” proclaimed by the prophet Joseph Smith a central tenet of the LDS church is that full forgiveness is possible and attainable. Through a process known as repentance, a Latter Day Saint can be declared righteous. To understand this concept fully, we need to comprehend how Mormons understand forgiveness. Sin is not a matter of being separated from God, but separating ourselves from receiving blessings from the Lord. Forgiveness then becomes a by-product of a sincere and noble attempt to carry out God’s command in order to receive eternal and earthly blessings associated with forgiveness. A Mormon version of forgiveness is not something we receive from God by faith, but something we strive to attain through the process of repentance.
The process of repentance becomes the focal point of a faithful Mormon. It is their key to removing guilt and receiving happiness in this life and throughout eternity. Jesus Christ is acknowledged as the one who has suffered the penalty of sin on our behalf that makes forgiveness possible. But only if you sincerely repent. This process of repentance that leads to forgiveness includes the following: 1) A faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us heal and triumph over sin; 2) a sorrow over sin that leads to a sincere desire to change and willingness to submit to every requirement for forgiveness; 3) a full confession of sin before God and publicly before officials of the church if necessary; 4) a permanent resolve to never repeat the sin again; 5) restitution if needed; and 6) engage in righteous living that brings spiritual power such as attending meetings, paying tithes, serving the church and forgiving others.* Forgiveness was bought by Jesus at a price, but it’s certainly not free for us. And that price for us is obedience to the commandments of the LDS church.
The key to heaven is a man-made one for a Mormon forged by years, decades, even centuries of unyielding obedience. Mormonism is idol worship in its severest form, for it looks to exalt ourselves instead of God Almighty.
Mormons are lost and they need the true Jesus as their Savior or else they will suffer the consequences of an eternal hell.
I regularly receive opportunities to share the real message of Jesus Christ with Mormons through the internet. Recently, I recently received an e-mail from a woman who has been corresponding with a Mormon man. She has been revealing to him the truth of God’s Word by focusing on the hope and assurance Christians receive by trusting in the completed and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Our forgiveness is guaranteed through trust in Jesus’ work and none on ourselves. Allow me to share some of his responses that are typical of many e-mails received from Mormons.
“I feel no despair in the doctrine of repentance… The problem is that in your way I see no true cleansing for myself. All I see is a shadow of a cleansing. You talk of Christ having paid for sins and cleansed us. But all I have ever heard from anybody in the Christian world is that we don’t need to be personally cleansed because God is only going to look at Christ and see his cleanliness and based on this let us in. This gives me no hope. It is a hallow offer.” (Michael^)
Like a dark veil covering the hearts and minds of loyal Mormons, the mystery of God’s true love and grace is hidden away in the seduction of a man-made gospel. When the idol of pursuing eternal progression is the focal point of worship, how can one fathom the eternal significance of Christ’s redemptive death on the cross? To further show how lost people are in Mormonism here is another recent response from Michael:
“The doctrine of Repentance gives me hope that when I stand at that judgment bar God will not have to look at Christ to see cleanliness. I will be able to stand tall as he looks directly at me and proclaims, ‘Well done,’ for I will be clean. I still need Christ and I will always need him. For I cannot be cleansed by myself. But my hope is not simply that I will enter heaven, but that I will be clean when I do so.”
All Mormons believe they are going to heaven. There is no sense of urgency or consequences of eternal damnation for those who at least try to live righteously. The effort involved in obeying God’s commandments is the key to eternal and earthly happiness for which God will say “Well done!”. The popular verse from the Book of Mormon states “it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.” The hope is that they will eventually be worthy enough to reach the highest level of heaven which is the celestial kingdom or exaltation (becoming a god). In the meantime, it is not whether or not you achieve perfection in this life, but on how valiant you are in the attempt. Here is another response from Michael that reflects this common thought:
“You do not know when you have done all you can, and so must keep doing more. You must keep progressing. …I am talking about the people who hold in their hearts that if they keep pushing forward, regardless of how difficult it is, they will make it eventually. When I say an honest effort, I mean those who are honest with themselves, admitting that they don’t know how far they can go, and so they will continue to move until they die. These are they who have repented. These are the people who have done all they can to stand against sin. They are saved by the grace of God, for they have done all they can do.”
With a greater understanding of how Mormons view forgiveness, the role of Christ, sin and salvation, we can see how vast the differences are between the teachings of the LDS church and biblical Christianity. There is no doubt that those who adhere to the teachings of Mormonism will spend eternity in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is my desire to bring as many Mormons as possible to heaven, but there is more. I am growing increasingly alarmed about how the LDS Church is attempting to present itself in the media as being a Christian church. There are over 50,000 Mormon missionaries around the world who are actively presenting a “new and improved” brand of Christianity that seduces the human mind to think we can exalt ourselves through sincere obedience. If there is a time to speak the truth of God’s Word and defend it as the only truth that sets one free… that time is now.
Continue to pray that hearts of those souls lost in Mormonism can be opened to the real message of Jesus. Pray that the Lord may continue to open doors for our ministry to speak the truth of free and full forgiveness in Christ to Mormons.
Cover story for Truth in Love Ministry newsletter, Summer 2010 edition.
*True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, published by the LDS Church, 2004.