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How to Show Love for Mormons

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, spoke to the faculty of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah this morning.  Here is a transcript of his presentation.  Below I provide a few quotes that warmed my heart in light of the years and years of trips to Salt Lake City and ministry there during the General Conference:

There are those who sincerely believe that meaningful and respectful conversation can take place only among those who believe the least—that only those who believe the least and thus may disagree the least can engage one another in the kind of conversation that matters. I reject that notion, and I reject it forcefully. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, that is the kind of idea that must not be cast aside lightly, but thrown with full force.

I come as a Christian theologian to speak explicitly and respectfully as a Christian—a Christian who defines Christianity only within the historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church and who comes as one committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ancient and eternal Trinitarian faith of the Christian church. I have not come as less, and you know whom you have invited. I come knowing who you are—to an institution that stands as the most powerful intellectual center of the Latter-Day Saints, the most visible academic institution of Mormonism. You know who I am and what I believe. I know who you are and what you believe.

….

This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today. I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.

I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences.

Want to bet no one fell asleep during that one?

Love Your Neighbors (LDS)

My friend John Divito recently (2/4/12) had an article posted on the Gospel Coalition website, dealing with the LDS. Last time I checked, there were 62 comments, which has ended up in a back and forth. Skip the comments, and read the article here.

John is a former Mormon, you can read (a fuller account of) his testimony here.

The Empty Hand of Faith – Vintage

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . . For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants.”

—Romans 4:4-5, 16

“That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”

—Philippians 3:9

“Faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it, but it is content humbly to receive it. Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it. Faith never makes herself her own plea, she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges whence she drew them, and owns that grace alone entrusted her with them.”

—Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

The single most amazing truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: it is all of grace. It is the work of God, not of man. It is the story of a powerful Savior who redeems His people, and He does so completely. It is about a sovereign God, a perfect Savior, and an accomplished redemption.

In the above quoted Scripture we hear the very message of life itself. We first hear about our inability: if we think we can “work” to gain something from God, we do not understand how truly lost we are. The one who works receives only his wages, not righteousness. But to the one who does not come to God with any idea of merit or earning, but instead trusts in the God who justifies the ungodly, that kind of faith is reckoned to him as righteousness. It is a faith that comes with empty hand, claiming nothing for itself, but seeking its all in Christ. This empty-handed faith is the kind of faith that results in a right standing with God.

Next we hear about God’s ability: since faith comes with empty hand, it finds in the grace of God all that it could ever need or want. God’s grace is powerful, and it brings full salvation to the soul of the person who despairs of anything other than free, unmerited grace. Grace cannot clasp the hand that carries within it ideas of merit, or good works, or any other kind of human addition to grace. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). God’s wondrous grace cannot be mixed with human merit. The hand that holds onto its own alleged goodness, or attempts to sneak in a merit here, a good work there, will not find the open hand of God’s grace. Only the empty hand fits into the powerful hand of grace. Only the person who finds in Christ his all-in-all will, in so finding, be made right with God. This is why the Scriptures say it is by faith so that it might be in accordance with grace: in God’s wisdom, he excludes man’s boasting by making salvation all of grace.

Finally, we see the certainty of salvation: because God saves by His all-powerful and undeserved mercy and grace, the promise of salvation is “guaranteed” or made firm and unmovable to everyone who extends that empty but believing hand to His all powerful and sovereign grace. If salvation was in the least bit dependent upon the sinner, the promise could never be thought of as firm and unmovable. But since faith brings no idea of self-worth with it, and since grace is by definition free and unmerited, then salvation itself is wholly the work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), and hence it is certain, firm and can be “guaranteed.” Only salvation that is God’s work in its totality can fit this description.

My friend, do you have the kind of righteousness that Paul spoke of in Philippians 3:9, cited above? Or do you have a standing before God that is based upon what you do, rather than upon what Christ has done in your place? Can you understand why a true Christian cannot help but stand in wonder at these words: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him” (Romans 4:8)? Have your sins been imputed to Christ, and His righteousness imputed to you by faith? Do you know what it means to have Christ not merely as Savior in name, but in fact, so that your entire trust is in Him and in nothing you can ever do? Can you honestly say you trust Him with your eternal destiny, and fully believe He carried your sins on the cross, and has given His righteousness to you, so that you can stand before the holy God? It is my prayer that if you cannot claim Christ in this way, you will give consideration to these truths, and God will be merciful toward you so as to grant you true faith to embrace His gospel. May God richly bless you as you seek His truth.

Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. . .”No man comes to me,” says Jesus, “except the Father who sent me draws him.” So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith,” but salvation is “by grace.” Sound forth those words as with the archangel’s trumpet: “By grace are you saved.” What glad tidings for the undeserving!

—Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

We highly recommend reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic work, All of Grace.

Does Mormonism Teach That God the Father Physically Begat the Son? – Vintage

Many modern Mormons are unaware of the teaching of their own Church regarding the physical parentage of Jesus Christ. As startling and offensive as it sounds, Mormon leaders have consistently taught that Jesus Christ was physically begotten by God the Father, who they teach possesses a physical body. When Christians point out this blasphemous teaching, many LDS are quick to deny that their Church has ever taught such a thing.

Other LDS, including scholars at Brigham Young University, dismiss this teaching as “nineteenth century speculation,” and do all they can to distance themselves from the many plain statements given below. Yet, orthodox, mainline Mormons embrace this doctrine and find it perfectly in harmony with LDS teaching as a whole. Note that many of the sources provided below are official sources: that is, they were printed under the direction of the Church itself. We invite the reader to look at each of the following citations and decide if the facts are not completely clear:

He [God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be. (BY, JD 11:122).

The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood–was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers (BY, JD 8:115).

In relation to the way in which I look upon the works of God and his creatures, I will say that I was naturally begotten; so was my father, and also my Saviour Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, he is the first begotten of his father in the flesh, and there was nothing unnatural about it (HK, JD 8:211).

When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost….

…Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. I will repeat a little anecdote. I was in conversation with a certain learned professor upon this subject, when I replied, to this idea”if the Son was begotten by the Holy Ghost, it would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm females, and give the Holy Ghost to them, lest he should beget children, and be palmed upon the Elders by the people, bringing the Elders into great difficulties” (BY, JD 1:50-51)

When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Saviour was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits, and that is all the organic difference between Jesus Christ and you and me (BY, JD 4:218)

…the Father came down from heaven, as the Apostles said he did, and begat the Saviour of the world, for he is the only-begotten of the Father, which could not be if the Father did not actually beget him in person (BY, JD 1:238).

This matter was a little changed in the case of the Savior of the world, the Son of the living God. The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband. On this account infidels have called the Savior a bastard. This is merely a human opinion upon one of the inscrutable doings of the Almighty. That very babe that was cradled in the manger, was begotten, not by Joseph, the husband of Mary, but by another Being. Do you inquire by whom? He was begotten by God our heavenly father (BY, JD 11:268)

…but it was the personage of the Father who begat the body of Jesus; and for this reason Jesus is called the Only Begotten of the Father; that is, the only one in this world whose fleshly body was begotten by the Father. There were millions of sons and daughters whom He begat before the foundation of the world, but they were spirits, and not bodies of flesh and bones; whereas, both the spirit and body of Jesus were begotten by the Father the spirit having been begotten in heaven many ages before the tabernacle was begotten upon the earth. The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of Husband and Wife; hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father: we use the term lawful Wife, because it would be blasphemous in the highest degree to say that He overshadowed her or begat the Saviour unlawfully. It would have been unlawful for any man to have interfered with Mary, who was already espoused to Joseph; for such a heinous crime would have subjected both the guilty parties to death, according to the law of Moses. But God having created all men and women, had the most perfect right to do with His own creation, according to His holy will and pleasure; He had a lawful right to overshadow the Virgin Mary in the capacity of a husband, and beget a Son, although she was espoused to another; for the law which He gave to govern men and women was not intended to govern Himself, or to prescribe rules for his own conduct. It was also lawful in Him, after having thus dealt with Mary, to give Mary to Joseph her espoused husband. Whether God the Father gave Mary to Joseph for time only, or for time and eternity, we are not informed. Inasmuch as God was the first husband to her, it may be that He only gave her to be the wife of Joseph while in this mortal state, and that He intended after the resurrection to again take her as one of his own wives to raise up immortal spirits in eternity (OP, The Seer, p. 158).

Henry D. Taylor, Conference Report, October 1967, Pg.142

Having been begotten of an immortal sire, Jesus possessed as a heritage the power to withstand death indefinitely. He literally and really gave up his life. It was not taken from him.

CHRIST NOT BEGOTTEN OF HOLY GHOST. I believe firmly that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He taught this doctrine to his disciples. He did not teach them that He was the Son of the Holy Ghost, but the Son of the Father….Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God! (JFS, DoS 1:18).

Under the topic “Only Begotten Son” in Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie wrote,

These name-titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the Father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only means only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers (pp. 546-547).

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says. (1 Ne. 11) (Ibid. p. 742).

McConkie also taught this in a later book entitled The Promised Messiah:

This then is the condescension of God–that a God should beget a man; that an Immortal Parent should father a mortal Son; that the Creator of all things from the beginning should step down from his high state of exaltation and be, for a moment, like one of the creatures of his creating…We have spoken plainly of our Lord’s conception in the womb of Mary; in reality the plain assertions are found in the revealed word, and we have but certified that the words mean what they say and cannot be spiritualized away. And as it is with reference to our Lord’s mother, so it is as pertaining to his Father. The scriptures say that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son. The problem is that the intellectually led ministry and laity of the day assume, as Satan leads them to do, that a name-title of this sort is simply figurative and does not have the same literal meaning as when the words are spoken in ordinary conversation. Perhaps again the best service we can render, on the issue here involved, is somehow to get the message across that words mean what they say, and that if Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, it means just that. Some words scarcely need definition. They are on every tongue and are spoken by every voice. The very existence of intelligent beings presupposes and requires their constant use. Two such words are father and son. Their meaning is known to all, and to define them is but to repeat them. Thus: A son is a son is a son, and a father is a father is a father. I am the son of my father and the father of my sons. They are my sons because they were begotten by me, were conceived by their mother, and came forth from her womb to breathe the breath of mortal life, to dwell for a time and a season among other mortal men. And so it is with the Eternal Father and the mortal birth of the Eternal Son. The Father is a Father is a Father; he is not a spirit essence or nothingness to which the name Father is figuratively applied. And the Son is a Son is a Son; he is not some transient emanation from a divine essence, but a literal, living offspring of an actual Father. God is the Father; Christ is the Son. The one begat the other. Mary provided the womb from which the Spirit Jehovah came forth, tabernacles in clay, as all men are, to dwell among his fellow spirits whose births were brought to pass in like manner. There is no need to spiritualize away the plain meaning of the scriptures. There is nothing figurative or hidden or beyond comprehension in our Lord’s coming into mortality. He is the Son of God in the same sense and way that we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple. Christ was born of Mary. He is the Son of God–the Only begotten of the Father (pp. 468-469).

And a little later he added,

And so, in the final analysis, it is the faithful saints, those who have testimonies of the truth and divinity of this great latter-day work, who declare our Lord’s generation to the world. Their testimony is that Mary’s son is God’s son; that he was conceived and begotten in the normal way…This is their testimony as to his generation (Ibid. p. 473).

Earlier in the same work McConkie had written:

That there never was a son without a father, nor a father without a son, is self-evident and in the very nature of things both sire and son partake of the same nature and are members of the same house and lineage (p. 9).

Robert A. Rees served as bishop of the Los Angeles First Ward. He gave a sacrament meeting talk on April 29th, 1990, and provided an article to Dialogue that is found in the Winter, 1991 issue. It is entitled, “Bearing Our Crosses Gracefully: Sex and the Single Mormon.” In it we find the following:

 Mormons differ from other Christians in our literal belief that we are begotten of God spiritually and that Christ was begotten of him physically. Paul says in Acts that we are God’s offspring (17:28-29). We believe that our spiritual conception was sexual just as we believe that Christ’s mortal conception was. Elucidating the latter, James E. Talmage says, “That child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law, but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof” (1986, 81).

As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Ezra Taft Benson made the following statement:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the son of the Eternal Father!” [cited in J. F. McConkie, Here We Stand p. 167]

From the Family Home Evenings booklet, copyright 1972 by the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pp. 125-126:

We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot his Son Jesus Christ, and he was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father. . . . Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ. (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec. 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan. 1915, pp. 1-2).

Then we have an almost stick-figure male identified as “Daddy,” and another figure, female, identified as “Mommy.” There is a plus between them, with lines leading down to a child figure, marked “You.” Right below this we have the following diagram that has “Our Heavenly Father” where “Daddy” was, “Mary” where “Mommy” was, and “Jesus” where “You” was. We here provide scans of these drawings:

Then, immediately below, we have this:

The work, Messages for Exaltation: Eternal Insights from the Book of Mormon (Published by the Deseret Sunday School Union, “For the Sunday Schools of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”), 1967, p. 119, said:

Christ has power over death. Since the Fall of Adam, every person born on earth has had within him the seeds of death. Christ was no exception. He inherited the ability to die from mortal mother, Mary. But he also inherited the ability to live forever from his immortal Father. This power over death was entirely dependent upon Christ’s being the literal Son of God. From his immortal, glorified Father he inherited power over death. Thus with a mortal mother and an immortal Father, the sinless Christ could decide for himself whether to live or die. The choice was his. Milton R. Hunter expressed this power in these words: He, Jesus Christ, being literally the Only Begotten Son of God, was endowed with a double portion of divine attributes. He received a comparable proportion of divinity in the spirit world that we received through being spirit children of God, and He was also the offspring of the Eternal Father in mortality—thus He possessed a double portion of God’s power.

This is exactly in line with the current Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, Religion 231 and 232 (Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 1986, p. 22, which states:

C. Only Jesus Christ possessed the qualifications and attributes necessary to perform an infinite atonement. 1. As the Only Begotten Son of God, the Savior inherited the capacity to suffer for the sins of all the children of God.

The above referenced Messages for Exaltation also said, on pp. 378-379:

He was willing to make payment because of his great love for mankind, and he was able to make payment because he lived a sinless life and because he was actually, literally, biologically the Son of God in the flesh. Thus he had the power to atone for the spiritual and physical deaths introduced by the Fall of Adam and Eve.

See also p. 29 of Relief Society Courses of Study 1985 for yet another reference supporting what has been provided above. It is beyond question that this doctrine has been officially taught by the leaders of the LDS Church from the days of Brigham Young to the present.

Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol.1, p.319

Again the answer is perfect. There is a power beyond man’s. When God is involved, he uses his minister, the Holy Ghost, to overshadow the future mother and to carry her away in the Spirit. She shall conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and God himself shall be the sire. It is his Son of whom Gabriel is speaking. A son is begotten by a father: whether on earth or in heaven it is the same.

James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Ch.3, p.22

What other man has lived with power to withstand death, over whom death could not prevail except through his own submission? Yet Jesus Christ could not be slain until His “hour had come,” and that, the hour in which He voluntarily surrendered His life, and permitted His own decease through an act of will. Born of a mortal mother He inherited the capacity to die; begotten by an immortal Sire He possessed as a heritage the power to withstand death indefinitely. He literally gave up His life; to this effect is His own affirmation: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” And further: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” Only such a One could conquer death; in none but Jesus the Christ was realized this requisite condition of a Redeemer of the world.

James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Ch.25, p.418 – p.419

With effective repetition Jesus continued: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” For this cause was Jesus the Father’s Beloved Son — that He was ready to lay down His life for the sake of the sheep. That the sacrifice He was soon to render was in fact voluntary, and not a forfeiture under compulsion, is solemnly affirmed in the Savior’s words: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” The certainty of His death and of His subsequent resurrection are here reiterated. A natural effect of His immortal origin, as the earth-born Son of an immortal Sire, was that He Was immune to death except as He surrendered thereto. The life of Jesus the Christ could not be taken save as He willed and allowed. The power to lay down His life was inherent in Himself, as was the power to take up His slain body in an immortalized state. These teachings caused further division among the Jews. Some pretended to dispose of the matter by voicing anew the foolish assumption that Jesus was but an insane demoniac, and that therefore His words were not worthy of attention. Others with consistency said “These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” So it was that a few believed, many doubted though partly convinced, and some condemned.

Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol.3, p.138

The express image of his person] What more need be said? God the Eternal Father is the Father; the Son of God is the Son. A father is a father, and a son is a son. The Father begets; the Son is begotten; they are Parent and Child; Sire and Son look alike, so much so that they are the express image of each other’s persons. The substance composing the body of one is identical in appearance to that composing the body of the other. What could be plainer?

Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol.3, p.141

Begotten] Begotten means begotten; it means Christ’s mortal body was procreated by an Eternal Sire; it means God is the Father of Christ, “after the manner of the flesh.” (1 Ne. 11:18.)

The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, p.94

However, scripture describes Jesus as the Firstborn of the Father, not only in terms of the human family, but in [p.95] terms of every world and every form of life organized under the Father’s direction. Paul wrote: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible [seen and unseen].…And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Coloss. 1:16-17; emphasis added; cf. Rev. 3:14).9 In other words, our God’s first creative act as a Father was to sire his Firstborn and Only Begotten Son.

James E. Talmage, Conference Report, April 1915, p.121

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and much has been said concerning His proprietorship, His mastership, in the Church, the Church that bears His name. I take it to be a plain and simple principle that we cannot worship intelligently, and therefore acceptably unto the Lord, unless we know something of the attributes and of the will of Him whom we profess to worship. The relationship of the Christ to the Eternal Father has been set forth in such plainness that I do not think any wayfaring man amongst us can fail to understand. We recognize in Jesus Christ the Son of the Eternal Father, both in spirit and in body. There is no other meaning to attach to that expression, as used by the Eternal Father Himself–“Mine Only Begotten Son.” Christ combined within His own person and nature the attributes of His mortal mother, and just as truly the attributes of His immortal Sire. By that fixed and inexorable law of nature, that every living organism shall follow after his kind, Jesus the Christ had the power to die, for He was the offspring of a mortal woman; and He had the power to withstand death indefinitely, for He was the son of an immortal Father. This simplicity of doctrine has shocked many, but the truth is frequently shocking just because of its simplicity and consequent grandeur. We must know something of the attributes of the Eternal Father, that we may the more fully comprehend His relationship to His Only Begotten Son.