Countercult ministries/Watchman Fellowship/Section 5

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Response to claims in "A Miracle for Mormons - Forgiveness of Sins"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Watchman Fellowship, a work by author: Timothy Oliver
Claim Evaluation
Watchman Fellowship
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Response to claims in "A Miracle for Mormons - Forgiveness of Sins" by Watchman Fellowship

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Response to claim: Mormons counterfeit Christianity by teaching that the atonement of Christ is never enough by itself to save any person from his sin and win for him eternal life

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship make(s) the following claim:

Mormons counterfeit Christianity by teaching that the atonement of Christ is never enough by itself to save any person from his sin and win for him eternal life.

Author's sources:
  1. None

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false


Question: Do Mormons ignore the doctrine of grace at the expense of "works"?

Some claim that the Church ignores the doctrine of grace at the expense of "works." Critics argue that Church leaders do not teach this doctrine, and as a result most members of the Church do not expect to be saved, since they are not "good enough."

Prophets and teachers must emphasize different parts of that message, depending upon their audience. The repentant sinner needs to hear about Christ’s grace and mercy, so that he or she does not fret about his or her inability to be ‘perfect.’ The arrogant and proud sinner (who does not really believe he or she needs repentance or Jesus) needs to hear about the consequences of continued disobedience. In that moment, a message emphasizing grace may be misplaced, since despite the eventual salvation offered to almost all, the suffering of the unrepentant wicked is terrible beyond understanding.

But, the doctrine of grace is a key part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and, like the Bible prophets, His modern servants teach it. The vocabulary used may vary from other Christian faiths, because the Church does not wish to adopt other aspects of grace theology (such as TULIP) which they do not wish to endorse.

The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace clearly, and repeatedly

The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace clearly, and repeatedly. It insists that it is one of the most important of all:

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. (2 Nephi 2:8.)

And, the Book of Mormon's final verses teach a similar key doctrine:

32 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.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33.)

Joseph often taught about the principles of mercy and grace

Joseph often taught about the principles of mercy and grace. In one address to the Nauvoo Lyceum, he was recorded as saying:

Joseph said...that...the Lord apointed us to fall & also Redeemed us—for where sin a bounded Grace did Much more a bound 3—for Paul says Rom—5. 10 for if—when were enemys we were Reconciled to God by the Death of his Son, much more, being Reconciled, we shall be saved by his Life[1]

Bruce R. McConkie: "if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved"

Elder McConkie is not known for his "soft" take on doctrinal issues, yet he teaches this doctrine clearly and full of hope:

Everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he’s on the straight and narrow, he’s going to go on to eternal reward in his Father’s kingdom.

We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. … The way it operates is this: you get on the path that’s named the ‘straight and narrow.’ You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. … Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved.[2]

And, elsewhere, Elder McConkie taught:

As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life; if we begin the processes of spiritual rebirth, and are going in the right direction; if we chart a course of sanctifying our souls, and degree by degree are going in that direction; and if we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. Even though we have spiritual rebirth ahead of us, perfection ahead of us, the full degree of sanctification ahead of us, if we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we'll continue in exactly that same course. We'll no longer be subject to the passions and the appetites of the flesh. We will have passed successfully the tests of this mortal probation and in due course we'll get the fulness of our Father's kingdom—and that means eternal life in his everlasting presence.[3]

Many recent conference talks address this doctrine specifically

Finally, many recent conference talks address this doctrine specifically. (See below). For example, after describing the many ways in which the term 'saved' is used in LDS theology, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

...all should answer: “Yes, I have been saved. Glory to God for the gospel and gift and grace of His Son!”[4]

Often members of the Church do not use the same type of theological language to speak about grace

Two LDS authors noted that often members of the Church do not use the same type of theological language to speak about grace, because such language also includes concepts with which they do not agree:

...Latter-day Saints reject all five principles of the Calvinistic doctrine of grace enunciated at the Council of Dort and represented by the acronym TULIP (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints). To the extent that Latter-day Saints avoid some traditional Christian locutions (such as being "born again" or "grace alone" or even "saved") for expressing their doctrine of grace, it is because objectionable theological baggage has unfortunately become associated with the terms. However, this avoidance does not constitute (nor has it ever constituted) an avoidance of a doctrine of grace nor the rejection of a resource on which church members can rely when they "feel themselves lacking." Any avoidance of "grace" has been merely nominal and not doctrinal...

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Protestant assumption that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works constitute two separate grammars of discourse. To the contrary, we believe that it is false and that James and even Paul, as well as living prophets, make it clear that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works are actually inseparable.[5]

Other Christians may misunderstand the Latter-day Saints because of different language, but the concept and doctrine of grace (as illustrated above) is a firm and vital part of the LDS doctrine of salvation.


Response to claim: Mormons teach in D&C 14:7 and elsewhere that to receive eternal life one must not sin in any way or at least permanently stop sinning

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship make(s) the following claim:

Mormons teach in D&C 14:7 and elsewhere that to receive eternal life one must not sin in any way or at least permanently stop sinning.

Author's sources:
  1. DC 14:7

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This claim is false. One must make and keep covenants. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, "who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he’s on the straight and narrow, he’s going to go on to eternal reward in his Father’s kingdom. We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved" (emphasis added).


Response to claim: Mormons teach the impossible standard of “never failing to do anything He has commanded to be done” to be able to qualify for Gods’ grace

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship make(s) the following claim:

Mormons teach the impossible standard of “never failing to do anything He has commanded to be done” to be able to qualify for Gods’ grace.

Author's sources:
  1. None

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This is false, as demonstrated above. There are ample examples in LDS scripture of sinful individuals qualifying for God's grace despite failing to do many things (e.g., Alma 36:). In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says:
...ye are blessed, not because of your iniquity, neither your hearts of unbelief; for verily some of you are guilty before me, but I will be merciful unto your weakness. Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours. (DC 38:14-15)
  • Jesus always commands us to "go and sin no more," (John 8:11; see also John 5:14, DC 6:5, DC 24:2 DC 29:3), but mercifully realizes we will need on-going repentance and faith in him. The scriptures call this "enduring to the end."


Question: Do Mormon scriptures portray an "impossible gospel" in which nobody can be saved?

A recent approach that Evangelicals have taken in preaching to Mormons is to use quotes from LDS sources to try and paint a picture of an "impossible gospel" that doesn't save anyone from their sins

A recent popular approach that Evangelicals have taken in preaching to Mormons is to use quotes from LDS sources to try and paint a picture of an "impossible gospel" that doesn't save anyone from their sins. They argue that various passages in LDS scriptures and comments from LDS leaders indicate that salvation is only attainable if we keep all of the commandments and forsake all sin. Since nobody does that, the argument goes, Mormonism is a gospel in which nobody can logically be saved.

Latter-day Saint leaders make it clear that we cannot achieve perfection in this life

Neal A. Maxwell:

In a kingdom where perfection is an eventual expectation, our feelings of anxiety and inadequacy should not surprise us. Just as earlier disciples were anxious and even "astonished" as Jesus taught certain demanding doctrines (Mark 10:28), so today there is really no way present prophets can describe where we must yet go without creating a sense of distance. We are not merely journeying next door or even across town. - Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 1

Neal A. Maxwell:

Some may still say, "I know I am not doing all I could, so how could what I am doing be enough?" Ah, but that is not the real question. The real question is, "Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?" (Alma 29:6.) That is the question—for a mother, son, home teacher, Young Woman's leader, elders quorum president, or neighbor. The task is, therefore, to perform in one's callings. On that score each of us should seek to do more. But it is not another task we should seek! [ Neal A. Maxwell, We Will Prove Them Herewith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1982), 53.


Response to claim: Mormons teach that “A Mormon, having received the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, has no excuse for any sin

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship make(s) the following claim:

Mormons teach that “A Mormon, having received the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, has no excuse for any sin.”

Author's sources:
  1. None

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

No one has any "excuse" for sin. This is why we need the atonement of Christ. No one ought to sin, but everyone does sin. Only Christ can save us.


Response to claim: Mormons believe that in and of themselves, without the help of God, they “…have the means and power….to actually do whatever God commands

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship make(s) the following claim:

Mormons believe that in and of themselves, without the help of God, they “…have the means and power….to actually do whatever God commands.”

Author's sources:
  1. None

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Here again we see the critics' rather idiosyncratic brand of modern hyper-Calvinism used to attack the Saints.

The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that anything which urges or moves people to choose good and follow Christ comes ultimately from Christ (Moroni 7:12-15). Likewise, anything that leads to evil comes from Satan.

Latter-day Saints do not subscribe, however, to the false idea that mankind is completely depraved and unable to will or do any good thing. Men and women choose both good and evil because they are moral agents. Christ and Satan both urge or persuade, but we ultimately make the choices, and God does not determine or predestine our will. We choose what will influence us; we decide whether faith, hope, and grace can flow from Christ:

Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ. And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?....And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved....And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. (Moroni 7:19-41)

One must not ignore, however, that the "spirit of Christ is given to every man" (Moroni 7:16). Thus, to an extent all our judgments about good and evil derive in part from Christ's loving persuasion to all people.



Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, McIntire Minute Book, 9 February 1841, cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 63.GL direct link
  2. }Bruce R. McConkie, “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” Salt Lake Institute of Religion devotional, 10 January 1982, 12.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), 400–401.
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55.
  5. David L. Paulsen and Cory G. Walker, "Work, Worship, and Grace: Review of The Mormon Culture of Salvation: Force, Grace and Glory by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006): 83–177. off-site wiki (Key source)

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