Friday, March 14, 2008

Mormon Teaching about the Atonement

What is the Mormon Teaching about the Atonement?

One year my wife visited a Mormon ward on an Easter Sunday. Strangely, for three hours they had nothing to say about Jesus Christ dying on the cross or His resurrection from the dead. Christians tend to get confused about the Mormon view of the cross? Why? Do they believe in it or not? The LDS respond, “Yes, we do,” and then offer some statements and pictures to prove it. Clarification: Mormons affirm that Jesus Christ died on a cross but they reject God’s purposes in the crucifixion and what Jesus Christ accomplished there. For anyone to miss the gospel message of the cross and the resurrection, where does that leave one’s faith? Lost from God! Meaningless and empty as “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17b).

Then what does Mormonism believe? To abandon the gospel, what has become the alternative? The LDS faith launched into a lot of high-sounding nonsense as what they convince millions of people to believe is enough to “blow your mind.” They have emptied the cross of its meaning into just a secondary role.

While we cannot and would not diminish our Lord’s struggle within the Garden of Gethsemane, that account in no way is described by God’s Word as being the atonement. So here is the question: How can anyone think themselves credible while elevating the garden to be above the cross?

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, WHERE DID THE ATONEMENT TAKE PLACE? As clarified by one of their prophets, “What happened in that garden, said President Ezra Taft Benson, ‘was the greatest single act of love in recorded history . . . It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him . . . That holy, unselfish act of voluntarily taking on Himself the sins of all other men is called the Atonement’” (Church News, 1 June 1991, p.14). If that was it, why would Jesus die on the cross? LDS Benson emphasized Gethsemane three times in one sentence when “Gethsemane” is only found twice in the whole Bible, and never described as the atonement for sin (Matt. 26:36 and Mark 14:32).

According to God’s Word, did Jesus bare our sin in the garden where He prayed or upon the cross where He died?
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. . . . reconciled to God by the death of his Son . . . by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:8-11).

“In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind, thus opening the way for all of us to repent and free ourselves from the bondage of sin" (Ensign Magazine, April, 1981, p.19).

According to God’s Word, sin is connected to His death, so did Jesus die in the garden or on a cross? “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, DO CHRISTIANS OVEREMPHASIZE THE CROSS? "Jesus then went into the Garden of Gethsemane. There he suffered most. He suffered greatly on the cross, of course, but other men had died by crucifixion; in fact, a man hung on either side of him as he died on the cross. But no man, nor set of men, nor all men put together, ever suffered what the Redeemer suffered in the garden. He went there to pray and suffer'" (Conference Report, Marion Romney of the LDS First Presidency, Oct. 1953, p.35).

According to God’s Word, where should the emphasis be? "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . ." (Gal. 6:14). Mormonism is impressed with the garden but the theme of scripture is, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

ACCORDING TO THE MORMONISM, HOW ARE WE FORGIVEN? "Forgiveness is available because Christ the Lord sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane as he bore the incalculable weight of the sins of all who ever had or ever would repent . . . In a garden called Gethsemane, outside Jerusalem's walls, in agony beyond compare, he took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance" (The Promised Messiah, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, p. 337 & 552).

According to God’s Word, was forgiveness provided in the garden or through the cross? “And you, being dead in your sins . . . having forgiven you . . . nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:13-14). Total forgiveness is available right now through the blood of the cross. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . .” (Eph. 1:7).

ACCORDING TO THE MORMONISM, IS THIS FORGIVENESS THROUGH THE SWEATING OR SHEDDING OF BLOOD? "Forgiveness is available because Christ the Lord sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane . . .” (The Promised Messiah, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, p. 337).

According to God’s Word, did Jesus perspire or die for sin? “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree . . .” (1 Peter 2:24). You must not trust in the sweating when “. . . without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Of the four accounts of the Garden of Gethsemane, only one mentions this blood in Gethsemane and never in the redemptive sense. Mormon leaders miss a very significant point; sin is not cleansed because Jesus perspired as it were great drops of blood; it is based upon the fact that our substitute died.

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, HOW DOES CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION COMPARE TO ANYONE ELSE’S? "And as he came out of the Garden, delivering himself voluntarily into the hands of wicked men, the victory had been won. There remained yet the shame and the pain of his attest, his trials, and his cross. But all these were overshadowed by the agonies and sufferings in Gethsemane. It was on the cross that he 'suffered death in the flesh,' even as many have suffered agonizing deaths, but it was in Gethsemane that ‘he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him’" (The Mortal Messiah, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 127-128).

According to God’s Word, what is unique about the cross? As one man with a match can start a huge forest fire, picture another single-handedly putting out the fire over millions of acres to save millions of lives. The Lord’s redemption is great enough to save every trusting soul, which depends entirely upon the blood of the infinite God-Man, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Mormonism totally misses the impact of the gospel and the sufficiency of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Jesus as every sacrificial lamb was born to die. How did God purchase the church of God? - “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). How absurd to turn people’s faith to what happened in the garden!

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, LDS TEMPLES ACCOMPLISH WHAT THE CROSS CANNOT. Temple rituals are thought necessary to reach exaltation or to be with God in their highest level of heaven. Whereas Christians might display the cross, the LDS reverence temple pictures in their homes.

According to God’s Word, the temple veil was torn (Mat. 27:51) to confirm that the way to God is through the blood of the cross, not temples. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). Christians are the temples of God now, not any manmade buildings (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). The temple in Heaven makes all the LDS temples comparatively disgusting (Rev. 11:19; 14:17). Israel as God’s people had one temple at a time, not over a hundred. The living God does not dwell in temples made by hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24).

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, WHY IS IT WRONG FOR CHRISTIANS TO DISPLAY THE CROSS? The cross is “inharmonious with the quiet spirit of worship and reverence" (Mormon Doctrine, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, p.172). What a pitiful and ignorant remark! However, to remind the LDS of their temple covenants, they do have Masonic symbols on their underwear. Is that superior?

According to God’s Word, who opposes the cross and what is their destiny? The Apostle Paul was grieved to say, “and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction” (Phil. 3:18-19). Under attack by the cults and at the very heart of the gospel is God’s message of the cross! The cross proves the immensity of the love of God. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The cross reminds Christians of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin. As the symbol for the Christian faith, the cross is superior to a crucifix because the Savior was not perpetually nailed to the cross. Now since He arose, we have the empty cross and an empty tomb. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and hell for every one who will trust completely in Him.

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, ARE PENTAGRAMS WORTHY SYMBOLS? Mormonism makes little of the cross as it is never on LDS buildings. For being against symbols, how peculiar that Satanic pentagrams are on the Nauvoo and Salt Lake City temples! In “Mormonism, Magic and Masonry, p. 68,” pentagrams are the symbol for the occult. "The Pentagram, the sign of the Microcosm, was held to be the most powerful means of conjuration in any rite. . . . with two points in the ascendant [upside-down star] it was the sign of Satan" (The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol. 2, p. 552). Furthermore, Joseph Smith was not wearing a cross at his death, he wore "a silver Jupiter medallion constructed according to the instructions for making ‘Magic Seals, or Talismans,' in Barrett's 1801 The Magus" (Mormonism and the Magic World View, Mormon author D. Michael Quinn, p. 66).

According to the God’s Word, these occult activities are an extreme abomination (Deut. 18:9-14). Who is behind this apostasy away from the basic essentials of the faith? “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). This religion is of the devil.

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THE CROSS? The cross is inadequate. Christ’s sacrifice atoned only for Adam’s sin. For personal sin, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23). “To receive this great gift, we must do more than repent of our sins and be baptized and confirmed by appropriate priesthood authority. Men must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and all Church members must make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including eternal marriage.” (TRUE TO THE FAITH, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 153). It’s all about Mormon religious works to get there. Generally, a Mormon claiming to be “saved” only means that he will be resurrected from the dead. In other words, no big deal as “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). That means everyone! So that would make all of the Bible references to qualify only those who are saved totally pointless. And for the unjust, how could the LDS identify a resurrection to the Great White Throne judgment as the same as being saved? (Rev. 20:11-15)

According to the God’s Word, “. . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

ACCORDING TO MORMONISM, WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? “The central doctrine of the gospel is the atonement of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost’ (Articles of Faith 1:4). In it’s fullness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.” (TRUE TO THE FAITH, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 76).

According to the God’s Word, how is the gospel defined? There are many manmade gospels, so which gospel saves? “I declare unto you the gospel . . . By which also ye are saved . . . how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). What is the opposite of saved? - To be lost! “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). The Mormon people are lost! Are we instructed to preach the garden or the cross? “But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Do LDS temples, commandments and works bring the power of God? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). See what is missing from those who diminish the cross? God’s message is to “preach the gospel . . . For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18). Did Christ redeem us in the garden? "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13).

HOW CAN WE COME TO GOD? God sent His Son to the cross to pay for your sins. To say in effect that Your Son is not good enough is to offend God. The result is to hear God say, then you are not good enough into enter My heaven. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ . . . by the cross” (Eph. 2:13-16). Salvation is through the blood of the cross!

IS PEACE WITH GOD OFFERED THROUGH GETHSEMANE, LDS TEMPLES AND OBEDIENCE TO MORMON COMMANDMENTS? There is only one way to have peace with God as Christ “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself” (Col. 1:20).

BUT DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT MORMONS ARE GOOD PEOPLE? For those who defend the merits of Mormonism, what are you saying? What virtues are so important that you would support what God abhors? Do the LDS differ from the seeming nice Jehovah’s Witness at doors to spread Watchtower poison? How can you defend cults that purposefully usurp God’s way to install their own? Do you bid God speed to say that you are so impressed by their dedication? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro. 14:12). The obituary columns are filled with LDS faces destined to eternal outer darkness because they believed the Mormon church over God. Walter Martin once said that the Mormon church is the devil’s best lie!

DECEIVERS OR DECEIVED? But on the other hand, what sympathy is there for lost souls? Please separate in your thinking the deceivers from the deceived, “even weeping” with compassion for those who are being betrayed (Phil. 3:18-19). If you have no concern for that long line of millions of LDS marching towards a Christless eternity, you need to check you heart because how can you honestly be right with God?

The love of Jesus Christ for you is real! "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus suffered in your place that you can have eternal life through Him. Won’t you accept Him as your Savior or will you bear your own sin in hell?

THE EXCLUSIVE OFFER. Dear one, I hope you will take God at His Word. Eternal life is exclusively offered through Jesus Christ, that being His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

WHY NOT TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST FOR THE WONDERFUL BLESSINGS OF KNOWING GOD’S LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE FOREVER? You might express your heart in this way: "God, I do not want to perish. I receive your Son to save me from my destruction in hell. Jesus, You bore my sin on the cross and I believe You died for me and then rose again. I accept and believe in Your substitutionary death in my behalf. Thank you for eternal life.”

Charlie Carle

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