“1 John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”
As I was looking at some of the highlights and quotes from this past General Conference one quote, in particular stood out to me. It’s from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, in referring to God’s love being “unconditional” he said:
“the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional.”
It’s no surprise that he would associate God’s love with work. After quoting Jesus in John 15:10 (If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love) he states:
“To receive His grace, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, including repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving the Holy Ghost, and continuing in the path of obedience.”
Mormons seem to believe that if someone loves God they will naturally accept Mormonism after they hear “the gospel”, then they will prepare to attend the temple, and continue on in their walk in obedience to the Church without any hesitation, question, or doubt. To see Christofferson equate God’s grace with joining the Mormon Church is just appalling to me. God doesn’t demand anyone join one particular religion before they receive His grace. If joining a church was one of the conditions to receiving His grace no one would be saved, because without the changed heart we’re given upon accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, none of us would have any desire to fellowship with God’s people.
While he admits God does love His children, God’s “greater blessings are conditioned to obedience”. In Mormon lingo that means if you want all the blessings God has to offer you, (going the Celestial Kingdom, and eventually become a god of your own world) you need to be obedient to church leaders, pay tithe, obey the word of wisdom, be temple worthy, and so on.
Christofferson confirms this by quoting President Uchtdorf saying:
Abiding in His love will enable us to realize our full potential, to become even as He is. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated: “The grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. … His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him.”
As I read over his talk I found it very troubling. I kept asking myself where’s the biblical grace in the love the god of Mormonism offers? As a Mormon I didn’t have any understanding of what God’s love and grace looked like from a biblical point of view. Based on what I was taught, His love was predicated upon my “good works”, and willingness to be submissive to the teachings of the Church.
I remember feeling so afraid of losing God’s love for me. The last thing I wanted was to do anything that would cause me to lose the Holy Spirit’s guidance. As I result I became very legalistic in my thinking, and behavior. This pattern of living carried on into my early years out of the Church. It was very hard for me to live by grace, and understand that I didn’t have to do anything to keep my salvation.
When I hear Mormons make statements about God’s love for His children coming with conditions it’s heartbreaking, but they draw me back to His word. Verses like these reaffirm what I’ve learned about God’s love since I came to Christ:
John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And in Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This last verse shows just how wrong Christofferson was, and how little he knows of God’s love and His ability to save the lost, when he made this statement in his talk:
“God will always love us, but He cannot save us in our sins. Remember the words of Amulek to Zeezrom that the Savior would not save His people in their sins but from their sins.”
If we could do something to wash the sin out of our hearts and lives why would Jesus have to die? His statement makes no sense to me.
Even in our sin God showed not only His love, but His grace. He loved us enough to provide a way from the penalty of our sins. Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”
There’s no question that everyone must to repent of their sins, and put their trust in Jesus so that they will benefit from His grace. No one truly converted to Jesus will say, (as the Mormons seem to believe) that you can live a life of sin because after all God loves you. If we are in Christ we will hate our sin and will seek after the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us make the right choices, and live the righteous life God commands us to live.
Leaving Mormonism taught me so much about God’s love for His children, and for the lost. I know that He loves me despite my shortcomings and when I start to go off the path He is there calling me back. He’s always calling people to Him, and desires them to trust in the work Jesus did on the cross so that they can have they can have eternal life.
I pray the Mormons will discover the love of the one true God who doesn’t love His children based on what they do, who’s faithful to forgive them when they repent, and who doesn’t abandon them when they stray.