Worshiping Pioneer Ancestors

18 January

 Worshipping the Mormon Pioneers

     I write this article with the intent of introducing the Mormon people to the idea of thinking about what and/or whom they are worshipping.  What I don’t want to do is send the message that I’m here to bash them or ridicule the intent they hold in their hearts for Jesus.handcarts1

Each year the state of Utah celebrates Pioneer Days in July, with the 24th of that month being the apex of their homage paid to the early Mormons who pushed and pulled their handcarts and wagons from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Wasatch Front.  Their second prophet Brigham Young, led the group of believers to their new home where they thought they could “live their religion” (aka polygamy) without being bothered by non-Mormons.

I have taken an interest in what I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the amount of attention given to this one event in history.  To be honest it’s more than just a passing interest.  It’s more like a sadness I just can’t get past.

Each day I receive e-mail alerts called “LDS Daily News”.  The e-mails are filled with anywhere from three to five news stories of varying topics.  Each will give a summation of the topic and a link to read the story in full.

For the past several months in these e-mails there have been countless stories of how another person or group within the Church is “honoring” the pioneers by walking several miles to think upon their ancestor’s faith or they will participate in a re-enactment of the long trek made to the west in 1847.  Some of these re-enactments take a month or longer to get from Iowa to Utah or Illinois to Iowa.  They’ll dress in the fashion of the nineteenth century and labor with their handcarts in tow.

I must admit I admire their determination and dedication in the task, there certainly is something to be said of their fortitude.  But oh how I wish their focus would be placed solely on Jesus! Acts 4:12 says; “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Can you just imagine for a moment what they could accomplish if this were truly the case for the Mormon people?!  Instead of just laboring over the steep terrains and passes, they could move mountains of untold triumphs!  They’d be rejoicing over the salvation provided by God’s perfect Lamb instead of thanking the Mormon god it is finally over with and wondering yet again how “Grandpa Smith” ever got through it all.

While the organized walks and re-enactments may give faithful members a sense of what it may have been like for their ancestors, my question is this:  how does this promote a stronger faith in Jesus?  The devotion is misplaced from the foot of the cross to the tired feet of those who have long since been gone.  (Picture is from USA Today)

Each time I write an article I do so while praying my own mother will one day read it and come to the Lord Jesus of the Bible.  I pray that something inside of these articles will speak to the inside of her heavy heart.  She has labored far too long.  Yesterday I was reminded again of how she has been taught her life is to be that of a martyr with no grace to be found here on earth.  My thirteen year old daughter, Axi, was going through her baby book and discovered a card given to her by my mother.

The front of the card has a picture of the LDS’s version of Jesus floating in the clouds with a caption at the bottom which read “I never said it would be easy…I only said it would be worth it.”

This, my friend, is a lie.  Jesus never said that.  What He did say is:  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The burdens of life are many and far too much for us to handle with our own understanding or rationalizations of how to “fix” the messes we find ourselves in.  When we set our hope upon the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we are transformed.  We are continually reminded of our salvation because of Jesus and not the muck and mire of today’s troubles which is great comfort for our tired souls!  The card my mother had given to Axi serves as an example of how there is no hope given to the members of that church by a false Christ.  Where is the comfort?  They tell them to “just get through it and someday if you’ve been good enough you might qualify for godhood status”.

Jesus told His disciples to watch out for the false Christs and false apostles who would lead many astray.  Matthew 24:24 says; “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

While trudging along with the task of pulling a handcart through the mean mountains of the West I’m left wondering, if for but a moment, did they ponder upon the price paid for them some 2,000 years earlier?  What stories were told around the campfires at night about Jesus?  Did anyone stand to talk about the blood that was spilled for their sins?  Or was this “mission” a diversion to honor only the ancestors of yesteryear?  What purpose for God does this serve in your life?  Does recounting how horrible of a trip it must have been for those who lived through it build your faith in God; or did it give the new generation of Mormons more determination to be self-reliant?

It wasn’t until several years after I got saved that I realized the self-reliant part of me was actually a sin.  I had always taken great pride in knowing I had been taking care of myself from the time I turned 18.  Somehow this justified my self-serving ways of being judgmental of others and worse yet, my lack of need for God.  Self-reliance can be a good thing, don’t get me wrong.  When it goes to the extreme of working to provide for your own salvation then we are in deep trouble.

Having the young folks learn of what the pioneers had to endure can also be a good thing.  There is nothing wrong with teaching the next generation what price had to be paid in order for them to have what they do today.  I’m all for celebrating the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and other holidays to pay homage to the many sacrifices made for me to live in this great country.

My point to all this?  Where is the adoration being spent and to whom is it directed?  Paul warned us of worshipping our ancestors and giving heed to countless generations.  1 Timothy 1:4 says; “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

Now if anyone had reason to brag about his credentials it’d have to be Paul at the top of the list!  He was a Benjamite, he was a Roman citizen, he was a Pharisee, and had been schooled in the upper-echelon of Judaism by no less than Gameliel,  Phil. 3:4-7; Acts 21:39, 22:3.   He was not about to bring his long list of who’s who in Judaism to get him special honors.  Everything he did, everything he said, was nailed to the cross of Christ.

Our ancestors hold absolutely no power in regards to our personal salvation.  Their actions and legacies they left behind do hold influence upon our lives; thus we see the LDS Church in action today.  But performing works for the dead in the temples, re-enacting the handcart movement of the nineteenth century has absolutely no effect on how we get to heaven.  For proof just take a look at what Jesus told the Sadducees in Luke 16:19-31.

The hope we have is a gift given to us by God and we are praying today members of the LDS Church would be as determined to know Jesus as they are to re-enact something that has no affect on their personal salvation.

With Love in Christ;

Michelle Grim

1 Cor. 1:18

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