A few weeks ago I received an e-mail through the Life After Ministries website. This gentleman informed me that quoting from the LDS authorized book Mortal Messiah, written by Bruce McConkie, was proof I didn’t know the difference between Mormon doctrine and the gospel. I would respond to him privately but he’s blocked my IP address on his computer.
Since I couldn’t personally respond to Dan’s note I thought I’d ask a few colleagues what they might know about this subject and I found out that no one had ever heard of this argument before. Mind you, the three people I asked have sixty collective years of experience working with the Mormon people and I’ve been doing this since 1994.
When I couldn’t find anything through that venue I went to the source. Surely, the LDS Church might carry some definitive outline or explanation of these two things!
Going to their “A-Z” index, I found under “Doctrines of the Church” another “A-Z” index. It came up with countless entries defining Mormon doctrine ranging from “atonement of Christ” to “Zion”.
While searching for a definition of “gospel” it directed me to their book “True to the Faith, pg. 76 which said; “The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
In short they believe the gospel is;
“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 its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.”
While the gospel can be defined on its own as in Mark 1:14, it is often modified by other means such as the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, gospel of God, gospel of Jesus, gospel of the kingdom, et al. These are not to be misconstrued into portraying the gospel belonging to those who are proclaiming the good news.
The gospel is the good news of God to all, declaring victory over death by the means of the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is the news that grace has come into effect for every man, woman and child.
I particularly enjoyed R.C. Sproul’s definition of the gospel when he said that one day we’re going to be “standing before the just and holy God to be judged either on our good works and righteousness or the works and righteousness of another”. I know I am totally unworthy without the grace of the good Lord. I am in no way able to fulfill all that is required, nor is my heart always able.
Joseph Smith begins his definition of the gospel by using Jesus’ name and then inserting his own interpretation of how to gain salvation by his own standards. Smith’s standards are not God’s standards. The “fullness of the gospel” in Mormonism includes the necessity of plural marriage, baptisms for the dead, works for the Church, obedience to dietary and clothing laws, taking oaths in temple ceremonies, obedience to the mandatory ten percent tithing law…
While the Mormon who e-mailed tried to throw a red herring before our paths it is important for those who are Mormon to dig deeper and not be distracted by something off topic.
What is the meaning of the message? What is the meaning of each word used to describe how I get to heaven?
If you are judged on your good works how do you stack up?
If you’re judged on Jesus’ good works how do you look before God?
So what about doctrine? Is there such a thing as “gospel doctrine”? What about “laws and ordinances of gospel”?
I believe there is such a thing, but not like the Mormon gospel ordinances. The Apostle Paul tells us about this doctrine in his writings, so we’ll be looking at what he proclaimed; the first doctrine of the Christian faith in Romans chapter one.
In Paul’s epistle to the Romans he explains how salvation is available to all, Greek and Jew, male and female. He shows his audience how the gospel (good news) is available through faith which leads to a lifelong process of being sanctified by God (vs. 17) from one stage of your life to the next stage of maturity.
The main portion of this doctrinal statement comes in the clarification of who Jesus is as both a person and God at the same time – (vs. 2-4). Then we see how we are saved, how we are called to serve and how the world hears of the good news (vs. 5-13). The last four verses are about who we are in Christ.
I believe there is more to Jesus than what the Mormon Church proclaims and I also believe the Mormon gospel is much different than that of the Bible. The only time the Bible is maligned is by those who don’t accept what Jesus has to offer. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith was part of that group.
The doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus is God. The gospel is the message that God loves us and has made a way for us to live with Him by sacrificing His own Son. No matter what you or I do or how hard we work, it’ll never be enough – only God can do that. As the saying goes – “there is a crimson river that flows to the cross…”
Have you been baptized there?
Now in light of all that, this topic brings us to another Mormon and the correspondence we’ve been having with him about doctrine vs. prophecy. You can follow his comments on the blog to get an in-depth look at where he’s coming from, but for now and the sake of brevity, let’s examine what the Bible says vs. the Mormon belief on this subject. This Mormon believes that doctrine and prophecy is not the same thing. My point to all this is that they are indeed the same thing. When any Mormon prophet stands at the pulpit and declares “…thus saith the Lord…” on anything it is indeed doctrine.
As an example, knowing and accepting the fact the leadership of the Church has clearly and definitively declared “L.D.S. philosophy gives birth to the idea of a plurality of Gods”, (Christ the Son, Our God and Father by Hyrum Andrus, pg. 1), we can safely state this is a revelation from God in their eyes.
What they’ve done with the revelation is what is in question here. That particular revelation is indeed doctrine of the LDS Church today. The entire concept of Mormon salvation lies on the doorstep of believing man can become a god over their own planet someday if they work hard enough on this earth to obtain this true salvation.
The words doctrine and prophecy are defined this way at www.dictionary.com
“A particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government: Catholic doctrines; the Monroe Doctrine. Something that is taught; teachings collectively; religious doctrine. A body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject: the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”
“The foretelling or prediction of what is to come. Something that is declared by a prophet, especially a divinely inspired prediction, instruction, or exhortation. A divinely inspired utterance or revelation: oracular prophecies.”
So from this clearly objective, not to mention professional insight, we can safely say that prophecies coming from the lips of the prophets of the Church are indeed declaring a new doctrine for members of the Church.
Yet, here we are with a different definition of doctrine from the person I mentioned above. Here’s part of one of his replies to an article on the site about this:
“What constitutes doctrine for the LDS church? The answer is actually very simple. The binding doctrine of the church is found in those volumes of scripture that have been approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles and then submitted to the general membership for acceptance as doctrine. Anything that has not been so submitted and accepted is not binding on the church.”
When I went to do further research on this I found the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg. 393, defines doctrine this way;
“Meaning, Source, And History of Doctrine MEANING OF DOCTRINE. The word “doctrine” in the scriptures means “a teaching” as well as “that which is taught.” Most often in the Church it refers to the teachings or doctrine of Jesus Christ, understood in a rather specific sense. Scripturally, then, the term “doctrine” means the core message of Jesus Christ-that Jesus is the Messiah, the Redeemer.”
As I said earlier, it’s what the Church has done with the prophecies. When the prophecies become edicts or doctrines of the Church then the words are typically used interchangeably. And for just one more example…take a look at Doctrine and Covenants which is part of the sacred cannon of the Church. Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of prophecies by none other than Joseph Smith himself.
Need I say more?
So nit-picking away at things that take us off topic seems to be the agenda of members in the Church. It breaks my heart we’re so far off the topic which tells me it’s that much time lost in the day not thinking upon the Glory of God and all He’s done.
With Love in Christ;
1 Cor. 1:18
Romans 1:1-17; “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”