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Friday, December 4, 2009

Mormon Theology no. 9 - Becoming Worthy and Receiving Forgiveness

I remember on my mission to California attending Saddleback Church in Rancho Santa Margarita.  At the end of a sermon, Pastor Rick Warren looks at us and says, "It's not about works!", referring to the misconception that Mormons believe they work their way into Heaven, and that its actually all about grace.


In this essay, we will examine, from an active Latter-day Saint's Bible and Triple Combination, the Lord's commandments to remain worthy of His grace and receive His forgiveness - every single day of our lives - not just once.  It must here be remembered that the men herein quoted (including Christ) were Apostles of Jesus Christ and Prophets, Seers, and Revelators in their day, dispensation, and time.  Remember, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7)."  God always works in this way, anciently as well as in modern times.

In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth.  "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them (Gen. 1:27)."  God gave unto Adam and unto his wife Eve two commandments whilst they dwelt in the Garden of Eden.  "And the Lord commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2: 16-17)."  He then married Adam and Eve, and the record states, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:24)."  The two commandments received were to not eat of the Forbidden Fruit and to multiply and replenish the earth.  But, Adam and Eve transgressed the law, ate of the Fruit, and were kicked out of the Garden and out of the presence of God and the Lamb.  "And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying; Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.  And then the angel spake, saying; This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.  Wherefore, thou shalt to all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore (Moses 5:6-8)."  God, through His angel, commands Adam to "not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness (Alma 12:32)."  It is through the Son Jesus Christ - and Him only - that forgiveness is possible, as taught to Adam by the angel.  Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon confirm this fact.

When the Savior was in His mortal ministry, He plainly taught the keeping of His commandments and repentance are needful to receive God's forgiveness.  "If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)."  The Lord of the Earth also said, "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3)."  Mark wrote of Jesus that He Himself said, "repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15)."  During the Last Supper of our Lord, He instituted the ordinance of the Sacrament, saying, "this do in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19)."  The purpose of the Sacrament is to renew a covenant, which the Apostle Paul says, "shew[s] the Lord's death till He come.  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:26-27)."  Here we remark that the Apostle Paul (upon who's teachings the majority of Christendom's churches are based) says that one must be worthy - no questions asked - to partake of the Sacrament, and thus receive the Lord's fellowship.  What exactly does "fellowship" mean?  The Lord said, "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 (John 15:10)."  The Lord's "fellowship" is literally the love of the Savior, love for the Savior, and love from the Savior.  Thus, if the Savior states that He needed to keep commandments to abide in God the Father's love, certainly we should all follow the Prince of Peace and keep His commandments, shall we not?

What has the Lord said about repentance and forgiveness in the present dispensation through His prophets?  "I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven (D&C 1:31-32)."  Christ states in a similar but more clarifying tone, "Nevertheless, thou art not excusable in thy transgressions; nevertheless, go thy way and sin no more (D&C 24:2)."  Lastly, "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.  By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins - behold, he will confess them and forsake them (D&C 58:42-43)."


What do the Standard Works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (including the Bible) say about it's own teachings?  The words of the Son of Man Himself, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."  Speaking of these words of the Savior, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Because Christ had overcome the world . . . all mankind would be given . . . immortality!  Additionally . . . there would be the richness of eternal life!  These . . . justified the Twelve being of good cheer - not their grim, temporary circumstances (Neal A. Maxwell, "Be of Good Cheer”, Ensign, Nov 1982, 66)."  Also, we can read more of the non-despair-laden teachings from the Book of Mormon: "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven . . . (Mosiah 2:41)."

I urge the reader to consider the facts.  There is a God in heaven.  He has sent His Son as a ransom for all sin, pain, and loss if we but give heed through repentance, commandment and covenant keeping, and being of good cheer.  The Lord has called a Prophet to restore Ancient Christianity named Joseph Smith, Junior.  There is a Prophet of God on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson.  The Book of Mormon does lead people to be of good cheer, for I have witnessed it in my own life and in the lives of hundreds of Californians and many others.  I know this is true.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

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