By Michael Rabus
The June 2016 issue of the Ensign magazine, which is the official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contained a short article by the Second Counselor in the First Presidency; President Dieter F. Uchtdorf titled “Our Father, Our Mentor.: It made sense that the June issue would contain articles that focused on fathers, since Father’s Day is probably the most noteworthy date on the June calendar, and this article by Uchtdorf focused primarily on our Heavenly Father.
The article was broken up into three main sections, but Uchtdorf kept reiterating the same theme throughout: Heavenly Father provides us with the perfect example of being a mentor, and we should follow his example in mentoring our own children and the rest of God’s children.
I found this theme alone rather interesting, but I also wanted to point out a few other key doctrines of Mormonism that came to the surface in this article. Uchtdorf starts the article with this:
Have you ever opened a box of parts, pulled out the assembly instructions, and thought, “This doesn’t make any sense at all”? Sometimes, despite our best intentions and inner confidence, we pull out a part and ask, “What is that for?” or “How does that fit?”
If President Uchtdorf is going to say that the doctrines and teachings of the LDS Church are the “assembly instructions” for each of us from our Heavenly Father, then I would agree that there are quite a few parts of the Mormon gospel that don’t “make sense at all.” Just to name a few: Why don’t the ordinances performed in LDS temples match the ordinances performed in temples during Old Testament times?
Also, where in the Bible or Book of Mormon is the concept taught that Heavenly Father was once a man like you and me, and based on his performance during his mortal probation, he successfully progressed to the status of God? What about the history of blacks and the priesthood within the LDS Church? If the LDS Church is the only true church, then why was it one of the last religious belief systems to give black individuals equal status? Why does the Book of Mormon, the Doctrines & Covenants, and the official LDS teaching manuals all agree that forgiveness will only be offered to sins that have been successfully abandoned, and yet I haven’t met a Mormon that believes this doctrine? This doesn’t make sense.
It seems that President Uchtdorf is acknowledging there are parts of the LDS gospel that don’t appear to make any sense, or maybe he’s acknowledging there are a lot of Mormons currently confused by the different parts of the LDS gospel. I wonder if there are any parts that President Uchtdorf doesn’t understand. Is there any part of the LDS gospel that causes him to ask, “How does that fit?”
Our frustration grows as we look at the box and notice a disclaimer that says, “Assembly required—ages 8 and up.” Because we still don’t have a clue, this does not boost our confidence or our self-esteem. Sometimes we have a similar experience with the gospel.
I wouldn’t say “we still don’t have a clue” because the disclaimer that Uchtdorf provides does give us one huge clue about what is required from the LDS gospel: Assembly required. The restored gospel of Mormonism requires a lot of individual assembly, which means a lot of work. It’s up to each and every individual Mormon, regardless of whom they are sealed to, to prepare for their exaltation.
I also noticed right away the age that Uchtdorf said was required on the box, “ages 8 and up,” which happens to be the age at which one can be baptized in the Mormon Church. So, clearly he’s going to be tying this to the Mormon gospel. But let’s get back to the individual assembly that is required.
I’m reminded of a quote from Elder Kent F. Richards about how to prepare to enter the temple, which I think President Uchtdorf would agree is an essential element of the LDS gospel:
“Your preparation to enter the temple and make covenants doesn’t happen quickly. It happens as you learn to seek forgiveness through repentance, as you keep standards, and as you worthily carry a limited-use temple recommend. Church programs will help you, but your preparation is personal; you are developing your worthiness, your testimony, your conversion.” (“Preparing to Enter the House of the Lord” July 2015, pp. 16-19)
And whose job is it to complete this assembly? It seems rather clear: You.
Mormons may not understand the various parts of LDS Plan of Salvation, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is our own personal preparation in putting together our best selves. That part is very clear. In fact, just a few sentences later, Uchtdorf admits:
Fortunately, our Heavenly Father has given us wonderful instructions for structuring our lives and putting together our best selves.
Highlight that last part, “putting together our best selves.” That is the Mormon gospel in a nutshell. And it doesn’t sound like good news at all because it requires us to make changes to ourselves that are impossible to make by ourselves. We can try to make lasting changes, or even try to make superficial changes so it appears that permanent change has been completed, but I think the Bible makes it clear these can’t happen by following instructions and obeying commandments. A change has to be made inside your heart (Ezekiel 36:26). Your heart needs to be born again, and the Bible says this isn’t something that can be done as a result of our own effort.
Uchtdorf goes on to list many of the tools that Heavenly Father has given us to better our understanding of these instructions for our happiness in life. Let’s take a look at the first two:
He has given us the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost, which has the potential to be our personal, heavenly tutor as we study the word of God and attempt to bring our thoughts and actions into alignment with His word.
First of all, notice that the gift of the Holy Ghost has the potential to be our personal, heavenly tutor. From my conversations with the average Mormon and Mormon missionaries, I’ve found that most of them don’t seem to understand how the Holy Ghost operates according to the LDS gospel, especially this “gift of the Holy Ghost.” If you want the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in Mormonism, which is called the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” you absolutely must maintain worthiness at all times. Once you commit a sin, the Holy Ghost will withdraw because it can’t reside in an unclean body. And according to Mormon teaching, you will not be cleansed, or considered worthy until you have successfully repented and taken the sacrament each Sunday.
The problem is that Mormons tell me all the time that they can’t seem to stop sinning and yet also think they have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. But according to true Mormonism, these two things can’t happen at the same time! An unclean sinner can’t have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. This means that Mormons are either lying about being a sinner (which I don’t think is the case) or they only think they have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, but in reality, they don’t.
Each Mormon that I’ve talked with admits that becoming sinless during this mortal probation is absolutely impossible. I’ve been told a few times that Thomas S. Monson, the current prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is probably the closest to sinless perfection of any mortal being right now. But if nobody in the Mormon Church is stopping all their sin, then nobody in the Mormon Church is worthy to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And if nobody has the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, then why is this “priceless gift of the Holy Ghost” such an amazing tool like President Uchtdorf claims? It’s great that Heavenly Father has given us the possibility to have this tool, but is it really that great if nobody can actually use it?
Just to make sure I’m being accurate on this topic of the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost, let’s take a look at a variety of LDS sources on the topic. Here’s what Bruce R. McConkie had to say:
“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is a Personage of Spirit; the gift of the Holy Ghost is the right, based on faithfulness, to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead. It is the right to receive revelation, guidance, light, and truth from the Spirit. “The presentation or ‘gift’ of the Holy Ghost,” President Joseph F. Smith said, “simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment.”
“The fact that a person has had hands laid on his head and a legal administrator has declared, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” does not guarantee that the gift itself has actually been enjoyed. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have the constant companionship of the Spirit; the actual enjoyment of the gift, the actual receipt of the companionship of the Spirit, is based on personal righteousness; it does not come unless and until the person is worthy to receive it. The Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle. (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19.) Those who actually enjoy the gift or presentment of the Holy Ghost are the ones who are born again, who have become new creatures of the Holy Ghost. (Mosiah 27:24-26.) (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 312-313)
And this would be consistent with other statements by Bruce R. McConkie:
“There is no greater gift that a person can earn and enjoy for himself, in mortality, than the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, and which gift is actually enjoyed only on condition of individual righteousness.” (Conference Reports, April 1953, p. 76)
So far it seems that my understanding is correct. This gift will only come to an individual based on the satisfaction of certain conditions, and those conditions are “individual righteousness.”
Here’s what Dallin H. Oaks, another apostle in the LDS Church, had to say about the Holy Ghost:
“The Holy Ghost will protect us against being deceived, but to realize that wonderful blessing we must always do the things necessary to retain that Spirit. We must keep the commandments, pray for guidance, and attend church and partake of the sacrament each Sunday. And we must never do anything to drive away that Spirit.” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2004, p. 46)
Praying for guidance, attending church and partaking of the sacrament each Sunday doesn’t seem so bad, but then he had to throw in that part about keeping the commandments. And what kinds of things drive away the Spirit in Mormonism? Wouldn’t you agree that sinning drives away the Spirit? What if a Mormon tells a lie? What if a Mormon has a lustful thought, or views pornography? Wouldn’t that immediately drive away the Spirit?
Here’s what LeGrand Richards had to say about the gift of the Holy Ghost:
“Thus the Holy Ghost enlightens their minds and enables them to know the truth when they have faith in Christ and seek sincerely in order that they may accept and obey the truth. However, there is no promise that the Holy Ghost will remain as a comforter and companion with even such as they, except upon their acceptance of the truth and their obedience to its requirements.”
“We have indicated that men can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost only through obedience to the commandments of the Lord and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel.” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp. 119-122)
Let’s see what an official LDS Church manual has to say in a chapter about the Holy Ghost:
“The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead. He is a “personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22). He can be in only one place at a time, but His influence can be everywhere at the same time.”
“The Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Father’s messenger and is a special gift to us.”
“As members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should make ourselves worthy to receive this special messenger and witness of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.” (Gospel Principles, pp. 32-33)
Did you notice the part about making “ourselves worthy to receive this special messenger”? That means you need to stop sinning if you want to make use of this special gift from Heavenly Father. This same manual goes on to describe the gift of the Holy Ghost in another chapter:
“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. In this chapter we will learn what the gift of the Holy Ghost is and how we can receive this great gift from God.”
“The gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege—given to people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, been baptized, and been confirmed members of the Church—to receive continual guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost.”
“A person may be temporarily guided by the Holy Ghost without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 130:23). However, this guidance will not be continuous unless the person is baptized and receives the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
“Today people who are not members of the Church learn by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true (see Moroni 10:4-5). But that initial testimony leaves them if they do not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. They do not receive the continuing assurance that can come to those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
“To be worthy to have the help of the Holy Ghost, we must seek earnestly to obey the commandments of God. We must keep our thoughts and actions pure.” (Gospel Principles, pp. 121-123).
We’ll get to Moroni 10:4 a little bit later, but it seems clear that if Mormons want to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, they are going to need to qualify for it all by themselves. It’s not going to come based solely on the authority of anyone else, and it’s certainly not going to stay if a Mormon decides to sin or break a commandment.
Based on this, it seems reasonable to say that there are a lot of Mormons out there living their lives with the false impression of being led by the Holy Ghost when, in fact, they haven’t met the LDS qualifications for it. But if it’s not the Holy Ghost that’s leading them, who is leading them? That’s a scary thought, and one that I hope many Mormons will consider.
So we’ve only looked at the first tool of God offered by President Uchtdorf that is supposed to help us understand our life instruction manual, and I don’t think I’d feel any better if I was a Mormon. This tool doesn’t seem very useful if nobody can achieve the required level of worthiness to actually receive it.
Let’s say that God gave human beings the potential to levitate, but there was an impossible set of requirements that we needed to accomplish in order to obtain this ability. Would we go around thanking God for this amazing and wonderful blessing if it was actually an impossible thing to obtain? No, I don’t think we would. And this is how I see the gift of the Holy Ghost in Mormonism. I have never known a Mormon who thinks it’s possible to stop sinning. And yet it seems clear that sinning must stop in order to qualify for the constant gift of the Holy Ghost. If nobody has stopped sinning, then it would follow that nobody has qualified for this gift, and therefore it doesn’t seem very helpful.
Sure, a Mormon might claim to have this constant companionship until sin is committed, but how long does it take before a sin is committed after taking the sacrament on Sunday morning? It could take just a few minutes! If we honestly look at ourselves and evaluate the sin in our lives, I think it would be clear that having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, according to Mormon standards, is going to be short-lived.
Let’s get back to the article and see what else Uchtdorf thinks is a tool from Heavenly Father.
He has given us 24/7 access to Him through prayers of faith and supplications of real intent.
It seems rather simple with this tool: God has given us access to Him through prayer.
And apparently a Mormon can do this at any time of the day or night. The part that I find interesting is those last two words: real intent. Those two words seem to pop up a lot when I read LDS sources like the Ensign magazine and the Book of Mormon (Moroni 6:8; 7:6, 9; 10:4). In this instance, with prayer, it seems Uchtdorf is telling us that the only prayers that will make it to Heavenly Father are the ones that meet this condition of real intent. But what does real intent mean?
Does it just mean that prayers must be sincere? Does it mean that you really have to want a prayer to be answered in order for a prayer to actually be answered? Does it mean that God doesn’t accept fake prayers, or prayers that are half-hearted, or repetitive? If a Mormon prays the exact same prayer every single Sunday morning, does that mean it isn’t with real intent? I’m not sure how a Mormon would answer those questions, so let’s take a look at other LDS sources to see what we can learn.
As I often do, I started my search with a number of official LDS manuals, and this is what I found regarding this concept of real intent:
Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, p. 538 (emphasis in original)
As students discuss this question, you may want to ask one of them to read the following explanation by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We must not only do what is right. We must act for the right reasons. The modern term is good motive. The scriptures often signify this appropriate mental attitude with the words full purpose of heart or real intent.
“The scriptures make clear that God understands our motives and will judge our actions accordingly” (Pure in Heart , 15).
Invite students to search Moroni 7:6–10 silently, looking for the Lord’s warnings to people who do good works without real intent.
• What warnings did the Lord give to those who do good works without real intent? (He warned that their works will not profit them and that their works will be counted for evil rather than righteousness.)
• What principles can we learn from these verses? (While students may mention a number of truths, help them identify the following principle: To be blessed for our good works, we must act with real intent.)
• In addition to desiring blessings from the Lord, why do you think it is important to do good works with real intent?
• What difference have you noticed when you have done good works with the right intent?
So, not only do Mormons need to complete good works by strictly following the commandments, but in order to be blessed for those good works, they must be done with real intent or a good motive; because God “understands our motives and will judge our actions accordingly.” Apparently, just doing what is right in Mormonism isn’t going to be enough; you must do it for the right reasons. How is a Mormon going to know if they have successfully done something for the right reason?
Let’s say a Mormon goes to the temple to complete some proxy baptisms for dead family members. Is it possible for a Mormon to accomplish this work for the wrong reason, and therefore not get credit? What about tithing? Does this mean that a Mormon can give 10% of their income to the LDS Church and yet not get credit for it because it might not have been done with real intent?
Take a look at all the Temple Recommend Questions. Is there anything in those questions that includes real intent? The tithing question is: Are you a full-tithe payer? It’s not: Are you a full-tithe payer with real intent? I’m sure there are a lot of Mormons that aren’t exactly thrilled about being required to give the LDS Church 10% of their income, yet don’t they still get credit for it during the temple recommend interview if they actually gave the 10%? And if it’s good enough for the temple recommend interview, isn’t it probably going to be good enough for Heavenly Father?
Is there anything in any of those temple recommend questions about keeping the covenants and commandments with real intent? Must you attend your sacrament meetings with real intent? Or keep the Word of Wisdom with real intent? Or wear the garments both day and night with real intent? If I was a Mormon, I promise you I’d be working like crazy to get all the things done that I was required to get done to achieve the best the Mormon religion has to offer. But apparently that isn’t going to be good enough, because I’d have to do everything for the right reason as well.
Isn’t required obedience the right reason for a Mormon?
Let’s get back to the same manual where it specifically relates to prayer:
Point out that Mormon encouraged us to pray with real intent (see Moroni 7:9). Invite a student to read the following counsel from President Brigham Young:
“It matters not whether you or I feel like praying, when the time comes to pray, pray. If we do not feel like it, we should pray till we do” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 45).
• How can choosing to pray even when we do not feel like it help us eventually to pray with real intent?
• How might President Brigham Young’s counsel relate to obeying other commandments besides prayer? (If students have difficulty answering this question, consider sharing the following example: Some people might not attend church with real intent. However, if they continue attending church and do all they can to participate and worship, they will have experiences that will help them find joy in attending church. Their reasons for attending will change. They will attend because they want to be there—they want to worship God, renew their covenants, and serve others.) (Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, p. 538)
Now it seems that real intent is something that individual Mormons might need to develop, especially in regards to prayer. They might not feel like praying—and I would say they lack real intent—but this quote from Brigham Young says they should just go ahead and pray anyway, because eventually they will want to for the right reason.
Does God then honor those prayers that seem to be initially lacking real intent? From Uchtdorf’s comment earlier, it seems that only the prayers that come from real intent will be acceptable. Which way is it supposed to be? Are Mormons supposed to do something simply because it’s a requirement for exaltation? Aren’t Mormons supposed to tithe or pray, regardless of how much they feel like doing it? Or are they supposed to do something only when they know there is real intent behind that action?
Let me apologize for the following tangent in thought:
When I first read real intent in this article, my mind went to Moroni 10:4, which is the way I’ve been told God will reveal to me that the Book of Mormon is true:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)
I have been told on numerous occasions that God hasn’t personally revealed to me the truth of the Book of Mormon because I didn’t pray about it with: 1) a sincere heart, 2) real intent, and 3) having faith in Christ, and Moroni 10:4 is the scriptural support they use for such a truth test.
When I’ve asked what it means to have real intent when praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I’ve been told that if I wanted to know the Book of Mormon was true, I had to want the Book of Mormon to be true. If my real intent was to prove the Book of Mormon wrong, then God wouldn’t reveal it’s truthfulness to me.
But that answer never sat well with me. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon should stand regardless of my intentions or state of mind.
There are problems with the Moroni 10:4 test from the Book of Mormon that I’d like to quickly point out. First of all, this test is guilty of committing the logical fallacy of begging the question, which is when an argument assumes what it is trying to prove. In this case, the argument I want proven is whether the Book of Mormon is true or not. But in order to take the Moroni 10:4 test, I have to assume that the Book of Mormon is true. I have to assume this test in the Book of Mormon is a truthful test. But that is the argument for which I’m seeking evidence. What if the Book of Mormon isn’t true? Then couldn’t the Moroni 10:4 test be false? See how we have to assume the Book of Mormon is true before we can test the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon with the Moroni 10:4 test?
The second logical problem for the Moroni 10:4 test from the Book of Mormon is called stacking the deck. In this logical fallacy, any evidence that supports an opposing argument is simply rejected or ignored. In the case of the Moroni 10:4 test, the Mormon missionary or friend has the deck stacked in their favor. They can’t lose. It’s a “no win” proposition for the non-Mormon.
Here’s what James R. White has to say about Moroni 10:4:
If a person does not feel that the Holy Spirit testifies that the Book of Mormon is true, then the Mormon has a ready answer, provided by the passage itself—such a person must not have a sincere heart, or have real intent, or have faith in Christ. If a person were sincere, honest, and believed in Christ, then that person would have to know, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Book of Mormon is true. That makes things quite easy, for everyone who doesn’t believe in the Book of Mormon must be dishonest at heart, lack the proper intentions, and certainly does not have faith in Christ. (Letters to a Mormon Elder, pp. 159-160)
In other words, the Moroni 10:4 test doesn’t allow for any other alternatives. Let’s say someone prayed about the Book of Mormon and didn’t get a response from God. Well, maybe the Book of Mormon isn’t really true. That could be an alternate explanation that wasn’t included in Moroni 10:4. Or maybe the prompting of truth that came from the Holy Spirit really came from wishful thinking, or even from Satan.
These alternate explanations are ignored in Moroni 10:4, and therefore it’s not a very good objective test. I think it’s important to share with our Mormon friends and missionaries the logical issues that come from Moroni 10:4. In all of my conversations, I have only been met with blank stares on this issue. I was recently told by a missionary that “Nobody ever has a problem believing the Book of Mormon. How dare you use it against us!”
I think that’s enough with Moroni 10:4. You can find more here.
Let’s get back to the idea of real intent from this article.
From a Bible-believing, Christian perspective, I agree that God does understand the real intent behind all our actions. He knows when people are following commandments to merit their personal salvation, and he knows when obedience is offered out of love and from a heart that is grateful for salvation. I pray that Mormons will realize this difference and turn solely to the works of Jesus Christ for their standing with God.
Getting back to the article by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, after listing 6 tools that God gives us to better understand his instructions for our happiness in life, Uchtdorf asks this question:
Why has our Heavenly Father given us so much help? Because He loves us. And because, as He said of Himself, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
In other words, Heavenly Father is our God, and God is a mentor to us.
In past issues of the Ensign magazine, I have noticed the emphasis put on the example of the life lived by Jesus Christ, and how we are to do everything to make our life look the same as his. As a Bible-believing Christian, I don’t want to downplay the importance of becoming more Christ-like in my behavior. I definitely think my sanctification is important, but I don’t think my sanctification is what improves my chances of individual salvation. My justification is separate from my sanctification. I think that being a Christian means engaging in the lifelong pursuit of conformity to the teaching and example of Christ, but my ultimate eternal destination does not depend on how successfully I accomplish conforming to Christ.
In Mormonism, though, your eternal destination is dependent on how well you followed Christ’s example. If you want to live forever in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, your life better match Christ’s life by the time your mortal probation is complete. If not, you will probably end up in the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdom, apart from Heavenly Father. From my experience, it seems that Mormons look up to Jesus Christ merely as a good example for us to copy. And it seems that Mormons direct their thankfulness towards Heavenly Father because he provided us with this perfect example.
Here is how I illustrate this Mormon perspective of Jesus Christ: Our mortal probation is like Heavenly Father dropping us in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and telling us to prove our worthiness by swimming to the coast of the United States. Heavenly Father is an amazing swimmer and can only tolerate the company of equally amazing swimmers. And the good news is that Heavenly Father has provided us with a continuously looped video of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, whom we are to look on as a savior. You are drowning and can’t swim a mile in the ocean, and yet God helps you by showing you the efficient swimming stroke of Michael Phelps.
Let me ask you, as you start drowning a mile from your starting point, are you really thankful for that perfect example?
That’s how I understand how the perfection of Jesus Christ is applied in the Mormon gospel, which is why I don’t think the Mormon gospel offers good news. If you want the best that Mormonism has to offer, to spend eternity in the Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father, you better prove yourself worthy enough today by making your life look like the life of Jesus Christ. If you fail, then you’re not good enough and you’ll have to settle for something much worse. If you can’t perfect the swimming stroke (keep all the commandments, abandon all sin, etc.) then you’re not going swimming with Heavenly Father.
But this quote from Uchtdorf is very interesting to me because now it seems that Heavenly Father’s life experiences are to be seen as an example for our lives. He specifically says that Heavenly Father is a mentor to us. That just doesn’t sit right to me. In the 30 years that I have been a Christian, I have never considered God a mentor for me. Now don’t get me wrong. I definitely see Heavenly Father as a counselor and I seek Him for guidance and instruction. After all, he is the one that gave us the Bible and the Holy Spirit. But when a leader in the LDS Church says that Heavenly Father is a mentor, I don’t think he means it the same way that I do.
When I initially think about what it means to be a mentor, I think of an older, more experienced person taking a younger, inexperienced person under their wing, guiding them in a similar career field, or maybe even in the field of parenting. I think of when someone wiser wants to impart that wisdom on a younger person, so they avoid making the same mistakes, or can take comfort during hard times.
To say, in Mormonism, that Heavenly Father is our mentor, I immediately think of the Lorenzo Snow couplet, which was coined by the fifth LDS President in June of 1840:
“As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”
This couplet illustrates the LDS teaching that Heavenly Father himself was once a mortal man, just like you and me. So to think of Heavenly Father as our mentor, I can’t help but think that Uchtdorf is referring to the mortal probation that Heavenly Father went through, and now Heavenly Father is giving us good advice and pointers based on his own experience.
Wouldn’t that make sense in Mormonism? That’s why he’d be such a perfect candidate to offer us guidance, because he’s been through a successful mortal probation and now he’s just passing that wisdom and guidance down to us. There really isn’t anything special with Heavenly Father compared to us, except that he’s just a little further along the path of exaltation. Heavenly Father is the older, experienced person taking us, the younger, inexperienced person under his wing; showing us how it’s done, just like he did it.
So when I read this article, from a Mormon author, about Heavenly Father being our mentor, I can’t help but think of mentoring in the context of this unique doctrine of the LDS Church.
Uchtdorf goes on to say:
Two of the most important roles fathers have in the lives of their children are those of being a good example and a mentor.
Fathers mentor their precious children and show by their good example the way an honest life is lived.
Doesn’t it seem that Uchtdorf is directing us to look at the life and experience of Heavenly Father, and it’s in that sense that we are to look to Heavenly Father as a mentor? He even mentions that fathers “show by their good example!” I just can’t stop thinking that Uchtdorf wants us to look at the progression of Heavenly Father, and then seek out his mentorship so we will be just as successful at achieving godhood.
Because we are God’s offspring, we do have the potential to become like Him.
Just in case you didn’t believe me that the LDS Church teaches we all have the potential to become like God, here it is in plain English. The LDS Church teaches that all of us are literally the offspring of Heavenly Father and Mother, and since we are born of divine parents, we are all God’s in embryo. We all have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Heavenly Father and Mother.
So, I think it’s clear that when Uchtdorf refers to Heavenly Father being our mentor, he is referring to Heavenly Father taking us under his wing, showing us how to become as successful as he is. It’s like he is the successful businessman imparting wisdom on us so that we can achieve all that he has.
The problem I have with this concept of man becoming a God is that it’s completely against anything in the Bible. The Bible is very clear that God has neither beginning nor end. He always was God and always will be God. He wasn’t ever a man, and he never went through a mortal probation to prove to his Heavenly Father that he was worthy enough to become God.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (Psalm 90:2)
Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting. (Psalm 93:2)
Has thou not known? Has thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? (Isaiah 40:28)
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy. (Isaiah 57:15)
I would also say this is absolutely in disagreement with anything that can be found in the Book of Mormon, which also says that God can’t change, and he has always been God from all eternity past.
For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity. (Moroni 8:18)
And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. (Mormon 9:19)
…the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…(Mosiah 3:5)
For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…(Moroni 7:22)
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (3 Nephi 24:6 )
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? (Mormon 9:9-10)
Uchtdorf goes on to say what we need to accomplish in order to become like God:
Loving God and our fellowmen, keeping God’s commandments, and following Christ’s example are the straight, narrow, and joyful path back into the presence of our heavenly parents.
Those seem like four simple tasks; just love God, our fellowmen, keep God’s commandments, and follow Christ’s example. That seems easy enough. But is anybody actually doing all of that? Let’s briefly look at each one of these from a Mormon perspective and see what is actually required to achieve them.
What does the Book of Mormon say about loving God? Let’s look at Moroni 10:32:
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (Moroni 10:32)
Is there a Mormon out there that can honestly say they love God with all their “might, mind and strength?” Because, according to Moroni 10:32, that is an absolute requirement in order to receive the grace that is sufficient to save. Actually, not only do they have to love God with all their might, mind and strength, but they also need to “deny themselves of all ungodliness.” I have never met a Mormon that has admitted to denying themselves of all ungodliness, and actually, they’ve all admitted it can’t happen during their mortal probation. What am I supposed to make of that in regards to Moroni 10:32? Doesn’t this mean that nobody will qualify for the grace that is sufficient, since nobody can complete the required conditions in Moroni 10:32?
Loving Our Fellowmen
What does the Bible say about loving our fellow man?
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)
Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is comprised of loving your neighbor as yourself. I don’t think there is a Christian, Mormon, Muslim or even an atheist that would disagree with the importance of loving others as much as yourself. The problem is who is actually doing this? And who is relying on their ability to do this in order to gain favor with Heavenly Father? Obviously the atheist isn’t, since they don’t even believe in God. But in Mormonism, as Uchtdorf is saying, we can become a God like Heavenly Father only if we are successful at loving our fellowmen. What ends up being the motivation for a Mormon to love others as themselves? Wouldn’t the goal of achieving godhood be the motivation in Mormonism? And if we honestly look at it, doesn’t that end up being rather selfish?
But is that what the Bible is really teaching? Is that the motivation that God really wants for us to love others as ourselves? Just so we can achieve godhood? No, I don’t think it is.
Keeping God’s Commandments
As we saw in Moroni 10:32 from the Book of Mormon, if a Mormon wants to have the grace that is sufficient to save, they will need to deny themselves of all ungodliness. What does a life free of ungodliness look like? It seems to me that a life free of ungodliness is a life free of sin. It would be a life where all the commandments are kept, all the time.
Notice that Uchtdorf didn’t say we can become like God based on how hard we try to keep the commandments. It’s all about how successful we are at actually keeping the commandments. Yet, when I ask Mormons how they are doing at keeping the commandments, they always tell me they are trying. I’ve been told by the Mormon missionaries that the gospel of Mormonism is all about trying. They seem to think that God is only interested in our attempt at keeping the commandments.
But this statement from Uchtdorf is very clear to me. If you want to become like God, you need to keep God’s commandments. And if you’re not keeping them, or if you’re just trying to keep them, then you aren’t going to be worthy enough to become like God.
See this article for more information about “trying” according to Mormonism.
Following Christ’s Example
How close must a Mormon get to living their life following Christ’s example? Unfortunately, this statement from Uchtdorf doesn’t really say. Does a Mormon need to live their entire life free from sin, just like Jesus Christ? No, I don’t think that’s possible and I don’t think that’s a doctrine taught by the LDS Church. And I haven’t ever met a Mormon that thinks a normal man can live a life entirely free from sin. If that was the case, they’d have to deny Romans 3:23:
“for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV)
If a Mormon isn’t expected to live a life free of sin, what about the idea of eventually removing all sin from their life? Now that’s a doctrine of the LDS Church that does exist! And yet, most Mormons I’ve met do not agree with this, and for good reason. What a horrible doctrine that would be!
If you are a Mormon that is having a hard time getting rid of all the sin in your life—and I think I could argue that all Mormons struggle with this, just as all humans struggle with this—wouldn’t it be discouraging to know that you will only be granted eternal life in Mormonism if you have successfully abandoned all sin by the end of your mortal probation?
This requirement to forsake or abandon all sin in Mormonism is all based on the requirement to repent of all sin. And a Mormon can only know that the repentance has been complete when they have successfully abandoned the sin. Look at Doctrines and Covenants 58:43.
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43)
The Book of Mormon makes it abundantly clear that repentance is absolutely required in order to be saved, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and in order to have your sins forgiven:
“And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.” (Alma 5:51, emphasis mine)
“But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Mosiah 3:12, emphasis mine)
“I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:6-10, emphasis mine)
So, in Mormonism, how close must our life match the example from Jesus Christ? It looks like by the end of your mortal probation, you better rid yourselves of all sin and ungodliness. The problem is that I haven’t met a Mormon, or anyone for that matter, that has successfully abandoned all sin. This doesn’t seem like something that is actually obtainable.
It’s great that Uchtdorf gives us these four requirements to become like God, but it just doesn’t seem like anybody is ever going to accomplish everything required. Apparently Heavenly Father was able to do it, but we never get any guidance from LDS leaders on how he was able to accomplish it. How did he successfully rid his mortal life of all ungodliness? How did he love his God with all his might, mind and strength? How close did he follow the example of his Savior? I’d like to hear more about that from General Conference.
Straight and Narrow
I know the path to eternal life is straight and narrow, like Uchtdorf says, but there is a part of that reference that seems to be missing. If Uchtdorf is taking this phrase from Matthew 7:13-14, which is located right in the thick of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, there is an important aspect of this path that is left out:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 KJV)
What does Jesus say about the life that leads to life? Or more specifically, how many people will end up finding the straight and narrow gate? Jesus says that few will find it. That’s an interesting omission if this is where Uchtdorf is getting the phrase “straight and narrow” (Because it can also be found in multiple places in the Book of Mormon).
If it’s true that the gospel of Mormonism only offers eternal life to the people that can successfully abandon all sin during their mortal life, then I would agree that very few people will find it. It might be more accurate to say that nobody would find it, which I suppose isn’t really a contradiction with what Jesus said, but don’t you think Jesus believed that at least one person would eventually find eternal life other than himself?
If you want more information about how you can have the assurance that your eternal life is guaranteed (1 John 5:13), please let us know. I’ll tell you this much, it’s not based on how many commandments you can successfully keep, how many times you go to the LDS temple, how much money you tithe, or how hard you try to do good.
Let’s review some of the important parts that can be learned about Mormonism from this article from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
– The Mormon gospel requires much assembly by each individual.
– The gift of the Holy Ghost is a priceless gift that each Mormon has the potential to receive. The Holy Ghost can only be your constant companion if you remain righteous and worthy.
– Not only do Mormons need to pray and follow all the commandments, but they need to accomplish it with real intent. These works will not count if they aren’t done for the right reasons.
– The good news of the LDS gospel is that each and every person also has the potential to be just like God, except that this will only happen for the Mormon that has successfully abandoned all sin in their life by the end of their mortal probation, a seemingly impossible task.