Remembering the Words of Jesus

“Mormons don’t rely on Christ but think they can be righteous and worthy by keeping commandments.” This was one of the themes recently hurled in my face several times by a minister who was teaching a woman and others that her sweet LDS parents weren’t Christian and were going to hell. He was especially offended by the idea of Mormons getting a temple recommend card to signify that they were “worthy” (he hated that word) to go the LDS temple.

A healthy counterbalance to such rhetoric can be found in the words of Jesus, which might not be considered as often as they should be in some circles. In recent posts I’ve pointed out how Christ responded that we should “keep the commandments” if we wanted eternal life–a request of His that clearly was not sarcastic, as this minister argued.

Matthew 5 is one example of many. The words of Christ in this sermon are focused not on one-time belief or salvation by faith alone, but on a lifelong journey of obeying God and eliminating bad behavior. He teaches us how to live and behave in order to more fully follow Him. It is a call for us to pursue righteousness, though we know it is only through His Atonement that we can overcome death and sin, or have any hope of truly choosing righteousness. No amount of obedience on our own can do anything to change our fallen nation or remove our sins, but His grace is offered to us in a covenant relationship to cleanse us and bless us. But that covenant involves our participation. We accept His grace by accepting Him and seeking to follow Him and yes, even obey Him, imperfect as we are. Keeping commandments in this covenant relationship does not create the tree of life, but gives us access to it, as Jesus Himself spoke to John in Rev. 22:14: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.”

Matthew 7 makes similar points, urging us to pursue the journey found on the straight and narrow way and warning us that the fruits of our choices and actions show whom we serve, and that those who profess belief and claim to have been great men of God yet have done works of iniquity will be cast out. It is doing his will, not just professing with our lips or claiming to be believers, that matters: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

He is not denying His own grace in saying this. He is not casting Himself out from true Christianity. He is teaching what He taught in his premortal role as Jehovah and what He teaches now as our resurrected Lord and Savior who sits on the right hand of the Father, doing all things to rescue us, if only we will let Him by exercising faith, repenting, and seeking to follow Him. The message of repentance, by the way, is not a Mormon heresy, but reflects some of the first words of Christ as He began teaching the world: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)

The word “worthy,” by the way, reflects a goal of following Christ and does not imply self-sufficiency, perfection, or not needing grace. See how it is used in the scriptures. Also, if Paul could warn against partaking of the bread and wine “unworthily,” is it not possible that other rituals or ordinances might require some degree of “worthiness”?

Author: Jeff Lindsay

152 thoughts on “Remembering the Words of Jesus

  1. So, why did God even bother giving commandments if there is no real obligation to keep them?

    Its hard to imagine keeping the commandments your whole life only to die and stand before God where he says "How dare you believe that you actually had to keep my commandments! Off to hell with you!"

    And in anguish we'll say, "Why oh Why did I actually try following Jesus by keeping the commandments, when all I had to do was say a one-time non-biblical pre-written prayer accepting Jesus into my heart!"

    The whole "Mormons believe in a different Jesus" thing is pretty stupid. However, if "mainstream" Christians believe in a God/Jesus that sends people to hell for believing they have to keep his commandments, perhaps we do believe in a different Jesus after all.

  2. Jeff, that minister really got to you didn't he?
    I mean, several posts about the same topic of Mormons not fitting in the Christian category, and all in the past week.
    I am not sure all this Biblical 'proof' and commenter's posts dripping with sarcasm is going to do much to change minds.

  3. I used to have a slight problem with this "worthy" thing for many years. Then when I decided it was time to get worthy, my Bishop used the word "ready" instead of worthy. Then it finally made sense to me. Everything you have to do, is just preparing you so that you are ready/worthy for the temple. To me it would be kind of like sending someone off to college without them ever going to school.
    Looking back on it now, if I didn't do everything it takes to be "worthy". I don't think I would have had as a wonderful experience as I did. Being "worthy" prepared me for the temple.

  4. This is a good post, and the idea of "works" working with "grace" makes so much sense to me.

    often, when I think of how Christ's grace saves us, I realize that there is a condition – it is based on our willingness to receive his grace. This willingness is shown as we put our wills on His altar – and bear good fruit. (which, by the way is another thing Christ spends a lot of time talking about – the branches that don't bear good fruit are cast away…He doesn't say branches that bear bad fruit are burned, but those that don't bear good fruit – even the infertile branches – are cast out and burned).

    If we follow Christ by being obedient, keeping the commandments, and bearing good fruit, then we can be found worthy to receive His Grace.

    Anyway…Good food for thought, and good post.

  5. Don't forget Ps 106:30-31, where Phinehas is said to have been "credited with righteousness" due to his good works (cf. Numbers 25). This is said of only two people in the Bible, the other being Abraham in Gen 15:6.

    Modern scholarship chows at the "Sola Fides"/imputed righteousness/legal fiction of most brands of Protestantism; the book by Vanlandingham, Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul, and the works of the likes of Wright, Dunn, Fitzmyer and others just bolster the evidence against this minister's theology.


    Robert B.

  6. John 14:15 says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Would not our devotion to keeping the commandments be the "fruits" and "acts" the Lord most desires of us? I would think that keeping the commandments would be preferable to ignoring them and commiting more sin for which He must suffer.

  7. Hi All,

    This seems to go back to an earlier post Jeff had about "faith alone" v "works alone" thinking. My thought is there is this disconnect going on. What I have been taught from very early on, is that Christ came to bring a new covenant. That new covenant really amounts to a different way to interpret keeping the commandments. Christ really only taught two commandments, Love God with your whole heart and soul; and, Love your neighbour as you love yourself. If you look at those two commandments in light of how they relate to the law of Moses and the 10 commandments, the two commandments Christ gave, really encompass the original commandments given to Moses.

    It is still necessary to follow God's commandments, but really only the two Christ gave are important. I say that because if you are loving God with your whole heart, then you are likely not out there stealing from others, or committing adultery. If your are loving your neighbour as yourself, then you probably are not coveting his things or his wife because doing so contradicts that commandment. From my vantage point this seems almost a silly debate since Christ tells us exactly what we need to do. The hard part is doing it.

    As for the debate about Mormons believing in a different God and Christ, I would point out that there is some validity to that debate. Remember that most mainstream Christians are Trinitarian in their belief. That means that they, myself included, believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one in being. For Trinitarians, God is God, he's Jehovah or Yahweh, or the God of Abraham, or the God "I am." Jesus is still that same God, just God made man.

    Mormons believe in three distinct and separate beings. You call God "Elohim" and Jesus "Jehovah." The Holy Spirit is called the Holy Ghost, but LDS still view him as a seperate entity from Christ and God. Mormons are not Trinitarians in thier approach to God and Jesus. From that perspective, you do not worship the same God and Jesus that mainstream Christians worship. That makes you different, it doesn't necessarily make you non-Christian.

    In terms of the temple, I must admit the idea of some Bishop interviewing me and telling me I'm worthy to enter the temple because I've paid my tithing, and kept the WOW, and have kept other covenants, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That just feels wrong to me, and it feels absolutely contradictory to Christ's message that all are welcome. I will admit though, that I do not see the need for the temple at all, since from my perspective, God's temple is housed in our hearts. The idea of a physical building being needed by God, just doesn't make sense. The other thing that has always troubled me about the temple, is that it is closed to those who need to be in God's presence the most. Remember Christ primarily gave his message to those who were deemed unworthy by the society at the time. Christ's message was not primarily to the Saducees and Pharisees, but was to the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the downtrodden… the sinners. These were the folks Christ took his message to. They were the ones who needed the message of hope Christ brought, and they were the ones who needed to know the grace of God. In my mind, they still are, and are the ones most in need of being in God's presence. Having the temple closed to them, seems to be a huge contradiction of Christ's main message. That troubles me greatly about LDS doctrine. But, I don't say this to condemn, I'm just pointing out an issue that many mainstream christians have. Take care all.


    Catholic Defender

  8. Catholic Defender:

    "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."

    I don't believe in a Jesus that can take a man out of the sewer, but that he can take the sewer out of a man. In other words, we must seek His help to get out of sin and the "natural man", "For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man."

    "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

    That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

    Jesus gave men the authority to act, through the Spirit, as judges for the members of His Church. The purpose: "for the perfecting of the saints" and to make us "unto a perfect man". As we strive for perfection, through His grace, we qualify to enter the strait and narrow gate.

    The doctrine of Christ may make some uncomfortable, but so is the rough stone within the hands of the Crafter. Perfection is not reached without passing through the Refiner's fire.

  9. Catholic defender,

    I agree that our idea of God is contradictory to parts of the mainstream understanding of the trinity. It is however consistent with Biblical scripture.

    that is not to say that your understanding of the trinity is contradictory to the bible, I think there is enough evidence taking the bible alone to support either view. Both LDS and Catholics however don't take the bible to be the only authority. It is the other authorities we both look to that contradict one another on this, and many other subjects.

  10. "is it not possible that other rituals or ordinances might require some degree of 'worthiness'?"

    As an example of that, how about Mathew 5:24? "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

  11. "your understanding of the trinity is contradictory to the bible"

    The great irony here is that the word "Trinity" doesn't even exist in the Bible.

  12. I think the great irony is that there isn't much of a pronouncement about what God really is in the Bible.

    I'm fairly certain a lot of true believers went to Hell before the Council of Nicea, under fundamentalist standards.

    Mostly boils down to why people accept one authority over another, which I'm willing to bet has a fairly human component behind it, considering how many spiritually-vindicated beliefs are out there. Especially ones that entirely contradict each other.

  13. Sure it does. But what does it mean?

    Everyone here who's ever defended their view against other views of the bible realizes one important thing: a verse can say whatever the person interpreting it believes it says. Man was created in the image of God? So does he have a body? Are we just a projection? Do we just have some of His qualities? One or all of those possibilities, and why or why not?

    The Mormons have their answer because of Smith, the fundamentalists because of Nicea, and loads of different views probably exist among all the followers, each probably as justifiable as the next.

  14. The sentence itself is rather simple in structure and obvious in meaning. The many extant interpretations are indicative of the human capacity for self-deception, desire for justification, and disdain for truth.

  15. "The many extant interpretations are indicative of the human capacity for self-deception, desire for justification, and disdain for truth."

    This just says it all. Though I'm sure your interpretations of every scripture are above this.