You know those moments when you look at something you’ve looked at a thousand times before and suddenly see something new?
I was looking at a blog I found via the Google Blog Alerts service and it told the familiar story of the Mormon “Plan of Salvation”; you can read it here. There really was nothing surprising until I started thinking about what people might think if a family they knew conducted themselves the way the Mormon “family of God” do in this story.
People from abusive backgrounds have problems enough with the idea of God as a Father but this story would put anyone off the idea forever! As I recount this story think about what the typical dad would do as his kids are growing up and compare it with this “exalted man.”
According to Mormonism “God created our spirits” and we lived with him in a pre-mortal existence (Mormons say “pre-existence” but it is not possible to pre-exist, i.e. to exist before you exist. The noun “existence” has to be have the prefix “pre” otherwise the word makes no sense whatsoever).
Mormons traditionally have believed that more than “creation” went on back in the pre-mortal existence and have a hymn that celebrates the existence of a heavenly mother. The picture of the nuclear family unit, then, is complete. There he is, with his wife and children, “literally our loving Father in heaven”. Well, let’s see if that is true.
In heaven we were taught the “gospel” and decided whether we were going to be obedient or rebellious – Now I am a dad and I can tell you that whether my children were going to be obedient or rebellious was never a great priority with me. It seemed to be more important to know whether they learned to love, cared about others and felt secure and appreciated in the family. I didn’t give them a “gospel” to test them but told them the gospel to bless them. After all, they are my children and not my cattle.
In order to progress and grow further it was necessary that we left our heavenly home and came into the great wide world. That sounds familiar enough. All my children have left home to make their way in the world. But what would you think of me if I hid from them and only communicated with them through third parties and ancient texts, or agents I sent out to tell them “your dad told me to tell you…”
But that is what the Mormon God does. He tells his family his plan and when some of them don’t like it he just throws them out and makes them pariah’s! The rest are sent out into the world and, here’s the weird part, he makes them forget him and then sends messengers to teach them all over again who he is even though they knew in the first place!
He has them pass on a formula for finding out who their dad is and what he wants (Js.1:5) and gives them a list of commandments to follow so they can go back to him. That’s like your son or daughter arriving at university and looking blank when someone asks, “So what does your dad do?” Would you want to go back after being treated like that?
Actually, the university analogy is popular with Mormons, this life being a learning experience, the Mormon Church being a sort of tertiary college and the temple being a university. First student asks, “So what are you studying at university?” Mormon replies, “I came to find out who my dad is.”
Finally, this dad stands at his front door with a clipboard, tick box and pen, checking to see, on their return from university, if they come up to his exacting standards, have straight A’s etc. before he allows them back into the house where they were “born”. Can you imagine an earthly dad standing at the door and asking his children, “Can I see your temple recommend?”
Now compare this with the Christian gospel.
In the beginning God created everything, including man (Gen.1&2) We are not “the literal offspring of God” but creatures of God’s making, created in His image and to be stewards of His creation, but created nevertheless. There is no pre-mortal existence, only mortality, where we live, and eternity, where God dwells.
Mankind rebelled against God by simply but tragically choosing to put man’s will above God’s, thus losing the role of steward over creation and bringing creation crashing down in ignominy with him. From the beginning God has promised and worked for the redemption of man and creation and every act of God is bent to this purpose so that God may have his will and receive the glory due his name. The condition we now find ourselves in and the work of God to effect our rescue are described in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Ro.3:10 - There is no-one righteous, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.
Ro3:23 - All have sinned and fallen short. It is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard.
Ro.5:12 - Death came to all men, because all sinned. It is our nature to sin.
Ro.5:8 - Because of God's love for us, he sent Christ to die for us - while we were still sinners, not because we had done anything to earn it.
Ro.6:23 - The wages of sin is death - wages are what you earn as a result of what you do. The gift of God is eternal life - you do not earn a gift, or deserve it. God gives the gift because He loves us. We do not need to work for it, only accept it.
Ro.10:13 - Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You only have to call.
Ro.10:9,10 - True, heart-felt confession of faith in Jesus is what it takes to be saved, not works.
There is no exam to find your grades, no test to see if you will be obedient or rebellious, only the simple yet profound question of whether we have trusted in Jesus and the finished work of the Cross.