Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Gospel CLEARLY DEFINED?
While reviewing this month's Ensign magazine, an interesting claim appears. It says:
"One of the common themes of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God has a plan. It is described with various names reflecting its various parts - the plan of happiness, the plan of mercy, the plan of redemption, the plan of salvation (see Alma 42:5-31). Nowhere is the plan more clearly defined and taught than in the Book of Mormon." - Elder Stanley G. Ellis (of the Seventy), Pg. 32, Jan. 2012 - emphasis added.
However, in reviewing Alma 42:5-31 and it's "clearly defined" explanation of God's plan of salvation, one should be immediately struck by what is NOT there: the mention of Jesus Christ!
There are many problems with Alma's "clearly defined" explanation of the gospel. But this one is the biggest. Christ's atonement is implied but not expressly stated. With regard to God's plan of salvation, the most important person (Christ) and the most important act (Christ's death & shed blood) is completely absent from this "clear" explanation. One reason apparently, is because the Book of Alma was supposedly written before Christ was born - around 73 B.C. Another reason, we believe, is because the Book of Mormon is not truly inspired of God - as is the Bible.
Instead of bringing total clarity, the passage is actually confusing and poses several problems. For instance, Alma 42:5 says that if Adam had eaten of the tree of life to live forever, the word of God would have become VOID and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated. The verse basically teaches that Adam's actions had the power to nullify God's word! It also gives foundational support to the LDS teaching that the fall of Adam was actually a GOOD and necessary part of God's plan of salvation.
In contrast, the Bible teaches God's word is forever settled in heaven, will not return to Him void and will never pass away (Psalm 119:89, Isaiah 55:11 and Matthew 24:35). The Bible teaches that the fall was BAD and resulted in sin and death (Romans 5:12-14). It teaches that God takes no pleasure in death (Ezekiel 18:32) and that the remission (forgiveness) of sins could only come, regrettably, through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).
(For more detailed information about the view of man's fall in Mormonism, we recommend the following article: http://creation.com/the-fall-a-glorious-necessity).
The next verse, Alma 42:6, is also contradictory to the Bible. It says: "But behold, it was appointed unto man to die - therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth - and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man."
In the Bible, we learn that the fall of man caused death and a separation from God, and that this fall would be eventually be remedied by the woman's future seed who would bruise the head of the serpent aka Satan (Genesis 3:15). The Bible never teaches that just as man was cut off from the tree of life he should likewise be cut off from the face of the earth and lost forever. Likewise, verses 8-10 also reveal confusing statements about "reclamation from temporal and spiritual death" being necessary so that the plan of happiness would not be destroyed.
Alma 42:15-16 also presents confusing ideas about God himself providing world-wide atonement to appease the demands of justice that He might be a "perfect God." But the Bible reveals that God is already perfect and has always been perfect.
Verse 16 says that repentance could not come to men except there be a punishment as eternal as the life of a soul -"affixed opposite the plan of happiness." Repentance could not come except there be eternal punishment? Sorry, but that makes no sense at all. The chapter goes on to describe the necessity of sin, law & punishment so that men might be able to repent and satisfy the justice of God.
If you didn't know any other scriptures about salvation but this chapter in Alma, you would never even know that Jesus Christ or His death had anything to do with salvation at all. And why would you? Alma's "plan of happiness" was written before the coming of the Lord! Also predating the time of Christ, in the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament), you never come across the concept of a "plan of happiness". Yes, obedient living brings blessing and happiness but the focus of the Law was not happiness. The focus of the Law was blood covenant and redemption from sin.
The Law was a covenant with the people of Israel to sanctify them (set them apart) from all the other people on the earth. They were to be a people, holy for the Lord, who would honor God with sacrifices and obedience to his commandments and ordinances. This understanding still permeates Jewish thinking to this day. The idea that God himself would atone for the sins of the world (Alma 42:15) AND reveal that part of His plan BEFORE the Messiah was even born simply sounds like an idea that the author of Alma "borrowed" from the New Testament quite frankly. It just doesn't make sense.
Mormonism claims that the most clearly defined explanation of the gospel in all of scripture is found in the Book of Alma. However the Apostle Paul states that the true gospel of Christ was HIDDEN as a mystery until his time - after Christ's death & resurrection (Romans 16:25-27, Ephesians 6:19).
"Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but NOW made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen." (Romans 16:25-27 NKJV)
Also to the Corinthians he mentions the mystery of God:
"However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which NONE of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)
According to Paul and the other writers of the New Testament, the good news that Christ's death fulfilled the law of Moses and provided full salvation for the repentant Jew and Gentile alike was astonishing and revolutionary! Coming from an Old Covenant mindset, it was actually hard for many of them to understand and receive at first (see Acts 10 & 11). This concept, this mystery, this good news of salvation was not clear before and during the time of Christ. It was a mystery that was revealed in the process of time.
Many of the Jews were expecting the Messiah to deliver the people of Israel from Roman rule and domination. They were looking for the former glory of Israel to be restored and expecting the world-wide peace as the prophets foretold. However, Christ did not fulfill the Scriptures in the way they expected. Even His closest disciples did not understand - even after His resurrection. The risen Christ had to take time to explain the Old Testament prophecies and "open up" their understanding of the Scriptures (Luke 24). They were further commanded to WAIT for the promise of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem so that they could be empowered to preach the good news with confirming signs & wonders (Acts 1 & 2, Mark 16:15-20).
Yet the gospel in Alma was supposedly revealed and recorded about 70 years before Christ was even born. The contradicting doctrines and views present a serious problem as to which is true and trustworthy: The Bible or the Book of Mormon. And apparently Mormons put more faith in the Book of Mormon than in the Bible (see Article of Faith #8). Even while flipping through this month's edition of Ensign magazine, there was article after article about the Book of Mormon with very little attention given to the Bible. We, on the other hand, believe the Bible should be the main course and that anything contradictory should be cast aside and rejected (Galatians 1:8-9).
We understand that Mormons who teach or believe that the Book of Mormons shares the clearest explanation of the gospel believe so sincerely, but we sincerely disagree. Not only does the passage in Alma present theological problems that contradict the Bible, how can any clear definition of salvation be completely devoid of CHRIST and, in particular, and the mention of his redeeming death for the sins of the world? Alma 42:5-31 tries to come close, but it does not come close enough.
How can Alma 42:5-31 be considered clearer than John 3:16?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Than Ephesians 1:7?
In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Than Romans 5:8-11?
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
We could go on and on citing more encouraging passages of Scripture that clearly define God's plan of salvation - apart from the Book of Mormon. Additionally, the Biblical gospel is so simple & succinct that even a child can understand it and embrace it for full salvation. The Bible's message has been unchanged for thousands of years and what you see is what you get.
Mormonism, on the other hand, actually has additional doctrines and requirements which are not included in the Book of Mormon, which cannot be revealed upfront ("milk before the meat") and cannot be fulfilled until one is of the proper age and worthiness (i.e. the requirement of celestial marriage, etc).
In conclusion, we find it expedient to confront the false teachings of Mormonism so that all may know and understand the true gospel of God. The Book of Mormon does NOT contain the most clearly defined plan of salvation. The most clearly defined explanation of God's salvation for mankind always was and always will be in the Bible.
(c) 2012 Mormon & LDS Facts