I don’t want you to think for a moment that this is going to be an attack on your faith or your lifestyle. In fact, based on what I have learned from conversations and studies, it’s likely that we have had very similar upbringings. From the day I joined this world as 9 pounds of baby pudge, I have been taught the fundamentals of right and wrong, the amazing truths of Christianity, and the importance of going to church and having an active spiritual life.
It wasn’t until high school, however, that I truly began to investigate and better understand my beliefs. And it wasn’t until high school that I truly began to investigate and better understand yours, as well.
While my friends were worrying about tryouts, grades, and hairstyles, I was seeking more information about this religion widely referred to as Mormonism, although I've heard you don’t always like that title. And I admit that my fascination was peculiar. I don’t know why I became so attached to finding out about you, but I suspect it had something to do with your people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is made up of a heartwarming crowd, and I've loved my time spent chatting with LDS friends, neighbors, and missionaries. So I became increasingly troubled when I continued studying your theology. Your teachings. Your path to heaven.
I grew increasingly troubled because I love you. Because I am like you. Because we both have been taught about Jesus, but have reached drastically different conclusions.
Going forward, I hope I can share my heart with you without hurting yours in the process. I ask that you would hear me out, that you would keep an open mind, that you wouldn’t misunderstand my motives for sharing with you. Because the rest of this letter is truly said in love. So allow me to step onto my soapbox and tell you about the Christianity us Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Non Denominationals, Protestants, and many, many others believe in. Straight from the heart of a minister’s daughter.
We all know John 3:16, right?
"For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Well, that verse contains the single most important truth we hold dear as Christians. The news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and we are now forgiven, redeemed, and saved thanks to God’s unfathomable grace! And this is the foundational Gospel message of Christianity that you are missing.
I remember being a spritely nine year old and meeting some LDS missionaries who pointed to their badges and told me, “Of course we believe in Jesus! He’s part of our name!”
And I was so thrilled to have met some fellow brothers in Christ! So after chatting with them for a while, I bid them farewell and as soon as my father got home I hunted him down.
“Dad, how come we believe that Mormons aren’t true Christians? I just talked to them and they are just like us!!”
Today, after many years, conversations, studies, and even prayers- I finally get it.
I guess you could say it starts with our view of the Bible. To us, the Bible is the infallible Word of God. It also tells of a complete cycle without any catches. That is why we struggle with the idea of our works here on earth determining the glory that comes in our afterlife, as many Latter-Day-Saints believe. See, to us, salvation is a free gift that we can’t earn ourselves. At all!
Let me be cheesy for a minute, okay? Just humor me.
Let's say you come home one day to your Dad standing in the driveway by a shiny new mustang and saying, “Here you go, [insert name here], this is all yours!”
You’re in shock, right? He bought you a car just because he loves you?? Awesome!! But being the upstanding citizen that you are, you say,
“Wow, thanks Dad! But I don’t deserve this- how can I pay you back?”
And he just smiles and says, “Don’t worry about it.”
Whether or not you are able to get the money to pay him back does not change the fact that he already bought it.
So now let’s say you go out one night and do a bunch of not-so-great stuff. And when your dad finds out, as he always does, he’s upset. So here is what he does:
He gives you some sort of punishment, maybe, and then reprimands you: because he taught you better, your behavior was hurtful to yourself and others, and as your loving father he wants what is best for you.
But here’s what he doesn't do: he doesn’t change his mind about the car- after all, it’s under your name and insurance and everything. In other words, your mistakes didn’t unbuy it. It’s still yours and it has already been bought for you.
You’re catching my drift, right?
And whereas you might see good works (following commandments etc.) as comforting, because they allow you to do something that secures your salvation- we see the idea of works determining salvation as not only contradictory to God’s Word, but also intimidating!!
Because that’s like our dad dangling the car over our head as we go through life, like, you better be good today, or I'm kicking you to the trunk. Or you better do this if you want to drive it. Or if you don't accomplish these things, you get an old junker, instead. Something like that, right? But our God isn’t like that.
Don’t get me wrong, our choice to go against God when we sin deserves some sort of punishment. His perfect holiness cannot tolerate our utter UNholiness, and that is where we get to Jesus. Who we agree is our Savior. But to what extent? The Bible paints a clear picture.
By fulfilling the law of God on our behalf, and by taking all of our brokenness on His own shoulders- Jesus carried the weight of the world when he was crucified. Which is where we understand the true depth of our grievances- the guilt, the shame, the condemnation- ‘cause Jesus went to Hell. In our place. Which means it was our works that put Him there.
But then, the Bible so beautifully finishes this circle. It doesn’t leave us with an unfinished quest for atonement. It doesn't leave us with the need to add anything more to His truths.
He conquered it- death, sin, the devil- also in our place. So God, who is capable of anything, did it for us out of his unconditional love. He ascended into heaven and rose again- a finished miracle! Jesus did everything on our behalf- the gift has already been given and all we can do is reject it. So as a response to the gift of his sacrifice and of faith, we naturally should follow his laws and do as he says- but saying that we can somehow earn his forgiveness and salvation is invalidating everything Jesus did. We can’t earn it. He made us, not vice versa- and we don’t need to ask for his stamp of approval because we already have it.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”(Ephesians 1:13).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--” Colossians 1:22
We know that we continually mess up, and while we strive to be like Christ and live out his example- we also know that we can’t do that perfectly. But enough of my rambling! I am going to point you to some more Scripture now, and because this letter is incredibly long and you already have been incredibly patient with me, I want to make it easier. While the passages I have included are definitely worthwhile to read in their entirety, I ask that right now you would read only the highlights and if you feel so inclined, read the whole later.
Righteousness Through Faith
21But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith inh Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,i through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
So we repent, we truly confront our sins and ask for forgiveness, and he forgives us completely. Like, totally. As in, every single time we sin- we can repent and be truly forgiven- and our acceptance into God’s arms isn’t changed or taken away.
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 34:25
So we live in GRACE- in the forgiveness and redemption and love of God, and just believing in Christ is how we are saved- which we can’t do on our own, but out of God’s gift of faith. We still think works are important, we just don’t believe that they affect our salvation.
I really like Romans chapter 6:
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a]that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all;but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Slaves to Righteousness15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And here are some more related verses:
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The Bible holds ALL the truth we need. And that is SO amazing because GOD is so amazing!! And it makes life so much more meaningful, and freeing, and gives us this amazing hope in Christ- and even though we face difficulties, and even though we do things we regret- God still wants us to be with Him and He never leaves us. Praise be to God!!! Praise be to God that he has already won the battle.
So we are called to love one another, serve one another, and reach out to one another- “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
We are called to shine our lights unto a nation in darkness, and God gives us so many examples of people in the Bible who were ordinary, or incredibly sinful- yet used for great things.
We are to be the body of Christ and extend his love to everyone around us. How is that corrupt? How could churches that simply teach this one truth ALL be wrong? We are divided on smaller issues- but when it comes to the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, of God’s grace and mercy and gift of faith through his Son- we are united. When it comes to helping others, serving the community, and lifting one another up in prayer and encouragement- we are united. We are united in God’s love and in our total reliance on Christ Jesus.
But you and me, Latter-Day-Saint, are not united in this truth, are we?
I want to be. I so desperately want to be.
So I ask you, now, to consider the idea of God's Word alone,
in Christ alone.
And I ask you to pray, friend. I ask you to pray about the truth of the BIBLE.
From my heart to yours,
|An Open Letter to Latter-Day Saints||
an Open Letter to Latter-day Saints