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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do Mormons Understand Grace? A Response to "His Grace is Sufficient"

A few days ago, while visiting my parents, I noticed an article printed out on their (not for) coffee table that was about grace. I didn't get a chance to peruse it while there, but skimmed the first page for keywords and phrases so I would be able to search and recognize it, and pulled it up to read once I returned home. When I found and read it, I was in shock at what I was reading. It wasn't quite the Christian doctrine of grace, but it was a far cry closer than anything I'd been taught as a Mormon! Has the church really changed so much in less than three years?

The article is below for your perusal. My comments are in (italics), and quotes by Mormon General Authorities are in blue. It is long, but please bear with me..(http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2968)

His Grace is Sufficient
By Bradley R. Wilcox

Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?” I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.”
She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!”
She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Cor. 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes.
Sufficient to Cover Us
A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to ‘do my best and then Jesus does the rest,’ but I can’t even do my best.”
She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing—“because she’s a Mormon”—that she wasn’t doing.
She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”
She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing—“because she’s a Mormon”—but that she was doing anyway.
Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”
Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”
She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.
I said, “Wrong.”
“I knew it was higher,” she said. “I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”
I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.” 
 (Right, that sounds Christian. He did pay it all. It is finished. But...)

“However good a person’s works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else’s sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 207).

She said, “Right—like I don’t have to do anything?”
“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.” 
(There it is. The caveat that is not Biblical. Grace belongs to everyone in LDS theology, regardless of faith or obedience. All will be resurrecting into a kingdom of heaven. Obedience decides which one. You did not solve this girl's issue by telling her she will be resurrected by grace no matter what--she's still going to have to struggle for "worthiness.")

“Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 669-670).
Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matt. 5:48, 3 Ne. 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Ne. 28:35). 
(No, you aren't paying the demands of justice, but you are fulfilling a requirement.
“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”
“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.” 
(So...you still have to pay for what you get, you mean? Its just more worthwhile? Right. That's still money owed or invested. That's still our effort earning or gaining something that we can't have at all unless we do it on our own.)

“I believe in the grace of God made manifest through His sacrifice and redemption, and I believe that through His atonement, without any price on our part, each of us is offered the gift of resurrection from the dead. I believe further that through that sacrifice there is extended to every man and woman, every son and daughter of God, the opportunity for eternal life and exaltation in our Father’s kingdom, as we hearken and obey His commandments” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1986, pp. 50-51).

Sufficient to Transform Us
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with Mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matt. 4:19), “keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us. 
(I have multiple issues with this part. First of all, what if the child refuses to practice? In both Mormon theology and in the piano lessons, if the efforts stop, so do the payments. If the child refuses to practice and loses all interest in piano, the mother will often stop paying for lessons. In Mormon teachings, if you don't fulfill your efforts well enough, you won't make it to the Celestial Kingdom.
Second, what arrogant comparisons to Christians! As if Christians are all lesser! Do Christians give of time and money? They do, or if they don't, they should. But since they are not required to do so in order to be "worthy" to go to a temple for "saving" ordinances, they choose to do so out of personal conviction. Any requirement on amount is done away with in the New Testament, but a cheerful giver is praised. In fact, many Christian churches give a significantly greater percentage in outreach and charity than the Mormon church does! Christians do go on missions, often bringing the Gospel to places Mormon missionaries won't touch, and often providing much-needed medical aid, clean water, and food in third world countries that Mormons don't. Christians also often have things like prison outreaches and other ministries that reach out to those who are hurting the most, which Mormons often do not. Christians do serve in callings--because they are actually called by God, not a bishop who possibly has no true understanding of their abilities and demands on their lives, as my own poor mother experienced. I am not saying that all who call themselves Christians or all so-called Christian churches do all these things as well as they should, or at all, but they should and in many cases--especially outside of developed countries--do, and often do so better than the Mormon church.)
Elder Bruce C. Hafen (BA ’66) has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], p. 149; emphasis in original). 

“The blood of Christ was shed as a free gift of wondrous grace, but the Saints are cleansed by the blood after they keep the commandments” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 77).
“Even that grace of God promised in the scriptures comes only ‘after all we can do’” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, November 1995 (Conference Edition), p. 19).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (BS ’54) has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], p. 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put this in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change. 

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. Along with all the other works necessary for man’s exaltation in the kingdom of God this could rule out the need for repentance. It could give license for sin and , since it does not require man to work out his salvation, could accept instead lip service, ‘death-bed repentance,’ and shallow, meaningless confession of sin” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 206-207).

I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”
I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”
They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!” 
 (How so? In that you will be resurrected...like everyone else? What have you been saved from, before the works begin, and no matter how well you do in your works through the rest of your life? What will you be saved to, by virtue of grace alone? Certainly not saved from death and hell and saved to heaven and righteousness the way the Bible talks about!)

“The Athanasian creed will return to the realms of darkness where it was spawned. The doctrine of salvation by grace alone without works shall be anathema. The great and abominable church shall tumble to the dust. False worship shall cease” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 430).
Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: (The author's general assumption that they have no fully considered it is, frankly, insulting to many Christians and arrogant on his part.) “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from (Care to share? If he saved us from sin, death, and hell, why does that not apply to the Christian?) but also what He has saved us for. (Well, if they've got a good pastor or mentor and/or have read the New Testament, they do know. Ephesians 2:10) As my friend Brett C. Sanders (BS ’00) puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals shared with me, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moro. 7:48).
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Rom. 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but no unchanged thing will even want to.
I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. Each time two roads diverge in a yellow wood, he takes the wrong one—every time. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.” I have worked with Especially for Youth since 1985. I know the good it can do.
His dad said, “I can’t afford that.”
I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.”
We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day. By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!”
Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.
In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.
Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”
Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it. 

“Through grace, made available by the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, all people will be resurrected and receive immortality (see 2 Nephi 9:6-13). But resurrection alone does not qualify us for eternal life in the presence of God. Our sins make us unclean and unfit to dwell in God’s presence, and we need His grace to purify and perfect us ‘after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23)” (True to the Faith, 2004, p. 77).
“The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with him” (True to the Faith, 2004, p. 77).

But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone were to beg on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.” 
(Uh, no. Jesus won't beg them. They had their chance.)
The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—amazingly—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. To return to our metaphor, if practice were not required, then we would never become pianists. 
(And not once has the author mentioned yet how the Spirit comes into play...As if we have to do it all on our own. We don't. The Spirit works in us constantly to sanctify us. It is one of the benefits of being a true believer in Christ.)
Sufficient to Help Us
“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with movement in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?
Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.
There are young women who know they “are daughters of [a] Heavenly Father who loves [them], and [they] love Him.” Then they graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace.
There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again,” and then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.
I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying anymore.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.
I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace.
In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).
One young man wrote me the following e-mail: “I know God has all power, and I know He will help me if I’m worthy, but I’m just never worthy enough to ask for His help. I want Christ’s grace, but I always find myself stuck in the same self-defeating and impossible position: no work, no grace.”
I wrote him back and testified with all my heart that Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done “all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). He is with us every step of the way. 
 (2 Nephi 25: 23 "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." Pretty sure it says after...Did I read that wrong? And I have to ask, how does all that fit into the three kingdoms of heaven? Entry into each one is determined by a combination of faith and works, or lack thereof. Is grace just the heavenly aid for those who already believe in the Mormon faith, or what?)

“The Lord will bless us to the degree to which we keep His commandments. Nephi put this principle in a tremendous orbit when he said: ‘For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.) The Savior’s blood, His atonement, will save us, but only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in the Holy Places, p. 246. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 24).

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during, and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], p. 155). So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Heb. 12:2).
The first company of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Their journey was difficult and challenging; still, they sang:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
[“Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), no. 30]
“Grace shall be as your day”—what an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them.
Amazing Grace
The grace of Christ is sufficient—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Ne. 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philip. 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said the following:
Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
. . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .
. . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, pp. 12, 14]
With Elder Maxwell, I testify that God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Oh, young people, don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling power we call His amazing grace. I leave this testimony and all of my love—for I do love you. As God is my witness, I love the youth of this church. I believe in you. I’m pulling for you. And I’m not the only one. Parents are pulling for you, leaders are pulling for you, and prophets are pulling for you. And Jesus is pulling with you. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

“In the Restored gospel, grace and works ever go hand in hand. No one will ever be exalted by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, if that person is complacent in his approach to the commandments. Nor will anyone find himself exalted solely through seeking to keep all of the commandments of Christ, as no one is able to fully do so” (Alonzo L. Gaskill, Odds Are, You’re Going to be Exalted, p. 2.

What I find in this article is a complete misunderstanding of grace and a horribly arrogant attitude towards Christians. Yes, some people who profess to be Christians do not do the works they should and take advantage of grace. The New Testament specifically condemns that. Whether they are truly Christian could be up for debate in many cases, especially in light of the list of those who will not reach the kingdom of heaven in Galatians 5--although we are all sinners, even after being saved, and that is where grace must applied. We, true believers, are sanctified through the Spirit. And through the Spirit you get the Christians who so obviously do love Jesus and make efforts to be good, Godly people. The author's all-encompassing condemnation of some American Christians shows a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a Biblical Christian.

Grace, however, is what saves us from death and hell and to heaven, fellowship with God, and righteousness, all thanks to Jesus. We receive grace through faith. The Spirit then sanctifies us, and we do good works as a result. In fact, Ephesians 2:8-10 sums it up neatly:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Notice that the works do not get us anything--they were already prepared for us. Salvation is from faith alone, as a gift, and good works are prepared for us by God. How can we earn something (like exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom) by doing something already prepared for us? How can we become worthy of what we already have? Being saved by grace alone does not advocate pursuing sin. What it does do is give all the credit to Jesus.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mormon Temples

Mormon temples are sacred places meant for worship and reception of saving ordinances, in the Mormon mind. 

 D&C 124: 37 And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name? 38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was. 39 Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. 40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; 41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.

So what do we find in these temples? Are they consistent with the Bible? Are the centered on God and Jesus? 

Nauvoo Temple
 This is a picture my parents took on their Nauvoo trip. The sunstones and pentacles that adorn the temple can be seen clearly.

 This is not the original Nauvoo temple, which was destroyed by fire and tornado. It is built the same, though, and Joseph Smith was heavily involved in its design.
 While pentacles are commonly associated with Satanism and magic now, they were not always used for such. Many of the symbols on the temple, including the pentacles, are derived from their use in Masonry, of which Joseph Smith was a member.

There was a myth long believed about Masonry, which is that it ultimately could be traced back to the Temple of Solomon. This myth, however, has proven unsubstantiated and false, used as a claim to legitimacy. In reality, Masonry is a later creation. Is reasons for creation were not bad, and much of its history has not been bad, though it has had its shady moments.

In fact, one of these shady moments found its way into the Book of Mormon. A murder took place during the time that Joseph Smith was writing the Book of Mormon, and was done by the Masons to a man who was going to publish the secrets of Freemasonry. This murder sparked general outrage and anti-Masonic sentiment, which found its way into the Book of Mormon in the form of the Gidianton robbers, who parallel the Masons in many respects, such as in "secret signs and combination," which the Book of Mormon condemns.

Helaman 6:22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. 26 Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit— 27 Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.

 Considering the injunction again secret signs and oaths, its interesting that Joseph Smith later joined Masonry--with its secret signs and oaths--and incorporated its signs, tokens, rituals, oaths, and symbols into the temple and the rituals performed within the temple. And considering that the symbols, rituals, etc. do not trace back to the Temple of Solomon, it is quite difficult to argue that these are inspired symbols and rituals that line up with Biblical teachings. They are not based on the Bible, on Jesus, or on revelation, but from a man's experience with a man-made organization.

Perhaps even more evident of the lack of Biblical truth found in the temple is the use of things like the statue of the Angel Moroni on the top of every temple, along with all the symbolism within the temple that point to forever families and exaltation rather than to Jesus.

It is profoundly condemning, in my eyes at least, that they are willing to put a golden statue of a man on top of their temples, as well as all sorts of Masonic symbols, some of which have since become associated with the Satanic and pagan, but they are not willing to put up crosses or much else that is obvious tribute to Jesus alone. At best, it is un-Biblical. At worst, it is idolatrous. To claim that these are God's House when they are so obviously based on the imaginings of a man is wrong.

Furthermore, we can compare the Mormon temples to Solomon's temple. If they really are the houses of God, then they should fall in line with the Old Testament mandates for the tabernacle, which later became the temple, and should have the same uses. But again, the Mormon temples fail this test. The appearance is far different. The Old Testament gives much detail on how the tabernacle is to be laid out, and on how the later temple was built on the same pattern.

 We can easily see the difference between unique and varied architecture of the hundreds of Mormon temples and the design of the Old Testament temple. The basement baptismal font of the LDS temples are outside, and not used for baptisms for the dead, in the tabernacle and Solomon's temple. Where the floor plan for the tabernacle was laid out in excruciating detail, and the rituals done in all places explained, even if some were restricted to only a select group or single person, the inside of the Mormon temple is little known to the uninitiated,, as well as the rituals done inside being kept secret.

Where are the sacrifices, the incense burning, and all the other requirements for the tabernacle to be found in the Mormon temples? If they are even there, their use or meaning has been altered. Where are the celestial marriages, the ordinances for the dead, the secret handshakes and names, in the Old Testament? There are not there, because they were not needed, and still are not. Even temples are not needed anymore.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

This is yet another reason I cannot accept the Mormon claim to be Christian. To tell me that I must go to a building adorned with un-Biblical symbolism derived from a man-made (although not necessarily bad) organization, and therein perform rituals derived from the same organization, in order to be "worthy" and have a chance at "exaltation," is not anywhere to be found in the Bible and is an insult to what the temple was in the Old Testament and what Jesus did in the New Testament.