Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, February 01, 2008

    Comment Concerning Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley

    Fox News reports that 9 year old Josh Rich in paying his last respects to Hinckley (a man he revered as a prophet) had a hand-drawing of Heaven with a message he had written at the top that said "You passed the text. Welcome home."

    While the boy's sincerity and intention are commendable, one must question the truth and legitimacy of his message (which he probably has picked up from the Mormon faith).

    Compage his statement and that of Scripture:
    "You passed the test. Welcome home."
    "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23)

    The point being that Scripture attests to the fact that NO human being (Hinckley or ANY other) has or can meet the standard of God's righteous requirements on their own. That's why there is a need for a Savior who can meet the requirements of God for us.

    God has sent such a Savior in Jesus. We read in Scripture "But now a righteousness from God, apart form law, has been made known... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." but those who believe on Christ (rather than their own righteousness, their own ability to pass God's test, etc.) are justified freely by God's grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus, who offered himself in our place and paid the penalty for our sins by offering himself as a sacrificial atonement at Calvary and by perfectly fulfilling God's righteous requirements (through active and passive obedience in all things) which God accepts and credits to all those who believe on Christ.

    Those who believe that as sinners they can do enough to meet God's standard need to consider Isaiah's statement that "ALL OF US have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous works are like filthy rags" [before God](Isaiah 64:6)" That's why Jesus said in applying the prophesy of God to himself "Sacrifice and offering I did not desire, but a body I prepared for you" referring to Christ. (Heb 10:5) Because our own righteousness would not result in salvation, God provided another means of attaining it, which is found in Christ crucified for us.

    Do not be fooled. There is a way that seems right to a man but ends in death. But the righteous will live (not by their own works) but BY FAITH!

    See this for more on the difference between Justification by Faith or Works.


    ncultra said...

    Words of Gordon B. Hinckley:

    My beloved brethren and sisters, I add my testimony to the testimony of my brethren this Easter morning. For all of Christendom, for all of mankind, today is observed as the anniversary of the greatest miracle in human history. It is the miracle that encompasses all who have lived upon the earth, all who now live upon the earth, and all who will yet live upon the earth. Nothing done before or since has so affected mankind as the atonement wrought by Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Calvary’s cross, was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and on the third day arose from the grave as the Living Son of the Living God—the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

    As mortals we all must die. Death is as much a part of eternal life as is birth. Looked at through mortal eyes, without comprehension of the eternal plan of God, death is a bleak, final, and unrelenting experience described by Shakespeare as “the undiscover’d country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns” (Hamlet, act 3, scene 1, lines 79–80).

    But our Eternal Father, whose children we are, made possible a far better thing through the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This had to be. Can anyone believe that the Great Creator would provide for life and growth and achievement only to snuff it all into oblivion in the process of death? Reason says no. Justice demands a better answer. The God of heaven has given one. The Lord Jesus Christ provided it.

    swordbearer said...

    Do not be fooled brethren, for IF Gordon B. Hinckley had been preaching the SAME gospel as that of the church, then he would NOT have had to re-shape the image and would not have been so widely recognized (even by his own church) for his marketing strategies (including having the name "Jesus Christ" added to their name)in an ATTEMPT to get others to think of Mormons as something more similar to that of the Christian faith, now would he???

    As far as Hinckley's words in the above comment, let me point out that the issue in question here is not WHETHER God has provided for salvation (even life instead of death) but HOW he has provided...or put another way: What are the MEANS by which he has provided? [The Mormon answer to this question (including Hinckley) is NOT the same as the Christian answer!] Christians look to Christ alone as the full sufficiency of their salvation, whereas Mormons do not.

    Does salvation come through the instrument of "faith" alone and through the righteousness of "Christ" alone.... or does salvation involve merit to any degree based on the works of man? The biblical truth is that salvation comes solely by grace (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), in and based on Christ alone (sola Christos).

    Only Christianity (as opposed to Mormons, Muslims, and every other religion/cult) looks to Christ ALONE as the merit for salvation. Here, the Book of Mormon is INCONSISTENT with the teaching found and agreed upon all through Scripture! Joseph Smith is not simply an additional witness to the same gospel, but the inventor of a different gospel.

    While religions and cults like Mormons have become quite skilled in trying to redefine words such as "grace", "faith", "repentance", etc., to SOUND (on the surface, and to the undiscerning) more like the Christian faith, it is no different than those who set up websites to imitate the Red Cross so as to receive donations through the practice of deceit. One must be aware that while Mormons seek to present themselves as no different (or of little difference) from Christians, this is not the case.

    I find the deceit (even that which claims to assert there the two are the same when they are not - and both the Mormons and Hinckley know this to be the case or their understanding of theology itself needs to be brought into question, along with the suggesting that Mormons and Christians are "brethren",etc.) to be most revealing and illumination (besides disgustful) so much so that even the deceit alone should serve to encourage those considering the truth to distance themselves from the LDS church and consider the truth claims of Scripture which alone lead to eternal life!

    ncultra said...

    To correct the assertion that Gordon Hinckley added "Jesus Christ" to the name of the Mormon church. That assertion is completely incorrect. The Church of Jesus Christ has had the SAME name for 177 years! Here is the scripture that names the church! It was added to the canon in the 1830s!

    Gordon Hinckley changed the LOGO of the Church to INCREASE the size of Jesus Christ in "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

    Check your sources!

    ncultra said...

    Testimony of the Living Christ by the Apostles - Including Gordon Hinkley

    As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

    He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

    He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

    We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

    He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

    Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

    “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

    Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

    “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

    “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

    We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

    We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

    We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

    Gordon Hinckley shared this testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ with the world. Swordbearer, if he had the opportunity to meet you, Gordon Hinckley would have embraced you warmly and lovingly has a brother, despite your skepticism and cynicism regarding his own integrity. And the fact that you and others use the occasion of Gordon Hinckley's Death to comment negatively incorrectly on his Faith would not have changed his demeanor to you one bit!

    I challenge you to leave this comment and testimony on your blog. It is offered in the spirit of truth and you have nothing to fear from providing original source material to your readers!

    swordbearer said...


    Your practice of deception continues! While you speak of such things (as the deity of God, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, of Christ as redeemer, of the fact that he lives, and quote biblical passages), YOU DO NO DIFFERENT than a POLITICIAN SPEAKING HALF TRUTHS by referring to simply those things in common WITHOUT QUALIFYING THEM and WITHOUT MENTIONING ANY of the DIFFERENCES! Besides this, you do so KNOWING there is a DIFFERENCE, but parading as if there is not! That is no other than DECEIT!

    Are you suggesting the Mormon Godhead is the SAME and of the same attributes as the Christian Godhead? Are you affirming the doctrine of the trinity in the Christian sense? ... and is the Father Eternally supreme, or did he attain deity at some point by living a righteous life? Is he spirit, or does he have flesh and bones? Are we speaking of the SAME Father, SAME attributes, SAME nature, SAME eternal plan/will, etc.??? Tell me, are Hinckley and I in agreement on these matters?

    Is the Jesus you are referring to a created being (the elder brother of Lucifer) or uncreated God? Is he one of many Gods, or unique as the second person of the trinity? Was he conceived by a physical sex act or through the power of the Holy Spirit? Was he once sinful or eternally sinless?

    While you speak of the atoning salvation, do you believe in original sin and human depravity???

    Are you suggesting we agree on the doctrine of man? Did you not forget to mention belief in the pre-existence of human spirits before our earthly existence?

    And most importantly in reference to the subject of this post, are you suggesting that Mormons and Christians are the same when it comes to Mormon Temple obligations in reference to salvation???

    Are we the SAME when it comes to the necessity of being baptized by an approved Mormon priest in order for sins to be forgiven?

    Are we the same when it comes to the question of whether works are a necessary condition for salvation?????????

    To either suggest that Mormons and Christians are in agreement on these matters, OR to simply speak and give references AS IF they were (even pointing to similarities they have in common, while KNOWINGLY not mentioning the others) is DECEITFUL. Let me point out these are NO SMALL MATTERS, but issues concerning the means of salvation have eternal consequence.

    No one is fooled. It's obvious that the LDS church is seeking to evangelize in a country heavily occupied and influenced by Christians. However, the extent to which you go in suggesting the two are similar goes well beyond what most would consider acceptable in paving the way for open dialogue even to the point of misrepresenting and intentionally trying to deceive. It's obvious the LDS church has problems standing on its own, but that should not be surprising given it's foundation, claims, history, and errors.

    In regard to your accusation about the naming of the church, you'll note I referred to Hinckley receiving recognition ... which dates and places my reference ... not just to the logo, but to the "renaming" of the church at least in the public perception, ... did he not specifically address the press and ask them make a change by referring to the church by it's present name???

    In closing, there IS a significant difference between Christianity and Mormons when it comes to the role of "works" in salvation. One exclusively looks to and depends fully on what Christ has done (and results in salvation and eternal life) while the other fails to look exclusively to Christ and depends on the works of man.

    ncultra said...

    I am very happy that we Mormons do not believe in the Nicene Creed and that we have a more nuanced and hopeful view of salvation than many creedal christians..including apparently swordbearer. And while you accuse me personally and my co-religionists of being deceptive, we are not and we are happy to speak of the differences between the creeds of men and the biblical teachings of salvation and Christ's atonement that we embrace.

    You would proscribe the language we use to describe our own faith in Christ. You would embargo us from using the evangelical language in our own scriptures, by accusing us of deception. And yet we, as a religion, have the right to define our own beliefs and to discuss them in good faith with the world. That is not deception.

    Joseph Smith Jr. and all the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the only name the church has ever had) were all converts from traditional christianity. Joseph was favorable to Methodism as were many of the early members of the church.

    Our faith is centered on Jesus Christ and we inherited the language of salvation from the traditional protestant churches. As the Book of Mormon says:

    "And as the Lord God liveth there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved...We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."

    This is not deception, this is our belief. Jesus Christ is at the center of our doctrine. Now let me ask you, how can we describe our faith in Christ without using the language we inherited from traditional Christianity? We have just as much right as anyone else to speak of Christ. You would have us remain silent, simply because you disagree with some of our doctrines.

    Swordbearer, your accusations of deception are come across to me as nothing more than name-calling and personal insult. You would censor the speech of an entire religion and accuse me, who you do not know, as deceptive when I express faith in Jesus Christ.

    My friend, I am perfectly happy to discuss where I and my co-religionists diverge from creedal christianity and from hateful people who denounce us. But I retain the right to do so using language of my choice and I do not cede to you nor anyone else to define my beliefs for me.

    And you really should get your facts straight regarding the name of our church. If you can't get a small detail like that correct it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in other things you say.

    Puritan Lad said...


    Can you explain to me why Joseph Smith, the alleged "prophet" of God, knew so little about the Bible, and even less about ancient America? Why does he plagiarize most of the KJV Bible in the Book of Mormon, including it's grammatical errors? Why does he quote Shakepeare's Hamlet in the Book of Mormon? Why is the Book of Mormon full of Greek words? Wy does it mention cities, animals, crops, etc. that never existed on ancient America?

    Since you claim to love the Bible, what does the Bible say about following a false prophet, which Joseph Smith certainly was? What does Paul say about anyone, including an angel, who preaches another gospel?

    We don't necessarily want to silence you. In fact, you have lots of explaining to do.

    It is clear that we do not worship the same Jesus. Therefore, I must insist that you are not my brother in Christ. I pray that you soon will be, turning to the God of the inspired Holy Bible, and forsaking the false god of Joseph Smith's novel.

    ncultra said...

    Puritan lad, the only explanation for your statements is that they are a blatant attack in the form of a rhetorical question.

    I do not believe in the depravity of man, although swordbearer and puritan lad are making a good case for said depravity by attacking me for defending a greater man than they on the occasion of his funeral.

    swordbearer maligned Gordon Hinckley because a 9-year-old admirer said Hinckley "passed the test." What test? To know we would have to ask the young child what he meant.

    At the same time, however, swordbearer and puritan lad have asserted an exclusive and mean-spirited test of their own: one can only speak of Christ if if they accept original sin, the depravity of man, the unknowable mysterious nature of God, and other non-biblical creeds pushed by those who live off the incomes of their sheep.

    Christ is the judge, not swordbearer, nor anyone else.

    I worship the Jesus that was born of the Virgin (yes, virgin as stated in the Book of Mormon and Bible) Mary, who lived a sinless life, who voluntarily gave his life as a sacrifice for all sin, who was resurrected on the third day, who appeared on the Apostles and many other brethren, who gives the gift of salvation freely to all mankind. That is the Jesus I worship.

    You worship a Jesus that is part of an incomprehensible being that has multiple personality disorder, who is everywhere but nowhere, who talks to himself in both the first and third person in both the old and new testaments, and who created mankind as a filthy, sinful creature.

    Here is what Gordon Hinckley said only a few months ago:

    When the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, he became aware of the divisiveness among the clergy concerning the nature of Deity. In an attempt to overcome this he gathered the eminent divines of the day to Nicaea in the year 325. Each participant was given opportunity to state his views. The argument only grew more heated. When a definition could not be reached, a compromise was made. It came to be known as the Nicene Creed, and its basic elements are recited by most of the Christian faithful.

    Personally I cannot understand it. To me the creed is confusing.

    How deeply grateful I am that we of this Church do not rely on any man-made statement concerning the nature of Deity. Our knowledge comes directly from the personal experience of Joseph Smith, who, while yet a boy, spoke with God the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Risen Lord. He knelt in Their presence; he heard Their voices; and he responded. Each was a distinct personality. Small wonder that he told his mother that he had learned that her church was not true. And so, one of the great over-arching doctrines of this Church is our belief in God the Eternal Father. He is a being, real and individual. He is the great Governor of the universe, yet He is our Father, and we are His children.

    We pray to Him, and those prayers are a conversation between God and man. I am confident that He hears our prayers and answers them. I could not deny that. I have had too many experiences of answered prayers.

    Alma instructed his son Helaman, saying, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:37).

    There is no deception whatsoever in these words. We do not claim to be like traditional Christians. But we are Christians.

    Puritan lad, you don't know me, so I'm not sure how you can say you are not my brother in Christ. We are both children of the same Heavenly father, so I believe we are brothers.

    ncultra said...

    Parameters of Christian Civility

    I must agree with the rules on engagement posted for this blog, including the one that comments must keep within the parameters of Christian Civility

    I wonder, however, if they equally apply to the bloggers. Accusing an entire religion of being knowingly deceptive and comparing its members to those who practice fraudulent phishing practices (setting up a web site that looks like the red cross in order to deceive people into giving donations) is hardly within the parameters of Christian Civility. And accusing individual commenters of deception when they express their opinions borders on hostility.

    I would echo the blog's guidelines:

    disagree as strongly as you like; beat us up or slap us around verbally with near-total impunity. But keep within the parameters of Christian civility.

    And also say I hope the bloggers also follow them!

    swordbearer said...


    A few questions:

    1. Are works are requirement for salvation? What role do works play in salvation? Is salvation based on "Christ's atonement alone" or in a "combination of Christ's atonement and good works? Put another way: Is salvation dependent on the merit of man's works (and if so, to what degree), or solely dependent on Christ and his sacrifice?

    2. What role do the following have to do with justification, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins?
    a. following the commands of the Mormon church
    b. Mormon temple rituals
    c. doing good (being kind, fair, loving, etc.)
    d. developing moral character
    e. baptism by immersion
    f. participating in other Mormon ordinances
    g. spreading the Mormon faith

    3. What role does "law keeping" have in salvation?

    4. What standard must man meet to be assured of heaven?

    5. Do you really consider God an "ETERNAL" father? Has he "always" been God?

    6. Is God "material" or "immaterial"(spirit)?

    7. Is God "exalted saved man" or "eternal deity"?

    8. Do you believe the Scriptures are trustworthy and reliable? If not, which parts are trustworthy, which parts are not, and how do you know?

    ncultra said...

    My purpose here is to defend the reputation of Gordon Hinckley using his own words. I feel he was incorrectly represented, and I appreciate the fact that my comments have been left for others to read.

    I do not want to engage in an interrogation, answering rhetorical questions framed by an antagonist of my religion. I also am mindful of the guidelines for this blog to keep comments on topic.

    Swordbearer the questions you ask are rhetorical and I have encountered them many times. For answers I would refer you and others to "How Wide the Divide A Mormon and Evangelical in Conversation" by Robert Millet and Stephen E. Robinson.

    Also "A Different Jesus?: The Christ Of The Latter-day Saints " by Robert Millet

    Both of these books discuss terms that our religions share such as salvation and atonement in a complete and respectful manner. I think anyone who reads these books will have a fair and accurate idea where we respectfully disagree and where we have common beliefs.

    I said earlier that as a Mormon I have a more nuanced and hopeful view of salvation than creedal christians. I believe salvation is victory over death and that it is free to all humankind as a gift from Christ. Yet there is more: what is the nature of eternal life? Do family and marriage relationships persist? What is our nature in the afterlife? All of these questions are relevant and are the subject of covenants we make after Baptism.

    I would also encourage anyone interested to visit and search on salvation, the nature of God, or any other question swordbearer raises.

    Puritan Lad said...


    There is no "blantant attack" in my post. I simply asked you some very serious questions regarding your alleged prophet Joseph Smith, and I have many more. Dodging the questions does not answer them.

    You may claim that you worship the same Jesus that Christians do, but it is clear that you do not. You do not worship the second person of the Trinity, God the Son.

    swordbearer said...


    I find it interesting that you write that your purpose here in relation to my post was " defend the reputation of Gordon Hinckley using his own words" and that you "feel he was incorrectly represented"... for if you look back to the original post it dealt not with Hinckley or his words, but the subject of the Mormon view that man in this life not only faces a period of probation but that he can pass the test ... i.e., it had to do with the works of man in regard to justification.

    Hinckley's words were not brought into discussion if you will note until YOU brought them into view, in a post which by the way gives the appearance that Hinckley's testimony is the same as ours... but just because he said so does not make it so. After YOU set this before us (along with a webaddress to divert readers to an LDS website - some who without discernment might false believe our testimonies are the same and go there unknowingly), it was our duty to refute the claim and point out for readers the difference between the two.

    In regard to our being "brethren", if we do not have the same Father, we cannot be brothers. If you believe in a different God, a different gospel, a different means of justification, that the Mormon church is the only true church, in doctrines that are inconsistent with our Scriptures, etc., then while we can respect each others right to our own beliefs, we cannot walk together in unity (or brothers).

    We, as all believers, have a right to test all spirits, to examine beliefs in accord with Scripture, and to distinguish.

    I'm disappointed you would not answer the simple questions I put to you, but chose to send us to various websites. One should be willing to give an answer for the hope they have... which by the way, just because you claim you have a greater hope, does not make it so.

    On others issues on this site we may agree (you even made some good points about atheists having a false view of science) but on these issues, we are not in agreement.

    Scoutmaster Jeff said...

    Don't worry ncultra. The two thinking they are going to pull one over on you, are doing a horrific job, and observers can see the meaning behind their rhetoric. Keep up the good work, and know that there are people out here that appreciate your willingness to stand up for what we believe... Press on!