My family and I love living in St. George, Utah. It is a beautiful place to live, and we have great neighbors. I am convinced that one of the major reasons that our neighbors are so polite and helpful is that many of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The behavior that is in accord with the teaching of their religion helps to make them great neighbors. In light of all that glowing praise for my LDS friends and neighbors in St. George, it is reasonable that I explain why Desert Ridge Baptist Church would host a conference the purpose of which is to present the reasonable questions that evangelical Christians have regarding the truth of LDS doctrine.
The meat of it is that the Bible teaches that being right with God is not possible through good works. So, while I am glad to affirm what wonderful neighbors my LDS friends are, that is an entirely different subject than how to be right with God.
What does the Bible say about being reconciled to God, or being right with God or justified before God? It is clear that living a good life does not make us right with God. Isaiah wrote, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6a). Paul wrote, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them'" (Galatians 3:11-12, quoting first Habakkuk 2:4, then Leviticus 18:5). Paul acknowledges that keeping the law makes one right before God, if one keeps them all perfectly. The problem is that none of us does that.
Paul, again, wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). James explained, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10). There are many verses that could be quoted here, but these two establish our problem: none of us have kept the law perfectly; we have sinned. And the terrible consequence is found in Ezekiel 18:4--"Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine: the soul who sins shall die." The death of the soul is described in Revelation 21:8 as "the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
So this is THE problem for all humans. None of us is perfect. God requires perfection. Our sinful failure means that, because of God's perfect justice, we are all condemned to the lake of fire. But . . .
GOOD NEWS! God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus the Messiah, God the Son, has become our substitute and on the behalf of His people, He has been and is perfectly obedient to the law of God, and has taken in the place of His people, the wrath of God that justly should be applied to all sinners. This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.
The exclusivity of this good news for salvation is reflected in Paul's statement, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). Jesus Christ is the only way to be right with God. Jesus + nothing = salvation. Those who have repented of their sins and put all of their trust into Christ alone for salvation are in fact saved from the wrath of God against sin.
1 Corinthians 15:3 is a summary of the facts of the gospel: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scritpures."
When this atoning work is applied, an individual is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:1-21). Then, the regenerate person, who has been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is spiritually alive and serves the Lord through good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.
Some quotes from LDS sources demonstrate that there have been at least some LDS leaders that do not agree with the biblical plan of salvation listed above. Here are three examples:
"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 (italics mine).
"One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of 'justification by faith alone,' which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called 'reformation.'" --Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the LDS Church, in The Restoration of All Things, The Deseret News Press, 1964, page 192.
"But it [the doctrine of justification of faith alone] is repulsive to reason, absurd to the understanding, and contrary to the teachings of primitive Christianity." --B.H. Roberts [one of the Seventies], Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 1992, 1:318.
REMINDER! Romans 3:28 says, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." The law of non-contradiction demands that we recognize the great difference in what we find in Romans 3:28 (and throughout the New Testament) and the views represented by these 3 LDS quotes.
In addition, Galatians 1:6-10 states:
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Thus, we do not evaluate the message based on the messenger, for both Paul himself and an angel from heaven would be quite impressive messengers. Yet, Paul says here that if the message ever differs from what his hearers had already heard, that is, from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints," (Jude 3), then that messenger was to be accursed, which means eternally condemned.
All of the objective evidence demonstrates that the Bible is the absolutely trustworthy revelation of that faith. So, no matter how impressive anybody might be, the message evaluates the messenger!
Bottom line, I am participating in this conference, in which I will point out inconsistencies in LDS claims according to the Bible, because I love God and I love people. I want God's Truth known, and I want my neighbors to know it so that they, like me, can be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! I want the best for them, and dear reader, for you. That is why I am participating in this conference. Soli Deo Gloria.