[ Author: Kathy Petersen ]
Discussing Bible passages with Mormons is always an interesting experience. If you’re unfamiliar with Mormons, they consider the Bible to be Scripture and the Word of God, but only “so far as it is translated correctly”. This makes it pretty convenient to dismiss anything they don’t like or anything that contradicts their beliefs or their other LDS “Scriptures” as simply having been “translated incorrectly”.
And by “translation” they don’t mean “rendering something said in one language into another language” but include more the “transmission” of the text. They’d make atheists proud with their parroting of typical atheist arguments against the reliability of the Bible. Sad. So if you’re talking with Mormons, don’t be surprised if they will argue from the Bible when it suits them, then argue against its reliability when it suits them.
Is it fair?
Another tenet of Mormonism is that God would be “unfair” to send people to hell who “never had a chance” to hear the gospel message, so they have concocted an elaborate after-death-and-before-judgment spiritual existence where people are given a second chance to believe in Jesus after death. This contradicts passages in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon which clearly indicate, if read in a straightforward manner, that it is in this life only that a person has a chance to repent, and whatever state he’s in when he dies is his eternal state. They creatively reinterpret both.
They will say that those who die in a state of rebellion will not be given a second chance, but exactly who they might say is in such a state will vary depending on the Mormon you’re talking to, with some thinking that you have to have been a Mormon and reject it, in order to be in a state of rebellion, with others saying that you have to have heard the Mormon gospel and rejected it, and everything in between — and still others on further extremes, with some Mormons essentially being universalists (believing all will be eventually saved)!
But what does the Bible say about the fate of those who die without having heard of Jesus, and the state of man by nature?
First, I was made to think of the “scoffers” that are mentioned in 2 Pet. 3:5, who are “willingly ignorant” or “deliberately forget” or “deliberately suppress” the truth of God, and His past dealings with the world and sin in the world, in bringing the Flood to destroy the wickedness of the world. And second, is Rom. 1:18-25, which reads as follows (KJV):
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
The Apostle lays out the case that all men are “without excuse” (v20) because they have the light of creation, and the existence of the creation itself testifies of the existence of the Creator and demonstrates God’s eternality, power, and divinity. He then goes on to say that mankind (either individual men in their lives or groups of people in history) turned from the knowledge of the true God and turned to commit idolatry by worshipping creation itself, instead of worshipping God who created everything.
In short, the Apostle declares that all men who do not worship God are “without excuse”, because they are in rebellion against God. So, we can agree with Mormons that those who die in rebellion against God are not given a second chance after death; we would just proclaim that all men are in this state of rebellion, unless they turn and worship the one true and living God!
Is having the Holy Spirit a prerequisite?
This article was prompted by a still-ongoing online discussion with a Mormon about this passage (so far, nobody in the conversation has cast doubt on the “translation” or transmission of the text itself), and to get around the clear indication that all men are without excuse, the Mormon has creatively interpreted the passage to claim that only those who have and then deny the Holy Spirit are those who are without excuse. I asked him how he arrived at that conclusion, seeing as how the passage says nothing about needing the Holy Spirit to be without excuse, and clearly says that the creation itself is sufficient witness; he basically said that it was his experience that led him to that eisegesis.
Of course, I protested against such a reading into the passage, but I was made to think of Richard Dawkins, the famous and prominent atheist whom some have even called “the high priest of atheism”, because so many atheists look up to him and consider him to be a leader and quite enlightened – very much like how we might think ancient Baal-worshippers would view the high priests of Baal, except with professing no religion at all.
What information is really needed?
Dawkins is on record as saying that if he were to die and to find out that he was wrong and there actually is a God, that he would have an excuse (not his words), because he would claim that God didn’t give him enough information to believe in Him, so it was really God’s fault that Dawkins didn’t believe. He is also on record – page 1 of his book “The Blind Watchmaker” – as saying, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose,” then spends the rest of the book arguing against his admission and the implications of that admission, that living things appear to have been designed.” 1
Richard Dawkins is a living, modern-day example of the truth of Romans 1:20! He sees the apparent design, but still refuses to acknowledge the designer. I ask you, does he have an excuse not to believe in the Designer that he admits is apparently true? I think not! I pray for his conversion, but if he continues in this path, when he stands before God, I believe that God will present his own words to him and point out his own admission that living things appeared to have been designed, then ask him based on that admission, why he then refused to acknowledge that design, and thus the Designer Himself. What excuse can he give? None, except his own “willful ignorance” as 2 Peter talked about, which is no excuse at all.
The Mormon’s insistence that one must have the presence of the Holy Spirit in addition to the light of creation, in order to be “without excuse” falls flat. Either the hardened, inveterate atheist Richard Dawkins also “has/had the Holy Spirit” in order for him to be able to acknowledge the apparent design, or “having the Holy Spirit” is not a requisite condition to be able to acknowledge the apparent design.
If the former, then everyone “has the Holy Spirit” in that way of thinking (for if Dawkins can have the Holy Spirit with no apparent change, everybody else can too); and if the latter, then Rom. 1:20 stands as it was written, with nature itself being sufficient witness by itself to prove the Creator. Either way, all men stand condemned as living in rebellion against what God has shown them by the creation itself, thus all are without excuse – even in Mormon thinking.
Surely if man willfully suppresses the knowledge of the Creator, and won’t act on the light he’s been given, and spurns the existence of the Creator God (not just atheists and agnostics, but those of other idolatrous religions who worship something in creation rather than the One Who created it), God is under no obligation to send them greater light! Man is indeed without excuse.
1. Richard, Dawkins. The Blind Watchmaker. Norton & Company, Inc, 1986 p. 1