A common objection raised against those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that we follow the teachings of the President of the Church thereby violating the words of the Bible which states, "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5). The reason for this objection stems from three fundamental doctrines upon which nearly all Christian churches have built their religious faith. The first is that God has ceased giving us revelation through the use of prophets as He once did anciently. This leads to the second belief that the Bible is the final and complete word of God to man. As such, there cannot be any more added to what God has already caused to be written. And this had lead to the third belief that the Bible is to be our sole source of authority on religious matters.
Since those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept the President of their church as a prophet, and consider his words, along with other written revelations (i.e., the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) just as much the inspired words of God as those found in the Bible, most modern-day Christians feel that we are putting our trust in man, rather than in God, and, in so doing, have "departed from the Lord."
Nearly every Christian denomination emphasizes how all of their doctrinal beliefs are based solely on what is found in the Bible. As such, they believe they are following the words of God rather than the words of man. Yet they also believe that the Bible was written by men who were being moved upon by God's Spirit of inspiration. However, when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints state that they believe the President of their church is a prophet of God who speaks through inspiration from God, just as the ancient writers of the Bible did, most Christians reject such a claim saying that God has ceased talking to man through prophets. Therefore, when Mormons follow the words of their living prophets, many Christians feel that Mormons are really following the words of a man instead of following the words of God.
Although Christians say they are following the word of God by relying on what the Bible teaches rather than what men say, in reality they are doing far worse than what they condemn Mormons for doing. To understand why, all we need do is look at how they actually come to know what God's word says.
In Romans 10:17 we read, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If faith in the Lord Jesus Christ comes from hearing the word of God, that means someone has to preach the word. And, indeed, nearly everyone who comes to accept Jesus as their Savior does so because they have heard someone preaching the gospel. There is the possibility that someone can come to accept Christ on their own simply by reading the Bible for themselves without anyone's help, but instances of that happening are so few and so rare as to make their number statistically meaningless.
Whether a church is very large or extremely small, nearly every Christian denomination has someone who does the preaching to their congregation. This person is referred to as a minister, pastor, reverend, preacher, priest, or some other similar title. In the vast majority of cases, these individuals have been trained for the ministry. That is, they have gone through some sort of formal theological instruction where they have been prepared to understand what is contained in the Bible. Their schooling involves an in-depth study of the doctrines of their faith and a thorough analysis of the entire Bible and how it relates to and verifies their stated beliefs. They also are educated in the background of the Bible, which would include the geography, language, culture, customs and history of the people, places, and events found in the Bible. And, in many cases, even after they've graduated from seminary training, most pastors continue to increase their skills and knowledge of the Bible by taking additional education courses, as well as attending seminars, conferences, and retreats that are offered for the purpose of helping them increase their understanding of what the Bible teaches. In fact, a person can pursue their educational training to the point where they can obtain a Ph.D. in religion. Some go on to specialize in various aspects of religion, becoming a Professor of such subjects as Hebrew or Semitic languages, ancient religious history, or comparative religion, to name just a few.
Armed with this knowledge, the pastor goes forth equipped and prepared to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Their job not only is to bring souls to Christ by helping them understand how to gain salvation, but, more importantly, to teach both the newly converted as well as the long-time faithful how to grow in their Christian life. Each Sunday (or other day of worship) they stand before their congregation and preach a sermon that's intended to edify, educate, inspire, and improve the understanding of those in attendance on what God expects of them. And they do this by exhorting, expounding, explaining, and emphasizing the things found in the Bible.
For the most part, the members of a congregation have little or no formal biblical training, especially compared to that of their minister. Furthermore, they don't attend the seminars and conferences which their pastor is invited to. Therefore, they come to church for the specific purpose of being taught what the Bible says, in the same way a student comes to class to learn from a teacher. As such, it is the pastor whom the members of the congregation look to for their guidance and instruction in what the Bible teaches. He is the knowledgeable person they go to for answers concerning God's word. He is the one whom they rely upon to help them understand God's word. As such, it is his words they depend on for their understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning how to receive salvation and how to continue in their daily walk with Christ.
But this is no different than what the pastor himself has gone through. At one time, he too was brought to Christ by the preaching of a minister. As a student in seminary class, he was taught by men what the Bible teaches. As such, both the pastor and the members of his congregation have depended on the words of man to tell them what God's word wants them to know. Thus, all Christians, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not, depend on man, not God for their understanding of what the Bible teaches. Yet, not one of these instructors of religion even claims to be teaching by divine inspiration, because, according to their own stated beliefs, God no longer speaks to man in that manner.
However, instead of admitting that they're relying on the words of man to understand God's word, nearly all Christians claim their beliefs are based solely on what is found in the Bible. Therefore, they say that their minister is not preaching their own doctrine but rather is simply explaining what God has already revealed in His written word. Yet, if this were truly the case, then there would be no differences of opinion concerning biblical teachings. That means, it shouldn't matter whether someone goes to a Lutheran church, and Episcopal church, a Baptist Church, a Seventh-day Adventist church, or a Catholic Church because they would all be teaching the same doctrines. However, we know that is not the case. The very reason why there are different denominations is because of disagreements between people on what the Bibles says. (for a more in-depth study of these differences see my article entitled "The Authority of God" )
Those who belong to the Lutheran faith base their doctrines on the teachings of the man, Martin Luther, a 16th century reformist. Thus, to be a Lutheran means that a person subscribes to or agrees with the biblical doctrines taught by Martin Luther. Since he is the founder of this religion, it is his ideas of what the Bible says that is taught in this church. He is the one that all other Lutheran ministers rely upon for their understanding of God's word. Accordingly, they interpret all verses of scripture in conformance to the teachings of the man Martin Luther.
Inspired by Martin Luther, John Calvin took up the torch of reforming the church. However, he took exception with Luther on several fundamental points of doctrine, especially concerning the subject of salvation. Today, those who follow the teachings of John Calvin are known as Calvinists, and practice what they refer to as Reformed Theology. Since John Calvin was the father and founder of this religion, it is his words, in the form of writings and sermons, that form the foundation upon which this church understands all biblical verses. As with the Lutheran faith, to be a member of this church means that a person must subscribe to and agree with the viewpoint which the man John Calvin taught.
Although there are many similarities between these two oldest Protestant denominations, there are also some very significant differences. Yet, both religious faiths make the claim that they are not teaching the doctrines of men but are only teaching what God Himself has written in the Bible. Nevertheless, having made that claim, neither one can completely agree with the other on what the Bible actually teaches.
Following in the footsteps of these two men came the establishment of other Protestant churches, such as the Methodists, Episcopalians, Mennonites, Quakers, etc. And with each new denomination, we see even more doctrinal differences of ideas, each one championed by a prominent preacher. So persuasive were these ministers that they developed a following of believers who accepted their word as being the only correct understanding of what the Bible taught.
Today we find this same situation existing among all denominations. A person regularly attends a particular faith mainly because they agree with the teachings of that church. But, if there comes a time when an individual no longer can accept the doctrinal position of that church, they will switch to a different religious organization with whose teachings they can agree. As such, they are not actually following what is in the Bible, but rather are being persuaded or dissuaded by the ideas, interpretations, and reasoning which men, known as ministers, pastors, or preachers, are teaching. Therefore, in reality, nearly all Christians follow the words of men, not God.
It might be argued by some that this is not an accurate statement because people can read the Bible for themselves to determine whether or not a particular pastor or church is following what the Bible itself teaches. And if they conclude that the church they are attending is straying from the teachings of the Bible, then they will move their membership to a church that does teach biblical truth. However, there is a glaring error with this argument because both the pastor and the disagreeing member each think they have the correct understanding of God's word. It could be said that since the pastor has received theological training in the Bible, while the congregational member hasn't, it is the pastor who has the greater insight into God's word.. Yet, on the other hand, it can be argued that the Bible is sufficiently clear in its message that a person doesn't need training in the ministry to understand God's message of salvation. But, if that is the case, then it would seem there shouldn't be any doctrinal disagreements among people, especially among serious students of the Bible.
Furthermore, what such an argument implies is that the responsibility for determining what the Bible teaches is left up to each individual. But, if that were truly the case, then we wouldn't need anyone to treach us what the Bible says. All we would need to do is read the Bible for ourselves. However, under such a condition each person would become their own final authority in judging what is the correct teachings of the Bible, based upon their own level of knowledge. In such a case, each person would then be putting their trust in themselves to know what they should believe rather than relying on what someone else tells them. And, indeed, it is because of this very situation that has led to there being literally tens of thousands of different Christian denominations in the world today.
Yet, surprising as it may seem, this is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul talked about the dangers of people relying on their own personal ideas and leading others astray from the truth. He warned that people could easily be swayed "to and fro by every wind of doctrine" that came along (Eph. 4:14). He continually admonished the Christian saints to be of one mind and to come to a unity of the faith (Romans 12:16; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 1:27). He expressly wrote that they were to listen to his words and to reject anyone who taught a doctrine different than what he had delivered unto them (Galatians 1:8). It was "the apostles' doctrine" which the earliest Christians followed, not their own ideas (Acts 2:42).
However, when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follow the "the apostles' doctrines" as taught by modern-day, living apostles and prophets, who claim to be just as inspired as their ancient counterparts, many in the Christian community complain that we are putting our trust in man, rather than in God, while claiming they are following God rather than trusting in man.
Perhaps we can illustrate this by way of an example. Let's say that a master carpenter wrote a book explaining how to create beautiful woodwork. Since this book was written by a highly skilled craftsman, the publisher could promote it as "The Complete Guide to Everything You Wanted to Know about Woodworking." Someone, picking this book up off the shelf, could easily get the false impression that it truly did contain everything there is to know on the subject of woodworking.
Let's say that someone who had no prior woodworking experience was able to produce some very beautiful furniture after reading this book. Being excited about what they had done by following the instructions in the book, they decided to teach others how to create their own beautiful furniture. In their class, they use as their text the book, "The Complete Guide to Everything You Wanted to Know about Woodworking." Knowing nothing else than what was written in this book, the instructor teaches his students to follow its instructions precisely as he understands it. If a question comes up from a member of the class which the instructor can't find the answer to in the book, he will simply say that if the author had wanted us to know that information he would have put it in "the book." Therefore, since it isn't in there, it isn't needful for us to know.
This is exactly what today's ministers do with those whom they seek to instruct on how to become saved. With no knowledge of their own on what it takes to inherit the kingdom of God, except for what is written in the Bible, and becoming excited by the beautiful results they have experienced in their own lives by following God's book, they try to teach others how to achieve that same glorious experience by using the Bible as their only text-book.
But imagine how much more knowledgeable the instructor would be about his subject if he personally knew the author and could converse with Him from time to time rather than relying solely on what the author had written. Unlike other Christian churches which declare that God doesn't speak to man anymore, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that God still speaks to man just as He did in ancient times. More than that, they proclaim that God has sent His spokesman to the earth in these latter days to provide man with a greater understanding of His written word. When people refuse to listen to God's spokesmen, it is they who have departed from the Lord because they have left themselves no other choice than to put their trust in those men who make it their profession to instruct others in the ways of godliness. As such, it is only those who follow God's appointed teachers who can truly say they put their trust in the Lord.
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