“They shall deceive the very elect”

“They shall deceive the very elect” March 29, 2019

 

The Bountiful Temple from above
An aerial view of the Bountiful Utah Temple   (LDS Media Library)

 

New in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:

 

“Research and More Research”

 

Abstract: Young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have grown up with a plethora of information available to answer the questions they may have about the Gospel. This, in turn, has allowed discordant information to cause concern in many members, ultimately drawing some away from the Gospel. In a recent address to young, married members of the Church in Chicago, President Dallin H. Oaks advised that more research is often not the way to approach these concerns, but rather that members should rely on their faith in Jesus Christ. While many may not agree with this advice, when it comes to questions that will never have a provable answer, particularly of a religious nature, President Oaks’s words are correct. Research can never completely replace true faith, only supplement it.

 

***

 

My wife and I are just back from attending a session in the Bountiful Utah Temple with her father.  It’s very pleasant to still be able to do such things with him.  He’s a regular and faithful temple patron.

 

A curious thought occurred to me while still in the temple:

 

Among those who fall away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we’re painfully aware of those who go missing because they dislike the lifestyle, don’t keep the commandments, or decide that the Church and its teachings aren’t true, or aren’t good, or aren’t beautiful.

 

But the Book of Mormon also speaks of those among the ancient Jews who “despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand.”  These people, says Jacob 4:14, became “blind,” and it explains that their “blindness came by looking beyond the mark.”

 

That idea seems still relevant today.  Among those who leave the Church, there are also people who do so not because they fall short of the mark in any simple and obvious way, but because, in a sense, they look “beyond the mark.”  They don’t forsake the Church because of insufficient belief or devotion but — in a certain way — because they overdo it.  Now, I have to be careful here.  I’m not faulting them for being too faithful.  I’m not sure that such a thing is really possible, when the faith is properly understood.  But their devotion becomes disordered.  Perhaps this is the kind of thing that Paul had in mind when he wrote 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

 

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

For clarity’s sake, I give the passage again in the New International Version’s rendering of 2 Timothy 4:

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

And, of course, I think of the famous prophecy in Matthew 24:24:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

The departure of extremely faithful Latter-day Saints from the Church in order to enter into fundamentalist or polygamous splinter sects, or following after the likes of Denver Snuffer — deserting those who actually hold the keys, those who have actually been called by the Lord to serve as prophets and apostles — because they imagine themselves to have found the true doctrine, the real Kingdom, strikes me as deeply sad in a very specific way.

And what hit me today was that these are people who, I think, would likely be especially devoted to temple service.  But, by leaving the Church in pursuit of a chimera, they lose the right to enter the Lord’s temples.  And, thus, they fail to contribute to the great work of the redemption of the dead, which needs all hands on deck — and Satan wins a victory.

Posted from Bountiful, Utah

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