A Typical Mormon Sunday

As most Evangelicals don’t get the opportunity to attend Mormon sacrament meetings, Eric suggested I post this in an effort to help non-Mormons gain an insight into a typical Sunday morning service at a Mormon ward house.  I’ve posted plenty of sermons from my own church so I thought it only fair to give this talk some air play.

For those who don’t know, Mormons use lay ministry to perform all of their ministry work at the local level.  On Sunday mornings they perform a Sacrament meeting, where the entire ward meets together to participate in the Lord’s Supper.  In addition, the Bishop invites several members to give a brief talk on a subject that he assigns to them.

This is a video and subject Eric was asked to speak on.

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One of the most well-known sayings of Jesus is from the gospel of Matthew and comes from early in his ministry. Come to me, he told told his disciples, all of you are are labor and are heavy-laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

His message holds true today:

My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

But how many of us really believe that? Or are we like the Pharisees Jesus spoke against, who led a burdensome life always attempting to find salvation in following their strict understanding of the law?

For many of us, it doesn’t seem that the yoke of Jesus is easy, or that the burden is light. It often seems like we always fall short. Whether it’s reading the scriptures or feeding the poor, being kind to our family or merely carrying out the assignments we have been given, it always seems that there is more to do. Instead of checking things off our to-do list, we add to it. Jesus told us to be perfect, and we’re far from it.

But Jesus said:

My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jesus also said that we should follow him. What does that have to do with a light burden?

To quote Lawrence Corbridge of the Seventy:

We might think we can’t really follow Him because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now.

Probably all of us have felt like that.

So if what we’re supposed to attain seems unreachable, where is the light burden? Elder Corbridge gave us the answer:

In life we learn that the highest achievements in any human endeavor are always the most difficult and, therefore, achievable only by a select few who are most able. The higher the standard, the fewer can reach it.

But that is not the case here because, unlike every other experience in this life, this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God. …

No institution, plan, program, or system ever conceived by men has access to the redeeming and transforming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, while the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too.

The problem that we face is that we are constantly tempted to take up on ourselves the burdens of life by ourselves, trying to find salvation, making it into a human endeavor, depending on our own good works rather than the work that Jesus Christ accomplished for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

Such efforts are bound to fail. No matter how hard any of us try, we cannot save ourselves. We need everything that God offers us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Jesus never promised us that our burdens would go away, at least not in this lifetime. But he did promise to lighten them. One way is by giving us strength: As President Henry Eyring recently said:

Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give.

Similar thoughts were expressed by a former Relief Society president, Chieko Okazaki:

All of us face different family circumstances and home situations. All of us need strength in dealing with them. This strength comes from faith in the Savior’s love and in the power of his atonement. If we trustingly put our hand in the Savior’s, we can claim the promise of the sacramental prayer to always have his Spirit with us. All problems are manageable with that strength, and all other problems are secondary in urgency to maintaining a strong spiritual life.

There’s a good scriptural word for this gift of strength, and that is “grace.” It’s related to mercy, to kindness, to the true love of Christ. Grace is what allowed our Savior to give the gift of the Atonement.

If we look at the scriptural teachings about grace, we can can see that it isn’t up to us to save ourselves, but up to God. God’s grace comes first, and God’s grace does for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

Is a response to grace called for on our part? Definitely. The great prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon called us to be reconciled to the will of God — because it is only in and through the grace of God that we are saved, and he said that takes place through the power of the Atonement.

The great prophet Nephi also called us to be reconciled to God. After everything we can do, he said, it is by grace we are saved. After everything we can do, we cannot save ourselves, and it is foolish to take upon ourselves that burden. After everything we can do, it is still grace that saves us.

Similar thoughts were echoed by the great apostle Paul some years later. For by grace are you saved through faith, he wrote, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. Again, we alone don’t have the burden of salvation, of becoming perfect, complete, mature as our Father in heaven is. That burden has been taken over for us through grace, a gift of God.

Unfortunately, there are many followers of Christ in our world who quit quoting Paul at that point. But what did Paul go on to say? He said that the reason we receive grace is because we are God’s workmanship, created to do good works. We receive grace, Paul wrote, so we can do the good works he has given us to do.

As we put our faith in Christ, he works in us to change our will, to change our desires. In the words of Elder Joseph P. Wirthlin:

When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. When we love the Lord, we seek less for things that benefit us and turn our hearts toward things that will bless and uplift others.

This truth was stated another way recently by President Dieter Uchtdorf:

When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us. The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin.

This is how grace works.

The words of Jesus and the words of the prophets have made clear: As we put our faith in Christ, as we trust him to fulfill the promise of the Atonement, He will give us the strength, will and desire to ease the burdens of life, to be free from the guilt of sin, and to fully love others as He loved us. We’re not promised that life will be easy, but we are promised grace that gives us the strength to deal with what life brings us.

I speak in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, Amen.

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6 thoughts on “A Typical Mormon Sunday

  1. I really liked most of the talk. My only disagreement is this paragraph which seems to contradict the theme of the talk:

    “The great prophet Nephi also called us to be reconciled to God. After everything we can do, he said, it is by grace we are saved. After everything we can do, we cannot save ourselves, and it is foolish to take upon ourselves that burden. After everything we can do, it is still grace that saves us.”

    The problem is, how does one define “after everything we can do”? This is why Mormons find themselves burdened by trying to achieve perfection in this life. Having been raised LDS, that scripture and quote was heavily emphasized anytime grace was the topic, and interpreted to mean that we must live an almost perfect life after our conversion. Christ would make up for the little things.

    Elder Oaks talk from this past conference on obedience echoes that belief:

    “Mercy cannot rob justice. And those who obtain mercy, are they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment.”

    Why does the person who kept the covenant and commandment need mercy? Unless I misunderstood, Oaks seems to be saying that those who commit the heavier sins (who had the gospel) will not be saved by grace, and only those who lived the higher law will return to God in the Celestial Kingdom. I’ll never forget the lessons we had in Primary on the three kingdoms. Our teacher would write the three circles up on the board and show us which Mormons were going where based on their sins and obedience.
    As a child I recall thinking it would have been better for the missionaries to let people live in ignorance and have Mormons do the proxy temple work after they die.

  2. Seven asked:

    The problem is, how does one define “after everything we can do”?

    Does it matter? The point is that we can never do enough, and that’s why we need the Atonement.

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