Does the Mormon Church Teach Salvation by Grace? By Gary Carter.

Grace

An issue that has come up in my (Bobby) discussions with Mormons recently is the issue of whether the Mormon Church does teach a gospel of grace? Our new volunteer Gary Carter has put some thoughts down on this, please leave any comments or questions below.

It is quite easy to walk through everyday life and not realize the magnificence of grace. I can guarantee you that I fall into sin everyday from not refuting gossip in the workplace to not spending enough time on my relationship with Jesus. There are a great many sins that I forget to repent of because they do seem so ‘insignificant’ but these ‘insignificant sins’ do as much to separate us from God as ‘serious’ sins such as theft and murder. When I reflect on this, I am so grateful for the grace that comes from Jesus, the grace that covers all my iniquities, the grace that comes by faith and not by fallible human works.

‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.’ – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Christianity has always had to deal with a difficult balancing act when it comes to grace and works. The issue of indulgences in the Reformation is perhaps the most famous example of this but there are many examples of people who I have met who view Christianity and the Church as a place to learn morals, not a place to meet Jesus and his grace. There is the accusation by people who dot not accept Mormonism as a form of Christianity that Mormonism does not subscribe to the principle set out in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation comes from grace alone but salvation in fact comes from works, a statement that goes against the Ephesians quote. This suggestion is something that Mormons vehemently deny. This debate has been central in nearly every Christian-Mormon debate/discussion I have ever had. It is important to examine this crucial question; do Mormons actually believe in salvation by grace?

It is important to state from the outset that all (or at least nearly all) branches of Mormonism accept the Bible as scripture so Mormonism would argue that they accept the principle in Ephesians 2 based upon this. In regards to scripture however, Mormonism is very distinct in that their canon does not stop with the Bible but includes the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants as part of its scriptures, books that are rejected as sources of truth by Christianity. Below are some selected quotations that give rise to our question:

And may God grant, in his great fullness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works. – Helaman 12:24

And now I speak unto you, the Twelve—Behold, my grace is sufficient for you; you must walk uprightly before me and sin not – D&C 18:31

For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.D&C 93:20

And thus Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; for Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and he walked with God, as did also his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. – Moses 8:27

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” – Moroni 10:32.

Now at this point I accept that I have been selective in terms of the quotations I have chosen. There are many other quotations that talk of grace without the hint of work-based salvation but there was something that troubled me with these quotations. The LDS website was very helpful in understanding my troubles when I read of grace on the Book of Mormon in that it gave me the LDS definition of grace that follows below:

Grace. A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ

The grace that I was reading of in the Book or Mormon, Pearl of Great Price etc. is not the same as what Christianity would describe grace as. Grace is the ultimate undeserved forgiveness that comes from the death and resurrection of Christ. It is not a divine help or strength. By the LDS definition, Mormonism and Christianity have already become distinct.

At this point, it is important to go into the Mormon doctrine of continual or progressive revelation. Mormonism subscribes to the idea of the priesthood of all worthy male believers. A key part of this idea is that the Spirit can inspire any man to speak the Word of God, an idea that is found within Christianity. This is especially true of the Prophet, no matter what the Mormon grouping may be. The words of the Prophet have always been held to be the word of God and as the prophet is to be the witness of Christ for the whole of the Mormon church, when the prophet makes a pronouncement on a topic such as grace, this will nearly always be accepted (D&C 21:4-6). Below are some quotations from the 12th President Spencer W. Kimball:

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation”
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 206. See also The
Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1996, p. 36).

“And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel”
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 207).

And here is a quotation from the 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I believe in the grace of God made manifest through His sacrifice and redemption, and I believe that through His atonement, without any price on our part, each of us is offered the gift of resurrection from the dead. I believe further that through that
sacrifice there is extended to every man and woman, every son and daughter of God, the opportunity for eternal life and exaltation in our Father’s kingdom, as we hearken and obey His commandments”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1986, pp. 50-51).

There are other quotations from apostles and seventies that subscribe to this idea but there are too many to list. It is also important at this point that the 16th President Thomas Monson (the current president of the LDS church) has not differed from this teaching at this current time.

It is also important to get our terminology correct at this point. Whilst it is true to say that the Christian understanding of salvation is rather simple in that salvation is eternal life by believing in Jesus, the same cannot be said of Mormonism. According to the True to the Faith teaching manual, Mormonism splits salvation into five categories. When the Christian says that they believe in ‘salvation by grace’, the Mormon will agree but there will be a different understanding. Salvation to Mormons in this context refers to the general resurrection and souls resting in the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms. The equivalent term for Christian salvation is Mormon exaltation. This ‘exaltation’ is the eternal life and path to godhood that comes with living a good Mormon life, accepting the Melchizedek Priesthood and keeping the sacred temple covenants such as eternal marriage. This ‘exaltation’ is work based and most Mormons wouldn’t deny that.

With that, let us return to our question, do Mormons believe that salvation is by grace alone. Based upon the texts that that can be seen above, there can be two answers to this question, which are Mormons do not believe in the same grace as Christians do and that they do not believe in salvation by grace alone. This may seem controversial and potentially antagonistic so let me explain my reasoning.

In regards to a different grace, in my years as a Christian, it has never been taught in a Christian church that grace is a ‘divine help’. Grace is the action that saves. By belief and acceptance in the forgiving grace of God that is completely undeserved because of our sinful nature and actions that brings us to salvation. Our works can never bring us to God because we can never make ourselves perfect even though we should always aim to be like Christ who was perfect. In short, Christians believe in and attempt to live out the Ephesians 2 principle we were discussing at the beginning. This ‘definition’ for want of a better word is completely different than the definition of grace given by the LDS themselves.

This then leads us to our second conclusion, that Mormons do not believe in salvation by grace alone. If grace in Mormon circles is a very different principle to the Christian idea (a.k.a. the divine help idea), then a Christian understanding of salvation by grace alone does not exist within the Mormon context. The quotations from the specifically Mormon scriptures and from the LDS presidents add to the evidence that Mormonism does not believe in salvation by grace alone. One only needs to look at the Kimball quotations to see this. To call salvation by grace alone a ‘fallacious doctrine originating from Satan’, is not exactly a ringing endorsement for the idea. Gordon Hinckley does not go as far as Spencer Kimball in his language but he does not step back from the idea that works is central to salvation. President Monson has not stepped back either. Based upon the principle of continual revelation, it has to be said that if this is still the view of the Presidents of the LDS church then this is still LDS teaching.

I am very aware that the LDS are the what can be termed the ‘mainstream’ Mormon church so I will move back to the LDS scriptures that are accepted by other Mormon denominations from the more liberal Community of Christ to the hardline FLDS. Doctrine and Covenants 18:31 argues that we must walk uprightly before God because his grace/divine help is sufficient. D&C 93:20 says that we must keep God’s commandments if we ever were to see His grace. Helaman 12:24 tells us that we must be brought to repentance and perform good works we may receive God’s grace. These scriptures do not leave room for salvation by grace alone.

Now I am aware of an argument that says ‘well what about the Old Testament, there isn’t much grace there’. I would argue that there are lots of examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament but we must also consider the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. Trying to obey the Law entirely by human endeavour is impossible due to our sinfulness hence the need for the grace of Jesus.

In conclusion, not only do I believe that that Mormonism does not believe in salvation by grace alone, I do not believe that we are even talking about the same thing when it comes to grace. Now there will be others who disagree with me and I welcome that. It is always good to talk.

20 thoughts on “Does the Mormon Church Teach Salvation by Grace? By Gary Carter.”

  1. This is an excellent post, not just for the clarity with which Gary has presented his argument but especially for the clarity with which he has built the case for biblical grace. Some of his turns of phrase especially stood out for me:

    “…there are many examples of people who I have met who view Christianity and the Church as a place to learn morals, not a place to meet Jesus and his grace.”

    That is a wonderful if disturbing description of the confusion in the world and a clear call to grace.

    “Grace is the action that saves.” Amen! There is a world of truth in this one short sentence.

    “According to the True to the Faith teaching manual, Mormonism splits salvation into five categories. When the Christian says that they believe in ‘salvation by grace’, the Mormon will agree but there will be a different understanding. Salvation to Mormons in this context refers to the general resurrection and souls resting in the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms.”

    Here is the nub of the matter and the way Gary unpacks this, explains and refutes the Mormon understanding is clear and compelling. The tone of the presentation is challenging but respectful and a good example of speaking the truth with love and respect.

    Thanks Gary

    Like

  2. Interesting post. I have a couple of thoughts off of the top of my head. Please know that I am an active LDS, with a short history of activity here on Bobby’s blog. My comments are not meant to address your essay point by point, but are simply some casual observations or thoughts.

    1. The bottom line, as I see it, is that Mormonism is essentially a “Universalist” religion, teaching that virtually all mankind will receive salvation into God’s kingdom. You don’t have to do a single thing to get there other than confess that Jesus is the Lord. The “degrees of glory” within the LDS notion of heaven are very similar to the Evangelical idea of “crowns in heaven” based on how you conduct your Christian life on Earth. Access to heaven is a pure gift of grace, but one is rewarded with greater glory, etc., in heaven based on your commitment to Christ. This notion is a common one in Evangelical Christianity (indeed, I’ve even heard Hank Hannagraff teach it on the radio). To put it somewhat irreverently, you might say that the basic salvation package is free, but you can get an upgrade based on your personal level of sanctification. This is the LDS model of heaven, and is really not that different from your own (Evangelical) beliefs. Anyone can get into the Telestial degree of heaven. They are saved. It is totally free. Utter grace. If they want, however, they can choose to receive greater crowns in heaven by developing Christlike attributes in their character and seeking sanctification.

    2. Mormonism has a strong position when it comes to dealing with questions about God’s sense of justice. For example, one might ask the question, “what exactly are we being ‘saved’ from?”. An Evangelical might say something about being rescued from eternal hellfire. Why would we ever be punished with eternal hellfire? Supposedly because we are utterly depraved and evil to the core, and deserve nothing better than to suffer forever. The next logical question would be, “why are we that way?”. When you dig into this question it all comes back to the mainstream Christian belief that God created us ex nihilo exactly as we are, with the total inibility to do good for ourselves. So, in the end, salvation is nothing more than being rescued from a horrible fate which God designed for us in the first place and we had no say in. It’s like a father shoving his son off a cliff to a horrible death, only to save him from death at the last minute. How exactly is that grace?

    Mormonsim avoids all those pitfalls by arguing that men are eternal beings with libertarian free will, capable of choosing what kind of person they want to be and what kind of life they want to live. God did not create us as totally corrupt and helpless to do good, because he did not create us at all except in the sense of organizing physical bodies for our spirits to dwell in. We are eternal, and we choose to be what we want to be. God helps us along the way in an amazing fashion. If we fall off the cliff it isn’t because God pushed us, but because of our choices. God saves us from ourselves, which is a much more compelling story than God saving us from God.

    3. As a final comment, I think it is important to note that LDS theology is not a monolithic catachism agreed upon by every person. Mormons are bound together by a common belief in Christ, latter-day prophets, and a few other basic tenets, but there are many more things for us to disagree on than there are to agree on. Amongst ourselves we constantly debate the nature of salvation, atonement, God, scripture, etc. You can whip out a quote or two from a LDS prophet, but that hardly means it is totally representative of how every Mormon thinks or believes. We have a paradox in our belief which says that a prophet speaks for the Lord, but that he also is not infallible. It is a challenge to sift through it all and decide what is right. Fortunately every man can have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and fortunately orthopraxy matters far more in the long run than orthodoxy.

    Oh, and by the way, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas (or a Happy Christmas, if you are in the UK).

    Like

  3. Hello all,

    Firstly to Miketea:
    Many thanks for your comments and encouragements 🙂 It is greatly appreciated.

    To James:
    Many thanks for your comments and thoughts. I will do my best to respond to them in a clear manner.

    1. May I make it quite clear that I do not believe in an ‘upgrade’ package and I would argue that most evangelicals here in the UK do not believe in such a package either (UK evangelical Christianity has a very different character to the American equivalent that takes after the British character and temperament which can be a positive and a negative). It is undeniable that we do believe in striving for holiness in this life but I would argue that ‘upgrades’ refers to a deeper relationship with Jesus. We are called to strive for something better in this life, the ‘something better’ being in deep relationship with Jesus, and this does affect our future in the heavenlys but only in terms of how much we know God when we meet Him. If we do not have much of a relationship, then there will be more to learn of Him compared to if we know Him well from relationship. I know I haven’t touched on the ‘Treasures in Heaven’ in the actual blog post but I truly believe that the greatest treasure is an awesome relationship with him.

    2. I think the crucial thing that has been missed out here is the fall itself. Adam and Eve chose to rebel. God didn’t make us fall, instead it was humanity’s choice. God knew it would happen and had already planned for it. He gave Adam and Eve the freedom to live for eternity and in relationship with Him but chose to rebel. Rebellion leads to sin which lead to exclusion from God because sinfulness cannot stand in the presence of God’s holiness. In the Christian narrative, God has not saved us from God as you seem to suggest, but He saves us from our own choice to exclude us from Him. He was wronged but He made it right.

    3. Now with my answer to point 1, I hope I have tried to not be too defensive about generalisations as you have pointed out some potential generalisations in my post so I think they all balance out. I am not surprised in the slightest to hear that some LDS members don’t agree with everything that every prophet says. My point however is that the LDS church have never come out and taught that this doctrine was wrong. In fact it has been reaffirmed on the presidential level. Even if you disagree with the doctrine, there is an implied acceptance of it if you are in the church. These problems are ones that we all face at one time or another and one we must address.

    I hope this is clear and have a good Christmas!

    Like

  4. The basic premise is a misunderstanding of terms. There is a “general” salvation that is based wholly on the Saviors atoning sacrifice and our faith in Him that saves us from eternal death and hell. This is called the judgment of rewards where only believers are present. What we recieve within the judgement of rewards is dependant at least in part by our works. Paul talks about this in 1 Cor. 15:41. (specific or individual salvation within the judgment of rewards). The LDS Church focus is entirely on the glory of sun. If you want God’s best we need to give Him our best. We all agree that all judment is given to the Son because He paid the price and therefore has the right to deterime who deserves what in the judement of rewards. The other judgment is called the great white throne judgment. It is for those who have no part of the spirit of the Lord. They come out in open rebellion against God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghos

    -Ned

    Like

    1. Hey James good to see you on here a big Merry Christmas to you.

      Ned we are very aware of the general salvation belief within Mormonism. Biblically this is no salvation at all.

      Hebrews 9:27-28

      27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
      28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

      Salvation is to be saved, however if some (or many) will be raised only to receive eternal damnation (or outer darkness) how can this be called salvation? I understand that this is what Mormons generally mean by saying “saved by grace” however this is no Biblical salvation. To be saved is to be righteous in the sight of God and to be secure that your eternity will be with Him. As Romans 4:5 says this is to the one that DOES NOT WORK.

      Works of righteousness are a natural fruit of any true believer however they can never be the requirement as our works are as filthy rags to God, (Isaiah 64:6) in our natural state as we are by nature children of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3) so we need a Saviour whose sacrifice is all sufficient as we in our own sinfulness have nothing to offer this great God. Hence we need to be saved 100% by faith so no one may boast, so that we then may do good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10) saving faith and works that glorify God are inseparable but the second never happens without the first.

      Like

  5. Hi again Gary. My follow-up comments below:

    1. I refered to the idea of receiving further “degrees” or, as the Evangelical community often calls it, “crowns”, in heaven as an “upgrade” to the basic salvation package. Looking back I realize it may have been an unfortunate word choice. Nonetheless, the notion of there being further rewards in heaven beyond salvation based on one’s commitment to Christ (or relationship with Christ) is well founded in scripture and is a part of the Christian tradition that, to my knowledge, is not normally considered heretical. This is important because it is extremely similar to the Mormon view of heaven, and it means that Mormons do NOT believe in salvation by works. I am bringing up the point about “crowns in heaven” as a counterpoint to your essay. Mormons do NOT believe in salvation by works, but there may be a case for claiming we believe in the reception of further “crowns” or “rewards” in heaven based on works. I’d suggest a synergistic understanding of this process.

    2. I of course understand how the Fall of Adam is a central aspect of Christian faith (including my own). I may not have sufficiently explained my point, because your answer doesn’t seem to address what I was trying to say. Let me try again. Adam fell, and therefore, in your view, he is deserving of eternal hellfire and, somehow, so are the rest of us (without the redeeming effects of Christ). The point I’m trying to make is that as a result of this Fall we are all now, according mainstream Christian belief, deserving of hell and unable to get ourselves out of this punishment without divine grace. But why exactly are you, Gary, deserving of hell? Because somebody you don’t know 6000 years ago disobeyed God? It strains logic to believe such a thing. The punishment clearly, verly clearly, does not fit the crime. Because of the sin of one person God shoved the entire human family off of a cliff, and chooses to save a handful of them (in seemingly arbitrary fashion), and we are supposed to call it “grace”. I realize that some argue that when we sin we are endorsing Adam’s choice, but this overooks the fact that, according to Evangelical thought, we don’t have any choice but to endorse Adam’s sin! We are utterly depraved from the start.

    I’m arguing that Mormonism has a much more feasible story to tell. Adam’s Fall was a gateway that introduced the world to opposition, challenges, and opportunities for growth. We are not automatically deserving of hellfire and eternal punishment simply because of Adam’s choice, but “we believe that all men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression”. When God saves us he is saving us from ourselves, from our individual decisions to alienate ourselves from God. We are eternal beings with libertarian free will who are able to make free choices.

    3. LDS leaders have in fact taught that we are saved by grace. There are of course going to be some ambiguities in terminology, but in most cases it is clear. The fact that you aren’t aware of these teachings is probably a symptom of the counter-cult community’s blind dedication to forcing Mormonism into their (misconceived) understanding of Paul’s condemnation of “works” and “the law”.

    Thanks!

    Like

  6. It is interesting that Gary quoted Scripture as well as Mormon prophets to make his points, Bobby quoted Scripture to make his, but James has simply told us what he thinks. James, you even go so far as to suggest that, prophets notwithstanding, it is up to individual Mormons to sift what Mormon leaders say and decide for themselves what to accept and what to reject. But according to what plumb line exactly? If you are not going to quote Scripture and the words of prophets are optional by what standard does a modern Mormon arrive at “the truth?”

    That we are all fallen because of Adam is soundly biblical Ro.5:12-14; 1 Cor.15:21-22

    That the sacrifice of Christ saves us from that state inherited from Adam is biblical Ro.5:18-19

    It might be helpful to understand that when the Bible uses the word “believe” it always means trust. Christians do works as a fruit of their salvation but Christians don’t trust in works they trust in Christ.

    Blessings

    Mike

    Like

    1. Hi Mike. Nice to run into you again. Since you asked about how a modern Mormon arrives at truth, I’m going to focus my comments primarily on that. I’m going to reserve my comments about grace, salvation, etc., for my discussion with Gary.

      1. I have a pretty busy schedule (besides my fulltime job, I have a set of five month old twins and the three year old who occupy almost all of my free time, not to mention my wife) which really limits my ability to get online and have these discussions. The precious time I do spend here isn’t always enough for me to track down every scripture or statement that I’d like to quote. You will just have to bear with me. I’ll try to do better.

      2. Keep in mind there is a distinction between determining what is official LDS doctrine, and determining truth. You must (A) first discover what official LDS doctrine is, and then (B) you must discover whether you believe it is truth or not. The first step requires studying the words of LDS apostles and prophets. I quote from LDS Apostle Neil L. Anderson:

      “There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find. The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” (Mormon 9:31) — Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Trial of Your Faith,” Ensign (November 2012).”

      3. Mormons arrive at “the truth” by following the basic pattern that every investigador is taught by our missionaries; namely, we read, ponder, and pray (after the model of Mormon 10:3-5). We look to the Holy Spirit to teach us all things (John 16:13). We don’t just believe that this is a principle for obtaining truth that is only applicable to those investigating Mormonism for the first time. It is a principle for every person looking for truth. I quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

      “A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness borne to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true.”
      —Dallin H. Oaks “Testimony,” Ensign, May 2008, 26

      4. Now, I hope that we don’t get too far afield in a discussion about epistemology, official LDS doctrine, etc.. It is an important and interesting topic, but it probably is peripheral to what we began this discussion with. We are here primarily to discuss grace and salvation, so I will end my comments with you now and turn back to my fruitful discussion with Gary.

      Thanks,
      James

      Like

  7. Man you go to sleep and out for the Sunday and there are suddenly loads of comments. Great stuff. There is so much stuff to cover within these points. I think Bobby’s response to Ned doesn’t need any additions from me so I shall leave it there.

    James, do you believe in exaltation by works or grace? I think this could be the crucial question here. When I say salvation, I think that I mean exaltation in the LDS terminology. The fullest (and only) eternal life comes from Jesus and that is by grace as the verses quoted from Ephesians clearly states. A follow up question, do you believe that the ‘salvation’ in the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms is eternal?

    Exodus 34:5-7 shows clearly that sin is something that is passed down from generation as we inherit it from our forefathers who were also born in sin. It may sound odd but I know I deserve punishment as I rebel against God everyday in the little things that we often forget to remember God. That is sin and that separates me from God. I need God’s grace for salvation/entrance to heaven/eternal life as I cannot be perfect and earn it and I firmly believe that no one can.

    I know that the presidents teach in salvation by grace but they also teach exaltation by works. As we reject the differing degrees this is the root of the disagreement here.

    Blessings,

    Gary

    Like

    1. Hi Gary. I know exactly what you mean. The comment section of a blog can be fast and furious, which is a real turn off for me. I just normally don’t have the time nor the interest to keep up with the pace of many folks on the internet. That is one reason I’ve not been to a message board in years.

      I’ll try to address some of your questions and comments.

      1. I believe in exaltation by grace. You may be familiar with the notion of monergism vs synergism in debates over soteriology. If not you can look it up easy enough on Wikipedia. I basically believe that salvation is accomplished through a synergistic process, in which God and man work together. Evangelicals often will cry that Mormons believe in salvation by “works” as if we were some kind of hardcore Pelagian religion that eschews God’s power and believes that we have to pull ourselves into Heaven all by ourselves. It isn’t a fair characterization or an accurate one. Synergism is a mainstream Christian view of salvation, espoused by Catholics and Arminian Evangelicals, two enormous groups who are not considered unorthodox nor heretical. It is salvation by grace, just not the hardcore Calvinist (Reformed) model (a model which I abhor).

      I believe that God invites us, enables us (ie. prevenient grace), and guides all along the way. I believe we make the choice to act, pray, repent, and believe. The gifts are handed to us, and we choose to utilize them. I also believe that we have the ability to refuse those gifts, and that it matters when we choose them. A choice is not truly a choice if you cannot choose otherwise.

      In my understanding, “Exaltation” occurs when we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, sanctified, and have developed within ourselves attributes of Christ such as charity, kindness, reverence, and all other godly characteristics. We can then be called the “friend” of God (James 2:23). These personal qualities are not handed to us on a silver platter, but are gained through a lifetime, or perhaps longer, of experience. We are then deemed prepared to inherit all that the Father has. It isn’t a thing to boast about:

      In response to Evangelical accusations that Mormons do not adhere to Ephesians 2:8 (that we seek to “boast” of our good works), I quote from the Book of Mormon:

      “23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”
      (Mosiah 2:24)

      2. Yes, I believe that salvation into the Telestial or Terrestrial Kingdoms is eternal. That, I believe, is a pretty standard teaching of the LDS Church.

      3. Regarding Exodus 3:7, I basically believe that this is a reflection of ancient Jewish thought which is probably not the way God actually operates. It is completely unjust for God punish a child for the sins of his father. At any rate, supposing the passage is exactly correct, all it says is that God will punish them to the third and fourth generation. We are of course much further removed from Adam than three or four generations.

      4. Just to reiterate the point I’ve been trying to make, the mainstream Christian model of salvation is severely flawed. It posits that man is created ex nihilo by God, therefore all that a man is is determined by God at the moment of his creation. Every choice you make is based on the weaknesses or strengths that God gave you. Therefore, if you are deserving of hell it is because God created you that way. When he saves you from hell he is only saving you from a fate he originally designed you for. That is not an inspiring story from my perspective.
      Mormonism has a different twist in that God did not create the very core of a man. We are all eternal beings with strengths and weakness which are not designed by God (that isn’t to say that God cannot give us individual strengths and weaknesses for our own benefit, but there is a core personality within us that he did not create). We are responsible for our actions in a much more real sense than we would be if we were created ex nihilo. I’m grateful for that knowledge.

      Regards,
      James

      Like

  8. James, Your opinions are very interesting, indeed helpful in gaining an understanding of how Mormons today view Mormonism and Mormon doctrine. They are, however, simply your opinions and, while I respect them for what they are, I fail to see the connection between them and what the Mormon Church “officially” teaches.

    You will understand why this is important perhaps since anyone speaking, and especially writing about their Mormon faith goes to lengths to distance their thoughts from what is “official” and because when a Christian believer challenges Mormon doctrine Mormons will insist that any quotes, texts and ideas discussed have to be from “official sources” otherwise they can be dismissed with impunity as “just that person’s opinion.”

    What you have said falls more into the category of “this is how I like to think about things,” which is good and fine so far as it goes but it fails to give the reader anything truly authoritative, to engender confidence that this is coming from somewhere more authoritative than the speaker. I don’t mean to dismiss your opinions with impunity at all but would like to see some Scripture and “official” teaching cited so that we can see where your ideas are coming from.

    To take one point you raise as an example, the text of Genesis allows for creation ex nihilo but the text of the whole Bible does not allow for a pre-mortal existence. The Hebrew word for creation out of pre-existing materials in Scripture is typically translated “made” whereas the word used in Genesis is translated “created.” There is a significant difference. The latter allows for God’s total sovereignty while the former does not.

    The Bible clearly states, “Without him was not anything made that was made” Jn 1:3 whereas by the Mormon scheme there is a great deal that was made without him, indeed, everything was made without him and he merely “formed” it from pre-existent materials that were not made at all since, in the Mormon scheme, “matter is eternal.” This way you end up with a form of pantheism.(The word “made” in the text, by the way, translates the word ginomi, which means to generate, to cause to come into being.)

    If “we believe the Bible to be the word of God,” and certainly I do, maybe some explanation from the text would help.

    Like

    1. Hi Mike. My thoughts below:

      1. I’m not sure where you are going with the continual complaints about the relationship between my comments here and “official” LDS doctrine. The reason it is so hard to pin down “official” LDS theology is because there really isn’t any formal chatachism, or one-stop-shop for all “official” doctrines on every subject out there. That isn’t really our way. Instead, our prophets have consistently taught that the scriptures are the authoritative place for doctrine, and that official LDS doctrines are those teachings consistently proclaimed by LDS leaders in official publications. For better or worse, this is a vague set of guidelines and leaves many theological intricacies unsettled. Like it or not, a Mormon is left to sift through it all, ponder, pray, and do his best to sort out the answers. This really is not that different from the state of Evangelical Christianity in which there is no one-stop catachism that settles every point of theology. Mormons can have diverse theological beliefs except in those few areas where we all agree (most notably the simple questions asked of us in Temple Recommend interviews).

      2. Regarding “creation”, I strongly recommend you look into “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John Walton, an Evangelical scholar at Wheaton College. He does an excellent job of explaining why creation ex nihilo is not taught in Genesis. You can read much of it at Google Books. If I find time later this evening I’ll paste a few quotes from his book.

      3. Regarding John 1:3, I think you are seeing the word “made” and automatically assuming that it is referring the moment creation ex nihilo of an object. I can agree that the root word means “to come into existence”, but that hardly suggests creation ex nihilo. Consider Matthew 8:24, in which “a great tempest” arises in the sea. The word “arose” is the same Greek word used in John 1:3, yet that is clearly not a case of creation out of nothing.
      I’m not sure why you refer LDS ideas about eternal matter as “Pantheism”, as it clearly does not meet the definition of that word. 

      James

      Like

      1. Here is a bit on the Old Testament idea of “creation”, not from the Walton book I mentioned above (which I still highly recommend), but from the “Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003)” under the heading “Creation”:

        “Nowhere in the ancient Near East did people think of creation primarily in terms of making things. It is only our post-Enlightenment, Western way of thinking that focuses so steadfastly and exclusively on physical structure and formational history. As can be seen from the analysis of individual elements above, creation in the ancient world constituted bringing order to the cosmos from an originally chaotic or nonfunctional condition. Israel shared this view. The Hebrew verb ‘bara’ (“created”) makes precisely that point, though it has not generally been recognized. The verb occurs fifty times in the OT and has some curious features worth noting….In all of these cases, something is brought into existence functionally, not materially; rarely would the statement concern the issue of matter. Indeed, the text never uses ‘bara’ in a context in which materials are mentioned. Instead of suggesting manufacture of matter out of nothing (as many have inferred in the past), this suggests that manufacture is not the issue. The lexical analysis suggests, instead, that the essence of the word that the text has chosen, ‘bara’, concerns bringing heaven and earth into existence by focusing on operation through organization and assignment of roles and functions.”

        Like

  9. After reading several of the replys I have a better understanding of who is coming from where. In Calvinst theology the points in my previous post make no sense. In Arminian theology my views make a great deal of sense yet there are those who say that it doesn’t matter which tradition you come from we are all Christians. I for one will allow the Savior to decide who gets what in the resurrection of the just. That is where I put my trust.

    -Ned

    Like

  10. James, I don’t regard my comments as complaints, simply comments, and they are not continual, I have simply raised the subject twice. The reason for my doing so is because I do not recognise the Mormonism you appear to represent, if represent is the right word. I do know that Mormons of just a generation or two ago would not think or speak the way you do and might even regard you as apostate. I hold nothing against you but simply want to understand how and when Mormonism became so, apparently, liberal. But maybe that’s a subject for another thread so let’s not go off on a tangent, rather let’s stick to the issue at hand.

    Like

  11. I happened to see this blog today.

    As a non-LDS Mormon I agreed with James’ points about Mormon Eternalism and why other faiths become unbelievable when one really understands and accepts it.

    I wanted to add this that I wrote one time. (As James says, this is my understanding and definitely not official) :

    ——————————-

    Mormons believe one has to “qualify” for salvation.

    If one does not have to “qualify” for salvation, then either 1. no one will be saved 2. everyone will be saved, or 3. salvation will be totally capricious.

    So what are the list of “works” that are necessary to “qualify” for salvation?

    1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 2. Repentance (not just a repentant attitude, but actually stopping the sinning) 3. Baptism by immersion by one having authority 4. the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by one having authority, and 5. Enduring to the end in prayer and works.

    Mormons believe salvation is by degrees. These “works” above qualify one for Celestial salvation. One can also qualify for Terrestrial or Telestial salvation by repenting of fewer things. They are then pardoned (not forgiven) and damned so they cannot commit those sins again. But they remain in a saved condition for all eternity.

    Mormons also believe there will be some that do not qualify for any salvation and will go into hell forever with the devils (also eternal beings that were given spirit bodies, but were not created ex nihilo).

    But none of these “works” of qualifying for salvation in the Mormon faith replace the atonement of Christ to ANY degree. So it truly is by the grace of God that we are saved.

    There is plenty of room in this list of “works for qualifying for salvation” to disagree with the Mormon faith without misrepresenting the faith by teaching that Mormons believe their works somehow replace the atonement of Christ.

    Did not the disciples of Jesus do the “works” of the above list?

    I realize that the Mormon faith also talks about exaltation, besides salvation. What I said above applies to Mormon teachings about Salvation. But without salvation the idea of exaltation– which is only available for those who gain Celestial salvation– is meaningless.

    Like

    1. Perhaps you need to read the book “Odds are you are going to be Exalted” by Alonzo Gaskill. He does a great job explaining these concepts in detail.

      -Ned

      Like

  12. Hi Heber Frank, thanks for your comments. Your description of what is meant by salvation in Mormonism is wonderfully clear. I do wish to clarify ‘qualify’. Christianity wouldn’t deny the need for a ‘qualification’ for salvation but that ” would be having faith rather than any human work. qualification

    I believe the difference between Christianity and Mormonism is the difference in meaning when each religion discusses salvation. Christianity’s rejection of salvation by degrees means that salvation is a very definite divide between faith and unbelief. Mormonism’s viewpoint is much broader (as you discussed) and allows for works to add to faith to get into the higher degrees.

    I am glad you made your point about exaltation is very important. I believe that if we are comparing the two, it is probably more logical to link exaltation and the Christian idea of salvation. The exaltation is what, in reality, the goal of Mormonism is in terms of final destination. That involves works as well as faith. The degrees that ‘merely’ involve faith and or faith with works that don’t ‘match up’ are definitely lesser and not the goal. Within Christianity, heaven and worship of the Lord is all there is and the ‘qualification’ is salvation by faith through grace and not by works.

    Christianity would also argue that the atonement of Christ cannot be added to in any way. The power of the atonement is all that is needed. It is the ultimate act. It is by that act that humanity can be brought to God by God himself. Christianity’s objection to Mormonism is not based on any obvious rejection of the need for the crucifixion, but what the crucifixion achieves. The Mormon faith would argue that the crucifixion opens a door which you can advance through the degrees. In effect, the Mormon approach to the crucifixion is that it is not the be all and end all to salvation. Christianity would argue that the atonement is everything. It is the be all and end all when it comes to salvation. There is no progression or ladder to move up in the degrees of heaven. There is no separation for sin if there is salvation by grace. There is also no difference between pardoning and forgiveness. Faith and grace allows for relationship with God on earth and in heaven as the sins that separate us from has been forgiven and have been set aside by the act of the atonement itself.

    Hope this helps explain some of the differences between the Christian and Mormon viewpoints.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s