Grace, Works, and Salvation
1. Ephesians 2:8, 9 speaks of salvation by grace through faith.
2. How can this be exaltation?
3. How can Mormons hear the Bible way of salvation in a Mormon church?
4. How does a Mormon explain Romans 10:13?
5. Why don't Mormons ever say, "I was saved on such and such a day?"
6. How can Mormons teach that the repentant thief was not saved?
7. How can people have a chance to be saved after death?
1. Ephesians 2:8, 9 speaks of salvation by grace through faith. How can this be resurrection which Mormons say that all people will receive automatically? Do all people have faith? (see Articles of Faith, Talmage, page 87, 34 edition).
All people, good and bad will be resurrected(Acts 24:15). Resurrection is only the reuniting of the body with the spirit. Being saved is what happens to us after the resurection. It requires faith, obedience to commandments, enduring to the end, and the grace of God.
The following is a list, according to the Bible, of all the things that are required before one can be saved:
Endure to the end (Matthew 10:22)
Bring forth good fruit (Matthew 7:16-20)
Do the will of Father in Heaven (Matthew 7:21)
Believe(Mark 16:16, Act 13:21)
Baptism (Mark 16:16)
Jesus Christ (John 3:17, 10:9)
Call upon name of Lord(pray) (Acts 2:21)
Grace of Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11)
Hope (Romans 8:24)
Confess Jesus (Romans 10:9)
Believe in resurrection (Romans 10:9)
Remember teachings of Jesus(1 Corinthians 15:2)
Faith (Ephesians 2:8)
Lose life for Jesus and Gospel (Mark 8:35)
Heed the doctrine and continue in them(1 Timothy 4:16)
Shun sin and filthiness (James 1:21)
Receive the word (James 1:21)
Works (James 2:14-26)
2. Ephesians 2:8, 9 further states that this salvation is the gift of God and is not of works. How can this be exaltation? (Mormons teach that exaltation is attained by obedience, works and keeping the commandments. (Ibid. and A Marvelous Work and A Wonder, by Richards, pg. 276, revised edition 1971).
A: Most critics of the LDS Church rely heavily on Paul's words, perhaps because Jesus makes much stronger statements about other requirements for salvation, such as repentance, baptism and keeping the commandments. In fact, the Savior spent three years teaching people the principles by which they should live their lives, never once mentioning grace.
The danger of using isolated passages from Paul's epistles is that these writings were not intended to be doctrinal treatises, and therefore were not meant to elucidate all of the principles of salvation in a sentence or two. Rather, they are letters (which is what "epistle" means), sent to people who had already been taught the principles of salvation. There is a pattern throughout the scriptures, especially in the New Testament epistles, for the writer to dwell on only one at a time of several elements of the plan of salvation. For example, Peter wrote that faith leads to salvation(1 Peter 1:5, 9), but later in the same epistle he notes that baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21).
Besides this we need to look carefully at how Paul is using the word "saved" in the Ephesians 2:8, 9 scriptures. What are the Ephesians Saints being saved from? Paul was not talking about being saved in the Kingdom of God; but that they were saved from past "lusts of our flesh" (Eph. 2:3). In other words, Christ's forgiveness came to blot out what they had done in their past ignorance of the gospel. God gave his grace freely to save them from their sins prior to their knowing the gospel. Thereafter they were to follow a higher standard, Paul naming the serious sins that must be put aside as a condition of "any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. 5:5).
The concept of works being involved in our salvation is hard to understand when comparing Biblical scriptures, especially if they are taken out of context. Consider the following:
Ephesians 2:8,9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith . . . not of works."
Romans 3:20,28 "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight."
Galatians 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ."
James 2:24 "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
Matthew 19:16-21 "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he [Jesus] said unto him . . . keep the commandments. . . . The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven."
So, are works required for our salvation or not? Apparent Contradictions such as these and others that are found throughout the Bible are good opportunities for latter-day prophecy to help us understand such scriptures and bring them into harmony with each other.
The Protestants state that we are saved by grace through faith and not good works. They believe that a person who has exercised faith in Christ and become born again will have the desire to do good works and keep the commandments. This is perfectly sound doctrine. The LDS church believes it as well.
1 Ne. 25:23 says, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do."
Here Nephi explains that apart from all we can do (works), we still need the grace of God to be saved. We definitely fall way short of what is required to return to God's presence, even if we demonstrate faith and obedience. This is where His grace comes in to play. As the Protestants see it, the problem occurs due to the emphasis the LDS place on the individual's obedience to the commandments. This emphasis exists because of the LDS belief that in order to obtain any faith in the first place requires one to work at it. A person must read the scriptures, pray, serve others, live the commandments, etc., and observe the blessings and happiness that comes from doing those things. This helps build one's faith in Christ and His gospel.
Also the Protestant idea of heaven is an all or nothing type of thing. Either you believe and go to heaven or you don't and go to Hell. The LDS believe that there are different levels of Heaven. The level or reward we receive, depends on how diligent we were in keeping the commandments and serving God and man while here on earth.
Contrary to what many people think, The LDS do believe in salvation by grace. No man is capable of saving himself. If it wasn't for the saving atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind would be lost. No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we obey, no matter how many good things we do in this life, it would not be enough were it not for Jesus Christ and His loving grace. On our own we cannot earn the kingdom of God no matter what we do. Unfortunately, there are some
who have become so pre-occupied with performing good works that they forget that those works, as good as they may be, are hollow unless they are accompanied by a complete dependence on Christ. In fact, when Nephi says, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do", the "after all we can do" part may not have been meant as a time-related concept. He could have meant that we are saved by grace "inspite of all we do."
However, to declare that grace is devoid of any relationship with works is to contradict the scriptures.
There are some prerequisites for grace. Paul said that we must do "works meet for repentance." (Acts 26:20). The LDS believe that the prerequisites for grace are faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:37-39)
The Lord said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:15-16). He also said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."(Matt. 7:21) And in Matthew 6:20 Jesus said,
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:"
How else can we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven if not by our good works and deeds that we do for others here on earth? The type of person we become as a result of what we do in this life will determine the level of salvation that we will receive.
The author of Hebrews says that perfection comes by works. (Heb. 13:21). Paul also taught that what a man sows is what he will reap, and not to be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap. (Gal. 6:7, 9).This is precisely what the LDS believe-- that one will reap as one sows, that man will be saved by grace, through faith, but God will render to every man according to his deeds and what he has become. (Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:13). Or in other words we shall obtain that level of Heaven equal to what we have become as a result of what we have done while on earth.
Here is what James said:
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou has faith, and I have works; shew me thy
faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils
also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had
offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was
faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed
God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was
called the Friend of God.
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when
she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without
works is dead also." (James 2:17-26)
According to LDS beliefs, those who profess that they have accepted Jesus and believe they are saved only thorugh His grace and that works have nothing to do with it, probably will end up in some level of Heaven that they will be comfortable in. But there is so much more that they could have if they would do more than merely praise the name of Jesus. They could reach the highest level of Heaven where they will live in the presence of God forever. Members of the LDS Church aren't trying to "work" their way into Heaven. They already know they will be somewhere in heaven along with most of the inhabitants of the earth. They are just trying to become the kind of person that will qualify for that higher level in Heaven.
3. If salvation as taught in the Bible is neither resurrection nor exaltation, how can Mormons hear the Bible way of salvation in a Mormon church?
A: By not falling asleep during the service.
4. How does a Mormon explain Romans 10:13?
A: ROM 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Explain what? This scripture is telling us that if we pray we can be saved. Sounds OK to me. Prayer is a very important requirement for being saved. It's what we say in our prayers that really counts and what we are willing to do to show God how faithful and obedient we are. Do we back up what we say in our prayers with righteous actions or are we only making empty promises and vain confessions? A convicted killer can call upon the name of the Lord. But how can you know for sure if he is sincere unless he actually changes his life? In our prayers do we ask for forgiveness of our sins? Do we thank Him for all that we have? Do we promise him that we will try to do better? Do we ask Him to help us with our problems? After we pray, do we sit back and make Him do all the work? Or do we exercise our faith and meet Him half way and do everything we can to help ourselves, knowing that because we have demonstrated our faith that He will make up the difference?
I can pray to God and ask Him to make a light come on and have complete faith that it will happen. However, If I don't physically go over and flip the switch it will probably never come on. God wants us to do as much for ourselves as we can. "Faith without works is dead(James 2:26)."
5. Why don't Mormons ever say, "I was saved on such and such a day?" (see past tense in Titus 3:5).
A: If you will read a few verses before verse 5 you will see that he is not talking about being saved in heaven but being saved from their sins(verse 3) through baptism and the Holy Ghost.
3 "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; "
Most Christians believe that the moment they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior they consider themselves "saved" in heaven, even if it is on their deathbed. Mormons believe they are "born again" (John 3:3-5)at baptism, certainly a requirement for heaven, but only one step which begins their journey towards salvation. They can also usually remember the day when they received a witness from the Holy Ghost about the truthfulness of the Gospel. But how can a person know exactly when he has been saved in heaven when, according to the scriptures, before that can happen he needs to accept all the things listed in the answer to Question #1 above? (Especially the one about enduring to the end)
We can be saved from our sins through baptism(as in the Titus scriptures), but no one really knows if they are saved in the kingdom of God until after we endure to the end, die, and find out where we end up.
6. How can Mormons teach that the repentant thief was not saved when the Book of Mormon states that Paradise is where the RIGHTEOUS go? (Luke 23:43; Alma 40:12, 16).
A: The question is not whether or not he was saved. Perhaps he was. We don't know. The question is, when was he saved? Jesus told the thief that "today shalt thou be with me in Paradise".
Alma 40:11 Says this:
"Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection. Behold, it hath been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body; yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life."
The thief was repentant but you couldn't call him righteous. So the thief was "taken home" to God who was in Paradise. He then underwent a type of pre-judgment which sent him from Paradise to spirit prison where he could be taught the Gospel and have the opportunity to be saved in heaven.(1 Pet 3:19-20) His repentant attitude on the cross was a step in the right direction, but he was not "saved" the moment after he died and he did not remain in Paradise with the righteous
Those who believe that this scripture means that the thief was saved in heaven and that paradise is the same as heaven, should consider what Jesus did two days after He talked to the thief. He appeared to Mary and told her,
"Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).
If Christ had been in paradise with the thief "today" but had not yet ascended to heaven where the Father dwells, then where is Paradise? It is obviously some other place besides heaven.
Another thing to consider was explained by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"I will say something about the spirits in prison. There has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, 'This day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 'King James' translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. . . . There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was-This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits. Hades, the Greek or Sheol, the Hebrew, these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits." (Teachings, pp. 309, 310)
7. Do people have a chance to be saved after death? "For behold, if ye have
procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have
become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his;
therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no
place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final
state of the wicked." (Al. 34:35)
The Book of Mormon specifically contradicts the belief that there is a
chance to be saved after death. It teaches that if you belong to the devil
when you die, you belong to the devil forever. This passage defines the
wicked as anyone who procrastinates the day of repentance until death.
A. This scripture does not say that everyone that does not repent will definately belong
to the Devil forever; but that it is very likely that you will if you don't repent now.
Alma explains in Verse 34, "for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time
that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal
Alma is saying that if you won't change now you probably won't change in the next
life, since you will posses the same personality and attitudes that you have now.
For a few truely wicked people there may be a point of no return. But most people are
somewhere in between good and completely wicked.
This doctrine also presupposes that a person has actually been given the opportunity to repent. In this scripture Alma is talking to people who have already heard the word of God and have been given this opportunity. What about all the people who have died without ever having heard about the Gospel, or Jesus, or God and did not truely realize that they were doing anything wrong? God would not be a just God if He did not give them a chance.