In The Plan of Salvation LDS author Matthew B. Brown provides his audience with an appendix “designed to direct the reader to information on the LDS view of salvation and grace.” Included (among other things) are four pages of helpful quotations from prominent LDS leaders. Here are some excerpts from Mr. Brown’s Appendix III.
“Grace consists of God’s gift to His children wherein He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him and comply with His laws and ordinances would have everlasting life. …By His grace, and by our faith in His Atonement and repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the works necessary that we otherwise could not do by our own power.” (Cited as Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 353-354)
“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. …One passage in the Book of Mormon, written perhaps with the same intent as Paul’s statement above [Eph. 2:8-9] – to stress and induce appreciation for the gracious gift of salvation offered on condition of obedience – is particularly enlightening: ‘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 we can do’ (2 Ne. 25:23)…Of course we need to understand terms. If by the word salvation is meant the mere salvation or redemption from the grave, the ‘grace of God’ is sufficient. But if the term salvation means returning to the presence of God with eternal progression, eternal increase, and eventual godhood, [then] for this one certainly must have the ‘grace of God,’ as it is generally defined, plus personal purity, overcoming of evil, and the good ‘works’ made so important in the exhortations of the Savior and His prophets and apostles.” (Cited as Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 70-71.)
“But the Lord through His grace appeared to man, gave him the gospel or eternal plan whereby he might rise above the carnal and selfish things of life and obtain spiritual perfection. But he must rise by his own efforts and he must walk by faith.” (Cited as David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness, 129-130)
“Men must ‘work out their salvation’ (Philip. 2:12), and gain exaltation by continuous upward striving.” (Cited as Orson F. Whitney, Gospel Themes, 23-24)
“The faithful gain a forgiveness and are reconciled to God because they believe and obey His laws. Men are thus saved by grace alone, in the sense of being resurrected; they are saved by grace coupled with obedience, in the sense of gaining eternal life. The gospel plan is to save men in the celestial kingdom, and hence, Paul teaches salvation by grace through faith, through obedience, through accepting Christ, through keeping the commandments.” (Cited as Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:498)
I appreciate Mr. Brown’s candid presentation of LDS teachings on salvation and grace. Yet I cannot reconcile these Mormon ideas with the biblical teaching:
- That salvation is by grace, through faith, a gift of God, not a result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- That a person is not justified by works of the law, but [rather] through faith in Christ (Galatians 2:15).
- That there is a juxtaposition of law and faith: blessed are those who rely on faith, cursed are those who rely on law (Galatians 3:7-12).
- That works and grace for salvation cannot co-exist; one overturns the other (Romans 11:6).
- That those who seek justification by the law have fallen from grace and are severed from Christ (Galatians 5:4).
How does one get from these teachings in Romans, Ephesians and Galatians to the assertion that Paul teaches “salvation by grace through faith, through obedience, through accepting Christ, through keeping the commandments”?
The Bible does not reject the role of good works in a Christian’s life altogether, for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Yet these works are evidence of our faith; evidence that we have been saved by grace through faith, a gift of God, not a result of works.
In the end, it is Mormonism or the Bible – the two cannot be reconciled.