The Law of God: Designed to Reveal You as Sinful and God as Righteous

The apostle Paul reasons in Romans that people don’t keep the Law, neither the one written in the Torah nor the one written on our hearts. We need to find our righteousness elsewhere, even in another person. The harshest part of the law is that it demands perfection of our hearts, not just our external behavior. The sins—transgressions of the law—that Paul speaks of in Romans aren’t limited to not keeping distinctively Jewish rituals. Love—not Jewish ritual—is the fulfillment of the law (13:8-10).

Paul said, “the law brings wrath” (4:15) and “the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” (5:20) When fallen, unredeemed human beings come into contact with God’s commandments, they literally have within them aroused more sinful desires, and then incur more wrath.

The law awakens within us—whether Jewish or Gentile—a knowledge of how sinful we are. The humble heart looks into this mirror and is shocked by personal moral ugliness, not personal worthiness. This is one of the key reasons why no one is counted righteous by works of the law. In summary fashion Paul writes:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (3:19-20)

He elaborates in chapter 7:

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (7:5-11)

So if you think obedience to an even harsher, more difficult law is required of us as a prerequisite to receive forgiveness of sins, then you’re sadly missing the point of Romans. There is no righteousness in you to be found, no basis upon which God can justify you (didn’t 3:9-18 make this point strong enough?). The righteousness of God, revealed in the law, isn’t reflected in the human heart. The law promises life for all who would keep its conditions, and condemns those who don’t. But there is good news!

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (3:21-26)

By faith alone, Christians receive the righteousness of another, Jesus Christ, as imputed to our account. If not for the propitiation wrought by his blood, God would be unrighteous in justifying unrighteous sinners. It would be unrighteous for God to “pass over former sins” without some sort of atoning sacrifice to satisfy his just wrath. But thanks be to God for the “but now” in verse 3:21.

Because of this justification by faith apart from works, authentic Christians know all of their sins are forgiven right now at this very moment. We can sing:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (4:7-8; quoted from Psalm 32)

With joy we shout to the world:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God!” (5:1-2)

As for those who refuse to freely receive this gift, who instead attempt to prove their personal righteousness and moral worthiness unto forgiveness and justification, we say with the apostle:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Galatians 3:10)

Naturally, people object to Paul’s teaching by assuming it opens the door to licentiousness. Paul anticipates this objection which, from the mouths of those who reject justification by faith apart from works, sounds eerily the same today: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1) Paul goes on to reason that if we have been united in Christ’s death, we will most certainly be united with him in his resurrection-life. The same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is working in us to give us resurrection-life right now unto a new life of righteousness and sonship (we cry, “Abba, Father!”).

The Law is weak, not because it doesn’t sufficiently put forth a righteous requirement of internal perfection, but because our flesh is weak and because the Law has no power within itself to change the heart to which it speaks. The Law righteously demands condemnation of those who fail to keep it. Christians speak no nonsense about having to keep a harsher law as a prerequisite for receiving God’s forgiveness and favor. Instead we look to the Son of God who, “in the likeness of sinful flesh”, was condemned in our place. Having been united in his death, we are already experiencing the resurrection-life of Christ, and ironically begin keeping the righteous requirements of the law.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (8:3-4)

The law is meant to be a “tutor” (Galatians 3:24, NASB) or “guardian” (ESV) or “schoolmaster” (KJV), not leading us by the hand to an ever harsher prerequisite law, but rather to the cross of Christ at Calvary. The law was never meant to make us righteous or show what righteousness we might supposedly already have. Rather, it was meant to show us how sinful we are and how righteous God is in his judgment. Then it was meant to lead us in humility to the one who accomplished a righteousness we never could.

I plead with you to have faith in Christ. Authentic, genuine faith looks outside of its sinful self to the righteousness of Christ. Faith depends not on the worthiness of self, according with the law of God, but on the worthiness of Christ, accomplished on our behalf.

Further Reading

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33 Responses to The Law of God: Designed to Reveal You as Sinful and God as Righteous

  1. falcon says:

    I’ll never forget when the light when on for me regarding what God had done for me in Christ Jesus. It was during a communion service and the words “…this is a sign of the New Covenant….” were spoken. God says in Jeremiah 31:31-34; “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.” The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and the blood He shed was a sign of this New Covenant which we receive through faith. We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it through rituals or rites of some church. It’s a gift of God’s grace. He not only forgives our sins but forgets them. What sinner wouldn’t want to accept God’s gift of eternal life?

  2. Jeff B says:


    Aaron, thank you thank you thank you for this post. I guess I should give even more thanks to Paul, but even MORE so to God.

    I recently had a family home evening with my in-laws and my wife. My father in-law was speaking about the necessity of good works to earn our place in Heaven. Although I obviously disagreed with the talk he was giving, I sat listening intently. There was no mention of Jesus Christ. I felt deeply saddened that somehow in my father in laws earlier parts of his life, he started to believe he could do ANYTHING to merit God’s grace.

    I just wanted to shout, ITS NOT YOU! ITS JESUS!

    Romans is a book that makes me feel so humble and meek, but also makes me feel empowered because of what Christ has done for me.

    Good works/Grace/Salvation has been the topic of sunday lessons at our local ward recently and my wife is heavily indoctrinated in it. Instead of trying to tell her of LDS history that she is largely unaware of, I think I should just copy and paste your post into a message for her.

    A light bulb just came on in my head. I think sharing with her what Christ really taught is what she needs to hear. Not to hear the contradictions of the teachings of her Church. Heh, I feel kind of dumb now :o)

    Thanks Aaron. Amen.

  3. dj1989 says:

    I’ve really got to stop posting on this blog. Ahhh, oh well.

    We (Mormons) have been misrepresented, as though we do not rely on faith or grace for salvation. If you didn’t mean to misrepresent us, Aaron, then this post is just for clarification.

    I emphatically say that Mormons DO NOT rely on works to be saved. Now, yes works are a part of it. But we DO NOT rely on it. We believe it would be IMPOSSIBLE to be saved by works alone. We also believe that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to be saved without Jesus’ grace.

    I need to reemphasize that last paragraph, because I am sure that somebody will inevitably come back with a “one-liner” that either Joseph Smith or some other modern prophet has said about the need for baptism or marriage. If you believe that those statements exclude grace and faith, then you GROSSLY misunderstand Mormon beliefs. One more time… if you think that Mormons believe in being saved through works, YOU MISUNDERSTAND OUR BELIEFS. Is that emphatic enough? 🙂

    We believe that both faith & works are necessary. I’m not going to re-hash an old argument about faith alone vs. faith/works vs. works alone, because that has definitely been covered by others more eloquently than I could do. So Google it if you want. But we believe in faith/works.

    For my part, though, I think that to say that certain works are not a partial requirement to salvation is to disregard pretty much the whole New Testament. In this case (the case of this particular blog post) I believe that Romans has been misunderstood. Not because there are individual scriptures here and there that refute it, but because the New Testament in general refutes it. Most of the book of James directly refutes it as though it was written as a direct response to the blog post itself.

  4. Jeff, God is good. I’m glad it was encouraging.

    I think it’s revolutionary for Mormons to hear that “the law brings wrath” and “the law came in to increase the trespass”. It’s so counter to what they’ve been hearing about the commandments serving as an assistant to their achievement of eternal life.

    My philosophy on evangelism to Mormons in relationships is to primarily focus on the gospel but secondarily speak of historical problems. God definitely has used both in the lives of ex-Mormon Christians.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),


  5. “We believe it would be IMPOSSIBLE to be saved by works alone. We also believe that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to be saved without Jesus’ grace. “

    dj, unfortunately this is a distraction, a red herring. No one here is accusing Mormons of believing that some form of grace isn’t necessary. But I am accusing Mormonism of teaching that we must keep what is considered by many Mormons a harsher law than the Law of Moses in order to be forgiven and Celestially exalted. I’d encourage you to read Bill McKeever’s article on Celestial Law.

    Consider the words of Bruce McConkie (found in Mormon Doctrine, p. 408; quoted without last sentence in the LDS institute manual, Doctrines of the Gospel):

    “What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13-14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.) An act that is justified by the Spirit is one that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or in other words, ratified and approved by the Holy Ghost. This law of justification is the provision the Lord has placed in the gospel to assure that no unrighteous performance will be binding on earth and in heaven, and that no person will add to his position or glory in the hereafter by gaining an unearned blessing.”

    In short, what the New Testament (including James 2) in reality teaches about works is that they are a necessary after-evidence of authentic faith, not a necessary prerequisite for forgiveness and justification and eternal life. That’s a huge difference that I hope you’ll look into. You’ve got to come to grips with the “apart from works” phrase Paul uses, and passages like Romans 4:4-5:

    Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly like me by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),


  6. Megan says:

    dj1989, I certainly hope you won’t stop posting on this blog. Everyone is welcome here! However, I know it’s deeply frusterating for both sides, as we both try to understand each other and at the same time make our case for what we believe to be true. Adding to the frusteration, we have many of the same terms, but different meanings. I believe from the LDS perspective, salvation refers to the universal ability for all to take part in the resurrection. Is this right? Please correct me if I’m wrong and/or provide more details to the LDS doctrine on salvation. From the historical Christian perspective, salvation refers to escape from eternal damnation in hell and the ability to be with God in heaven for eternity. Is. 64:6 tells us all of our righteous acts are as filthy rags. In other words, no good works on our part can ever make us holy, and it’s only by having a life-changing faith in Christ that one is saved.
    But Mormons do not believe that grace alone allows us to be with God in eternity. Getting married in the temple, ie. good works enable Mormons to reach heaven. I know you didn’t want anyone to refer to that, but is this not true? Making things more confusing for both sides is the different definitions we have for heaven.
    Aaron talked a little about grace not being an excuse for licentiousness. This is what the first 2 chapters in James refer to. James 2:14-19 speaks of a dead, or solely intellectual faith that even the demons have. (By the way, even demons believe there is one God. Do you?) To have true faith a person must not only believe but have a changed, regenerate life as a result of a saving faith. James asks rhetorically (paraphrasing here) “can such (dead) faith save a person? The answer is no. We do good works not to become saved, but BECAUSE we are saved.
    If I am mistaken with anything I have referred to as regarding LDS doctrine, please correct me.

  7. Jeff B says:


    I’m not sure how long you have been on this blog so I’m just probably repeating myself to everyone who has been on it for a month or so..

    No one here misinterprets, as Aaron said, the LDS belief of works/faith.. Perhaps through history, Evangelicals have made a boo boo by saying simply “LDS believe that Good works will get them into Heaven!” I hope you give the evangelicals that post on here a little more credit than those who made those statements when Mormonism and there doctrine wasn’t well researched or understood. The Ev.’s on here have studied and continue to study the LDS Leaders, the Standard Works, Discourses, etc..

    The underlying difference that I caught in Aarons blog between LDS and Christian belief is this.

    Christians believe the grace of Christ comes first through faith, THEN comes our good works to evidence that faith. Like getting a virus, then comes the symptoms. The book of James doesn’t contradict Romans. “Faith without works is dead” simply means you can say you have all the faith in the world, but do you express it? If it’s not evident (and God only knows your true heart and when its evident) then do you really have it? The first good work a Christian does is accept the gift of Christ and THANK him for it, KNOWING you don’t deserve it.

    LDS believes their good works comes first with faith, THEN by WORKS they are WORTHY to receive the grace of Christ like its something earned.

    Do you work to be worthy? Or are you worthy (through Christ’s grace) to do work?

  8. If I had to summarize the Mormon view of salvation in a general way, taking into account multiple things, I would say:

    We have the opportunity to—upon the foundation of the free gift of the physical resurrection, the merits, mercy, and grace of Christ, the gracious assistance and strengthening and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the channels of mercy through the ordinances—personally merit and prove ourselves worthy of Celestial exaltation unto deification, escaping the horror of outer darkness and the hellishness of the bottom two kingdoms of heaven, forever enjoying the nuclear family and godhood and eternal increase in spiritual progeny and following in the footsteps of God the Father.

  9. dj1989 says:


    First, I apologized in advance in my previous post if you didn’t mean to mislead people. Nevertheless, whether you intended to or not, the post was misleading and in so doing, you made an unfair representation. The point of my post was to clarify the point (which is a very important clarification), not to create a red herring.

    Second, your statement from Bruce McConkie isn’t exactly the easiest to understand for a non-Mormon reader. But it can be summed up by saying that Mormons believe that “by grace we are saved, after all we can do”. Now, I already know that Sharon Lindbloom has made a post in which she claims that this is incompatible with Ephesians 2:8-10. And I know that you claim that Rom 4:4-5 is incompatible as well. And from your post it can be inferred that you have assumed that I’m not already familiar with Bruce McConkie’s statement, or Mormon doctrine on anything more than a superficial level.

    The truth is that Paul’s words to both the Romans and Ephesians has room to be interpreted differently, or at least considered differently when presented with other information (alas, much of the Bible is like that). You might find it hard to believe, but to me Paul’s words actually give depth to, and reaffirm, my belief that “we are saved by grace, after all we can do”.

    By the way, that might be a future blog post; “How to use the Bible to convince Mormons that they’re wrong, despite the fact that they already believe in it”. Ok…that was cynical, and wrong of me. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but always ask myself that about guys like yourself who are trying to use the Bible to tell us that we’re wrong. You cannot talk us out of our “interpretation” of the Bible when we feel that our interpretation is laid on a solid foundation. We feel that the Holy Ghost has ratified our interpretation. We feel that the very existence of the Bible has ratified our belief.

  10. dj,

    2 Nephi 25:23, with the phrase “after all we can do”, doesn’t alleviate the accusation against Mormonism for not understanding the biblical view of grace, it in fact exasperates it. I have written an article on this, “2 Nephi 25:23 – A Distinctive Mormon Passage on Salvation“.

    The truth is that Paul’s words to both the Romans and Ephesians has room to be interpreted differently, or at least considered differently when presented with other information (alas, much of the Bible is like that). You might find it hard to believe, but to me Paul’s words actually give depth to, and reaffirm, my belief that “we are saved by grace, after all we can do”.

    This kind of fog of yours doesn’t contribute to constructive dialog. If you want to be productive, be specific and provide an actual, alternate interpretation based on the text itself. Otherwise, you’re hedging and not really making an argument for the Mormon reading of the text.

  11. dj1989 says:

    Here’s post number 3, so I’m sorry that I will not be able to address some of the comments made. I feel that my way of thinking is closest to Megan’s. I completely concur with your comment; “I know it’s deeply frustrating for both sides, as we both try to understand each other and at the same time make our case for what we believe to be true. Adding to the frustration, we have many of the same terms, but different meanings.”

    I feel this sentiment very strongly, which is why I feel that it is a runaround to go back and forth about it (especially in a blog format). I do want to understand other people’s beliefs. I don’t think that the method of the blog accomplishes that effectively at all. I also have to admit that I get frustrated with blogs like this that very callously say that they “understand” our beliefs when a true understanding of certain topics doesn’t come so easily, but through an incremental learning process. You may not agree with that. You may think that our beliefs can all be understood with a few blog posts, but my experience has been right in line with a teaching from the Book of Mormon that says that God reveals the veracity of gospel truths “line upon line, and precept upon precept”. My experience has also been that our doctrine is VERY much in line with the Bible. But like Megan says, we have a lot of the same terms but different meanings for those same terms.

    That’s it for me today…but, I’ll read what other post for the rest of the day. And then I’ll try not to post anymore. 🙂

  12. Rick B says:

    Moderator note: Comment removed at Rick B’s request

  13. Megan says:

    Well, I am on here yet again. In a few min. I will be responsible and go make dinner. Meatloaf.
    How are Mormonism and Christianity different from each other? Let me count the ways….well, we differ on our views of salvation, eternity, God, and also the Bible. DJ, I believe you that you have read the Bible extensively. And I believe you that you love the Bible. However, I think it’s possible to do both things but not have a very high view of the Bible. Let me explain. 1) Mormons do not believe the Bible to be infallible but believe it only “as far as it is translated correctly. 2) DJ, you believe the Bible contradicts itself. 3) While you are correct in that the NT epistles are directed towards specific audiences (this provides us with historical and cultural context), we believe the epistles are what God revealed for his universal Church for all time. In other words, they are applicable to us today as well. 2 Tim. 3:16 refers primarily to “all scripture” found in the OT; however Peter’s mention of Paul’s writings among the “Scriptures” (2 Pe. 3:16) shows that the early church fathers already viewed such apostolic letters to be as authoritative as the OT.
    Please don’t be misled. In my effort to be conciliatory my statements of “same words, different definitions” sound innocuous. But these differences have eternal consequences. In short, I think you are wrong. However, if there are things in Mormonism that cannot be supported biblically then I am open to change my mind. Are you?

  14. falcon says:

    I’m curious about the concept of “understanding” as it relates to Mormon thought, doctrine, and practice. I think most of us understand Mormonism, but we don’t believe it. So if understanding means belief, then it would be correct to say we don’t understand it. I’ve often written here about “thinking like a Mormon”. So in that sense, I probably don’t understand Mormonism mainly because I don’t think like someone who has accepted Mormonism as the true church and restored gospel. In my mind there are specific characteristic of thinking Mormon and it’s just not the way orthodox Christians think. Mormons, for example, have to have a high tolerance for doctrinal ambiguity and an ability to toss out long held sacred beliefs and practices without batting an eye. Extra, Extra, Prophet gets new revelation, stay tuned for details. So I don’t “think Mormon” when I read and study the Bible. So when I read here some of the statements regarding the Bible from our Mormon friends, I just shake my head and say, “I don’t think/reason like a Mormon thinks/reasons about the Bible, the nature of God, Jesus Christ, salvation, grace, faith, the list could go on and on.” So in a sense what we have going here is like cross-cultural communication. We orthodox Christians simply don’t think or reason in the same way as Mormons.

  15. rpavich says:

    You said that Romans 4 and Ephesias can be interpreted differently, I agree…but the question is: is it an ACCURATE interpretation?

    Can you do me a favor?

    Can you take Rom 4:4-5 and EXEGETE it?

    In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, it means to show FROM THE TEXT the meaning of the passage.

    this takes into account the following:

    Context of the surrounding passages. the authors flow of thought…top to bottom. Take nothing out of context…it’s HIS argument…let him make it.

    The grammar of the passage.

    The historical setting. How would Paul’s audience have understood what he was saying?

    When you have done this, and shown that Paul is supporting your “after all we can do” then we have a basis for discussion. If you come back with anything other than that…then we are just reading your opinion.

    How does that sound?

    Just because someone says “well, that’s the way I interpret it” doesn’t make it a careful, or well reasoned interpretation does it?

    We would never do that to other reading material would we?

    Let’s say you were reading the sunday paper.

    You see the headline “Indians massacre Braves!”

    What would you think? Well, context and genre would tell you…if this was the front page…then you might investigate a little further…but if this was the sports page during baseball season? You’d understand that a baseball team really won by a large margin over another baseball team.

    Now think about an immigrant to American reading the same headline…he has to do some homework to get what’s being said…there is nothing wrong with the paper itself, we just have to do a little homework to understand what’s being said…

    the scriptures are the same way; we are separated by 2000-4000 years of time, different culture, many differences.

    So go through Romans 4 and show us how that passage supports “after all we can do”….ok?

    I’m not trying to be harsh…ok?

  16. Megan says:

    I should have used the word “inerrant” instead of “infallible” using the Bible and I should have said “can” instead of “cannot” regarding Mormonism being supported biblically. I’m sure I’m the only one that noticed my errors!

  17. Ralph says:

    OK, something my fellow LDS may not like but this is something I have ‘understod’ while being on this site and following my studies. It’s partially in agreement with the Ev thinking but I still will not say faith alone as James 2:17 states – Even so FATIH, if it hath not works, is dead, being ALONE. Hopefully most of you will follow it.
    There is a story in the “Gospel Principles” book about a person in debt and cannot pay it. There is a friend who pays the debt and then assumes the role as lender. His conditions for repayment were not as harsh as the original lender. The person in debt is us, the original lender is God (Heavenly Father) and the friend and subsequent lender is Jesus Christ. In the Bible Jesus said come to him all who are heavy laden and he will lighten our burden. He has paid the debt to God for us. In other words, we do not need to look good in God’s sight, but only in Jesus’, as He is our ‘lender’ and our judge, because God has given Him these roles. Thus God can give us grace to enter His presence as His only condition now is faith in Jesus. Jesus, now as our lender, has asked us to have faith in Him AS WELL AS follow His commandments (Matt 28:20 TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. John 13:34 A NEW COMMANDMENT I GIVE UNTO YOU, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.). He knows we are imperfect and allows for that, whereas God could not. So the ‘requirements’ for repaying our debt to Jesus are less strict than God’s ‘requirements’.
    And before anyone makes anything of it – I do not believe that I am working my way into heaven, I know there is no way I can do that. You can pull out all of the quotes from church authorities you want but what you make it mean and what is actually taught are 2 different things. I know what I believe, you cannot tell me different.

  18. Ralph,

    You said you didn’t like the word “alone”, but it’s a synonym for “only”, and you said, “Thus God can give us grace to enter His presence as His only condition now is faith in Jesus.” Do you have Skype? It’d be neat to make a podcast out of an interview with you. I’d definitely do some probing. After you said the above sentence, you said “Jesus, now as our lender, has asked us to have faith in Him AS WELL AS follow His commandments”. Would you consider this commandment-keeping part of the precondition for receiving forgiveness? LDS Church manuals today speak of repentance as a series of steps—which include successful abandonment of sin and keeping of the commandments—in order to have one’s sins forgiven. Are you willing to publicly reject this model, and instead embrace the view that works are an after-evidence of the faith which is the only condition for receiving immediate forgiveness, justification, and eternal life?

    I do not believe that I am working my way into heaven

    In a discussion like this, we’re going to have be more specific, because I’ve heard Mormons use this kind of language to simply say that God’s grace is necessary—that the gift of the physical resurrection and the grace of all the opportunities and enabling the Mormon Godhead/Triad give through the ordinances and plan of salvation are predicated upon a kind of grace. This, however, doesn’t go so far as us evangelicals, who teach that faith is the only condition for immediately receiving forgiveness, justification, and eternal life.

    Unfortunately, the story you reference is not a good example of evangelical grace. In it it is said:

    “The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’

    ” ‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’

    ” ‘Then,’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’

    Gospel Principles goes on to say in this chapter:

    Our sins are our spiritual debts. Without Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Mediator, we would all pay for our sins by suffering spiritual death. But because of him, if we will keep his terms, which are to repent and keep his commandments, we may return to live with our Heavenly Father.

    The terms for paying the debt we have to Jesus (which, in this parable, apparently was a debt not entirely canceled, but rather refinanced) include “keep[ing] his commandments” and repentance, and this is redundant, since many Mormon leaders have defined repentance as including the step of successfully abandoning sin and keeping the commandments.

    Ralph, I’m glad if you have more of a personal view of grace, and I hope you truly believe in “salvation by grace alone to the glory of Christ alone”, but if you want to convince us that Mormonism hasn’t taught that someone must in a sense work their way to the Celestial Kingdom—that works are a precondition for receiving forgiveness, justification, and eternal life—you’re going to have to satisfactorily deal with what your own religion continues to publicly teach. As Apostle Robert D. Hales said in October, “Each of us has been sent to earth by our Heavenly Father to merit eternal life” (>>).

    Grace and peace,


  19. Megan says:

    I like that–refinanced instead of cancelled. The story doesn’t illustrate that our sins have literally been cancelled, as the Bible tells us. Unfortunately, I think most Mormons have the view that because my sins have been cancelled I’m going to sit around on my rear end for the rest of my life.

  20. falcon says:

    Jesus didn’t pay our debt with the result that we are now indebted to Him and some how must pay Him off. He paid our debt because He loved us. Actually “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Our works aren’t a system of “pay back”. Our works are the result of a heart felt repentance and faith. Repentance leads to santification and is the result of the Holy Spirit leading us as we yield to God’s grace.

  21. dj1989 says:


    I’m not sure that there was anything that you said that an LDS person wouldn’t be perfectly fine with. I read the whole thing thinking, “When am I going to read the part that I might disagree with?”

    I was a little more surprised to see that Aaron seemed to see something in your words that he thought was somehow contrary to LDS beliefs as well.

    I’m sure that it was the way that it was worded. I suppose that I’m not as eloquent in my writing as you are. I’d like to repeat something that you said, because many of the disagreements that we have with the EVs on here are due to them misunderstanding us, and us misunderstanding them. You said, “what you make it mean and what is actually taught are 2 different things”. I couldn’t agree more… that happens ALL THE TIME in the forums and in the blog postings themselves.

  22. falcon says:

    It’s incumbent upon Mormon contributors to state their positions in a manner that is clearly understood. It seems to me that Mormonism definitly has a clarity problem when it comes to articulating what it’s beliefs are. When I began my research and study of Mormonism, I was struck by the “all over the playing field” nature of Mormon thought and belief. So if we orthodox Christians don’t get it right, in the view of Mormons, Mormons only have themselves to blame. Walter Martin coined the term “maze of Mormonism” in terms of trying to come to grips with what exactly Mormons believe. Mormons, I think, are proud of the changing nature of their religious system. In fact the term systematic is not in the Mormon lexicon. It gets a little tedious attempting to have a logical discussion when the rules of the game keep changing.

  23. Jeff B says:

    It is extremely difficult to witness to LDS because their religion is close enough to traditional Christianity but at the same time completely different. Sounds like I contradicted myself there.

    It’s like playing a game of monopoly with someone and they keep changing the rules. After a while you just get frustrated and want to stop playing with them. I wont stop though because not only do I feel I’m helping by putting my two cents in, I actually learn a LOT more in return. One of the biggest things I came to understand more of is exactly how hopeless humanity is and how glorious God is.

  24. Michael P says:

    To the LDS:

    These are kind of bottom line questions:

    If a person believes and completes all that is required of him, except he is not married, will he get to heaven?

    What about one who believes but who does not get baptized? What about him?

  25. dj1989 says:


    We try to make our positions as clear as we can, but give us a break. We’re coming to a site whose core audience already has deep preconceived notions of who we are, then we’re given only 3 posts per day to explain ourselves (with no more than 200 words per post), and we’re usually bombarded with many different “requests” for clarification of our ideas.

    If clarification is what you want, well, this blog isn’t set up for that.

  26. dj, would you like to have a friendly recorded audio conversation with me, which could be put on mp3 for the public to listen to? That would give you a lot more time and opportunity to expound on things.

  27. dj1989 says:


    Maybe… do you have samples of other conversations that you’ve had in the past? I wouldn’t mind getting an idea of what a “friendly” conversation is. No offense, but my experience has shown that people that hold signs up at LDS events can really only classify their actions as “friendly” in a passive aggressive sort of way.

  28. dj, if you go to and search for “shafovaloff” you’ll find a couple of archived interviews. When I say “friendly” I refer to the tone of the conversation. It certainly doesn’t mean I won’t ask tough questions. In any case, even if I was very hostile (which I don’t think I am in spirit), it would still give you an opportunity and platform to speak your case.

  29. Rick B says:

    If you guys do this, can you post it for everyone to hear, or at least let us know how to go about hearing it. Thanks, Rick b

  30. Ralph says:

    Michael P, you wrote –

    To the LDS:
    These are kind of bottom line questions:
    If a person believes and completes all that is required of him, except he is not married, will he get to heaven?
    What about one who believes but who does not get baptized? What about him?

    I have answered these questions in a past blog called “Exaltation Speculation”, I posted on Nov 21st. Below is a copy/paste of part of the post.

    The LDS church teaches that everyone who has lived will get ONE PROPER CHANCE to gain all of the necessary ordinances. This chance may be in the Spirit world after this life but before resurrection. We believe this because we believe that Heavenly Father is just and merciful, and it would not be just and merciful if He condemned someone to a lesser kingdom if they did not know at all about His plan nor about Him. If someone has had the proper chance to get married – eg decided that work/finances were more important and didn’t marry, they WOULD NOT achieve the highest degree of glory. However, if someone on a mission was killed, since Heavenly Father knows that they did not have the proper chance to marry, if that person’s heart shows God that they are pure and would have married IF they had the chance, then that person will be exalted in the highest degree – how?, I don’t know but read the General Authorities’ talks to the single people of the church you will find this teaching.

    The same is for baptism and temple ordinances. In your example, if they believe in Jesus and do not get baptised BY CHOICE, then they will not go to the Celestial Kingdom. However, if the person was crossing the road to their baptism and run over, they would be baptised by proxy in the temple, but they can still gain the Celestial Kingom without having to be baptised personally.

  31. Jeff B says:

    I don’t see why God can’t just have the spirits that “didn’t get the proper chance” be baptized by Angels or anyone else under the Father’s control. (I use control lightly of course, not like a Dictator).

  32. dj, I’m still waiting on your answer (over whether you’d like a recorded audio conversation)?

  33. dj1989 says:

    Sorry, dude. Don’t mean to keep you waiting. I’m a busy guy though. I own 2 businesses, which are taking quite a bit of time out of me, and one of them is launching a beta website (which I’m doing the design files for & all the designs aren’t done). The holidays too.

    I know that the conversation probably wouldn’t be long, but I haven’t even had the chance to check out some of your other archived recordings, which I’d like to do beforehand.

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