How Good is Good Enough?

About a week after the April 2014 General Conference of the Mormon Church the (Provo, Utah) Daily Herald published an article by correspondent Steve Densley titled, “How Good is Good Enough?” Mr. Densley began,

“The semiannual conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to a close last week. I watched intently for 10 hours of great counsel and then went to work trying to figure out just how I apply these teachings in making life better for my family, others and me…”

Thinking about applying the latest conference teachings reminded Mr. Densley of an apostle who once suggested that Mormons should be happy that prophets and apostles don’t teach new commandments at every General Conference because church members have enough trouble trying (and failing) to live the commandments they have already been given. This memory led Mr. Densley to remember yet another time when keeping the commandments was at the forefront of a different discussion. This time Mr. Densley was serving as a branch President at the Missionary Training Center when a young missionary sought his counsel:

Scales of Justice“The young man was deeply concerned about reaching heaven and asked if he had done all that he could and should have done….

“The young man asked me the question, ‘How good is good enough?’ How often should we pray each day? How many times should we attend the temple each month? What does it mean if we fail to pay a full tithe or the right amount of fast offerings? What if we missed fasting on occasion or if we took the Lord’s name in vain at a heated ward basketball game, which apparently he had done on more than one occasion. What about the reading of the scriptures daily? How would the breaking of the Word of Wisdom impact his future estate in heaven even if it had only been rarely? How would his life be impacted because of turning down an assignment to home teach that his Bishop had given him? He had never gotten his Duty to God Award nor had he become an Eagle Scout and he was concerned about not having attended his Seminary classes faithfully. He wanted to but had not yet received his Patriarchal Blessing for personal guidance. What if he did not attend all of his priesthood and sacrament meetings? He had avoided any chastity issues and had done everything that he could to raise the bar in his own life and repent of deeds that would have hindered his chance to serve a mission, but he was still troubled.”

This young man, “deeply concerned about reaching heaven,” apparently didn’t get the message that seems so popular among Mormons today (though it is absent from the formal covenants Mormon make): That trying to be good is good enough for Heavenly Father.

Neither did he get the biblical message that though absolute perfection is required, those who trust in Christ alone will enter heaven on the merits of Christ’s perfection alone, not at all on the basis of our own flawed attempts at righteousness.

Neither did the young man get the encouraging words of Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) and “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

No, the young man whose concerns (as presented by Mr. Densley above) included no fewer than 15 specific ways in which he was burdened with a fear that he was falling short of being deemed “good enough” for heaven, was counseled thus:

“My answer was that each person through personal revelation should seek out the answers to those questions as needed. Free agency comes into play as does common sense and balance in life. Every person needs to ask himself or herself the question of, ‘How good is good enough?’”

But consider this. The young Mormon missionary-in-training was “deeply concerned” about his behavior. Even after doing “everything that he could to raise the bar in his own life and repent,” he was “still troubled.” From a Mormon perspective, wouldn’t this indicate that the young man’s “personal revelation” told him that he was not good enough? Of course he asked himself the question before seeking his branch president’s counsel. It was asking himself the question that caused him to be “deeply concerned” and “troubled” in the first place.

Biblically speaking, this conviction of sin is a central purpose of the law – “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24 KJV)

As Matthew Henry explained in his commentary of Galatians:

“But the awakened sinner discovers his dreadful condition. Then he feels that the mercy and grace of God form his only hope. And the terrors of the law are often used by the convincing Spirit, to show the sinner his need of Christ.”

The young Mormon missionary was awakened to his dreadful condition; he knew he was not good enough for heaven. Sadly, his ecclesiastical leader turned him toward self when the Word of God would have turned him toward Christ.

StanleyGoodEnoughChristian author Andy Stanley argues in his book How Good is Good Enough? that the nearly universal good-people-go-to-heaven view is untenable. At the end of Part 1 of the book he offers a summary of six reasons why:

  1. We don’t know exactly what good is. Even our religious leaders can’t agree on the subject.
  2. Our internal moral gauges aren’t much help. They don’t line up cross-culturally… And as time passes, our definitions of right and wrong tend to change.
  3. We have no clear indication from God how the scoring system for good deeds works.
  4. It is difficult to reconcile the notion of a good God with a system that is so unclear and seemingly unfair.
  5. …The Bible doesn’t claim to offer a way to heaven through good deeds…
  6. Jesus assured the most religious people of his day that they weren’t good enough to enter God’s kingdom, while promising criminals and prostitutes that God would gladly welcome them. (p. 61)

Mormons are told by their spiritual leaders:

“Trying is not sufficient” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164)

“This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection” (ibid., 208)

“…Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.” (ibid., 209)

Because in Mormonism, as in popular thought across the globe, good people go to heaven.

But that is not the message of the Bible. The Bible says there are no good people (Romans 3:9-18). Only God is good (Luke 18:19).

And though millions of people come face-to-face with John 3:16 every day, sadly many miss the message of it:

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:15-16 KJV)

The Bible says,

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24 KJV)

The Bible says,

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 KJV)

The Bible says,

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

How good is good enough? Friends, we will never be good enough this side of heaven. But we have no reason to despair for the Bible tells us a profound truth expressed simply by Andy Stanley:

“The good news is that good people don’t go to heaven – forgiven people do.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Afterlife, Forgiveness, Salvation, Worthiness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to How Good is Good Enough?

  1. Rick B says:

    Besides asking how good is good, the other problem is, Do Mormons stop and think or ask, Is lying good?

    Many Mormons have been busted lying on this blog, why they lie is only known to them. Maybe they think they are doing Gods work, or God wanted them to lie. Who knows, but lying seems to be part of what they do and must do since it happens so much.

    So how can you think your doing good when you lie, and Jesus said, Lying is the language of the devil.

  2. falcon says:

    Funny this article should pop up today. I was “in town” doing some of my errands and got to thinking about how I wouldn’t have a chance at eternal life if it depended on my behavior or works.
    I’ve been pretty up front here admitting that I’m a low, down degenerate sinner who couldn’t even begin to think about closing the gap between who I am and what God expects which is sinless perfection.
    But praise God because He knows my hopeless condition and has made provisions for me that I may attain to eternal life. Although I don’t want to get into John Calvin’s theology, I know what he was getting at when he articulated it.
    I grew up Catholic, as most of you know, and I was always on pins and needles wondering if I was in a state of grace and would enter heaven if I died. Actually I “knew” that at best, I’d have to burn in purgatory for a while.
    I can’t begin to express the relief I feel moment to moment during the day knowing that my security is in Christ Jesus my Lord and not my behavior or works. Now least someone reading this think I’m a reprobate given to licentious living, I do attempt to walk in the Spirit hopefully not bringing shame on my Savior.
    But one of the best verses in the Bible that I live by has to do with walking in the light as He is in the light and the Blood of Christ Jesus my Lord continually cleanses me from my unrighteousness.

    To the Mormon reader. You can never do enough. Your best efforts are filthy rags in the eyes of God. God has designed the pathway to salvation and it is through faith and trust in Jesus’ finished work of the cross. Take the path and forsake your futile attempts at closing the gap.

  3. Mike R says:

    How good is good enough ? There are two ways to heaven :

    1. never sin your entire life , or
    2. trust in a substitute paying the penalty for your sins then receive what He offers to give you
    — His righteousness / worthiness . NOW God can deem you worthy and let you enter His home
    above . That alone is the ” way ” , and it happens the moment the knee is bent , confession of
    guilt is made and forgiveness asked for . Sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus .
    May Mormons know of the burden of failures to measure up being lifted from them by Jesus .
    Jesus asks all to ” Come unto me ” . But the Mormon gospel system of rules and regulations
    is their leaders man made ladder to get Mormons climbing up to God’s home above .

  4. falcon says:

    ““The young man was deeply concerned about reaching heaven and asked if he had done all that he could and should have done….”

    So the kid was worried about having done enough to reach heaven? Wrong LDS question. The question should have been, “Have I done enough to become a god?”. That’s the point of the second level of the Mormon salvation sphere. The first level, everyone who ever lived gets. It’s universal salvation. Then, given the three levels of LDS heaven, a person can move further through the program.
    Heavens, even we Christians make out pretty well in the Mormon system. We just don’t get to become gods.
    Mormonism claims that what a person believes and does in this life will result in being placed in either the telestial, terrestrial, or celestial kingdoms.
    Each kingdom has a set of laws. Those who live a telestial law while in mortality will be assigned to a telestial glory; those who live a terrestrial law will be assigned a terrestrial glory. Likewise, a person who abides by what is known as celestial law will be assigned a place in the celestial kingdom. Doctrine and Covenants 88:22 states, “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” If a Mormon hopes to reach the celestial kingdom, he must abide by the celestial law.
    President Brigham Young said, “If we obey this law, preserve it inviolate, live according to it, we shall be prepared to enjoy the blessings of a celestial kingdom” (Discourses of Brigham Young, pg.404).

    President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept…Do you desire to enter the celestial Kingdom and receive eternal life? Then be willing to keep all of the commandments.” (The Way to Perfection, pg. 206).

    Read this interesting article from which the above was taken:

    So does the young man get it? To enter the celestial it is necessary that the whole law be kept. The young man will have to keep all of the commandments.

  5. falcon says:

    I think another question the young MM might want to ask is, “How much do I have to do to qualify for the grace that will seal the deal in me becoming a god?” That’s what “After all you can do” is all about isn’t it.
    So how much is enough of the “after all you can do” scenario. Pay your tithe, keep the WoW, be faithful in all callings, keep all of the commandments, go to the temple X # of times……………………what else? Can you skip church on Sundays a certain number of times? Can you duck out early on the Fast & Testimony meeting? Do you have to make people cry when you give your testimony in a shaky voice?

    This is Mormonism remember. It isn’t Christianity and Mormons would be hard pressed to find any evidence that what they believe, teach and practice is first century Christianity. There isn’t even agreement among the various sects of Mormonism regarding basic doctrine.

    Think of all the time, money and effort these LDS folks go through for nothing.

  6. MJP says:

    I like the last quote by Stanley: forgiven people go to heaven, not good people.

    Its not about goodness, but about being right with God, which is determined through forgiveness not acts.

    The question reminds of the Bible story of the rich man. He’s done everything right, but Christ tells him that is not enough. He has to give up everything for God. Its hard to do.

  7. cattyjane says:

    If you notice when the rich man quotes the commandments and says all these ive kept (meaning understood) he leaves a few out. He also quotes them out of order. Maybe there is more to that story.

  8. Mike R says:

    Our hearts go out to the Mormon people . They are normal people who have desired to know
    God and serve Him , but sadly they have been detoured by men who have cleverly mimicked
    the claims of Jesus’ true apostles and thus fooled LDS into embracing a counterfeit gospel . This gospel is a system of rules and regulations compliance to which LDS can qualify for receiving
    the gift of eternal life . This is a classic man made system , and Mormon leaders have called
    their flock ” candidates ” who are told that keeping all these rules /laws is how they can be
    accepted by God and one day earn eternal life in heaven .

    The New Testament knows no such gospel . Jesus’ true apostles preached a simple message
    one that centers on Jesus not a to do list of requirements created to make a sinner clean to
    earn eternal life in God’s house above — Jn 14:6 .

    For those Mormons who are experiencing the burden of guilt that a rules/laws keeping system
    to earn eternal life will produce , may they turn with empty hands to Jesus .
    He desires to lift their burden and replace it with His acceptance , forgiveness and peace.
    A personal encounter with Jesus is the Father’s will to be accepted by Him , the only way to
    receive eternal life from Him .

  9. MJP says:

    catty, but then again, maybe nothing was left out.

    I am not sure what would change story, though.

  10. Rick B says:

    I dont make a big deal out of what was left out, said or not said with the Rich man, and the reason why, is because, Jesus did not make a big deal out of it, so since Jesus did not make a big deal out of it, neither will I.

  11. falcon says:

    I think in any interpretation of a Biblical text it’s best to take the ordinary obvious meaning and go with it.
    Folks can get way off on tangents seeing things that aren’t there or reading meaning into a verse or account. Actually that’s why we interpret meaning within the context of the immediate verses and eventually work our way outward to include the entire NT.
    Context is an important concept when engaging in Biblical interpretation.

    As I’ve stated previously, I try not to focus on my behavior. It’s too demoralizing. I find that if I’m walking in the Spirit and fostering a close relationship with the Lord, appropriate behavior follows.

    This poor MM is hooked into performance based religion. He’s always going to have anxiety and depression.
    It just seems common sense to me that if we love God, our behavior will comport to His will.

  12. Rick B says:

    Falcon said

    As I’ve stated previously, I try not to focus on my behavior. It’s too demoralizing.

    Your a Cheese head, green bay packers fan, that says all I need to know. LOL

    On a more serious note, I have spoken with many atheists, and one thing they say that keeps them from coming to God is they feel He is unfair by saying some one like Hitler can get into Heaven if he repents at the last moments of his life.

    But some one like Mother Teresa, If she never professed Jesus as Lord and Savior, she will not be in heaven. But this shows that it is all about what Jesus did for us, and His grace, Not our works that save us. We all have the same chance of saying I believe in Jesus, or I deny Jesus.

  13. fifth monarchy man says:

    In the end God gives everyone what they most desire.

    To those folks who value justice and fairness above all he will give exactly what they deserve……. wrath and hell.

    To those who value God’s mercy above all he will give the sweet mercy of eternal communion with him paid for in full because he took the wrath we deserve upon himself.

    funny how it all works out.


  14. cattyjane says:

    I think everyone is going to be surprised in the end by how much we thought we understood and how far off we really were.
    I may not post on here much after this. I find im having a hard enough time figuring things out on my own. I dont think I have much that I can contribute to help anyone at the moment.

  15. grindael says:

    I do wish you the best cattyjane. Keep reading the Bible, that will help you understand a lot.

  16. MJP says:


    I too wish you the best. But if we are going to be off in the end, shouldn’t we just stop trying and accept God’s grace?

    Not to go relatavistic here, but we can fight and fight, trying to ascertain what precisely is absolutely correct, but if we are wrong, then for what purpose did we expend this energy. When you look at the entirety of the Bible, though, it becomes clear that what God wants is not effort but our hearts. So, instead of fighting for the proverbial needle in the haystack for something we may never find, why not rest in God’s arms?

    I do wish you the best.

  17. Mike R says:

    Catty, take a break from your studying the O.T. and step back and think about Jesus . What
    does he mean to you TODAY ? Do you relish praising Him ? Are you thankful that He is a
    personal Savior ?

    Once you discover that all the O.T. prophets have done their job by pointing you to the Messiah
    then you are ready to meet Him on a personal level , directly one on one . Can you sing TO Him
    or just about Him ? Reading about Him to know about Him vrs knowing Him personally —
    there can be a big difference between these two .

    It’s my prayer for you that you will begin to not only think abut Jesus but to call upon His name
    and tell Him that you love Him . Begin to listen to songs that praise Jesus !
    Nothing glorifies the Father more than to treat His Son the same way as we treat/ honor Him .

    I join with grindael and MJP in wishing you the best . Take care .

  18. fifth monarchy man says:


    My advise would be the same that the apostle Peter would give you.

    Focus through the Holy Spirit on Jesus and what he did for you.

    You can find it described in both the old and new testaments


    Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
    (1Pe 1:8-12)


    You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
    (Joh 5:39)

    end quote


  19. fifth monarchy man says:


    one more thing !!!!!!!!!


    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
    (Php 1:6)

    end quote:

    take care

    peace and grace

  20. cattyjane says:

    Thankyou everyone for your kindness. I know that the God of Israel will guide me on the path to truth.

  21. Clyde6070 says:

    A few thought on how good is good enough.

    We don’t know exactly what good is. Even our religious leaders can’t agree on the subject.
    1. When Adam and Eve Took a bite out of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we have had to figure out what is good and what is evil
    Our internal moral gauges aren’t much help. They don’t line up cross-culturally… And as time passes, our definitions of right and wrong tend to change.
    2. This is true but we can train ourselves to have a good moral standard even if it might be slightly wrong.
    We have no clear indication from God how the scoring system for good deeds works.
    3. We will be judged by our deeds and must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
    It is difficult to reconcile the notion of a good God with a system that is so unclear and seemingly unfair.
    4. There is some wisdom in the system but I am flabbergasted by it.
    …The Bible doesn’t claim to offer a way to heaven through good deeds…
    5. Again We will be judged by our deeds and must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
    Jesus assured the most religious people of his day that they weren’t good enough to enter God’s kingdom, while promising criminals and prostitutes that God would gladly welcome them.
    6. It is interesting that a good person can do good and forget that he is no better than a prostitute or a criminal.
    This book has piqued my interest I may have to get a copy and read it.

  22. Mike R says:

    Clyde, I’m praying that you will one day come to understand the gospel .

  23. MJP says:

    Stanley is recommended. A smart guy. You should check it out. I have not read this book, but I have read others– all well done.

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