When looking at the major religions of the world, the common theme of salvation is typically grace, plus _______. In most every case, you can insert the word, “works”. Be it religious people who will impose rituals, or customs, strict dietary guidelines, or the enforcement of a law that was never able to be kept, all of these religions have one thing in common, and that is they deny the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
In Mormonism, this equation of, “grace plus”, is echoed throughout all of its scriptures, teachings, church publications, and prophets. In 2nd Nephi 25:23 we read, “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”.
In Alma 22:14, it states, “And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself, but the sufferings of death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth.”
Then again in Moroni 10:32, it states that, “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 perfected in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfected in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
Now if you are a Mormon, or have spent time studying the Mormon doctrine, then these verses are probably nothing new to you. However, some of the following statements from LDS authorities may not be quote as well known.
The 12th president of Mormonism, Spencer W. Kimball writes in his book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, “And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.” (p. 207)
In fact, Kimball had much more to say on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. He writes, “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, 1989, p. 36.)
The Mormon apostle, Boyd K. Packer writes, “Even that grace God promised in the scriptures comes only “after all we can do”. (The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness, Ensign, November 1995 Conference Edition, p.19)
In fact, church manuals further expound on this teaching. In the church manual, “True to the Faith, 2004”, we see written that, “The phrase “after all we can do” teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with him” (p. 77)
One Mormon author in fact puts it this way, “The meaning of the grace of God given through the atonement of Christ is that man by his freedom can now merit salvation”. (Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion, p. 83)
Perhaps, one of the most honest statements made on this doctrine comes through the combined work of Joseph Fielding McConkie, (son of former Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie), and
Robert L. Millet. They write, “Indeed, it is only after a person has so performed a lifetime of works and faithfulness – only after he has come to deny himself of all ungodliness and every worldly lust – that the grace of God, that spiritual increment of power, is efficacious”. (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 1:295)
The teachings on this subject of grace + works, goes on and on throughout all of Mormon doctrine. Through the writing of this concept in the Book of Mormon, the Mormon apostles, the publications, and the prophets of the church beating this concept into it’s members heads, it is ironic to me that they still can call this the “gospel” message, when “gospel” means, “good news”.
Before I begin to show why this teaching is not at all biblical, I first need to clarify something. Mormon’s claim, as I have myself heard from their leaders, and its members, that Christianity teaches that by just believing in Jesus, by just giving lip service, and saying a prayer, somehow you are now saved, and you can go and live any way you want to.
They will say that Christianity means you can use God as almost a, “Get out of hell free” card. That we just get saved, and then we do nothing for anyone. In fact, we can sin all we want, since God’s grace will cover us.
To anyone who truly understands the teachings of Christ, the doctrine of salvation, and what the Bible says about grace, they know this is not true. Some of you reading this however may not know what position the Christian takes on these issues. As a Christian, I can tell you that no where in the Bible is it taught that we just say a little prayer, and then go live like “hell”. We are told quite the contrary.
The doctrine of grace is taught throughout the Bible. Probably the most well known verse, and most cited, rightly so I should add, is Ephesians 2:8-9, which states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
I think the reason this verse is so often cited by Christians to their Mormon friends, is because it truly says it better than anyone else can! Imagine for a minute, that the Apostle Paul, wanted to make a statement to the Ephesians, that salvation was only by grace through faith in Jesus, and not of works, how would he have said it so as not to be confusing, or misunderstood?
I contend that this verse, so beautifully written through inspiration, says perfectly what God wanted us to know! That salvation is through the grace of Christ! And that no one can claim it is by their own works, so no one can boast in themselves! The fact that salvation comes through the unmerited grace of Christ means that the only boasting that can be done, is in the perfect love of the sinless sacrifice of God’s one and only Son! And that through that perfect love, we are saved!
Since Christ died on the cross before any of us reading this was ever born, how do you suppose we could “merit” this free gift of grace? If we could somehow do works now, 2,000 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, and if we are in fact supposed to according to Mormon teaching, to merit salvation, to earn that sacrifice, I struggle to find how on earth anyone could call this “grace”.
Continuing on, if we read verse 10 of Ephesians 2, it states, “ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Again, thank you God for your divine guidance to the writer of this letter! Not only do we see that salvation comes by grace through faith alone in Christ, and not of works, but now we see that we who are the workmanship of God, were created for good works that God prepared for us BEFOREHAND! Notice, that the salvation by grace is a gift of God, salvation being by grace through faith is a gift of God, and any good work we do is also prepared beforehand by God! How beautiful! One would almost think that God loves us so much, He left NOTHING up to us to earn! That He is the author of salvation, and does not need the aid of man to accomplish His plans!
The next question would be, “does this theme continue in the Bible?” The answer is emphatically, YES! Let’s look to a few examples of this.
As I was reading through some scriptures as I wrote this blog post, I noticed something that never stuck out to me before in the reading of Romans 1:16. It states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Did you catch it? “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. Notice, it does not say it is the power through belief and works, but belief!
Continuing on, we read in Romans 2:25, “For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law, but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” Who has transgressed the Law? Everyone of us!
In case some don’t believe me, Romans 3:10-20 states this perfectly! It says, “ As it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now, we know that whatever the Law says. It speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God, because by the works of the Law, no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Romans 3:28 says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
Romans continues to say to those who would claim we can merit salvation through works, in Romans 5:8, that “God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Notice, our works could never replace this love!
Romans 5:15-18 says, “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
This passage is referring to the one transgressor who brought sin, as Adam. Did you know that in those 3 verses, it says the word “gift” 5 times! Two of those times it uses the term, “free gift”.
This is absolutely unmerited on our parts!
To those who would say that all this does is give us a license to sin, that is what Romans 6:1-2 is for! It states, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
The grace of Christ is not a license to sin. In fact, this could not be any further from the truth! The grace of Christ points us inescapably to the cross of Christ! If one thinks that salvation means little, and grace is cheap, look at what the Son of God went through. Does that term not strike you? The only Son of the only God!
We look at the cross with horror, and sorrow, and yet with ultimate thanks and adoration for our Savior! That God would send His Son, who was blameless and perfect, to be literally sacrificed for all of our sins, is reason for us lifelong to “take up our cross daily” and die to sin all the more!
Could I have included countless additional scriptural support for the doctrine of salvation by grace? Absolutely! But look at all the support we have in simply one book of the Bible! We should thank God for the clarity in which He gave us this doctrine.
The title of this post is, “The blood of Jesus + Anything else = A different Gospel”. The reason this was titled as such is, we cannot add anything to the blood of Jesus. When we even think that somehow, on our own merit, in and of ourselves, we can earn this free gift, or that we must do our best and let Jesus do the rest, we are taking the blood of Jesus, and saying, “not quite good enough on its own”.
If you read that statement, and it sickened you, or caused you to shutter, GOOD! It should cause you to recoil in horror if you hold this belief. There is nothing beautiful about a God who’s own Son’s life was not good enough to purchase our salvation. In fact, if God would have left it up to us to earn our own salvation, I believe this would show us He is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
In closing, I would like to say that, grace and works do go hand in hand. The Bible never overlooks the issue of works, but shows us its place. Works come as a by-product of salvation by grace. As Christians, we are so grateful to God for His love, that we do works that God will be glorified through them. Not so that we can somehow receive glory, or boast in these works, but that through these works, men will see these and glorify God!
Works do not, and cannot save us. Works that are produced after salvation by grace has occurred serve to show that we serve a God who is mighty to save, and through His love, and through Him giving us freely the gift of His salvation, we will diligently work the works that He prepared for us beforehand, so that He might be glorified. Even the works we do should never bring glory to our own name, but to the name above all names only!
So as we live a life of service, it is out of eternal gratitude to the God who gave us His Son’s life, so that through the death of Christ, the eternal perfect Son of God, we may live eternally with Him, through accepting His free gift of salvation.
Lastly, I would ask you this question, if you are a Mormon. The Mormon doctrine, which is so much different from the Bible, makes it clear that if you forsake all of your sins, repent, live a life of good works, make God your top priority at all times, then and only then is His grace sufficient. Who of you if you are honest can claim honestly that you ever have done this, or ever will?
It didn’t happen before your mission, during your mission, or after your mission. It does not happen now as an adult who is married with kids or single. It didn’t happen after you did your temple ordinances, or community service projects. As an elderly Mormon you look back on your life, and know it never happened!
If it couldn’t happen then, it wont happen now, and wont in the future, when does His “grace” become efficacious for you?
In fact, Isaiah 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…” Something you may not know is that the word used for “a filthy garment”, is actually translated to mean menstrual garments that a woman would use during her period. If even our best and righteous deeds are like a used menstrual garment to a perfect God, how can our works add to His plan of salvation?
I contend that it wont. It truly is not “good news” as the word gospel means, but it is truly an impossible gospel. We sin each and every day, multiple times usually, either in thought or deed. God knows our thought life, so even in our mind, we cannot hide from Him!
My belief, is that for such fallen and sinful creatures, God would not make His salvation virtually unattainable. I believe He would not leave it to us, but would accomplish this Himself, which the Bible clearly teaches.
If you are having doubts, or further questions, please contact me, or a Christian Pastor. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be honored to speak with you.
I know this was a long blog, but thank you for taking the time to read this important truth of scripture!
In His service,