Friday, February 18, 2005

Do Mormons Believe in Salvation by Faith or by Works? Part 1

I’d like to start out by thanking you for sticking with me thus far throughout the series. I know any type of series’ can sometimes be a bit tedious but based on some of the feedback I’ve received I believe a lot of people are coming to a better understanding of what Mormonism teaches. I’d also like to give a special word of thanks to those of you who are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints who have stuck with me thus far. I know it is never a pleasant thing to see the beliefs you hold so dearly being placed under critical scrutiny. However, because the stakes are so high (eternity) and the need for truth is so great, I really feel it is important to place these beliefs under the microscope and see them objectively and clearly. So again I thank you for your open-mindedness to what I have to say, as well as your emails challenging me on certain topics.

Okay, so let’s take a quick look at where we’ve been. So far we’ve covered (albeit briefly): How Mormonism started, What basic beliefs Mormon’s hold, That their main prophet had numerous false prophecies and couldn’t live up to God's or his own standards, that their holy text contains numerous changes and has zero archeological evidence to support it. Now I’m going to change our course and take a look at doctrine. I want to focus on one doctrine in particular; the doctrine of salvation. That is, how does one get to heaven? Again, this topic is so vast that numerous volumes could be written about it so we are going to look at only the tip of the ice berg.

Before we can get into salvation issues, it is important that we take a quick look at the Mormon worldview. This will help make sense of why they see things as they do. If you remember from my earlier post, Mormons believe that humans pre-existed in spirit form. We were then sent down to earth and filled up human bodies so that we could work out our salvation to obtain our “Godhood” in the highest level of the Celestial Heaven. [SIDE NOTE: Mormon’s believe that there are three levels of heaven. The first level is the “telestial” level. This is where the wicked evil people go. The second level is called the “terrestrial” level. This is where luke-warm Mormons go, good non-Mormons (whatever that is) go, and where those who accept Mormonism after they die go. (That’s right, if you got it wrong while here on earth, you get a second chance to do things right when you die). The highest level of heaven is called the “Celestial.” The Celestial is made up of 3 degrees. The highest of these degrees is where you get to be your own God and therefore is the one we are all shooting for. Okay, now back to main point...] The God that we worship was once a man on another planet and he achieved this “Godhood” and now rules our planet with his spirit wife and spirit children. Two of those spirit children were Jesus and Satan. Mormons believe that:

A plan of salvation was needed for the people of earth so Jesus offered a plan to the father and Satan offered a plan to the father but Jesus' plan was accepted. In effect the Devil wanted to be the Savior of all Mankind and to "deny men their agency and to dethrone god." – Mormon Doctrine, Page 193; and Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, Page 8.

This “plan” that Jesus presented is what we currently use to obtain salvation in this world. Now this has very important implications that will help you understand their view of salvation. You must realize that to a Mormon, Jesus was a spirit child just like you and I were. Therefore his nature is not unique. Now his incarnation, or how he came to earth (the fact that God and Mary had sex) is unique, but his nature isn’t. Every “exalted person” will reach the same status that Jesus is at now. In fact, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt, in explaining Jesus’ humanity, went so far as to say “Jesus was a polygamist being married to several woman including Mary and Martha.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, Nov 1853, Vol. 1, Number 11, p 172.). So you can see, Jesus doesn’t hold any special position to a Mormon in so far as his deity by nature is concerned. To them, he is just a good example to follow. In fact Mormon Doctrine specifically states:

"Christ is a saved being who came to earth to work out his own salvation. Jesus' sacrifice was not able to cleanse us from all our sins." – Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, Page 247, 1856.

Notice the two words I put in bold; “his own.” That is, Christ didn’t come to earth to secure your salvation or my salvation (a truth which is fundamental to Christianity) rather he came to earth to work out his own salvation. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie states “Christ’s death did not secure salvation, it only made it possible.” (Bruce McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 3, pg. 238)

So hopefully now you have a bit better understanding of where a Mormon is coming from. I am going to stop here because the second half of this post is a bit longer and more detailed so I'm going to split it into two parts. After I post the second half I'd encourage you to re-read this post first so the information will be fresh in your mind before you take on the rest of it. I should have the second half posted within a few days....

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