Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Do Mormons Believe in Salvation by Faith or by Works? Part 2

Before reading this post, I'd highly recommend re-reading the previous one. It will help with the flow of this post and I think it will make more sense if you read them together. Okay well we've got a lot to cover today so let's get right into it. For those who have talked with Mormon missionaries in the past (You’ve probably seen them around in your neighborhood. They are typically young men that wear white shirts with ties, dark pants, and ride on bicycles) know that talking about salvation can be confusing. Even I’ve had conversations where I walked away scratching my head because what they said sounded similar to what I believe. However, after doing some more studying into Mormon doctrine, I realized why this was confusing. When Mormons speak of salvation, there are actually two different salvations being discussed. The first is called “General Salvation.” They will commonly refer to this as “Salvation by Grace” (not to be confused with the Christian definition of Salvation by Grace). This General Salvation only refers to a person’s immortality and resurrection from the dead. It does NOT refer to where they are going when they die or to what degree. Basically it allows for the POSSIBILITY for one to have a spirit body and to have spirit children but doesn’t guarantee anything.

The second type of salvation is called “Individual Salvation.” Now individual salvation is an important one and as stated in Mormon doctrine, this type of salvation is “salvation by works.” (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, pages 92, 144. 2 Nephi 25:23, Alma 7:16, Doctrines & Covenants 132:12). So what exactly are these works that one must do? One Mormon I spoke with gave me a list. He said the following were necessary for salvation to the “highest level”:

Baptism in a Mormon church
Regular attendance at Mormon Church
Consistent good works
Attaining worthiness
Engaging in temple work (rituals)

Now you can probably immediately see some of the problems I have with this list. The first is what about circumstances out of your control? For example, what if you are unable to regularly attend church due to illness? For example, let’s say you are bed ridden. Or what if you live in a very rural area and there is no church for hundreds of miles; then what? How much exactly is "consistent attendance" Every week? 50 out of 52 weeks a year? What is the standard? My second problem is that these requirements are entirely subjective. What is the standard for “Attaining worthiness?” By who’s definition? The Church? The Apostle’s? God’s? Jesus? My own? What objective standards do I use? What about “Consistent good works?” Is that consistently throughout the hour? The day? A lifetime? How many are enough? When do you know? What is the scale of good deeds to bad deeds? How many times must you help an old lady across the street to “work off” murdering someone?

In addition to these criterion I have found that one must accept Mormon leadership for salvation. For example, In Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, page 186 it states “There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.” (Also see Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses Volume 9 page 312). Well if you read my previous post on Joseph Smith’s lack of fulfillment of the criteria of a prophet of God, you’ll see we have a very serious problem here. If I can show that Joseph Smith can’t live up to his OR God’s standards as a prophet and therefore choose not to recognize him as such, how can I have salvation?

Okay so now we have a basic understanding of what Mormon’s believe the goal and method of salvation to be. So now let’s compare this with what the Bible has to say. Anyone who has read through the Bible can tell you that it essentially has one underlying theme running consistently through it. That theme is the nature of man, the problem of sin and Jesus Christ as payment for that sin and therefore those who believe in Him and his work on the cross can spend eternity in Heaven with God. The Bible makes it very, very clear in many verses that belief in Christ Jesus is the ONLY way to get to Heaven and that no amount of works can do that for us. While Ephesians 2:8-9 are the most commonly cited, there are several more. Here are just a few of the verses that show this critical truth: (Pay special attention to the parts I marked in bold)

“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.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:5-7

“And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:9-11

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. The Bible specifically states that you can’t do good works to get to heaven. (At this point some Mormons would argue that James 2:20 says the opposite, however, when read in its proper context, one can see that this verse is stating that if you truly have a relationship with Christ; your works will show it. It is not saying that you have to have works to be justified). So what does the Bible say the way to salvation is? Check out the following

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. – John 14:6

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3

“And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." – Acts16:30-31

Although these are only three of the many others, did you notice something similar about them? That’s right, they all talk about Jesus Christ as the way to salvation and not works. This is the core belief of Christianity. That faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. So what do Mormons think about this “Salvation only by faith in Christ” doctrine? Well, Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Mormon Church, said “Mankind is damned by the faith alone doctrine” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2 pg. 139). Apostle Bruce McConkie said “Many Protestants erroneously conclude that men are saved by grace alone without doing the works of righteousness” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 2, pg. 229).

I hope over the past two posts you’ve been able to see that Christians and Mormons do not share the same beliefs regarding salvation. Mormons believe in three levels of heaven with the goal being to reach the highest level. They believe Jesus Christ was no different than you or me except he didn’t have a physical human father like we do. Christ had to work out his own salvation and it had no bearing on my salvation or yours. They use the term “Saved by Grace” to refer to the fact that they believe in immortality and bodily resurrection. A more important component called “Individual Salvation” is by works only. This flies directly in the face of Christian beliefs. Christians believe that there is one heaven and one hell. They believe that Jesus was God incarnate, that is he was 100% God and 100% man, who came to the earth, lived a perfect life without sin, and was therefore uniquely qualified to pay the price for sin on behalf of mankind. Christians believe that putting one’s faith in Jesus as God and for payment for our sins is sufficient to have eternal life. (See 1 John 5:11-12). When faced with the Christian view of salvation, Mormon leadership has effectively branded it as heresy.

To my Mormon friends visiting this site, I urge you to consider what has been written. I hope you see that both of these views cannot be right. One must be wrong. I urge you to look at the evidence as presented throughout this series. I have not merely stated my own theories but have quoted extensively from Mormon sources. It is my prayer that you will see that out of His love for us, Jesus Christ has already paid the price for your sins. There is no amount of works that are good enough to buy your way into heaven and rightfully so because that would cheapen the honor of being there. Rather He has already purchased heaven’s entrance ticket for you, and is holding it out for you to accept. Won’t you put your faith in the Jesus of the Bible today?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found this very informative, thank you for writing this. I am not Mormon, but I have many Mormon friends, and thanks to you know where their stance is on salvation.