The Gospel According to Mormonism
The word “Gospel” comes from the Greek eujaggevlion and means “good news." The good news is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4). By this gospel we can be saved from the righteous judgment of God the Father by faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 5:1). This salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We can't add to what Christ has done, nor do we maintain our salvation by our good effort. But what do we find when we look at the gospel according to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How are the Mormons saved from their sins, and what must they do to be forgiven? Let’s take a look their scriptures, prophets, and teachers.
First of all, the Book of Mormons says,
“And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 11:37). (All underlines in these quotes have been added for emphasis.)
This is reasonable, since God does not want us to sin against him and we cannot ignore God’s warnings against sin.
Second, the Book of Mormon says, “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,” (2 Nephi 25:23).
Now this is where we run into a problem. We have to ask what it means to be “saved after all we can do?” How much must we do in order to become saved? The representatives of the Mormon Church give us the answer.
“On the same basis men cannot be saved in their sins (Alma 11:37); the Lord has ordained the laws by which salvation and all good things come, and until obedience prepares the way, the promised blessings are withheld (D&C 88:21-24; 130:20-21; 132:5.). Men can no more be saved without obedience than they can be healed without faith. All things operate by law; blessings result from obedience to law and are withheld when there is no obedience” (BYU Professor Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the New Testament, p.222).
The 13th President of the Mormon Church, Ezra Taft Benson, said, “What is meant by ‘after all we can do’? ‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. ‘After all we can do’ includes living His commandments. ‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. ‘After all we can do’ means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving ‘succor [to] those who stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:15)-remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God's children, we do unto Him (see Matthew 25:34-40; D&C 42:38). ‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.354. Brackets in original).
“But all of these blessings are ours on one condition, and this is spoken of by Nephi, when he said: 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, [but mark you this condition,] after all we can do” (Harold B. Lee, Conference Reports, April 1956, p.111. Brackets and italics in original).
So, according to Mormonism to be “saved after all we can do” means to extend your best effort, live his commandments, love fellow men, pray for adversaries, cloth the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick, lead chaste, clean lives, and be honest.
This is a tall order, but does it really mean that you have to do all these things and others to be saved in Mormonism? Sure it does. But, is it possible for Mormons to do all of this? According to the Book of Mormon it is.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3:7).
Okay, so the Mormon has to keep the commandments to be saved and has no excuse for not doing them. In other words, Mormonism teaches that the Mormon must keep all the commandments all the time to be saved. But that isn’t all. The Mormon must also deny himself of all ungodliness in order for God’s grace to be sufficient.
“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 perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (The Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:32).
Notice that God’s grace is sufficient for you after you deny yourself of all ungodliness. That is a tremendously tall order -- that is impossible. Who do you know, including yourself, who has denied himself of all ungodliness? Not most ungodliness, not some ungodliness, ALL! Remember, you must “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.” This is a hopelessly impossible command. No one can deny himself of all ungodliness. But, just in case you believe you can deny yourself of all ungodliness then that means you aren’t sinning any more. But, according to the Bible, if you say you aren’t sinning anymore, then you are self-deceived. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Obviously, this is a difficult teaching. But, there’s more. In Mormonism, repentance from sin must be complete and permanent. The Fourth President of the Mormon Church, Wilford Woodruff, said...
“And what is repentance? The forsaking of sin. The man who repents, if he be a swearer, swears no more; or a thief, steal no more; he turns away from all former sins and commits them no more. It is not repentance to say, I repent today, and then steal tomorrow; that is the repentance of the world, which is displeasing in the sight of God” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp.71-72).
Okay, so true repentance means that you don't commit any of the sins that you have repented of. What would happen if you did commit one of the sins from which you repented? What does Mormonism have to say about that?
“The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: ‘Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God’ (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p.120. Harold B. Lee was the 11th President of the LDS Church. Brackets in original.)
“Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held accountable for their former sins” (Gospel Principles, 1997, p.253).
“20. In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again” (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families. 1981, p.36).
So in the Mormon view of repentance, once you have repented of the sin, if you commit it again, all of your former sins return to you. In other words, you have to be perfect. Is this a gospel of good news or of impossible expectations?
Synopsis of Mormon Salvation
- You cannot be saved in your sins, (The Book of Mormon, Alma 11:37).
- By grace you are saved, after all you can do, (2 Nephi 25:23).
- You must give your best, (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.354.)
- You must deny yourselves of all ungodliness, (Moroni 10:32).
- Turn from all former sins and commit them no more, (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp.71-72).
- If you commit any past sin again, the former sins return, (D&C 82:7).
- Therefore, in order to remain forgiven you must never commit the sin again, (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families. 1981, p.36).
Response to the Mormon Gospel
Is this good news? Is this even doable? How can such a teaching you have to keep the law, repent of every sin, and never commit them again in order to be saved, be good news? It isn’t! What a heavy yoke the Mormon must carry in order to have his sins forgiven. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls,” (Matt. 11:28-29). If you come to Jesus, you’re supposed to have rest. Is "rest" trying to keep all the law in order to be forgiven? No, it isn’t. Again, this doesn’t mean it is okay to sin (Rom. 6:1-2), but it does mean that we rest, we trust completely in what Jesus did on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), how he fulfilled all the Law (1 Pet. 2:22), and we trust by faith in what he did (Rom. 5:1). That is the only way to obey Christ’s command to rest in him.
Paul has a warning to those who think that they can combine works with grace.
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them,” (Gal. 3:10).
James tells us the same thing
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all,” (James 2:10).
Jesus condemns those who combine faith and works.
"Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,’" (Matt. 7:22-23).
Why would Jesus condemn people who believed in him and did good works in his name? Jesus called them sinners and told them to get away from him. Why? Simple, because those people were appealing to their salvation based on their faith and their works. To do that is to say that Jesus didn’t finish everything that was necessary for our salvation. It means that we have to do something. It means we add our works to Christ’s work. This is an insult to God! Our works are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). This is why salvation is by faith, not by faith and works.
- John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
- Rom. 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
- Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,"
- Rom. 9:30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith."
- Rom. 11:6, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
The Mormons have an impossible gospel that they cannot live up to, that will lead them to be accursed of Jesus, and which violates justification by faith. Can the Mormon be saved following the Mormon gospel? No, he cannot. He needs to find rest in Jesus by being justified by faith, not faith and works.
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