Mormonism Explains: God's Grace Is Inadequate For Salvation

Rick Branch

In any witnessing encounter the subject of Grace will inevitably be discussed. In order to effectively witness to a Mormon, an understanding of the LDS concept of Grace is needed.

Robert E. Parsons, associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University recently answered the question, "What is the role of grace in LDS theology?" (Ensign, July 1989 p. 59-61). He asked, "Are we saved through Christ's grace by merely confessing him as our Savior? Or are we saved through his grace after doing all we can -- both in confessing his name and in keeping his commandments?" He then proceeds by answering his question. "Both reason and scripture loudly proclaim the latter...."

In speaking of the Fall of Man via Adam, Parson explains, "Since we had no power or control over that transgression, God's grace and mercy take care of the penalty - this is the unconditional aspect of salvation. It guarantees that we all will be resurrected.

"However, God's grace will not do for us what we can do for ourselves," (Ibid).

This same idea is echoed in a new book by Robert L. Millet, chairman of the Department of Ancient Scriptures at BYU. He writes, "As we have seen already, the grace of God is a necessary condition for salvation; there is no way, in time or in eternity, that man could produce the plan of salvation -- create himself, fall, or redeem himself -- for such is the work of the Gods. (Yes, he said, "GODS").

"Therefore, acting alone, the grace of Christ is not sufficient for salvation. The works of man -- the ordinances of salvation, the deeds of service and acts of charity and mercy -- are necessary for salvation...," (By Grace Are We Saved: The necessity of God's grace in addition to man's good works, 1989 ed., p. 70; emphasis retained; parenthesis added).

Not only is this the understanding of BYU professors, it is also the official stance of the Mormon Church as taught by their tenth prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith. Under the sub-heading "Misinterpretation of Texts," Smith discussed Ephesians 2:8-10 in the following manner: "There are various opinions concerning the virtue and requirements of salvation. Misinterpretation of Paul's words has led to much confusion and rejection of the full gospel plan.

"Failure to comprehend the two-fold purpose of the atonement has caused many to believe that all that is essential for salvation is to confess the name of Jesus Christ.

"Those who teach the doctrine of `faith alone' are searching for an `easy road to heaven.' ... Someone has referred to them as Bible Christians - their religion is in the Bible and not very much in themselves," (Religious Truths Defined, 1961 ed., p. 267). On this point, Smith is correct. Biblical Christians do put their faith in the teachings of the Bible and not in their own works.

A few pages later, Smith plainly states, "Salvation or redemption from our own sins is not by free grace alone. It requires work.

"Grace and works unite to bring salvation. We believe that through the grace of Jesus Christ we are saved. He performed for us those things which we could not do for ourselves, but there are certain requirements in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which we must obey for ourselves which are essential to salvation," (Ibid, p. 270).

So that there is no misunderstanding on the necessary part works have in the salvation process, the words of Lowell L. Bennion, former director of the LDS Institute of Religion, are cited.

"Salvation is not a gift of God which comes to man through the decree of Deity or through the sacramental action of the Church. It is a gift of God which man must work diligently to achieve," (The Religion of the Latter-day Saints, p. 160).

This Mormon concept of salvation being a result of works is vastly different from the commonly held Christian understanding of Salvation as an unmerited, unearned gift of God's grace. Realizing this difference exists, LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie expounded on the latter's origin.

"Salvation by grace alone and without works as it is taught in large segments of Christendom today, is akin to what Lucifer proposed in preexistence -- that he would save all mankind and one soul should not be lost.

"As with the proposal of Lucifer in the preexistence to save all mankind, so with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, without works, as it is taught in modern Christendom -- both concepts are false. There is no salvation in either of them. They both come from the same source; they are not of God," (What Think Ye of Salvation by Grace p. 49; cf. Millet, p. 73).

Thus, according to Mormon authorities, salvation is by grace after man has worked to earn that grace. Also, the Christian concept of salvation by grace is, as stated by an LDS apostle, found to be originated by Lucifer himself.

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