Mormon author says “grace is not God’s backup plan”

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Romans Front Cover

Romans Front CoverBack when I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I was dismayed to find the curriculum had us spending basically one lesson on the entire book of Romans. And that one lesson focused so much on behavior that it seemed to me to miss much of Paul’s point about grace: the lesson’s key takeaway points were to “live worthy,” demonstrate righteous works, and aspire to act “as becomes Saints.”

Where was the grace?

So I was intrigued to learn recently that Adam Miller, author of the Letters to a Young Mormon book I was so impressed with last year, is releasing a short book on Romans for Mormon readers. Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan came out last week and is worth savoring. I talked with Dr. Miller, a professor at Collin College in McKinney, Texas, about Mormonism, grace, and Paul’s letter to the Romans.

RNS: How do Mormons teach Romans? Or rather, why have we not taught it until very recently?

Adam S. Miller: Mostly we neglect Romans. A lot of that has probably just been reactionary, a way of distinguishing ourselves from our Protestant cousins. For a long time, what was most important to Mormons was showing how we were different from other Christians. That’s contributed, I think, to a general neglect of Paul and of Romans in particular. We tend to see Paul as their guy.

Citations of Romans in LDS General Conference, 1850 to present

Citations of Romans in LDS General Conference, 1850 to present

RNS: Are there other reasons why we might be neglecting Paul?

ASM: We’re often not very good readers of the New Testament, especially the second half. Once you get out of the history associated with the gospels and with Acts, it’s rougher going for people. One of the most interesting things about Romans is that it’s a 10,000-word explanation of how key gospel elements fit together—grace, sin, the law. That kind of long theological explanation is rare in scripture and it isn’t easy for us to work through.

Adam S. Miller

Adam S. Miller

RNS: I wonder too whether Mormons just don’t quite know what to do with Paul as an Apostle who was not one of the Twelve. Declaring yourself an apostle is not how Mormon authority channels work.

ASM: Paul is a loose thread in early Christianity. He’s evidence of an ad hoc messiness in the original church that we as Mormons are often uncomfortable thinking about. He doesn’t fit well with the tidy institutional story of the institution.

RNS: What are you hoping that Mormon readers will understand about grace from this paraphrase of Romans?

AMS: It’s pretty neatly summarized in the title: Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan. I think we’re doing a much better job these days of thinking about grace, but we still often default to the idea that grace is a kind of regrettable stop-gap.

For example, this is a very common, but not particularly charitable, reading of the Parable of the Bicycle. But when we frame grace as a stop-gap, we’re still thinking about grace from the perspective of sin, that grace is just God’s response to our sinfulness. But the really basic point Paul is trying to make is exactly the opposite. Grace is what comes first, it’s the whole point, and sin then is a kind of recoiling on our part from what God is trying to give us.

Sin is derivative of God’s grace; God’s grace is not derivative of our sin. Grace is already given. It’s always there and it’s something we just have to stop refusing.

RNS: You mention the Parable of the Bicycle, which I love as a story, but it seems theologically wrong. At the end of the day, that little girl could have someday saved enough money to pay for that bicycle herself. If we’re trying to say that the Atonement is something that we could never earn ourselves, the parable gives a mixed message.

ASM: It’s not bad as a starting point, because what that parable does is put the “all we can do” part in perspective. I think Mormons used to believe that if we could just get most of the way there, God would fill in those last few gaps. The advantage of Robinson’s story is that it shows grace playing a much bigger part in the equation. It shifts most of the burden to grace, not just the cleanup phase. And most important, it gets grace on the table as a word Mormons are allowed to use.








  • david

    When did God ever need a “back up plan”?
    I think Mormons have a good understanding of Paul’s calling and work. I certainly do, despite not attending a GDC (gospel doctrine class) in years.

  • Old Guy

    Protestant denominations believe, as a rule, that grace is a free, undeserved gift from God that cannot be earned and is unrelated to any personal actions. Through God’s grace we receive eternal life. This unequivocal definition is a result of Luther’s rebellion against the Catholic Church’s practice, at the time, of selling indulgences, etc.

    LDS theology emphasizes good works, good behavior, obedience to authority, participation in rituals, and so forth as necessary for salvation. Furthermore, LDS theology introduces “degrees” of salvation, contingent on human behavior. Both of these concepts (salvation through works and degrees) are foreign to mainstream Protestant theology.

    My personal view is that the two concepts (unmerited grace vs good works) go hand in hand. Emphasizing grace can make us lazy. Emphasizing good works can cloud our motivation.

    I personally think that some members of the LDS church can get too caught up in the “works” part, for example, serving: from a sense of obligation, to put on a show, to rise in the ranks, to compete with fellow members, and so forth. Instead, grace ought to be the motivation
    for serving, obeying, performing ordinances, gaining prestige, etc. Grace and the promise of salvation are the source of good works, not the other way around.

  • TomW

    For what it’s worth, this is the first time in my entire life I have heard anyone within the LDS community claim that the church doesn’t teach Romans and are neglectful of the apostle Paul.

    Having read and re-read the New Testament countless times in my church experience, not once did it ever occur to me to skip Paul, diminish Paul, conveniently forget Paul, or otherwise see him in any light other than fully an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ whose myriad epistles are a significant contribution to the canon.

    He’s the only apostle specifically named in the Articles of Faith FCOL!

    As for the current Gospel Doctrine manual, the teachings of Paul are covered as follows:

    Lesson 31 – 1 & 2 Thessalonians
    Lesson 32 – Galatians
    Lesson 33 – 1 Corinthians 1-6
    Lesson 34 – 1 Corinthians 11-16
    Lesson 35 – 2 Corinthians
    Lesson 36 – Romans
    Lesson 37 – Hebrews
    Lesson 39 – Ephesians
    Lesson 40 – Philippians; Colossians; Philemon
    Lesson 41 – 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

    Out of 46 total lessons, 10 (22%) are from the teachings of the apostle Paul.

    The New Testament in the LDS edition of the King James Bible consists of 404 pages, 123 of them (30%) comprising the words of Paul.

    While one could make an argument for increasing the total number of Paul lessons from 10 to 14 in order to make the ratio perfect, I’m not so sure that one can fairly categorize the existing lessons as evidence of neglect.

    Besides, we are constantly encouraged to engage in individual scripture study, which should include a regular regimen of New Testament study, which if done properly would include basking in the words of Paul.

    Having said all of that, I do believe there is plenty of room for improvement in the teaching of the doctrine of grace in the LDS church. Of course, a thorough treatment of grace would include that it shouldn’t be OUR backup plan for skirting the path of discipleship and taking a smorgasbord approach to the Lord’s teachings as revealed through His living oracles.

  • Tina

    I do think a big mental health obstacle in Mormonism is the LDS notion of receiving grace “after all we can do.” In actuality, you don’t have to be worthy of grace. That’s why it’s called grace. (I feel like many other Christian sects understand this concept better than Mormons.) On a related note, here’s an article about giving up perfectionism that I quite enjoyed:

  • Joanne

    This article reminds me of the recent LDS Sunday school lesson I taught. I was delighted to see that the topic was free agency. But I quickly saw that the lesson was really about obedience, not free agency (I taught 95% of the lesson on free agency and 5% obedience). I love that Mormons have embraced the hymn, “Amazing Grace”.

  • Kevin JK

    In bowling leagues, each person is given what is called a handicap score based on their current abilities. This allows people/teams of differing abilities to compete against each other on an equal basis. When I was in elementary school, we had a bowling league and my team was in 1st place and we played a bunch of girls for the championship. We scored higher, but they won due to them doing better compared to their handicap score than we did compared to ours. IOW, they magnified their callings better than we did.

    I liken grace unto that handicap. We know from scripture that all sin and fall short of the glory of God and that our own righteousness is like filthy rags and that we are all unprofitable servants. This means is that there is NO WAY for us to earn/deserve heaven on our own. We need the atonement through which grace comes.

    If we look at the parable of the talents, we see that the servant who took 2 talents and made them into 4 got the exact same reward as the one who made 10 out of 5. The latter did 2.5X as much but got the same reward. Another parable of Christ’s spoke of servants who worked in the fields all day getting paid the same as those who labored just as hard once they were hired later in the day. We are saved by grace, after all we can do.

    We all look to have the same reward – exaltation and it’s available to all, not just those who appear to be the most righteous or talented. We are all given differing measures of grace depending upon our own talents and abilities. Once we accept Christ’s invitation, the fact that we didn’t labor earlier doesn’t matter. it all depends on future actions in relation to our abilities and talents.

  • DougH

    This is the second book I’ve picked up because of this blog, and as excellent as the first (if much shorter — I picked it up last night and read it this morning). Overall, it is an excellent anodyne to the heresy that sin through Adam’s Fall is a bug in the program of God’s Plan and that Jesus’s Atonement is a patch. If there is any Christian sect that should be immune to that heresy, it is Mormons with our doctrine of the Council in Heaven before the Beginning where the Father laid out for us His Plan of Salvation.

    Still, I do have one quibble with Miller’s statement in his prologue that grace came first rather than sin. Grace and sin are both accounted for in the same Plan, two sides of the same coin. Like a blueprint for an engine the engine will not function properly without a cooling system, but without the heat that engine produces the cooling system is pointless.

  • DougH

    There’s one problem with your use of the Parable of the Talents, you are focusing on the version in Matthew and ignoring the version in Luke. In Luke’s version the servants are rewarded according to how much they produced, the one that earned 10 minas receiving rulership over 10 cities and the one that earned 5 minas receiving rulership over 5 cities.

  • Sam

    Um. I love Paul. My grandfather who taught religion at BYU dressed up like Paul for firesides (at the heart of Mormondon in Provo Utah). I think this blog is more about getting attention (from who knows) than discussing reality. Let’s focus on truth, not theories designed to set ourselves up. God is Good. The Gospel is True. Christ is our Saviour. The Book of Mormon and Bible are the word of God. President Monson is a prophet. Joseph Smith restored the gospel. We will all be judged and those who have had faith in Christ and repented will be cleansed from their sin through the grace of the atonement.

  • Jeff Schrade

    I’m 55 years old, served a mission in England “back in the day” and teach an LDS Gospel Doctrine class on Sundays. I agree with everything TomW has pointed out.

  • All of the burden goes to God’s grace. And Paul was not a self-proclaimed apostle. Romans 1:1, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God–”

  • DanD

    Too bad you were not a convert to the LDS Church. . . most converts who have been seeking for the truth, have always studied and been familiar with the Holy Bible. . . we already understand what it means to be saved by His grace and how that is tied in with faith & works. . . .

  • hoffbegone

    The covenant that applies to all of us is the covenant we made in our First Estate before entering mortality: “I covenant to obey all God’s Laws”. Once we can keep that covenant and take advantage of the enabling power of the Atonement, and become perfect, is the day we will be granted Eternal Life. Not before. And it all happens by the Grace of God, Grace being His power and authority to do such things. We do not, of ourselves, have the power to resurrect ourselves or enter into the Celestial Kingdom.

    If we do not perfect ourselves and become sinless we will never be in God’s presence again for God does not dwell with sin or vise versa.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    I think you make a good point; it seems odd to suggest that Mormons under-emphasize Paul. But it is possible to say that we give equal weight to others’ epistles compared, for example, to evangelical theologians, pastors and teachers. When I was growing up in evangelical churches, the pastor would often select a book of the Bible and preach a series of sermons which amounted to an exegesis of that book, beginning with chapter 1, verse 1, and then plowing straight through for many consecutive Sundays. It is only as I look back that it dawns on me that the selected epistle was always (nearly always?) one of the Pauline or (as it turns out) pseudo-Pauline epistles.

    There is scriptural evidence of disagreement between Peter and Paul. Some in Christianity look disparagingly on the epistle of James. E.g., Martin Luther, “St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw,  compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.” As a former evangelical, I think that Mormons do a better job than my former coreligionists developing a complete synthesis of the gospels, epistles and prophesies of the New Testament.

  • AJ

    That is the point of the title and the point Miller is making. God doesn’t need a back up plan, grace was the plan from the start. I’m glad you have a good understanding of Paul but I think Miller speaks to a large segment of Mormons who don’t understand grace and Paul as well as they could.

  • Lew Craig

    I agree with many of the comments above. The Church certainly does not neglect Paul. A number of LDS books have been written about Paul; he is often referred to in conference talks and sermons. I was surprised by this headline, which may not have been of Jana’s choosing.

    As a convert to the Church, I relate to Paul who was also a convert. He certainly was responsible for much of the spread of Christianity.

    We may say that Latter-day Saints do not spend much time in the epistles section of the New Testament. It has been my experience that Latter-day Saints as well as most Christians are not terribly familiar with the Old Testament and the New Testament outside of the gospels. We all can do better.

    Grace be unto you!

  • Kevin JK

    There is an important difference between the two versions. in the Matthew account, each servant received different amounts and the first 2 received the exact same reward after both doubled their respective amounts. Thy magnified their callings equally. The Luke account has them being given the SAME amount and yielding differing results. This fits into my above explanation perfectly. My last line says, “.. it all depends on future actions in relation to our abilities and talents.” In the Luke account, both had equal talents and abilities, yet one magnified their calling much more and therefore received more of a reward.

    There is no conflict with what I wrote.

  • Chris

    Though I haven’t read this book, I know that with my many interactions with Mormons (either friends or missionaries or both) they do not have a clear concept of grace, and I believe a missing key is the role of faith. Faith, or trust (pistuo in Greek) is the means of accepting the grace that seals, once and for all, a sinner’s forgiveness and salvation. That is the message of Paul, Jesus, and the entire Bible.

    I have read Romans 4 with my Mormon friends, where Paul says that forgiveness, justification before God, imputed righteousness, etc., all come to those who “worketh NOT” to obtain salvation. “Not.” I’ve read with them Ephesians chapters 1 and 2, where “ALL the blessings in the heavenlies” (1:3) and exaltation to sit with Christ at the throne of God (2:6) are obtained “NOT of works” (2:9). I’ve explained, pointing out such scriptures, how good works is a derivative of an already accomplished total salvation, a total salvation that comes through faith and, again, “not of works.” I show them the Bible’s position that to claim that ANY work (much less “after ALL we can do”) as part of salvation robs God of repetitional glory and therefore is sin.

    Well, my Mormon friends generally don’t get it. They want that credit, even a sliver of it. They maintain these scriptures I show them are either “misinterpreted” (even though they’re pretty clear), or have been “corrupted” (even though there is no manuscript or compelling historical evidence of that), or have been “reinterpreted” by latter-day revelation (even though that begs the question of why we should accept latter-day revelation, since many religions claim that, such as Islam). They maintain that true salvation means you become a God like God the Father (a created being who was once a wicked sinner who progressed to godhood), which is exaltation and dependent on MANY enumerated good works, and indeed, when I check this on official lds websites and in publications, this is the stance of the church.

    My conclusion is that Mormons have a problem with grace because, bottom line, their church doesn’t believe in it. If they teach Romans, they reinterpret the clear grace message by the detours I mention above, turning the word “grace” into something it doesn’t mean biblically. In my opinion, this misses the point entirely.

  • Roger


    Ms. Riess–
    Regardless of how many of the commenters may have felt obliged to “splain” to you the error of your ways, I agree wholeheartedly with your premise. I’m a sixth-generation LDS, 4-years of seminary, grad and undergrad from BYU, 2-year mission in Spain (granted we taught few discussions) and never really began to understand Romans until I attended a Bible study at a Baptist church for several weeks on a dare from the instructor (an attorney I had retained for my firm). Say what others might, I recall very little LDS focus on convicting us of our sins and need to repent (and I’m not talking bare shoulders or watching the NFL on Sunday).

  • DougK

    I too have perceived many church members (including lay leadership) to be reluctantly squeamish to openly address the doctrine of grace. I find that ironic, given what the Book of Mormon, let alone Paul, teaches about grace. I wish “Amazing Grace” were in our hymnbook, although I acknowledge other hymns teach the same basic concepts.

    I think most people find the idea of Grace=Unconditional Love to be in conflict with Works=Conditional Reward. Because we want to be logically consistent, and because our culture strongly emphasizes good behavior and hard work, we are more comfortable talking (vaguely) about Conditional Reward (obedience) and tend to skim over the doctrine of Unconditional Love. We are afraid of sending any message to our restless youth that might be wrongly interpreted as a license to break the commandments.

    So our Mormon conversation tends to champion obedience and works. Our doctrine is more eclectic and pragmatic than detailed and systematic. Even so, our theology cannot escape the primal necessity of God’s Unconditional Love. The topics may seem to conflict, but I see them as different aspects of the same divine Mind (just as light sometimes behaves like a wave and at other times like a particle). Without God’s unconditional love, there is no salvation. Faith without works is dead, and works without grace is futile.

    I haven’t read Miller’s book yet.

  • Stan

    2 Nephi 25 in the Book of Mormon follows Paul quite nicely in teaching salvation by grace. Unfortunately, we (Mormons) tend to focus only on one phrase, and that, incorrectly. Verse 23 says:

    “…it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL WE CAN DO.” We read the last five words in all CAPS.

    If the chapter is read carefully, we see that Nephi, like Paul, is not teaching about the importance of works, but the exact opposite–the deadness of the law. We ignore the rest of the verse, where the only works mentioned consist of sharing the news of Christs grace.

    “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.”

    And if we continue reading, we see that the works Nephi is talking about are the law of Moses, which “hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments…Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ. ”

    Protestants should love this stuff! It’s only the “after all we can do” that seems out of place. Maybe we’re just understanding it wrong. Could it mean something more like…

    “…for we know that. AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE, it is by grace that we are saved.”

  • JohnM

    I’ve never had an issue with Paul being “their guy.” I think to conclude that would be a misreading of both Paul & other scripture (& especially in conjunction with other scripture). I’ve also found no contradiction in his teachings in Romans with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon could not be more clear that the “all we can do” part of the “after all we can do” is, itself, by the grace of God.

    Our moral agency is a gift of grace. We don’t earn it, but we are asked to use it to align our will with that of God. In fact, moral (free) agency is part and parcel of obedience: It’s 100% grace that allows us to be obedient. Without the light of Christ, we would be no more capable of choosing obedience (through discernment of good) than of choosing disobedience. The two go hand in hand–there is no “95% obedience” and “5% free will” in any lesson as the two are inseparable–there is only 100% obedience or disobedience. Suggesting there is opposition between the two misses the whole point of moral agency.

    Our very life & every breath we take is by the grace of God, as is made clear in the Book of Mormon as well. Every good thing we are capable of doing is only by grace (even though we must exercise our free agency, through grace, to choose it). Our ONLY contribution to grace is the ability to reject it or act upon it (but even saying that misses the point that “acting upon it” is also by grace–such a tangled web we weave in trying to separate the two). 100% obedience is still 100% grace. It is a completely false dichotomy to suggest that free will, works and grace are at odds in any way with each other.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    The phrase “after all we can do” is frequently misinterpreted. The phrase doesn’t imply that grace is conditional on our doing all that we can. Instead, the phrase means that whatever we do won’t be enough, and that grace will always be required. The view of grace suggested by that particular verse (2 Neph. 25:23) is in harmony with conventional Christian teaching on grace.

    Contrary to what many seem to think, the issue among Mormons and Catholics, on one hand, and neo-Calvinist Protestants, on the other hand, doesn’t have to do with the meaning of grace. Rather it has to do with the difference between what we receive by grace and what we receive by judgment. Some want to read Paul as dispensing entirely with any practical meaning for judgment, reducing salvation to a binary quantity (you’re either saved in Heaven or suffering horribly in Hell) based solely on unmerited grace.

    I agree that perfectionism can be unhealthy, not just because we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves but also (and mainly) because we fail to apply the principles and blessings of the Atonement when we inevitably fall short. And yet, Jesus told us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48. The resolution of that quandary has to do with thinking of perfection as a process, and one that will continue beyond this life, and not as an unforgiving requirement for today.

  • Blake

    Several commentators above respond that the LDS Church does not ignore Paul because several lessons are devoted to his writing. This argument seems to ignore the possibility that manuals virtually gut Paul’s message about grace from the curriculum by focusing on those aspects of Paul that easily conform to LDS enphasis on works. I find the article spot on, and hope that Mr. Miller’s book will spark deeper understanding of Paul among us Latter-day Saints.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    It’s nice that you speak kindly of your Mormon friends, but less nice that you perpetuate false claims about what they believe. I assume you do so conscious of where you misstate the facts, which is even less nice.

    But tell me what you make of Matt. 24:13. And Matt. 25:34.

    I’m a former evangelical. I understand what grace means. Mormons believe that it is by grace that all may be saved from sin and death. Grace alone.

    But Mormons ALSO believe that there are blessings associated with righteousness. This idea can be found in the Bible too, you know. Mormons don’t understand salvation and eternal blessings to be binary, either-or concepts. The Bible more strongly supports the LDS view.

  • TomW

    Absent the intervention of mortal grace on my behalf, this will be my 2nd and final permitted post on this thread.

    Roger writes, “Say what others might, I recall very little LDS focus on convicting us of our sins and need to repent.”

    I’m confused. Is there any other denomination in all of Christendom which teaches our perpetual need to repent with even greater fervor than the Latter-day Saints? I’m more accustomed to people bagging on the church for making people feel too MUCH like they have to repent rather than too little.

    Blake writes that “manuals virtually gut Paul’s message about grace from the curriculum by focusing on those aspects of Paul that easily conform to LDS enphasis on works.”

    I would argue that the LDS “gut Paul’s message about grace” far less than some others gut the Holy Bible’s other messages about obedience, sacrifice, and turning away from what God has called sin. The fact of the matter is that ALL of these are key components of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and none can be relegated to the scrap heap.

    I suppose I will quietly observe whatever else may arise from this conversation from my quiet little corner…

  • Chris

    As to the scriptures, Matt. 24:13 (But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved) simply reaffirms that salvation is evidenced by derivative good works, not that good works any kind of pre-condition to trigger salvation; otherwise it would contradicts the scriptures I cited, such as in Ephesians. Matt 25 is likely talking about support for Messianic Jews during the Tribulation, but however you interpret it, it doesn’t teach works as a condition to trigger salvation. Again, any notion to the contrary has to deal with the scriptures I mentioned, and dozens more.

    In fact, Romans 11:6 asserts this radical distinction between saving grace, which saves by faith alone and “NOT of works” (Eph. 2:9). It says, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

    This is another scripture my Mormon friends have difficulty with, and basically just say that I must be “misinterpreting” it (though they can’t say how), or that “latter revelation” somehow overrules it, just like the Supreme Court nowadays redefines the words of the Constitution. I don’t agree. I think the Bible speaks plainly on this issue, and we need to humble ourselves, give up even an ounce of trying to pay God for the forgiveness that He alone purchased, and accept His mercy by faith alone as he commands us to do. Once done, our works then mean something. Not done, and our works are just self-justifying, self righteousness.

    As to you being a former evangelical, I know lots of evangelicals who either through inadequate instruction or their own unwillingness to accept it, don’t have a clue about grace, faith, or the terms of salvation. They either drift through their church life never getting it, or eventually go someplace that teaches a compromised form of works-righteousness. Sounds like that may have happened to you.

    A couple of other points: whatever the Book of Mormon teaches about grace, faith, and salvation, the totality of Mormon scripture and prophetic doctrine (which goes far beyond the book of Mormon) emphatically teaches works salvation. My Mormon friends are at least candid enough to acknowledge that, and we have good discussions. And they don’t judge my motives like you do.

  • Kevin JK

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I posted my bowling handicap example and though it may not be perfect, I believe that it is pretty good overall.

    As a former Protestant, I understand that viewpoint as well. I know that there are various versions of grace within protestantism such as Calvinism (the most evil doctrine ever conceived) as well as Cheap Grace (aka Sloppy Agape).

    The Bible is clear that all will be rewarded according to their works despite any level of grace meted out. We LDS fully know that there is nothing that we can do to merit exaltation and that all of our works are as filthy rags, but God knows our limitations and therefore gives us grace according to our abilities. If we don’t try to live as God wants, how can we expect a great reward? Are we owed grace simply by saying the Sinner’s Prayer?

    We LDS have no problem holding our own in this discussion. The Protestants need to clean up their own mess and decide what they actually believe before pointing fingers at us.

  • Chris

    Kevin, with all due respect (and I mean that sincerely), your answer illustrates exactly the points I was making. With one hand you tip your hat to “grace” and say that there is no “merit” involved in salvation/exaltation, but with the other assert that good works (which by definition is meritorious) is necessary for salvation/exaltation. It’s utter confusion, but that’s what I get when I talk to Mormon friends or even read Mormon websites and literature. And I’ve even found that (like Protestantism as a whole, which isn’t all biblically Christian), many Mormon authorities disagree with each other on this and other key doctrines. “Unity” is not a good argument for Mormonism because there are so many splinter groups and disagreements even within the main Mormon body.

    The solution, I think, is to simply read the Bible in the plain normal sense in which it is given and apply common sense rules of observing and interpreting the text. When you do that, you find that grace and works/merit are mutually exclusive in regards to salvation/exaltation and thus you can’t redefine works to be grace (see the Romans 11:6 scripture I cited in an earlier post), but such a redefinition is what it seems to me you are trying to do. Reading the Bible in a plain, commonsense way, you find that God commands that you reconcile with Him on the basis of grace (“worketh NOT” – Rom. 4; “NOT of works” – Eph. 2:9) through faith/trust alone (again, “worketh NOT . . . NOT of works”) in the completed work of Christ. And you find that good works that God accepts are a derivative of an already-accomplished salvation/exaltation (See Eph 1-2, including 2:10), not a condition to achieve such a salvation. God will not accept your attempt to reconcile with Him on the basis of any good works; the heretics in the churches of Galatia tried to assert that position — faith plus works for salvation — and we know what God’s Word said about that (Gal. 1:6-9).

    Are we saved by saying the sinner’s prayer? No. We are saved by understanding we are so wretchedly polluted by sin that only Christ can save us, and we can only come to Him by faith alone, “NOT of works.” When we do that, we are saved and He begins to transform us as a result. And we get some rewards in heaven on top of our salvation, which is what the “rewards” passages say when you read them carefully and in proper context. Unless we come to Christ on the basis of grace through faith alone, we are lost no matter what we do.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    First of all, I didn’t judge your motives, so I don’t know why you say that. I called your attention to false statements of Mormon belief and expressed my assumption that you are aware of the falsity. Maybe I should assume that you made false statements in ignorance, but you seem to be saying that you have studied this all pretty closely AND you put words in the mouths of your Mormon friends which I very much doubt they actually spoke. You should try to be careful about these things. That’s not judgment but observations and advice. OK?

    Your relies to me and to Kevin JK invoke the evangelical two-step on the subject of grade and works which reveals that our views of this subject are not far, if any, apart. Mormons agree that salvation is by grace through faith. Full stop. If you don’t understand that, it is because you haven’t been listening or because you don’t want to understand that. But I am not judging your motives, I am just telling you what the truth is.

    Mormons agree that if we have faith, we will be led to act righteously which is in keeping with the commandments of God. Mormons agree that, as we do so, there are blessings from God associated with those things.

    So where is the conflict?

    Maybe the conflict has to do with saving ordinances. The Bible tells us that entry into the kingdom of God depends on baptism of water and the spirit. John 3:5. There are numerous parallel verses of course. I know that there are some evangelicals whose theology tells them that water baptism is dispensable. They tell themselves that because they have a view of the Bible that lets them disregard the passages they don’t like, which I regard as contrary to the idea expressed in 2 Tim. 3:16-17. The NT is pretty clear on the necessity of baptism, both water and spirit.

    But you say, “the totality of Mormon scripture and prophetic doctrine (which goes far beyond the book of Mormon) emphatically teaches works salvation.” And you’re pleased to imply that I am being less than candid if I suggest otherwise. Hmmm. The truth is, I am being as candid as anyone can possibly be AND I am trying to be clear about concepts that are capable of being muddled.

    Your problem is, you need to understand better what salvation means. It is hard to talk about the role of grace and personal righteousness in “salvation” if the idea of being saved has multi-valued meaning. See, we can all be saved from the consequences of sin and the reality of temporal death by grace. We all can be and all will be. You specify conditions (“we need to humble ourselves, give up even an ounce of trying to pay God for the forgiveness that He alone purchased, and accept His mercy by faith alone as he commands us to do”) and then in the next breath deny that you DID anything for your salvation. That is a fundamental inconsistency that lies at the heart of your soteriology. But I agree with you, and Mormons agree with you, that “[o]nce [this is] done, our works then mean something.” I would say that our righteousness or not, our obedience or not, our repentance or not, has eternal consequences. And you seem to see it in just that way too.

    Those eternal consequences have to do with blessings (“rewards,” you said) that are held out for us, conditional on our righteousness. This is not salvation – it goes beyond salvation. Paul talks about it in Romans 8; he emphasizes righteousness and obedience (vv. 4-13) and then promises sonship to God for those led by the Spirit (v.14). The chapter proceeds to hold out many rich blessings that don’t require elaboration here but that relate very well to LDS doctrine.

    We see the same thing in Matt. 25. It is very plain there (how odd that you limit the Savior’s words to a particular context, but don’t treat Paul’s words that way) that there is judgment for the righteous and the unrighteous and eternal consequences for obedience and disobedience. “Endure to the end” (Matt. 24) means the same thing; the “kingdom of heaven” is held for those who don’t just say a sinner’s prayer, but who endure. You agree with me on this, so I don’t need to dwell on it. But you should not castigate Mormons for understanding the same truth that you do, right?

    I think what happens is, some of my former coreligionists – you, for example – were told by someone long ago that Mormons believe in salvation by works while true Christians believe that salvation is by grace. What gets lost is that these things – just as you have said to me – aren’t at the end of the day reducible to bumper-sticker theology. There is a richer, more complex, more nuanced doctrine of grace and works IN THE BIBLE than my evangelical friends want to admit.

    The happy thing is that you don’t need to preach to your Mormon friends, because they’re all saved, even using YOUR definition. Isn’t that great? But you should be willing to open your heart, humbly, to what your Father in heaven has taught to them that He wishes, through His Spirit, to teach to you.

  • Chris

    So, first you call me a liar, saying I’m falsely putting words in the mouths of my Mormon friends (even though you haven’t been party to any of those conversations), then tell me flat out that I’m knowingly spreading things about Mormonism, that I’m saying Mormons believe things that I know they don’t believe. And somehow you think you’re not judging my motives, just “making assumptions” and “telling me what the truth is”? Wow.

  • Chris

    Now that we’ve established that you like to sarcastically judge people without the evidence, we can move on to your doctrinal issues.

    First, I suggest you go back and examine the scriptures I offered in previous posts.

    Then, let’s make sure we have our definitions straight.

    What the Bible calls salvation from sin is described in places like Ephesians 1:3, 2:6, etc., and it can’t get any better, since it is described as giving “ALL spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” as a past tense, “sealed,” completed work, a done-deal, and the sole condition for getting all these blessings is “grace through faith, NOT of works” (2:9).

    So while there may be some degree of rewards for believers when they get to heaven, there aren’t any multileveled compartmentalized heavens as taught by Mormonism. What Mormons call salvation — the multi-leveled heavens, etc. — is not biblical, not Christian. It’s a false gospel. Following it won’t take care of your sin issue, thus leaving you separated from God and following a religious system rather than enjoying true spirituality. It relies on doing good works. Especially the “exaltation to Godhood” part, which is a counterfeit for the gospel of “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” that comes “not of works” taught in inspired scripture.

    And yes, Mormon ordinances are good works, not the “grace through faith, NOT of works” required by God according to the Bible. (Go back to Romans 11:6 again.) And the Mormons I talk to, as well as your own leaders, admit that.

    Water baptism is a command of the Bible, but not a precondition that God has to see before he confers justification, forgiveness of sins, and imputed righteousness. No scripture teaches that (I know which ones are springing into your mind right now, and I suggest you read them again, carefully, in context, and especially in context of the 150 + times faith is mentioned as the only condition for salvation/exaltation).

    Laying on of hands as a condition for getting the salvation/exaltation described in Ephesians? Not found in scripture.

    Getting married in the Mormon temple as a requirement for getting “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3)? Not found in the Bible, just in “latter day revelation.”

    You have the right to believe this if you want, but it’s not remotely biblical or Christian.

    Joseph Smith said, “To be exalted one must keep the whole law . . . To receive the exaltation of the righteous, in other words, ETERNAL LIFE, the commandments of the Lord must be kept in all things” (Doctrines of Salvation II, pp. 302-3). That’s works-salvation. So says the Articles of Faith. So says Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie. I could go on and on and on.

    And what does Mormonism teach that you can get by all these works? You become a God, just as fully as God the Father, who Mormonism teaches was a created being, a man, and a wicked sinner who “progressed” (read, worked) his way up the exaltation hill to Godhood, just like unnumbered Gods before him and after him will.

    Again, you have a right to believe this, but it’s not remotely biblical or Christian. It’s polytheism — a belief in the existence of many gods. And it’s self-deification — a belief never taught in the Bible or by Christians (contrary to the tiny handful of easily-rebutted examples from “the early church” on the Mormon website). And it’s blasphemy, because it says that the God who the Bible declares has ALWAYS been sinless and fully perfect was once sinful and imperfect. It’s a totally different view of God and how to be reconciled with God than taught by the Bible or Christianity.

    Deuteronomy 13, 2 Cor 11, Matt 24, and many other Scriptures strictly warn against “latter” revelation that distorts the nature of God, diminishes His character, and teaches new, novel, complex ways of reconciling with Him, including cleverly redefining grace, faith, works, etc. All have a place in the Christian life, but conflating them is spiritual poison that God warns against in His Word.

  • Kevin JK

    Couldn’t all of those anti-works verses be referring to the Law of Moses which was a works oriented system? We can’t ignore works. James talked about faith without works being dead.

    We also can’t ignore all of the verses referring to people being rewarded according to their works. This not only shows the fallacy of Calvinism but also that of the pass/fail – heaven/hell dichotomy.

  • Chris

    Kevin, I think that’s a really great, and logical, question, and my answer would be that the anti-works-salvation verses are universal, and not just in regard to the Mosaic law (notice I didn’t say “anti-works”, because the issue is whether works play a role in salvation unto eternal life, not whether works are good to do, because many are good!).

    I think Paul actually addresses this very point in Romans. He knows he’s writing to a mixed audience of Jewish and Gentile Christians.

    In chapter 1 he establishes the utter spiritual toxicity of even the slightest sin, yet then reminds both Jews and Gentiles that they have all sinned A LOT. As Paul says, when setting up his “case” in chapter 1 when addressing all mankind, “they [all humans, Jew and Gentile] are without excuse” (1:20).

    In chapter 2 he asserts that Jew and Gentile will both be judged by their deeds, and if their deeds were spotless they would have a right to claim eternal life. The problem, though, is that both groups are condemned by their deeds rather than acquitted before a God who demands perfection to be in His presence.

    In chapter 3 Paul says that sure, the Law has a good purpose (to reveal sin and to show the way of righteousness more explicitly) and the Jew is a custodian of that law, yet it still remains true that both Jew and Gentile are on the hook: the Jew for the advantage of having the external law which he doesn’t keep, the Gentile for having an internal law which he doesn’t keep.

    Paul is like a prosecutor setting up a case: both Jew and Gentile are to be judged by their deeds, and both are therefore guilty before God: “for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (3:9-10, after which the indictment gets even worse).

    Just when things look hopeless, though, both Jew and Gentile are miraculously saved from the condemnation that will fall on them if judged by their works: instead, they will be judged by another, radically different standard than works–their faith alone in Christ! He says, “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto ALL [Jew and Gentile], and upon ALL that BELIEVE; for there is no difference; For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified FREELY by his grace.”

    Just typing these verses puts tears in my eyes, because I’ve accepted this grace by faith, unconditionally, and experienced the astounding cleansing of all my sins, and been made alive from the dead, and given “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3). Praise God for His mercy.

    As Paul goes on in chapter 3, he continues to hammer home the point that salvation is by faith alone. Then in verse 29, he reminds the readers that this rescues both Jews and Gentiles: “Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision [Jews] BY FAITH, and uncircumcision [Gentiles] THROUGH FAITH.”

    Then in chapter 4 he won’t let it go. He cites Abraham, of all people, father of the Jews, as an example of salvation by faith alone–reminding the Jews that in Genesis 15:6 God gave total salvation to Abraham BEFORE he was ever a Jew, before circumcision. And that this salvation was to him “that worketh NOT,” (v. 5). But this is also before the Law. In other words, God saved Abraham when Abraham was still a Gentile! And did so through grace by faith alone, not by works. This must have blown the minds of some of the readers. Then he uses David as the next example. And along about verse 16, he reiterates that for all humanity, salvation “is of faith, that it might be of grace,” and continues to connect grace with faith which is apart from works of any kind, whether generated by the law (for a Jew) or conscience (for a Gentile).

    The same set-up applies to other letters, such as Ephesians, where Paul preaches a non-works salvation. In Galatians, the problem clearly WAS works of the law, since the main heretics he opposed there were Judaizers who preached that you could only be saved by faith in Christ PLUS WORKS OF THE LAW. But when you read closely, and correlate with Romans, Ephesians, etc., the principle is that salvation must be apart from ANY works.

    So I read James 2 in the context of these clear, predominant, non-works salvation passages. I think the Ephesians 2:8-10 formula is expressed by James: Salvation is by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. Eph. 2:10 asserts that saving faith transforms into a life of good works. But too many people in Christendom, moved by our sinful pride (I include myself as so tempted) can use that as an excuse to try to insert “just a little” work into our salvation and thus poison the whole gospel preached by Christ, Paul, and actually all throughout scripture. So James, I think makes the Eph. 2:8-10 point that you can’t just say you have saving faith if your life exhibits no evidence of saving faith. At the moment you are saved, you are made spiritual alive from the dead–and living people exhibit evidence of life! James warns that no evidence of life could mean no life–only a false profession. And when James uses the word “justified” in chapter 2, I think the only fair reading, considering the context of the letter and of all the NT letters, is that he is referring to justification before men. Justification before God, who alone can read the heart, is what Paul is referring to, which comes by faith, not works. But justification before other men, who can’t read the heart, is what James is referring to, and that justification before men has to include works. So if some guy says, “I trusted Christ as my savior 4 years ago!” and then I learn that for the last 4 years he’s been dealing drugs and sleeping around, I have no biblical duty to accept his testimony as sincere. But that doesn’t negate the critical importance of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and not by works.

    Well, I hope I made sense! I appreciate your point. Gotta get back to work (yea, working on Friday night; urgh). Thanks!

  • Kevin JK

    I appreciate your well written response, but I still feel that the works to which Paul refers are those works not based in glorifying God, but the empty works of the Law of Moses and man made laws. The Bible tells that the believers will be rewarded according to their works. The faith based ones, not the ones of the empty law. Heb 6 talks about believers sinning so much that they can’t be brought back to repentance. How is that possible if grace, from faith, is a free gift that is unconditional. If it can be lost, it’s not unconditional. grace is therefore contingent on some degree of righteousness. We get grace from having the conversion experience (being born again and having the Spirit testify to your own spirit) and then living accordingly. It doesn’t come from Calvinistic theology that is clearly condemned in the Bible.

  • DougK

    The German version of the Book of Mormon that I used as a missionary (long ago) translates that phrase as, “we are saved by grace DESPITE all that we do.”

    The challenge in Sunday School (or blogs for that matter) is that people have different semantics and different levels of understanding, and we have so little time to explore deep subjects in real depth. We come away with little more than sound bites (like the last phrase in 2 Ne 25:23) that are the very tip of the iceberg. Personal initiative is required to understand the doctrines more deeply.

  • Kevin JK

    Danish was the first language that the BoM was translated into after English. It too says “despite” (“trods”). I believe that where much is given, much is expected…just like the guy who was given much (5 talents), much was expected from him and the guy who was given less (2 talents), less was expected and yet both magnified their callings to the best of their ability and received the exact same reward. The latter given an extra measure of grace to make up for his fewer talents/abilities.

  • DougK

    I agree where more/less is given, more/less is required. There are also priceless gifts (like life and the resurrection) that we are incapable of ever earning. Moreover, the whole gospel plan is premised on on-going spiritual “failure” (sin) by God’s children. Faith, repentance, baptism, sacrament, etc. are made possible only through Grace. We must work and learn, but we cannot do these things by ourselves.

  • Kevin JK

    I agree 1000%. Th atonement is an integral part of grace.

  • Chris

    Kevin, you’re welcome. Based on your post, we’re not far apart–but we’re both very far apart from official Mormon doctrine.

    For example, you say, “The Bible tells that the believers will be rewarded according to their works. The faith based ones, not the ones of the empty law.” I think that was one of the points I made!

    But salvation/exaltation/eternal life WON’T be among those rewards, because that gift is only accepted through true belief, in other words, faith.

    And that’s a huge, huge point, which it seems like you agree with.

    Works count if you are a believer, and if you are a believer, you are by definition ALREADY saved, ALREADY given “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph 1:3) and ALREADY made alive from the dead (Eph. 2:1). You get some degree of rewards for your works. 1 Cor. 3:14-15 says, “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved.”

    So if I’m a believer in the true Christ, my faith-motivated works will generate a reward in addition to my exalted status (elsewhere the Bible suggests these are positions of authority in the kingdom, either lowly such as clerk, or high such as a ruler of a city); but my bad works, including self-aggrandizing works, will generate loss of potential rewards, even though my saved and exalted status is untouched.

    To summarize, as stated in Ephesians 2:8-10, we are given total salvation (total forgiveness, life from death, exaltation to sit with Christ in the heavenlies, an and all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies) “NOT of works” but of faith alone in Christ alone. And if we truly believe in the true Christ, then the resulting transformation will result in good works, and according to our free will the degree of those good works will determine the degree of our rewards added on to our forgiven/saved/exalted status.

    It seems like we have agreed on this point.

    But here’s the issue. Prominent Mormon leaders would sharply disagree with both of us.

    Joseph Smith said, “To be exalted one must keep the whole law.” That’s a phrase filled with conditional clauses: I don’t get saved/exalted unless I do perfect works. He went on to say, “To receive the exaltation of the righteous, in other words, ETERNAL LIFE, the commandments of the Lord must be kept in all things.” Another conditional sentence: I don’t get “eternal life” until I keep the commandments.

    The LDS Articles of Faith say, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances.” That’s yet another conditional sentence: God doesn’t save you until he sees obedience as a transactional condition. Notice the word, “by”.

    Bruce McConkie, a Mormon Apostle, wrote, “In the final analysis, men are NOT SAVED UNTIL they have STRUGGLED AND LABORED . . . to the point where they stand clean and spotless.” Notice the word “until”; another conditional, transactional clause.

    The Mormon doctrine of progression to Godhood teaches that exaltation to becoming a God is transactionally conditioned upon works, even though Eph 1:3 teaches that “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” are given “not of works” (2:9).

    So the Bible teaches total salvation (forgiveness/life from death/exaltation/”all blessings in the heavenlies”) by “grace through faith, NOT of works”, with good works as a derivative of salvation but not a condition triggering it.

    By contrast, Mormon doctrines teach total salvation CONDITIONAL upon good works (and faith). The Bible calls this a false gospel.

    That’s a huge chasm, because trying to add works as a condition to buy salvation is ultimately a product of sinful pride, and blocks the reception of any salvation.

    Re: Heb 6, I don’t see how it relates to the issue of works. If you read the passage carefully, it doesn’t talk about works. One interpretation is that someone can possess true faith, thus true salvation . . . yet then abandon faith and thus suffer the withdrawal of salvation. The issue wouldn’t be works, but possession or forfeiture of faith. An alternate interpretation is that this passage is a warning to those who may be in the Christian community but who never had saving faith. Under this view, those described in the passage are members of the Jewish Christian community who, they are warned, may never have had faith in the first place. They understood the gospel (were “enlightened,” which doesn’t necessarily mean saved, just exposed to it), saw its impact on Christians in their midst (“tasted of the heavenly gift”), benefited from the miraculous sign gifts of healing, tongues, exorcisms, etc. (“were made partakers of the Holy Ghost”), yet still insisted on going back to animal sacrifices that nullified the sacrifice of Christ, thus showing that despite exposure to Christianity they never really did place their trust and confidence in Christ. Those two interpretations are much better reasoning than using that scripture to somehow ignore all the 150-plus verses in the NT affirming salvation by faith, not works.

    Finally, I’m not sure I understand your repeated references to Calvinism. I’m not a Calvinist, and many who would agree with my statements and reject works-salvation are not Calvinists.

    I hope you chew on these eternally consequential issues. Read carefully the scriptures I presented in previous posts and pray sincerely that God will show you any truth you have not yet seen.

  • kevin jk

    You said, “Works count if you are a believer, and if you are a believer, you are by definition ALREADY saved…”

    The problem with this is that it completely ignores the Bible where it says that men will be rewarded according to their works. If there is just heaven/hell with no differentiation within them, then we won’t, by definition, be rewarded according to our works, unless of course are reward is based, at least partially, on our works.

  • Chris

    As I said to you in an earlier post, this is typical of my Mormon friends, who tip their hat to grace with one hand while denying it with the other.

    Maybe this will help:

    The Bible has many passages on salvation, faith, works and rewards. The only way to coherently harmonize these scriptures so that they do not contradict is the following categorization:

    Category 1: The Bible contains numerous passages asserting that people must be saved by grace through faith alone, not of works. (That “salvation” is described as the highest degree of salvation anyone could achieve. In other words, it undercuts the Mormon’s false notion that everyone with faith is “saved,” but only those who perform Mormon ordinances and works are “exalted” to the third heaven and become god of their own universe. Read Eph. 1:3 and chapters 1 and 2) I’ve given you plenty of these scriptures and you haven’t explained why they don’t mean what they plainly say.

    Category 2: When you examine the works-rewards passages, you will find that some apply to those who reject faith in Christ. Their degree of punishment in Hell will depend on the severity of their sinful works on earth, because punishment is commensurate to the crime.

    Category 3: When you continue to examine passages saying that men are rewarded according to their works, you will find that others apply to the rewards given to believers IN ADDITION to their exalted state of salvation. The salvation/exaltation is given through faith and “not of works.” But the rewards, but not salvation, are given according to works.

    Category 4: There are other passages showing that true faith and eternal life will result in good works, but no passages asserting that these works are a condition for receiving eternal life, because faith alone–not works–is the condition required by God.

    There is NO category, however, for passages teaching that works are a condition to being granted forgiveness of sins, eternal life, exaltation, etc., because no such passages exist.

    In fact, there are passages teaching that such a notion is dangerous, prideful self-righteousness that rejects the grace of God in Christ and keeps its adherent from receiving the free gift of eternal life.

    If you think the Bible teaches that men will be rewarded eternal life according to their good works, what are they, and how do the contexts of these passages support that interpretation? I’ve given you plenty showing the opposite.

  • Kevin JK

    You ignore my point. If there is only 2 places, Heaven and Hell and no differentiation within them (despite Dante), then the passages that refer to the righteous works of the saints leading to rewards are meaningless. If there are EXTRA rewards given to us for our works, which come from our faith, then the Heaven/Hell dichotomy is false.

    No one can work their way to forgiveness unless you consider repentance a “work”. Only unscriptural Calvinists assert that.

  • Chris

    With all due respect, your logic is flawed. Aren’t you are assuming that two distinct locations, Heaven and Hell, each of large spatial extent, cannot have variations of the space inside of each where different conditions exist? And isn’t the assumption that such spaces cannot exist provably false?

    Isn’t it true that large voluminous spaces (and even not-so-large spaces) have sufficient room for sub-spaces to exist inside of them? Don’t we observe this in our physical world? And isn’t it easy to demonstrate using geometry? Isn’t it even observable in engineering?

    The Bible describes two such final locations at the end of history: the Kingdom of God and the Lake of Fire.

    The Bible asserts that the human inhabitants of the Kingdom of God will be allowed there because they have been declared Holy through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ through faith and “not of works.” However, their relative assignments WITHIN that Kingdom will depend on the works they performed during their earthly lives. In sum, they get inside by faith alone and not works; but their position once inside is assigned according to works they did on earth.

    The Bible likewise asserts the human inhabitants of the Lake of Fire will be placed there because they never humbled themselves to accept God’s free offer to cleanse their unholiness through Christ’s blood. They never had true faith. Usually, their lack of faith showed in their lives; but it was the lack of faith that cut their relationship with God. Some rejected God outright (e.g. militant atheists, etc.), some accepted false versions of God of their own minds to serve their own pride, some relied on their own works to help buy their way into God’s presence (an insidious form of pride). Within the Lake of Fire, humans will suffer greater or lesser intensity of punishment based on the degree of sinfulness in their earthly life. This is no different from human justice systems, where degrees of punishment are meted out depending on the severity of the crime. In sum, they get into the Lake of Fire through rejection of true faith; once inside, they get different consequences based on their ratio of good to evil works during their time on earth.

    This is logical. This is backed up by the plain meaning of Bible passages. This harmonizes those passages coherently.

    On the other hand, the Bible nowhere gives such a description of three final destinations or describes the condition of three major compartments of heaven as final locations for members of the human race.

    Nowhere does the Bible say members of a latter-day organization will evolve by a complex system of faith (in what?) plus ordinances plus perfect works to become Gods of their own universes, or that God the Father was a sinful man who has struggled up the same path, just as his Father and innumerable grandfathers did. In fact, the Bible warns strictly against latter-day “revelation” claiming such new doctrines of God (Deut 13, 2 Cor 11, Matt 24, etc.). We have been duly warned.

    As i said previously when I described the proper categorization of soteriological passages, there are no Bible passages that can be cited that, in context, show that humans will be rewarded eternal life according to good works. No passages to describe with any context a three-tiered heaven. No passages to show that God was once a wicked human who attained Godhood, or that humans today can become Gods. This is not even remotely biblical or Christian. It conflates three biblical concepts–grace, faith, works–so that their biblical relationship is confused; and redefines God Himself. Very dangerous, and as I said, a loving God has duly warned us.

  • Chris

    Forgot to check the box to flag my last post to tell me of a reply, so I’m adding this post.

  • Chris

    Forgot to check the box to flag my last post to tell me of a reply, so I’m adding this post.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Look, friend, the reason I said that you put words into the mouths of people you call friends is that you attributed this to them: “They [who you refer to as your Mormon friends] maintain that true salvation means you become a God like God the Father (a created being who was once a wicked sinner who progressed to godhood) …” I don’t have to have been party to any of those conversations to know that they didn’t say that Heavenly Father is “a created being,” not did they say that He “was once a wicked sinner.” And they didn’t say that we can ever equal His greatness and glory. You shouldn’t say things that aren’t true. Fair enough? If you are going to write about these things, you should present matters related to my faith fairly and accurately. Your statements fall short of that.

    You refer to Eph. 1:3, which says that in Christ, we are given every spiritual blessing in Heaven. Right. I agree with that. Mormons agree with that. What makes you think we don’t? (Remember your obligation to be fair and accurate. I’m not interested in the malicious, “counter-cult ministry” answer. I’ve seen enough of those answers to make me feel embarrassed for my former coreligionists. Fairness and accuracy, please.)

    But you say that we need to get our definitions straight. Fine. That makes perfect sense to me. Then you cite verses (Eph. 1:3; Eph 2:6) which don’t actually use that word. Huh. What you want to do is to take the biblical idea – which you previously acknowledged, but now ignore – of blessings for righteousness, obedience and enduring to the end and reduce it to irrelevance. (Why irrelevance? Because your position here is that all eternal blessings are unearned; and once you assert that, it follows that there can be no additional blessings on account of righteousness or faithfulness.)

    I’m sorry, but to use your own phrase, that isn’t even remotely biblical. And by parity of reasoning, it isn’t Christian.

    I notice you skipped over the idea that the formula that YOU assert is necessary for salvation – what one must do to be saved – must itself be an act of righteousness or obedience, undercutting the idea that righteousness or obedience have no part to play. That is a logical inconsistency at the heart of your soteriology, and since you chose not to address it, it appears you have no answer for it.

    Earlier, you said, “Once this [mere salvation] is done, our works then mean something.” I quoted this back to you in my earlier comment. As mentioned here, that assertion is logically inconsistent with the claim you now make, which is that works mean nothing to someone to whom salvation provides all eternal blessings.

    Maybe because you see the dilemma – I don’t know, you tell me – you chose to change the subject by claiming for example that Deut. 13 tells us there can’t be any more scripture. (But you meant Deut. 12:32, right? Not chapter 13?) I think you already know how profoundly silly your assertion was, but my point here is not to debate that: we should stick to the topic.

    If every bit of latter-day revelation were already found in the Bible, we wouldn’t need latter-day revelation. But as a former evangelical who has spend considerable time pondering just this question, I am satisfied that there is nothing in Mormon doctrine that is inconsistent with the Bible read as a complete, historical document (none of this pick-and-choose business, please) and that virtually everything we believe can be traced back to Biblical text to one degree or another. That includes texts which evangelicals prefer to pretend weren’t written, like 1 Cor. 15:29. Or Eph. 4:11-14. Or many others. (“Elohim” is plural; you know that, right? There is no word “trinity” in the Bible; you know that, right? “Homoouisios” is a word not used in reference to God until hundreds of years after Christ; you know that, right?) But none of that has to do with the current topic.

    Another important observation you chose to ignore is the observation that you don’t need to preach to your Mormon friends, because they’re all saved, even using YOUR definition. I just think you should acknowledge that. I mean, you do agree with that don’t you? I assume you agree that faith in Christ is just faith in Christ, and does not require 100% adherence to your theology.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Kevin JK – When you say to Chris, “You ignore my point,” I agree you. He did and does. He ignored the same point in what I wrote to him too. Obviously it is a problem for his theology.

  • Chris

    Some responses:

    Your contention: I’m putting words into the mouths of my Mormon friends who say that God the Father is a created being.

    Response: They even diagramed it on a whiteboard, after which I asked them point blank questions to which they cordially (unlike you) responded in EXACTLY the way I described: about the Father’s created status, his progress to glory, and our opportunity to do the same. This was not casual conversation, but detailed dialogue. It may make you uncomfortable, but that’s the fact.

    Perhaps you are unaware of what is being taught in your own religion or the internal debates and struggles; I believe many Mormons, perhaps especially converts from Protestantism and Catholicism, are unaware.

    If you disagree with the veteran Mormons who have laid out this theology, where do you think God the Father came from? Did he exist, personally, as God eternally, so that there was never a time when he was not God? Did he exist, personally, at all? And from what status and state of existence did he progress to become God? What was he before he become God? What exactly did he have to overcome to become God? What have your “prophets” and “apostles” taught?

    One clue I can give you is that the deeper you delve into these questions in Mormon scholarship, the more confusion and convolution you’re going to encounter. You’re going to find redefinitions even of terms like “eternal,” “eternity,” “everlasting,” etc. When you read words and phrases like “from everlasting,” and “without beginning,” don’t think that the Mormon high command always, or maybe ever, defines that as God existing as God, or even existing as a personal being, from eternity.

    Why the confusion and convolution? In my opinion, the source for this is that Joseph Smith, the prophetic rock on which Mormonism rests, was himself confused about the issue and evolved his beliefs, radically, between the time he published the Book of Mormon and his King Follett Discourse about a decade later. Then other “prophets” took the King Follett Discourse and ran with it, not always in a coordinated way. Mormonism’s theology of God has been trying to clean up the mess ever since, but cannot do so because the original “prophetic” source is hopelessly contradictory. And it affects not just the theology of God, but since all theology is interconnected, it has impacted soteriology and almost everything else.

    Your contention: I’m not correct re: Eph. 1:3. Response: Eph. 1:3 states we receive “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Elsewhere the letter explicitly states that the condition for receiving this exalted status is faith alone, “not of works” in 2:9. Our status of exaltation produces good works and spiritual fruit (Eph. 2:10 cf Gal. 5:22). Good fruit, obedience, etc., are hardly irrelevant–they are the result and a major point of possessing an exalted status! The distinction is that in the biblical sense, the true Christian produces good works FROM a secured position of exaltation, whereas Mormonism teaches you work TOWARD a position of exaltation, which for Mormons means you must struggle upward to attain Godhood on par the the Father. Two radically different and incompatible religious systems.

    Your contention: I “changed the subject” by talking about biblical warnings against false prophets.

    Response: I wanted to cut to the chase of this whole matter. The passages I cited are warnings to believers of all ages to beware of false prophets who teach doctrines of God and the way of salvation that contradict what is revealed by the one true God in the Bible. The Bible calls these false prophets out as clever devices of satan, allowed by God to purify His true people. On the basis of Mormonism’s doctrines of God and salvation, I think Joseph Smith and the other “prophets and apostles” of Mormonism are exactly the kind of deception the Bible was warning about. (Mohammed and Charles Russell are others.) False God(s), false gospel of salvation, and false revelation to “clarify” the Bible. And the falsehoods about God are not trivial: saying the Being who was eternally God and eternally holy was once an imperfect man on another planet is blasphemy, and those who try to draw people into a religion which teaches such blasphemy are trafficking in eternal disaster; they need to repent of such blasphemy, receive the true God by grace through faith alone, and know the wonderful joy and peace of serving Him.

    Although I don’t rule out that some rare Mormons might be saved despite their religion’s non-Christian doctrines, on the whole Mormonism is simply a false version of Christianity which cannot save anyone from their sins.

    Your contention: Evangelicals like me (and, particularly me) who don’t buy into Mormonism are naively unaware of scriptures like 1 Cor. 15:29, Eph, 4:11, the fact that the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, that “Elohim” is plural, and the history of concepts like “Homoouisios”.

    Response: Actually, I am quite familiar with ALL these scripture and facts. The fact that you bring them up tells me why you are a “former” evangelical. Good evangelicals understand how to properly interpret such scriptures and handle objections like these, which I consider silly and shallow. I suppose you are familiar with the massive number of scriptures asserting that God has always been God, that there will never be another God, that no one will ever possess God’s attributes, and that God will always be the only God who exists, etc., and with Mormon authoritative teachings which assert exactly the opposite. These are two different religions.

    Final comment: I like to dialogue and even politely contend about spiritual matters, but not with people who are angry and sarcastic. I suspect you and I will never agree on theology–you’ve already been exposed to what I consider to be spiritual light and have rejected it. So, we won’t agree. But it’s not productive for me to go back-and-forth with someone who’s just flat out angry, sarcastic, judgmental and borderline verbally abusive. Hopefully someone will read these posts and get something out of it by the work of the Holy Spirit. If you crave the last word, take it. I’m not requesting to see follow-ups.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    “I like to dialogue and even politely contend about spiritual matters, but not with people who are angry and sarcastic.”

    Friend, you need to look in a mirror. Exactly nothing you have written to me meets your description of how you want your interlocutors to conduct themselves.

    I’ll make a deal with you. I will be polite if you will be. How’s that?

    Your defense regarding the white board falls short of putting the words “created being” and “wicked sinner” in the mouths of any active, practicing Mormon in reference to God the Father. I think that there has been a thread in Mormon theology in which the Father Himself was a Father, and so on. But this is a thread of speculative thought which does not – lets be clear, it does not – represent mainstream LDS thought. And nobody ever said, “Wicked sinner.” That’s something that gets made up by the so-called counter-cult ministries.

    Then you tell me, “[D]on’t think that the Mormon high command always, or maybe ever, defines that as God existing as God, or even existing as a personal being, from eternity.” Let me ask you about that phrase, “Mormon high command.” Was that at all sarcastic, do you think? Or did you regard it as polite. I ask because of your very self-satisfied statement about how you “like to dialogue and even politely contend about spiritual matters, but not with people who are angry and sarcastic.”

    But my offered deal is I will be polite with you, to see if you will be that with me. So I’ll refrain from saying more about whether you live up to your own professed standard for others.

    Factually you’re wrong about what you deny our Church teaches. Chapter 3 of the Book of Abraham is very clear that God the Father always has been and always will be the greatest of all eternal spirits. (Verses 18-19.)

    I would ask you to make a better effort toward fairness and accuracy. Is it OK for me to ask that? I do not wish to offend.

    I would comment on the discussion of Eph. 1:3, except you elided over my previous comments on that subject, so there is no need for me to repeat myself. There are a couple of instances in which both I have called your attention to two important contradictions in your argument. Kevin JK called your attention to one of those as well, and then called your attention to your failure to respond. If you wish to have a respectful dialog, you should take note of the important points raised by your interlocutors.

    I sort of agree with you that “[g]ood evangelicals know how to properly interpret such scriptures and handle objections like these.” I just have found those “interpretations” to be extremely disingenuous, and they amount (as I said) to reading difficult passages out of the Bible as if they were not there. Usually muttering something about context. While I agree, of course, that context is important, I have found very often that an evangelical apologist will use the need to consider a scripture in context as an excuse for looking at some more salubrious passage and that they never get around to harmonizing the subject scripture with their interpretation of others. You might agree with me in principle that, if this is done, it would be unsatisfactory as an interpretative technique.

    You could have at least thanked me for correcting your mistaken reference to Deut, 13 when you meant 12. You obviously can’t interpret that passage as precluding any subsequent scripture, so its relevance wasn’t clear in the first instance.

    I am VERY interested in your statement, “Mormonism is simply a false version of Christianity which cannot save anyone from their sins.” See, I thought your position was that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, saves one from one’s sin. Isn’t that really what you believe? Or do you rather claim, as you seem to say in the quoted statement, that there is a *doctrine* that saves?

    Because, boy, I wanna tell you. From my years in evangelical churches, I heard a great many altar calls. In every last one of them, it was made very clear that what ANYONE had to do was to believe in and have faith in Jesus, and repent of sin, and ask Him into his or her heart.

    So, let me just ask you. I am sure you agree that this is important. My question is:

    Was that not right? Was there something more, or something else? Should they really have said, instead, that the sinner needed to accept a particular set of creedal statements in toto?

    Please be clear about this. Thank you.

    I hope you can be polite in your response.

  • Chris

    I thought I’d unsubscribed from follow up email notifications for the reasons I stated. I’ll try again.

    Despite your disclaimers, you continue to lace your comments with emotional vitriol and continue to display ignorance of important points, so you’ve broken your own “deal” before it even began.

    So no deal. The terse response you’re getting is undeserved grace, and even that is probably too much.

    I don’t recall I ever said my friends said God the Father was a “wicked sinner,”–if I did that is not correct–but they did say he was a “created being,” and when they did, they were merely aligning themselves with the 1840s version of Joseph Smith in the discourse I referenced, plus his sermon on June 16, 1944 where he states God the Father had a father. READ IT. Smith also said this same God the Father was once a man like us who had to progress upwards to Godhood, and since we are all wicked sinners, you can “do the inferential math.” Smith said elsewhere that God was a man like we are now. Are we not wicked sinners, who according to Mormonism need to “progress” against sin? Again, do the math. Smith lost followers after he started preaching this plurality of Gods doctrine (which directly contradicted his trinitarian formulations in the Book of Mormon and which even many of his first-decade converts considered to be nonsense), and when you read his sermons (part sermons, part rants) you can see he is doubling down against “the apostates.” And as I said–and which you ignored–Mormon leaders afterward took this new, somewhat muddled cosmology, ran different directions with it, and the theological mess got bigger. Today some Church leaders may try to dissemble and deny this to the greater public and perhaps to some converts, but the record is plain and I’ve met many Mormons who acknowledge this teaching and believe it. I respect my Mormon friends who are honest enough to stand their ground on this, even though we disagree. Politely, which you don’t.

    So last comment: Yes, to be saved from sin and escape damnation anyone must place their faith in Christ–that is, the Christ of the Bible. The Christ who is an uncreated God. Mormons don’t preach or believe in such a Christ, thus are not putting faith in the true Christ. Remember, in Matt 24 and 2 Cor 11 we we are warned there can be FALSE Christs, and Joseph Smith’s is one of them, unable to save anyone.

    Enough. You broke your own deal. I’ve indulged you with a response anyway. But enough.

  • Chris

    No deal, because you’re still lacing your comments with sarcastic vitriol you must think is clever. You broke your own terms right from the beginning, and I have a life beyond this.

    So this brief response is gratis, and final.

    When I wrote Deut. 13, I meant it. Not sure how you don’t get the gravity of this.

    When I said my Mormon friends said God the Father was created, they were merely aligning themselves with the 1840s version of Joseph Smith in the discourse I referenced, plus sermons like the one he preached June 16, 1844, where he clearly taught God the Father was created. It’s evident from his sermon (part sermon, part rant) that he was losing followers due to this bizarre departure from the trinitarianism he had put in the Book of Mormon, so he doubles down on the “plurality of God” doctrine and even teaches God the Father had a father. As I mentioned earlier, different Mormon leaders picked up this doctrine and ran with it in different directions, creating a theological mess that today’s leaders often try to paper over. I respect my Mormon friends’ honesty in standing by this teaching, even though we disagree.

    I don’t recall saying my friends exactly said that this meant God the Father was a “wicked sinner,” just that he was created. However, since Smith (and other “prophets”) claimed that God was once a man as we are now, and we are wicked sinners, and we like God need to work and struggle out of our current state to attain Godhood . . . well, you can do the inferential math about the god-to-be’s starting point.

    Regarding accepting Christ: Yes, anyone who sincerely places their trust in the Christ of the Bible is saved. But that’s the Christ who was God from all eternity, not the false Christ of Mormon theology, who is presented as a created being, the first spirit spawn of God the Father. The Bible warns against false Christs (Matt 24, 2 Cor 11, etc.). And against false views of God (Deut ch. THIRTEEN). Trusting a false Christ will not save anyone.

    Enough. You broke your own deal. I gave you a gratis response. I’ll try to unsubscribe again.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Oh dear. I’m being accused of “vitriol,” and I can’t for the life of me find any such thing in any of what I have written. But at least you are no longer even pretending to be polite with me. Still, I wish to be polite with you. Matt. 5:39.

    Thank you for admitting that you spoke falsely when you claimed, previously, and then reaffirmed, that your Mormon friends said that God had been a “wicked sinner.” That’s an offensively false claim that you antagonists make, and it is kind of you to acknowledge here that you (and they) have made that up. Thank you.

    I appreciate the explanation that you have drawn that inference (“wicked sinner”) from your tendentious reading of the King Follet Discourse and Sermon in the Grove. The point you need to understand – and one would have expected you to understand this beforehand, since you claim to be an expert – is that Mormons have never drawn that inference. It has been and remains a “counter-cult ministry” attack theme, and it was dishonest of you not to identify it that way. I don’t mean to be impolite, so if you want to tell me that you really truly thought that Mormons are taught that God was once a “wicked sinner,” I guess I’ll accept your word for it. Please don’t do that again, though, OK?

    I said earlier that the idea that the Father had a Father is a thread in Mormon thought but it is not the dominant position. I’ve done some additional research and stand by what I said. The linked article also says that this is not an important issue for Mormons; you, similarly, believe in God even though you can’t tell me what He was doing before Gen. 1:1. It also shows that the view I described is common and accepted among those of us (a minority!) who are interested in abstract theology like this. You would do well, in the future, to appreciate these facts, rather than trying to present your straw man claims (including “wicked sinner”) as representative of Mormon belief.

    I understand your reference to Deut. 13 now. It seemed from context that you were making a different point entirely. Anyway, Mormons only follow and worship God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father to whom Jesus taught us to pray. I hope that helps you. I would wish you would try to be more fair and accurate about these things in the future. That’s not “vitriol,” by the way, but a request. Food for thought, you might say.

    Thanks for answering my question about what it takes to be saved. So, the way I understand this now, it is not enough to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was sacrificed as the only sufficient atonement for our sins, and who then broke the bonds of death by His Resurrection before ascending to His Father. That’s not enough you tell me. I notice that you don’t mention any verses in the Bible that add to the requirements for salvation the way that you now add to them, but let’s set that aside. You tell me that not only do I need faith in my Lord and Savior, not only do I need to cast myself at His feet, not only do I need to ask Him into my heart to take control of my life … but I ALSO have to believe some very specific, very proscriptive things ABOUT Him, because if I don’t get that exactly right, He’s going to send me to eternal torture in Hell.

    Right? I don’t mean to misstate this. Have I? Isn’t the above your exact view?

    So, just find it interesting that my salvation not only depends on my faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, but is ALSO depends on my acceptance of some very specific creedal statements that you make, statements that are (at best) ambiguous as a matter of biblical interpretation. I mean, I’m sure you’re aware that the theology of the Trinity didn’t evolve for centuries after the death of the Savior, and what the Bible teaches is that although Jesus was “with” God in the beginning, and that He “was” God, it never gets around to saying that He is indistinguishable from the Father .. especially since, clearly, He’s not. I mean, the theology of the Trinity has been debated for a long time, and at best no one claims to be able to explain exactly what it means, since it depends on a logical impossibility, namely, that three Persons can be one Person, all at the same time. The math doesn’t work. But I don’t bring this up to debate it with you – really, I don’t – but to call attention to the problem that nothing in the Bible ever says in anything like so many words that you can’t be saved unless you accept triniitarian theology. And, yet, there you are, making that exact claim.

    Doesn’t it trouble you, even a little, that whenever the Bible talks about what you have to do to be saved, you throw that out in order to insist on an additional requirement? Which is that the saved have to agree with your theology?

    That brings me back to the question that you still HAVEN’T answered. If it is required to be saved that your thoughts (or mine, or whomever’s) have to line up exactly right in terms of the very specific things you HAVE TO BELIEVE in order to be saved, why isn’t that precondition a “work” that you have to do? I mean, you’re saying it absolutely is required – and you’re pleased to let us know that YOU’RE saved, even if WE aren’t, because YOU get this right (cf. Eph. 2:9) – but somehow if you don’t call it a work of righteousness, it isn’t?

    I mentioned I’ve heard a ;lot of altar calls in a lot of evangelical or fundamentalist or “Bible-believing” churches … and yet I can’t recall even a single time when the pastor or evangelist (I even heard Billy Graham in his prime!) ever said, “Now keep in mind it is not enough to believe in Jesus, you have to believe in the Trinity and you have to understand that even though we call Him the Son of God, He’s not really the Son of God, that’s just a metaphor that He and His Apostles used to muddy the waters a bit.”

    I don’t remember ever hearing that, and I wonder if you can explain why.

  • DougH

    Kevin JK, I finally get the chance to catch up, and it seems you’ve been busy. Skimming through the post I don’t see where we’re all that far apart in our general view of how Grace works, so this is more a commentary on the Matthew 25 and Luke 19 versions of the Parable of the Talents.

    In both cases, the men involved are already servants — in Real Life, they have already been saved through Grace by accepting Christ’s sacrifice.

    In both cases, the three servants bring differing levels of capability and opportunity to the table as symbolized by the different amounts of wealth they are given to work with, though Luke is a bit more specific as to the actual amount (the men are given 30 months wages, 15 months, and 3 months, respectively).

    In both cases, the men that actually worked to increase what had been entrusted to them are rewarded all out of proportion to what they produced — like one of us managing to double a $100,000 investment to $200,000, and being made a state governor as a reward. This is actually the only point where the two parables substantially differ, because Luke specifies the amount of reward that the two receive (being put in charge of ten cities and five cities respectively) while Matthew simply has as a reward “many things.” But what Matthew does NOT say is that the two were rewarded equally, either proportionally or a set amount — “many” can be any point in a very wide range. Mind, he doesn’t say that they weren’t rewarded equally, either — he simply doesn’t say, one way or the other.

    And finally, in both cases the servant that didn’t even try to serve his master by increasing the wealth entrusted to him has what was entrusted taken away and is cast out. To put it in Real Life terms, he has fallen from grace, and lost that salvation which he had been given.

    So the takeaway is that as those that have become servants through God’s Grace by our acceptance of Christ’s Atonement, we will in the end advance (or be “rewarded”) according to the capabilities we have demonstrated. But that we may reject the Grace that we have already received, and so fall. These themes jointly run through both Jesus’s teachings in such parables as the Sheep and the Goats and the Prodigal Son, and in Paul’s own writings where he points out that the fact that we are recipients of God’s Grace does not mean that we are not held to account for our actions, and that the possibility exists of Paul himself coming up short in the race that he was running.

    As I said, I don’t think there’s much if any difference in our views of Grace.

  • Kevin JK

    I appreciate your comments. You are right. The rewards in Matthew MAY be different. Only the promise given to each was identical. I’m glad that you agree that grace/salvation can be lost as is discussed in Heb. 6:4-6.

  • DougH

    I agree, that one can fall from a Grace already accepted is one of the truths that’s fairly clear. Beyond your Hebrews quote and the parables we discussed, there’s the parable of the wedding banquet, Paul’s comments about himself training for and completing the race, even obliquely the parable of the prodigal son.

  • hoffbegone

    Is grace vs works really that complicated? And does it matter whether we understand grace to be saved? Really!! If that is the case then about 99% of humankind is damned to hell forever. Since no one on this blog knows anything, this has been a big waste of typing when all of us will have a different understanding, eventually, and some of us, if not ALL of us, will discover we were wrong.

    For me and my house, we will serve the Lord and DO HIS WORKS and reap the blessings promised in the scriptures. For the part of the Atonement that is FREE, then I get that, too. I can do works and believe at the same time.

    I can either listen to the living Prophets, or listen to Chris. If I was the Devil I would be telling everyone they don’t have to do anything just like Chris does. If I listen to Jesus I will do what he asks me to do which is: be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven, and, get baptized by the authority of John. There, period. Jesus Himself, says we must be and do good and participate in ordinances. Seems simple to me.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The most concentrated discussion of Grace among the Mormon scriptures is in the Book of Mormon. With the increased emphasis on reading the Book of Mormon by Ezra Taft Benson back in the 1980s, we have read more about grace, and thought more about it, and taught more about it. I think one way of looking at it that encapsulates much of the view that the Book of Mormon teaches is Elder David Bednar’s phrase, “enabling grace”. God’s grace, thanks to the Atonement by Christ, is offered to us to enable us to do all the things God calls on us to do, including living the commandments Christ gives in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. Nephi’s words in 1 Nephi 3:7, expressing the belief that God will enable us to do everything God commands us to do, is a bookend with Nephi’s statements in 2 Nephi 25 about the absolute necessity of Christ’s grace, or gift, to us. I have thought we might understand 2 Nephi 25:23 better if it were read by comedian Dennis Miller, so we would not miss the irony in Nephi’s words:

    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.

    Nephi proclaims that he is working like hell to convince his family that WORK will always be insufficient to save us, and that it is our trust and reliance on Christ and his gift (grace) that will take us back into the presence of God.

    Another term for grace or gift is an endowment, and anyone who has received the temple ordinance of the endowment should understand that it is Christ’s power that is bestowed upon us as a gift from God, merited through the sacrifice of the Son, and which we accept by making covenants with God, that brings us back into the presence of God. All of the LDS ordinances of the temples emphasize blessings from God which we merely accept by our efforts in obedience, and do not EARN or MERIT. After all, the size of the blessings is obviously so much greater than the volume of our efforts, it is clear that we are not buying the blessings, but merely showing we want them and will treasure them and not disrespect God and his gifts, purchased at so high a cost by his Son.

  • Steven Douglas

    The Mormon allusion to “grace”, without emphasizing the word, is the “Telestial” (lowest) Kingdom. According to LDS doctrine, all mankind will enjoy, at minimum, entrance into the Telestial (lowest) kingdom of God, except for the “sons of perdition” — a small minority of the most wicked who turn altogether away from the truth and fight against it after a sure and perfect knowledge from the Holy Spirit. This type of salvation is still dependent upon works however, as the mere coming to Earth and gaining a requisite body (which Satan and his devils cannot have) is the result of everyone having been valiant and victorious as spirits in the preexistence. This doctrine is foreign to most Protestant religions, which teach of a single kingdom in which only ‘believers’ (in Christ) will be saved (by grace, and not works) all others being damned.

    In LDS doctrine entrance to the higher kingdoms (Terrestrial and Celestial) is very much predicated (by the grace of God) upon faith…

  • Steven Douglas

    That last should read:

    In LDS doctrine entrance to the higher kingdoms (Terrestrial and Celestial) is very much predicated (by the grace of God) upon faith plus works. Not faith alone.

  • Steven Douglas

    downtown dave wrote: “Paul was not a self-proclaimed apostle.”

    Paul was indeed a self-proclaimed apostle. There are no witnesses of Paul as an apostle in the Bible that did not come from Paul alone (however frequent). You cited Romans, the entirety of which is quotes from Paul. Regardless who penned Romans (Luke, Paul himself or anyone else) it is presented as Paul’s words. Hence, another self-witness.

    Paul himself claims that he only had the briefest of contact with Peter and James, and none of the other Apostles who were called by Jesus and were His disciples and witnesses to His ministry and resurrection. Peter refers to Paul (if 2 Peter is accepted as coming from Peter) only as “beloved brother”, not apostle, and that only in conjunction with a warning about what happens to the unlearned and unstable, who wrest his (hard to be understood) words to their own destruction.

  • Steven Douglas

    I think I’ll just continue to look to follow (meaning DO) the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. I believe Him when he says that he will liken any such person to a wise man who built his house upon a rock. For me, Jesus’ sayings trump absolutely everything ever said or written by anyone else, before or since. That includes Luther, Calvin, the Catholic Pope, Joseph Smith or any of his successors, none of whom are the basis of my faith. The grace/faith-versus-works polemic, started by Paul and answered by James, has nothing to do with me, as I am neither a follower nor imitator of Paul, his doctrine or his sayings. If I fall short or am condemned in the end for following and relying upon Jesus and nobody else, so be it. His is the only voice I hear.

  • Blackbird

    Excellent comment. I too, have never felt that the teachings of Paul were in any way insufficiently explored.