The Kingdom of the cult.
~Walter Martin and Ravi Zacharias
What does Mormonism teaches about salvation by grace?
It is common to find in Mormon literature the statement that “all men are saved by grace alone without any act on their part.” Although this appears to be perfectly orthodox, it is necessary to study all the Mormon statements relative to this doctrine in order to know precisely what they mean.
In one such official Mormon publication (What the Mormons Think of Christ, B. R. McConkie, 1973), the Mormons give their own interpretation:
Grace is simply the mercy, the love and the condescension God has for his children, as a result of which he has ordained the plan of salvation so that they may have power to progress and become like him. … All men are saved by grace alone without any act on their part, meaning that they are resurrected and become immortal because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. … In addition to this redemption from death, all men, by the grace of God, have the power to gain eternal life. This is called salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Hence Nephi was led to write: “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.”
Christians speak often of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation. Many go so far, for instance, as to pretend and, at least, to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Saviour, we are thereby saved. His blood, without other act than mere belief, they say, makes us clean. … Finally in our day, he has said plainly: “My blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.” Salvation in the kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ. But it is received only on condition of faith, repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (pp. 27–33, emphasis added).
The above quote is a typical example of what might be termed theological double-talk, which in one breath affirms grace as a saving principle and in the next declares that it is “coupled with obedience to the law and ordinances of the gospel,” and ends by declaring that confession of Christ and acceptance of Him as “personal Savior” is “utter nonsense” and “palpably false.” McConkie decries the fact that Christ’s blood “without other act than mere belief … makes us clean” (p. 31).
The biblical position is, however, quite clear in this area; we are saved by grace alone, as previously mentioned, but it in no way enables us to “have power to progress and become like Him.” As we have seen, in the Mormon sense such a progression refers to becoming a god, not to the Christian doctrine of sanctification, or of the life of the believer being brought into conformity to the Holy Spirit as clearly enunciated in the epistle to the Romans (chapters 8 and 12).
Mr. McConkie’s assertion—that “salvation by grace” must be “coupled with obedience with the laws and ordinances of the gospel” in order for a person to be saved—introduces immediately the whole Mormon collection of legalistic observances and requirements. In the end, salvation is not by grace at all, but it is in reality connected with human efforts: “baptism, and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God” (p. 33).
This is not the Christian doctrine of redemption that the apostle Peter described graphically when he wrote:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. … Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Peter 1:18–19, 23).
In diametric opposition to the Mormon concept, the confession of Christ with the lips and the acceptance of Him as “our personal Savior” is indeed the very means of personal salvation. It is the biblical record which states that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). The gospel’s command is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). This is, of course, totally foreign to what the Mormons would have us believe. Jesus Christ did not die merely to insure our resurrection, as Mr. McConkie declares (p. 27), but He died to reconcile us to God, to save us by grace, to redeem us by blood, and to sanctify us by His Spirit. But such biblical doctrines the Mormons most decidedly reject. It appears that they cannot conceive of a God who could save apart from human effort, and Nephi’s statement betrays this: “For we know it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do” (p. 28).
In Mormonism, it is they who must strive for perfection, sanctification, and godhood. Grace is merely incidental.
It was no less an authority than Brigham Young who taught concerning salvation: “But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to continue to be the sons of God” (Journal of Discourses, 12:100–101).
In Brigham’s theology, “instead of receiving the gospel to become the sons of God, my language would be—to receive the gospel that we may continue to be the sons of God. Are we not all sons of God when we are born into this world? Old Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was just as much a son of God as Moses and Aaron were His sons, with this difference—he rejected the word of the Lord, the true light, and they received it.”
In agreement with their doctrine of the preexistence of souls, the Mormons believe that they are already the sons of God and that the acceptance of God merely enables them to “continue to be the sons of God,” a direct contradiction of the biblical record which states:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
The apostle Paul points out, with devastating force, the fact that “they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Romans 9:8, emphasis added).
The apostle, with equal certainty, affirms that only those who are led by God’s Spirit can be called the sons of God (Romans 8:14). It is difficult to see how in any sense of the term, “Old Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was just as much a son of God as Moses and Aaron were His sons,” as Brigham Young declared.
The biblical teaching is that “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26, emphasis added), a fact Brigham obviously overlooked.
It is one of the great truths of the Word of God that salvation is not of him that wills or of him that strives, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:16), and that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).
It was the teaching of our Lord that “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), and the salvation which He still offers to lost men is “not by any works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” ( T i t u s 3 : 5 )
In the Mormon religion, they boldly teach universal salvation, for as Mr. Evans, the Mormon apostle and spokesman, put it: “Mormons believe in universal salvation that all men will be saved, but each one in his own order” (Rosten, p. 136).
It is the teaching of the Scriptures, however, that not all men will be saved, and that at the end of the ages some shall “go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).
The somber warnings of the apostle John stand arrayed against the Mormon doctrine of universal salvation:
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. … And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. … But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. … The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name (Revelation 19:19–20; 20:10, 15; 21:8; 14:1011).
By no conceivable stretch of the imagination is universal salvation to be found in these passages where the Greek words in their strongest form indicate torment, judgment, and eternal fire that defies human chemical analysis.
The Mormon doctrine of “celestial marriage” derived from their original concept of polygamy and substituted for it in 1890, when they were forced to abandon this immoral conduct lest Utah not be given statehood, is tied to their doctrine of salvation. The Mormons believe that the family unit will endure unto the eternal ages, hence their insistence upon the sealing of Mormon men to many women, and the sealing of their families. It was for this reason that there are many special rites and ceremonies instituted in behalf of the dead (particularly relatives); hence, their practice of baptism for the dead and laying on of hands (for the bestowing of the gift of the Holy Ghost), all by proxy.